Exercise is a universal recommendation for better health, but we are going to explore a unique approach to exercise that digs deeper than the traditional surface—one that is not only grounded in science, but easily applied to life. An effective exercise routine should be practical in the face of time constraints and busy lifestyles. It should bring more oxygen into the body, to feed both body and mind. It should build lean muscle and improve performance. Not just exercise, but the right kind of exercise affects your hormone levels, immune system, body fat, mental health, and emotional stability. In other words: we don’t want to see you pour any more precious time or unfulfilled hopes into yet another unsuccessful exercise program.
Maximizing lean muscle mass and oxygen consumption is an essential that is incorporated into the care of all who receive care in our office. This system conditions the body through short bursts of energy within a lifestyle of consistent movement. The goal is to work with your body’s design and not against it. Humans are designed to sprint, crawl, push, pull, and move around our environment in a powerful way through the day. Humans are not designed to perform long distance runs, and chronic cardio is shown to accelerate the aging process while increasing joint pain. We are also not designed to sit, and sitting has become to be known as the new smoking due to its effect on health. The first principle of maximizing lean muscle and oxygen is to move often throughout the day.
Some tips to incorporate movement through the day:
- Break from sitting every 30 minutes with 20 air squats,15 push ups, 5 burpees, 2 minutes of light stretching, or 30 deep breaths while standing.
- Start the morning with a 20-30 minute walk (accomplishing this in a fasted state is even more beneficial.)
- After lunch take a 10-20 minute walk outside. (This helps to also improve digestion)
Our exercise program is known as MaxT3 and it is designed to give maximum benefit through the minimum effective dose. This uses high bursts of energy and then allows the body to adapt back to resting state. This stimulates hormones that promote strength, endurance, fat loss, energy, and healthy aging. Exercise is accomplished in under 12 minutes daily and can be incorporated at any time. In these 12 minutes or less you will boost cardiovascular fitness, improve muscular endurance, increase strength, develop ideal muscle mass, maximize mitochondrial density, optimize fat burning, and become metabolically efficient.
Principles of MaxT3
- Cardiovascular Fitness: Cardiovascular fitness is simply defined as the maximum amount of oxygen you can utilize, also known as your VO2 max. The minimum effective dose for cardiovascular fitness maintenance is three 4-minute high intensity rounds at 87-97% of your maximum heart rate, with approximately 4 minutes (full recovery) after each round to allow you to recover sufficiently.
- Muscular Endurance and Aerobic Capacity: The amount of work your muscles can endure and the amount of time you can “go to battle” keeping your force output high. For improving muscle endurance while simultaneously increased aerobic capacity, nothing beats Tabata sets. In this study, four times a week for four weeks, participants performed one single four-minute Tabata protocol (that’s 20 seconds all-out exercise, followed by 10 seconds full rest) with a single exercise. In this case, exercise choices included burpees, mountain climbers, jumping jacks, or squat thrusts, but for Tabatas, you could also use things such as running, treadmill, indoor or outdoor cycling, rowing, kettlebell swings, etc. Compared to four steady-state 30 minute treadmill exercise protocols per week in the control group, the Tabata group (which, if you do the math, was performing just 16 total minutes of exercise per week) saw massive gains in both aerobic capacity and muscle endurance, and there’s plenty more Tabata research to go around.
- Ideal ratios of strength and muscle mass: Definition: The maximum amount of strength you can muster in one tightly-packed group of muscle fibers – in other words: hard, wiry strength. Paul Jaminet, at the Perfect Health Diet, recently wrote an excellent article outlining why this is a better approach compared to purely trying to pack on as much muscle fiber as possible.
How to do it: Sure, you can get strong and muscular doing Crossfit-esque workouts that require maximum deadlifts in two minutes or ungodly amounts of snatch reps or bodybuilding workouts that have you doing bicep curls until you’re bleeding out the eyeballs, but none of that is sustainable when it comes to maximizing longevity. Remember, you want to be able to maintain strength and muscle when you’re 20, 40, 60, 80, or 120 years old. For this, I recommend simply two workouts per week:
1) a super-slow lifting protocol exactly as described by Doug McGuff in his book “Body By Science” – specifically 12 minutes of just a few choice multi-joint exercises with extremely slow, controlled lifting (30-60 seconds per rep) and relatively high weights; 1. Super slow upper body push (e.g. overhead press) 2. Super slow upper body pull (e.g. pull-up) 3. Super slow lower body push (e.g. squat) 4. Super slow lower body pull (e.g. deadlift)
2) a high intensity body weight circuit program exactly as described in this study, in which a pair of researchers designed a 7 minute workout to maintain strength and muscle in as little time as possible. Each exercise below is simply to be performed for 30 seconds with 10 seconds of rest in between exercises. 1. Jumping jack 2. Wall sits 3. Pushups 4. Crunches 5. Step-ups 6. Squats 7. Dips 8. Planks 9. Running in place with high knees 10. Lunges 11. Push Ups 12. Side planks
Summary: Do two strength workouts per week – one with slow controlled heavy lifting and one with high intensity, light, body weight-esque movements.
- Maximizing Mitochondrial Density: Mitochondria are the power plants of your cells, mitochondrial biogenesis is the creation of new mitochondria, and mitochondrial density is simply having as many mitochondria packed into your muscles as possible so that you can utilize more fat and more glucose. How to do it: In this study, a workout consisting of four 30-second all-out cycling sprints significantly activated mitochondrial biogenesis in the skeletal muscle of human subjects. In another study, three sets of five 4-second treadmill sprints with 20 seconds of rest in between each sprint, performed three times per week did the same thing. One other study showed four to six 30 second bouts of all-out sprint cycling with four minutes of rest done three times a week also improved important components of mitochondrial health. As you can see, when it comes to maximizing mitochondrial density, it all comes down to short, intense sprints. Summary: The Tabata sets I already mentioned will likely cover most of your mitochondrial bases, but if you have just a bit more time to spare, then after your strength workouts, perform a few brief sets of very intense sprints (e.g. five 4-30 second sprints). Yes, you read that right: these sprints can be as short as 4 seconds. Consider this to be the icing on the cake, and squeeze it in where it’s convenient. Alternatively, you could just mark one spot on your calendar once every week or two to perform four to six 30 second bouts of all-out sprint cycling with four minutes of rest between each bout.
Optimized fat burning, metabolic efficiency and blood sugar control: Maximizing the body’s ability to generate ketones and burn fatty acids as a primary source of fuel, while avoiding frequent fluctuations in blood sugar. 1) do one short, aerobic workout as many mornings as possible a week, preferably in an overnight fasted state; 2) avoid frequent snacking; 3) save all your carb intake for the end of the day and up until that point eat high amounts of healthy fats with moderate amounts of proteins; 4) stay mildly physically active all day long (e.g. standing workstation, jumping jack breaks, etc.). and 5) stay antifragile by exposing your body to frequent fluctuations in cold and hot temperatures. Summary: As you can see, this step is more lifestyle based. Start off each day, before eating, with 10- 30 minutes of very light activity (yoga, walking the dog, doing yard chores, etc.), take at least one cold shower each day, if available visit a sauna at least once per week, avoid non-nutrient dense carbohydrates, and be as active as possible all day long. One research study shows that you can even get excellent blood glucose controlling results with something as simple as a 15 minute walk after your main meal of the day.