MB #035: The Best Balanced Training Approach And Why You Need ItOct 01, 2023
In today's issue, we will cover the topic of a balanced training approach for health and fitness.
This topic is critical because the misinformation here has been running rampant for the last several decades at least, and research is beginning to clarify the truth for us.
Exercise can create physiological adaptations that can be bucketed into 9 areas:
- Muscle hypertrophy
- Muscular endurance
- Anaerobic capacity
- Maximal aerobic capacity
- Long-duration training
You'll notice that health isn't an adaptation mentioned here. The reason is, that you can excel in specific training methods and adaptations and still be void of overall health. Health is a result of finding balance in all of the above, while also addressing things that aren't fitness-specific adaptations (like nutrition, sleep, sunlight, epigenetics, etc.).
For example, a man who has done predominantly endurance training for 30+ years consistently will probably have a high VO2 Max, better lipid profiles, better metabolic health (mitochondria), etc. but might have the same strength scores as his counterpart who doesn't do any strength training or exercise programs at all.
This example comes from a real-world study looking at a set of identical twins. One twin has been a fanatic endurance athlete his whole life, and the other doesn't exercise at all. They found both brothers had the exact same strength profiles. Yes, you're reading that correctly, the brother who didn't exercise was just as strong as the one who ran, biked, and swam all the time.
Is that genetic? No. The brother who ran all the time had 90% slow twitch fibers in his muscle biopsy, and the other brother who didn't exercise had 40%. Proving that the adaptations in muscle types came from training. And that if you don't use it, you lose it. (shown with the endurance athlete having the same strength level as his non-exercising brother)
Why does this matter? Well, fast twitch muscles are the ones that create velocity and force output as well as eccentric control.
So imagine you're 60 years old and you trip over a rock. If you've been avoiding the proper approach to strength training, you don't have the fast twitch fibers necessary to get your leg back in front of you quickly enough, let alone the strength to lower yourself down slowly as you try to reduce speed once your leg is back in place.
Simply put, the man (or woman) who strength-trains AND trains endurance will likely have a better chance of stopping a catastrophic fall in later years of life.
We MUST have a balanced approach to training in order to adequately impact health.
So what's the best overall balanced approach to training?
Well, it depends. On you.
Finding your baseline in all of these 9 adaptation areas and determining if you're deficient or in need of some help is the first step. Then craft a plan to maintain your areas of strength and improve your weaknesses. But, we'll save those details for another day.
There is, however, a general training approach that I believe can be well-rounded and beneficial for most people as long as it's done properly and safely. If you know me, I believe in simplicity and that most people can greatly benefit from a templated plan if they simply follow through consistently for months and years.
- 3 days per week of weight training. 12-16 weeks per year this should be a strength focus (1-5 rep sets) with compound movements like squat, bench, deadlift, overhead press, and pull-ups. Train with progressive overload - regularly advancing your weight to challenge the muscles to adapt to more. The rest of the year, you should work through periods of muscular endurance training, and hypertrophy (muscle growth) at 12-16 weeks at a time.
- 150-200 minutes of zone 2 cardio per week. The beauty of this one is zone 2 cardio can actually be accomplished in SO MANY different ways. Walking, yard work, hiking, chopping wood, wrestling with kids, etc. When you don't think about it strictly as a training session, it becomes much more doable. I would aim to have 60-80 of those minutes per week come from actual cardiovascular training like running, cycling, swimming, etc.
- Unilateral movement. Challenging only one side of the body at a time - forcing stability and balance training. You can do this with single-leg squats, lunges, dumbbell chest presses, biceps, triceps, and dumbbell farmer carries. Train one side at a time to challenge your proprioception and stability.
- VO2 Max training. Examples of VO2 max running workouts would be 10-12 x 400-meter repeats at 90 to 95% of your maximum heart rate. The length of a training session that challenges VO2 max would be usually 6 or 8 to about 15 minutes total. These are easy to tack on to a weight training day or another cardio day.
As long as you're approaching this with the right recovery methods, stretching, sleep, and nutrition, you should be well on your way to much improved physical health and overall fitness.
Time to go take action.
The Mission-Fit Framework™ is a new coaching experience I've been working on for months and months, specifically designed for busy Christian fathers to tackle these very topics and so many others. To help you further clarify your mission and calling, understand how to fold in your family, determine how to design your life, routines, and systems around that, and to plan and execute on a health and fitness plan that's appropriate for your needs specifically, and aligned with your mission.
We've been testing and validating for months, and it's been amazing to see how guys are transforming!
Stay tuned as we'll talk more about this in the coming weeks!