Cosgrove’s Five Ah-Ha! Moments: The Education of a Misguided Trainer by Alwyn Cosgrove is a T-nation article outlining 5 important moments of enlightenment. The ones dealing with body composition are the ones that I found the most interesting:
Ah-ha! #2: For fat loss, the post-workout period is where the most important “something” happens.
…When comparing total calories burned from exercise, the researchers found the endurance training burned 28,661 calories, while the interval training group burned 13,614 calories. In other words, the interval-training group burned less than half the calories of the endurance-training group. However, when the researchers adjusted the results to correct for the difference in energy cost, the interval-training group showed a 900% greater loss in subcutaneous fat than the endurance group. In other words, calorie for calorie, interval training was nine times more effective than steady state exercise.
What we can conclude from the study is that interval training is much better at eliminating fat than steady state cardio REGARDLESS of the number of calories burned during the training session.
Why would this be?
I’ll speculate a few reasons:
1) The cost of recovery is greater for interval training than it is for steady state training in terms of absolute calories and duration.
2) The body is less efficient at adapting to interval based training so the cost of recover never really decreases. The body adapts very quickly to steady state training so after the first couple of workouts, the recover cost is already a lot lower. There is a diminishing marginal cost associate with steady state that doesn’t appear to be there with interval training.
3) Interval training relies on a variety of energy systems to get the work done and there is a great recovery cost when replenishing stores to multiple energy systems as opposed to just one.
Ah-ha! #5: Hypertrophy is a systemic response and effect, not a localized one.
All the talk about bodypart training versus full body routines, isolation exercise versus compound exercise, etc. is based upon a fundamentally flawed concept: that hypertrophy is somehow completely regional-specific.
The researchers compared the effects of a weight training program on 5RM strength and arm circumference and divided the subjects into two groups. Group 1 performed four compound upper body exercises, while Group 2 used the same program but included biceps curls and triceps extensions.
The results showed that both groups significantly increased strength and arm size
However, the addition of direct arm training to group two produced no additional effect on strength or arm circumference after 10 weeks of training.
The additional localized training did not result in anything that the bigger compound exercises didn’t provide.
This one blew my mind because I finially had scientific confirmation of something I’ve been saying to people for a long time. People often ask me how do they get their arms to grow or how do they bench press more. My answer is always to say “squat more” or “start to deadlift.” Those who follow the advice grow and get stronger upper bodies while those who take the time to point out the flawed logic remain exactly the same.
Two important things here: don’t ask for advice if you don’t want to follow it and more importantly, the body is only going to get as big and as strong as it needs to. If it isn’t as big or as strong as you would like it to be, do things that increase the demand for size and strength even if it isn’t in the areas that you want to improve and you will grow.
I think this happens for a few reasons:
1) The hormones that make the body grow impact the entire body and not just the area that is trained.
2) The body will conserve energy at every opportunity. If it isn’t being taxed in a particular way, it is going to do only what it needs to do.
3) The body strives for balance because muscle imbalances lead to injury and an increase in effort (wasted energy).
It’s a great article that may change the way you view things.