What does training to failure actually achieve?

Another great one from Chris Beardsley at Medium.com

Over the last few years, researchers have discovered that it is possible to achieve meaningful muscle growth when lifting light weights, so long as sets are performed to muscular failure.

Additionally, some studies indicate that training to failure may lead to more hypertrophy than avoiding failure.

Muscular failure during strength training is simply the point at which fatigue is high enough to prevent a muscle from exerting the amount of force necessary to complete the current repetition, with a given load. Yet, if we lower the weight after reaching failure (as when using drop sets), we can immediately continue exercising.

So why does achieving this level of fatigue during strength training help increase the amount of muscle growth that occurs? And does it always apply, or are there some situations when it is not necessary?

You should keep reading this article.  To do so, go here.


The Complete Beginner’s Guide to High Intensity Resistance Training (HIT): What it is, how it compares to other forms of exercise and the results you can expect to get (part 1) – HITUNI

HITUNI has a well researched, succinct 3-parter about what HIT is and how to use it.  I’m so glad they wrote it.  I really hate the more “marketing” side of the training business, and these guys do my work for me.  If you are new to the concept of HIT, this is a great start.  And when you’re done, give me a call.  I’ll get you started.

Here’s a snippet:

HIT vs Cardio HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)

Sometimes high intensity interval training gets called HIT too and this can cause confusion!

High intensity interval training is a form of cardiovascular (CV) exercise involving sprint intervals- traditionally that type of exercise was always known as High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT. At some point one of the I’s got dropped though and it is now often referred to as HIT, too!

CV focused high intensity interval training (HIIT) is like the cousin of High Intensity Resistance Training (HIT), and is an effective form of applying traditional CV exercise, such as stationary cycling, for CV fitness benefits. Whilst sprint intervals are excellent at providing CV fitness they do lack when it comes to providing a balanced strengthening stimulus for the musculature of the whole body.

The same is not however true in reverse: although High Intensity (Resistance) Training uses workouts that consist of exercises that are traditionally considered strength training exercises, the effect of applying these exercises in a highly intense manner produces similar CV health benefits as the more traditional CV modalities (e.g. stationary cycling).

In many ways HIT (resistance training!) is the ultimate all-in-one workout protocol as it stimulates hypertrophy, strength increases and CV benefits together. When training to momentary muscular failure (as per HIT) the acute metabolic and molecular responses do not differ from traditional endurance training and myocardial function is maintained or even enhanced.

Here’s a mega-table comparing HIT with all these exercise modalities. Scroll right and left to see all of them. Do you have any more you’d like to see here? Suggest in the comments below.

For the full article, go here.

Part 2 is The Complete Beginner’s Guide to High Intensity Resistance Training (HIT): full-body workouts, types of exercise, technique and momentary muscular failure (part 2)

Part 3 is The Complete Beginner’s Guide to High Intensity Resistance Training (HIT): Recommended routine, order of exercises, tempo, time under load, rest between exercises and frequency of training (part 3)

And if that’s not enough, I recommend Body by Science: A Research Based Program to Get the Results You Want in 12 Minutes a Week by John Little and Doug McGuff.

Of that’s still not enough, you are not a newbie, and you need deeper material  email me.

The Ultimate Science-Based Resistance Training Routine for Older Adults – HITUNI

There’s a new study out by James Steele et al. regarding more successfully-adhered to training protocols for older adults.  “Our hope is that discussion of these specific recommendations, and provision of an example minimal dose workout, will promote resistance training participation by persons who might otherwise have not engaged. We also encourage medical professionals to use this information to prescribe resistance exercise like a drug whilst having an awareness of the health benefits and uncomplicated methods.”

These are the same protocols that I use today at Crescent City Strength.  For me, it’s same as it ever was, going back to 1986 when I was a Nautilus HIT trainer.  Research keeps opening our eyes to more and more benefits of HIT training, but the protocol has not significantly changed since Arthur Jones described it a half a century ago.

As usual, HITUNI does a breakdown better than I ever could, so I’m going to do the lazy (or smart?) thing and link their article with an excerpt.  I hope you click through and read the whole thing, then call me if you want to get set up.

FYI, I have nothing to do with HITUNI, other recommending the site to anyone who wants to learn more about High Intensity Training.  With so much exercise mis-information out there, especially about HIT, they are the REAL DEAL.

The Ultimate Science-Based Resistance Training Routine for Older Adults

On 28th September 2017, a mini review into resistance training for older adults was published in Experimental Gerontology titled “A minimal dose approach to resistance training for the older adult; the prophylactic for aging”.

This is a very exciting piece of research, thrilling for the simplicity and practicality of its conclusions and recommendations. It is the kind of paper that I want to beam into the hands of every individual over the age of 60 and every health influencer of that age group too. Scratch that, if all other resistance training research on earth was somehow decimated and just this document was left to become the blueprint from which all adults of any age begin their resistance training journey, the world of exercise would be a better place. No hype, no marketing b.s., no unnecessary complexity- just simple, safe and beneficial greatness.

Continued here.

Effect of Low vs. High Intensity Exercise Training on Biomarkers of Inflammation and Endothelial Dysfunction — PubMed


Tenório TRS, Balagopal PB, Andersen LB, Ritti-Dias RM, Hill JO, Lofrano-Prado MC, Prado WL.


To investigate the effects of a low vs. high intensity aerobic training on biomarkers of inflammation and endothelial dysfunction in adolescents with obesity.


Sixty-two adolescents with obesity (age: 15±14 years, BMI: 34.87±4.22 kg.m-2) were randomized to receive either a high intensity training (HIT, n=31) or a low intensity training (LIT, n=31) for 24 weeks. All participants also received nutritional, psychological and clinical counseling. Leptin, total and subtype leukocyte counts, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), interleukin-6, myeloperoxidase, soluble intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (sICAM-1) and soluble vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (sVCAM-1) were obtained at baseline and after 24 weeks.


HIT reduced neutrophils (from 4.4 ± 1.9 to 3.6 ± 1.3 μL-1 x103; p= 0.01) and monocytes (from 7.2 ± 2.5 to 5.2 ± 1.8 μL-1 x102; p< 0.01), but LIT increased neutrophils (from 4.5 ± 1.7 to 5.2 ± 3.3 μL-1 x103; p= 0.01). While TNF-α increased in LIT (from 13.3 (7.5) to 17.7 (10.8) pg.mL-1; p= 0.01), it decreased in HIT (from 12.4 (7.5) to 11.3 (6.2) pg.mL-1; p= 0.01). No changes in leucocyte counts, sICAM-1, sVCAM-1 and homeostasis assessment model for insulin resistance were observed.


Both HIT and LIT improved the inflammatory profile. The study, however, indicated that the number of biomarkers and the magnitude of changes were higher in the HIT compared to LIT.


Firmer, Fitter frame linked to firmer, fitter brain — ScienceDaily

Date:  August 15, 2017
Source:  National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering
Summary:  To determine why more aerobically fit individuals have better memories, scientists used magnetic resonance elastography (MRE), which measures the elasticity of organs, and found that fit individuals had a firmer, more elastic hippocampus—a region of the brain associated with memory.

Scientists have observed that more aerobically fit individuals have better memories. To investigate this phenomenon, they used magnetic resonance elastography (MRE), which measures the firmness and elasticity of organs, and found that fit individuals had a firmer, more elastic hippocampus — a region of the brain associated with memory. The method could provide early diagnosis and potential interventions in the initial stages of neurodegenerative disease.

“MRE is a technique that has been used in organs like the liver, where it can assess the tissue stiffness and offers a reliable, non-invasive method for diagnosing hepatic fibrosis,” explains Guoying Liu, Ph.D. Director of the NIBIB program on Magnetic Resonance Imaging. “This study now demonstrates the tremendous potential for MRE to provide new quantitative biomarkers for assessing brain health as it relates to physical fitness. This is particularly significant given the rise in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease occurring in the U.S. and worldwide.”

The research was performed by Aron K. Barbey, Associate Professor, Departments of Psychology and Bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, along with his colleagues at Illinois, and with collaborators from Northeastern University in Boston and the University of Delaware. Their results are reported in the March issue of the journal NeuroImage.

The work was based on well-established observations of atrophy and reduced size of the hippocampus in cognitively declining seniors and developmentally delayed children. Given that long-known phenomenon, the researchers were puzzled by the fact that in young adults there was a correlation between fitness and memory, but the size of the hippocampus was the same in both groups.

“Most of the work in this area has relied on changes in the size of the hippocampus as a measure of hippocampal health and function. However, in young adults, although we see an increase in memory in more aerobically fit individuals, we did not see differences in hippocampal size,” said Barbey. “Because size is a gross measure of the structural integrity of the hippocampus, we turned to MRE, which provides a more thorough and qualitative measure of changes associated with function — in this case memory.”

The investigators explained that MRE gives a better indication of the microstructure of the hippocampus — the structural integrity of the entire tissue. And it does this by basically “bouncing” the organ, very gently, and measuring how it responds.

MRE is often described as being similar to a drop of water hitting a still pond to create the ripples that move out in all directions. A pillow under the subject’s head generates harmless pulses, known as shear waves, that travel through the hippocampus. MRE instruments measure how the pulsed waves change as they move through the brain and those changes give an extremely accurate measure — and a color-coded picture — of the consistency of the tissue: soft, hard and stiff, or firm with some bounce or elasticity.

The healthy hippocampus is like a firm pillow that quickly bounces back into shape after you press your finger into it as opposed to a mushy pillow that would retain your finger mark and not rebound to its original shape.

The researchers studied 51 healthy adults: 25 men and 26 women ages 18-35. They measured the participants’ performance on a memory test as well as their aerobic fitness levels, and used MRE to measure the elasticity of the hippocampus.

They found that those with higher fitness levels also had more elastic tissue in the hippocampus and scored the best on memory tests. Given the many studies showing the association between hippocampal health and memory in seniors and children, which was based on the size of the hippocampus, the results strongly suggest that MRE is a method that reveals that there is also an association between the health of the hippocampus and memory in young adults.

Said Barbey, “MRE turned out to be a fantastic tool that enabled us to demonstrate the importance of the hippocampus in healthy young adults and the positive effect of fitness. We are excited about using MRE to look at other brain structures and diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, that involve cognitive impairment. We hope to see if and how MRE might be a valuable tool for early diagnosis and treatment of a number of neurodegenerative diseases.”

“And, of course, if these results are more widely disseminated,” Barbey concludes, “they could certainly serve as tremendous motivation for people concerned about getting forgetful as they age, to get moving and try to stay fit.”

The work was supported by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and bioengineering though grants EB018320 and EB001981. Additional funding was provided by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), and the National Science Foundation.

Story Source:

Materials provided by National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Hillary Schwarb, Curtis L. Johnson, Ana M. Daugherty, Charles H. Hillman, Arthur F. Kramer, Neal J. Cohen, Aron K. Barbey. Aerobic fitness, hippocampal viscoelasticity, and relational memory performance. NeuroImage, 2017; 153: 179 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2017.03.061

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An hour per week at the gym lowers the risk of metabolic syndrome — ScienceDaily

time to workoutLess than one hour of resistance exercise training per week lowers the risk of developing metabolic syndrome (cardiovascular risk factors such as overweight, high blood pressure and elevated blood sugar). This was shown by a study involving more than 7,000 participants from the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study (ACLS) in the USA. The beneficial effects of resistance exercise were independent from the amount of aerobic exercise, such as running or cycling. An international team of researchers, led by Esmée Bakker of Radboudumc published these findings on June 13 on the website of Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Continued at Source: An hour per week at the gym lowers the risk of metabolic syndrome — ScienceDaily

The Ultimate Fat Burning Exercise Guaranteed to Make You Lose Weight

By Jean Kottemann

March 14, 2014

contemplating manIt’s that season again; time to start thinking about how you’re going to get into your bathing suit, going to your high school reunion, attending some June bride, etc. etc. You are naturally panicked about losing as much weight as possible for the big event.  Thank God for the internet and all those helpful exercise gifs bouncing around in your Facebook timeline.

But just which ones work and which ones are too much trouble?  Here’s my ultimate, no holds barred, absolute cannot fail exercise to practice every day between now and the Big Event:


Exercise control.  Self-control, appetite control, impulse control.


I saw my friend’s fitness watch the other day and it told him that because he ran three 10 minute miles, he was burning 530 calories per hour. First, there are too many variables for that to be accurate.  Fitness watches (and other “calories burned” electronica) are designed to sell you the next upgrade of the fitness watch (or treadmill, or bike, etc.).  Think those calorie counts are inflated?

Secondly, a guy his size burns around 120 calories an hour JUST SITTING ON HIS ASS.  So for all his hard work in sustaining a 30-minute run, he burned 410 calories per hour more so than SITTING ON HIS ASS.  His 30-minute run amounts to  205 extra calories burned.  Congratulations!  Here’s your cookie.

There are 3500 calories in a pound.  If my friend ran 30 minutes every day, he would burn 1400 more calories a week than not running at all.  At that rate, it would take him 25 weeks to lose 10 lbs.

Clearly this is an oversimplification, and there are so many important benefits to exercise other than weight control (I mean, I am a trainer, after all).  However, it goes to demonstrate that a more effective way to lose weight, if that is your only goal, is to simply eat fewer calories. Given the above, an explanation why people sometimes lose weight when they start exercising is because that’s an hour a day that they are NOT snacking, for a change.

We are wondrously adaptive.  It’s how we have survived as a species for so long.  Consider that the more you exercise, the more efficient your body gets at burning the least number of calories to perform the same work!  How impossible it would be for the human animal to still exist if we burned calories willy-nilly like our wrist devices tell us.

We’ve persisted through epochs of famine and starvation. Early man thrived on endurance hunts: running prey into the ground.

How could we burn 520 calories an hour running on an endurance hunt, which could last 10 hours long.  That seems excessive; how does that work?  You run the elk down for 10 hours, catch it, kill it, and then share it with EVERYONE IN THE CAVE.  How does burning 5200 calories in a day-hunt justify — what, 150-ish calories per 3 oz. for wild game?  How does that not make a calorie deficit?  The math does not add up.

You and I, we are Priuses, not Hummers. We burn clean and we burn efficiently, and when we add in something mix that throws us off kilter, we adapt to burn efficiently all over again. The way to reduce in size is much more easily achieved by controlling the calories we eat, not what we expend.

So back to the #1 exercise that guarantees you will lose the most weight in the shortest amount of time:

Exercise control.




Pumping iron is good for the heart, researchers show — ScienceDaily

Copyright: dejanj01 / 123RF Stock Photo
Copyright: dejanj01 / 123RF Stock Photo

Date:  January 11, 2017

Source:  University of British Columbia Okanagan campus
Just one session of interval weight-training can improve the risk of Type 2 diabetes complications, according to a new study. This is encouraging news for those starting the New Year with good intentions.

Source: Pumping iron is good for the heart, researchers show — ScienceDaily


Just one session of interval weight-training can improve the risk of Type 2 diabetes complications, according to a UBC Okanagan study. This is encouraging news for those starting the New Year with good intentions.

Jonathan Little, an assistant professor in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences at UBC Okanagan’s campus, says the study demonstrates that a series of simple leg exercises, involving weights, can improve blood vessel function of people with and without diabetes.

“Individuals with Type 2 diabetes are up to four times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than those without,” says Little, the study’s senior researcher. “After completion of just one bout of exercise, we saw an improvement in blood vessel function, an indicator of heart health and heart attack risk.

“With further study, this information could provide a new safe and cost-effective tool to help people manage their disease.”

In the study, Little and his research team compared the effect of two types of interval training — resistance (leg press, extensions and lifts) and cardiovascular (stationary bicycle) exercises — on blood vessel function. Both of these alternated periods of high and low intensity effort, in a one-to-one work/rest ratio.

Thirty-five age-matched study participants were assigned into one of three groups; people with Type 2 diabetes, non-exercisers, and regular exercisers without diabetes. Each group performed a 20-minute exercise routine, which included a warm up and seven one-minute, high-intensity efforts with a one-minute rest between each interval.

“All exercisers showed greater blood vessel function improvement after the resistance-based interval training,” says Monique Francois, a UBC graduate student and the co-author of the study. “However, this was most prominent in the Type 2 diabetes group.”

“Resistance training was introduced to this group because it’s relatively easy and can accommodate individuals who are new to exercising. This study shows that resistance-based interval training exercise is a time-efficient and effective method with immediate effects.”

According to the Canadian Diabetes Association, there are 11 million Canadians living with diabetes or prediabetes.

Diabetes is a chronic, debilitating, and sometimes fatal disease, in which the body cannot produce insulin or cannot properly use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that controls the amount of sugar in the blood.

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of British Columbia Okanagan campus. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Monique E. Francois, Cody Durrer, Kevin J. Pistawka, Frank A. Halperin, Jonathan P. Little. Resistance-based interval exercise acutely improves endothelial function in type 2 diabetes. American Journal of Physiology – Heart and Circulatory Physiology, 2016; 311 (5): H1258 DOI: 10.1152/ajpheart.00398.2016

Girls with poorer motor skills more likely than boys to be obese — ScienceDaily


Date:December 19, 2016

Source:Coventry University

Girls with poorer motor skills more likely than boys to be obese Date: December 19, 2016 Source: Coventry University Summary: Young girls who exhibit a poor mastery of fundamental movement skills (FMS) are more likely to be obese than boys who have similarly low skills, according to research.

Source: Girls with poorer motor skills more likely than boys to be obese — ScienceDaily


Young girls who exhibit a poor mastery of fundamental movement skills (FMS) are more likely to be obese than boys who have similarly low skills, according to research led by Coventry University.

The study — which won an award at the recent British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences conference — assessed among other things the running, catching, and balance skills of 250 girls and boys between 6-11 years, categorising their FMS as either low, medium or high.

Researchers at Coventry University, working in collaboration with Middlesex University and the University of South Carolina, then cross-referenced the kids’ motor skills with their body fatness to investigate the relationship between the two. The children’s habitual physical activity was also taken into account.

The researchers found that:

  • body fatness was significantly higher among girls in the low FMS category compared with boys in the same category;
  • body fatness was higher for girls in the low FMS category compared with girls with medium or high fundamental movement skills;
  • there was no significant difference in body fatness across the low, medium and high FMS categories for boys.

Lead researcher Professor Mike Duncan, an exercise physiologist in Coventry University’s Centre for Applied Biological and Exercise Sciences, said “We know from previous studies that primary school children with a higher body mass index are likely to have poorer fundamental movement skills, but our research is aiming to understand this relationship in more detail — particularly how gender may play a role.

“What we’ve found is significant because it signals a need to review the strategies we have to enhance motor proficiency in girls, and means we should be engaging health practitioners and PE teachers to help explore and understand how additional opportunities or different techniques may be required compared with boys.

“The next big question — which we’re continuing to research — is whether developmental delays in acquiring these motor skills, whether in girls or boys, may actually be the cause of children gaining unhealthy weight status.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by Coventry University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

How exercise — interval training in particular — helps your mitochondria stave off old age — ScienceDaily

Date: March 7, 2017

Source: Cell Press

Researchers have long suspected that the benefits of exercise extend down to the cellular level, but know relatively little about which exercises help cells rebuild key organelles that deteriorate with aging. A new study found that exercise — and in particular high-intensity interval training in aerobic exercises such as biking and walking — caused cells to make more proteins for their energy-producing mitochondria and their protein-building ribosomes, effectively stopping aging at the cellular level.

Source: How exercise — interval training in particular — helps your mitochondria stave off old age — ScienceDaily


 It’s oft-repeated but true: exercise keeps you healthy. It boosts your immune system, keeps the mind sharp, helps you sleep, maintains your muscle tone, and extends your healthy lifespan. Researchers have long suspected that the benefits of exercise extend down to the cellular level, but know relatively little about which exercises help cells rebuild key organelles that deteriorate with aging. A study published March 7 in Cell Metabolism found that exercise — and in particular high-intensity interval training in aerobic exercises such as biking and walking — caused cells to make more proteins for their energy-producing mitochondria and their protein-building ribosomes, effectively stopping aging at the cellular level.

“Based on everything we know, there’s no substitute for these exercise programs when it comes to delaying the aging process,” said study senior author Sreekumaran Nair, a medical doctor and diabetes researcher at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “These things we are seeing cannot be done by any medicine.”

The study enrolled 36 men and 36 women from two age groups — “young” volunteers who were 18-30 years old and “older” volunteers who were 65-80 years old — into three different exercise programs: one where the volunteers did high-intensity interval biking, one where the volunteers did strength training with weights, and one that combined strength training and interval training. Then the researchers, led by then-post-doc, now University of Oregon faculty member Matthew Robinson and colleagues, took biopsies from the volunteers’ thigh muscles and compared the molecular makeup of their muscle cells to samples from sedentary volunteers. The researchers also assessed the volunteers’ amount of lean muscle mass and insulin sensitivity.

They found that while strength training was effective at building muscle mass, high-intensity interval training yielded the biggest benefits at the cellular level. The younger volunteers in the interval training group saw a 49% increase in mitochondrial capacity, and the older volunteers saw an even more dramatic 69% increase. Interval training also improved volunteers’ insulin sensitivity, which indicates a lower likelihood of developing diabetes. However, interval training was less effective at improving muscle strength, which typically declines with aging. “If people have to pick one exercise, I would recommend high-intensity interval training, but I think it would be more beneficial if they could do 3-4 days of interval training and then a couple days of strength training,” says Nair. But, of course, any exercise was better than no exercise.

Nair stressed that the focus of this study wasn’t on developing recommendations, but rather on understanding how exercise helps at the molecular level. As we age, the energy-generating capacity of our cells’ mitochondria slowly decreases. By comparing proteomic and RNA-sequencing data from people on different exercise programs, the researchers found evidence that exercise encourages the cell to make more RNA copies of genes coding for mitochondrial proteins and proteins responsible for muscle growth. Exercise also appeared to boost the ribosomes’ ability to build mitochondrial proteins. The most impressive finding was the increase in muscle protein content. In some cases, the high-intensity biking regimen actually seemed to reverse the age-related decline in mitochondrial function and proteins needed for muscle building.

The high-intensity biking regimen also rejuvenated the volunteers’ ribosomes, which are responsible for producing our cells’ protein building blocks. The researchers also found a robust increase in mitochondrial protein synthesis. Increase in protein content explains enhanced mitochondrial function and muscle hypertrophy. Exercise’s ability to transform these key organelles could explain why exercise benefits our health in so many different ways.

Muscle is somewhat unique because muscle cells divide only rarely. Like brain and heart cells, muscle cells wear out and aren’t easily replaced. Functions in all three of those tissues are known to decline with age. “Unlike liver, muscle is not readily regrown. The cells can accumulate a lot of damage,” Nair explains. However, if exercise restores or prevents deterioration of mitochondria and ribosomes in muscle cells, there’s a good chance it does so in other tissues, too. Understanding the pathways that exercise uses to work its magic may make aging more targetable.

Nair and his colleagues hope to find out more about how exercise benefits different tissues throughout the body. They are also looking into ways that clinicians may be able to target the pathways that confer the most benefits. However, for the time being, vigorous exercise remains the most effective way to bolster health. “There are substantial basic science data to support the idea that exercise is critically important to prevent or delay aging,” says Nair. “There’s no substitute for that.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by Cell Press. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Robinson et al. Enhanced Protein Translation Underlies Improved Metabolic and Physical Adaptations to Different Exercise Training Modes in Young and Old Humans. Cell Metabolism, 2017 DOI: 10.1016/j.cmet.2017.02.009