Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Metabolic Acceleration Training

Guest Blog from Alwyn Cosgrove, CSCS - owner of Results Fitness (Newhall, CA)

I’m a huge believer in using the “alternating set” system when training. For time management reasons, I tend to do exercise one for a set, rest 60 seconds or so, do exercise two for a set, rest 60 seconds or so, and continue. This allows me to increase work density while still getting “true” rest.

In other words, I perform a set of squats, rest 60 seconds, perform a set of push-ups, rest 60 seconds, and repeat. So in effect, I’ve almost tripled the rest period between squat sets (60 seconds plus the time taken for push-ups plus 60 seconds) as opposed to using a straight set system. And for fat loss training, it’s unparalleled.

However, the biggest problem or complaint I get from clients who use commercial facilities is that it’s really hard for them to tie up two pieces of gym equipment at peak hours. I have my own facility, but I realize this can be a real problem elsewhere. So I started experimenting with a few things—doing dumbbell lunges and push-ups for example or step-ups and dumbbell bench presses where I could use one set of dumbbells and one piece of equipment.

It was an okay compromise, but it started to somewhat limit my exercise selection. And to be honest, it still had the issue of people working in and possibly disrupting your rest periods.

So I went a step further. What if I created a fat loss or conditioning program based around one piece of equipment where you stayed in the same spot, using the same load for the entire duration. So I tried it. At first it was awkward, but after reading Istvan Javorek’s work and talking with ├╝ber strength coach, Robert Dos Remedios, I started to implement different variations of combination lifting.

I just hoped that it would work as well as alternating sets for fat loss and conditioning or at least close enough that it wasn’t too much of a tradeoff. As it turns out, it worked better! In fact, it worked so well that it became a cornerstone of my conditioning programs with several athletes.

Part two

Part two of the evolution of our fat loss programs came shortly after. I have always recommended interval training as a superior form of fat loss over steady state cardio. Interval training is essentially periods of hard work alternated with easier periods of work using a cardio exercise.

The problem—running a mile doing intervals involves about 1500 repetitions. For someone looking to cut body fat, and hit total body weight training two to three times a week, that is a lot of extra volume and potential joint stress. So I started thinking. Interval training is similar to weight training in that it involves sets (and reps) followed by a rest period (albeit active). What if I used a lighter version of traditional strength training and created metabolic circuits?

Timed sets

This is the simplest variation of metabolic work. Pick a load that is about 80% of your 10RM. Perform as many reps as possible at a constant tempo for a period of time (e.g. 60 seconds) and try to perform as many repetitions with as good form as possible. Rest for 15–30 seconds and perform another exercise.

Example #1

  • Barbell reverse lunge, left leg, 60 seconds
  • Rest 15–30 seconds
  • Barbell reverse lunge, right leg, 60 seconds
  • Rest 15–30 seconds
  • Barbell push press, 60 seconds
  • Rest 15–30 seconds

Repeat three times for a 12-minute routine.

Example #2

  • Kettlebell swings, 30 seconds
  • Rest 15 seconds
  • Push-ups/burpees, 30 seconds
  • Rest 15 seconds
  • Prowler push, 30 seconds
  • Rest 15 seconds

Repeat for five rounds for a 12-minute finisher

Metabolic density training

This is a modified version of 'Escalating Density Training (EDT)' as popularized by Charles Staley. However, Charles recommends two exercises performed as a superset for 15 minutes. In this case, we are going to use three exercises and work for ten minutes.

Example #1

  • Dumbbell bench press
  • Alternating lunges
  • Swiss ball crunch

In this method, select a load that will allow 10–12 reps and perform sets of 6–8. There is no rest between exercises. Work continuously for ten minutes moving from one exercise to the next. The alternate version is to perform five rounds of 6–8 reps of each as fast as possible.


Be warned, these are pretty grueling. Perform the complexes at the beginning of your workout when you’re fresh. They’ll elevate your metabolism beyond anything you’ve ever experienced before. The most frequently asked question about complexes is how much load to use. Remember, it’s a metabolic stimulus, not a strength or hypertrophy stimulus so be conservative. Now, don’t go too light either. A good “Cosgrove rule of thumb” is that if you’re not questioning why in the hell you’re doing these exercises or convincing yourself that twice around is enough, you’re not going heavy enough.
Let’s get into it.

Perform each complex once per week for four training sessions per week. Use the following progression:

  • Week one: 4 sets of 5 reps of each, 90 seconds rest
  • Week two: 5 sets of 5 reps of each, 75 seconds rest
  • Week three: 5 sets of 6 reps of each, 60 seconds rest
  • Week four: 6 sets of 6 reps of each, 45 seconds rest.

Then puke!

Complex A

  • Bent over barbell row
  • Hang clean
  • Front squat and push press hybrid
  • Jump squat (bar on back)
  • Good morning

Complex B

  • Romanian deadlift
  • Hang clean and front squat and push press (combination lift, perform one rep of each in series)
  • Reverse lunge (alternate legs)

Complex C

  • Deadlift
  • High pull (onto toes)
  • Squat clean (clean the bar from the hang and then drop into a full squat on the catch)
  • Military press (strict)
  • Jump lunges (switch legs)

Insert my evil laugh here!

Complex D

  • Jump squat
  • Squat
  • Squat and hold for 10 seconds
  • Military press
  • Push press
  • Squat and press (combination lift, perform one rep of each in series)

Note: Try to work all exercises at a speed of 1–2 reps per second.


A Tabata protocol is a very high intensity anaerobic interval program that involved eight rounds of 20 second work periods at 170% of your VO2 max with a negative recovery period of 10 seconds. The best way to use these with strength training exercises is to alternate one upper body with one lower body exercise. The second progression we used is to vary the work to rest ratio.

  • Beginner: 10 seconds work, 20 seconds recovery
  • Intermediate: 15 seconds work, 15 seconds recover
  • Advanced: 20 seconds work, 10 seconds recovery

A great pairing is squat jumps and running push-ups (a single push-up and two reps of mountain climbers in alternating fashion) in pairs.

Medley conditioning

This is similar to the other methods in that we are working for time, but we will use 15 seconds on and 15 seconds off and perform multiple rounds with different pieces of equipment. For example, an MMA fighter competing in five-minute rounds may use four exercises in a circuit and perform multiple rounds until the five-minute period is up.

Example #1

  • 15 seconds, Prowler push
  • 15 seconds, rest
  • 15 seconds, squat jump
  • 15 seconds, rest
  • 15 seconds, sledgehammer or medicine ball chops
  • 15 seconds, rest
  • 15 seconds, kettlebell swing
  • 15 seconds, rest

Keep working through the medley until the five-minute period is up


Finishers are just short body weight or single piece of equipment only, 3–5 minute routines at the end of each workout.


  • 3 push-ups, 1 tuck jump
  • 6 push-ups, 2 tuck jump
  • 9 push-ups, 3 tuck jumps
  • 12 push-ups, 4 tuck jumps
  • 15 push-ups, 5 tuck jumps

Continue to add three push-ups and one tuck jump to each set until you miss a rep. Then climb back down the ladder.

Leg Matrix:

  • 24 squats
  • 12 lunges each leg (alternating)
  • 12 lunge jumps each leg (alternating)
  • 24 squat jumps

If you can complete this in under 90 seconds, do two rounds with no rest.

Squat series:

  1. 20-second squat jump
  2. 20-second squat
  3. 20-second isometric squat

Repeat for three rounds with no rest


  • Select two exercises (e.g. kettlebell swing and burpees or squat jumps and plyometric push-ups).
  • Perform 10 reps of each, nine reps of each, eight reps of each and so on. Each week start with one set of one more rep than your top set (e.g. 11 reps, 10 reps, 9 reps, etc.).

A final warning

This isn’t for the faint hearted or de-conditioned!! They are not beginners’ routines. If you’re coming back from injury or illness, don’t try this program yet. It’s brutal. However, if you follow this routine for four weeks, you’ll see a very significant improvement in your conditioning and a massive drop in your body fat!


Monday, May 24, 2010

Totally Random X Challenge with Sean & Josh!

The TRX Suspension Trainer is my main "go-to" piece of equipment when it comes to total body training & conditioning. To demonstrate it's versatility, here's another great video of my friends and colleagues, Sean Croxton of Underground Wellness TV and Josh Trent of Wellness Force, as they put the TRX to the test. Oh yeah, let's not forget about the PediCab Dude and the Security Man for jumping in on the action. Nice job fellas!

To order your TRX, click here. It's lightweight, portable, fun and well worth the investment! Enjoy!


Monday, May 17, 2010

How To Kill A Man...the Stealthy Way

This is easier than you might think…

It requires no real skill. You won't have to spend the next ten years honing in on your ninja-like moves. There's no special weapons or poison to buy. It turns out that all you have to do is bore them to death. The best part - no one will notice! The body will simply show up one day and leave others guessing as to what may have happened. No marks, no bruises, no blood, nada!!

A study conducted by a couple of scientists, Annie Britton and Martin J. Shipley of the Department of Epidemiology at University College London, studied over 7,500 civil servants between the ages of 35 and 55 and recorded their level of boredom. Then they called back 10 years later to find out who was still alive.

Those who’d said they had high levels of boredom were 37% more likely to be dead by 2009! What was the conclusion? Bored people are more prone to being unhappy, unmotivated and unfulfilled and generally all round miserable leading to unhealthy habits like smoking, drugs, or drinking…blah, blah, blah.

So, for that stealthly kill simply.....DO NOTHING! But what does this have to do with strength training/lifting or fitness for that matter?

I hear so many people whine - "I don’t know what program to do!", "How long should I rest for?", "How many reps?", "Should I add muscle or should I drop weight?", "Do I need to do cardio?". Just STOP!

You owe it to yourself to make your training brutally effective and with a little imagination, fun! If you have to choose one, go for the former but if you're even just a little bit clever, it can be both.

We all know the benefits of regular exercise. We know that the physical and mental pay off is worth every minute. But so many guys & gals get hung up on the small stuff and turn the process into an effortless gazing exercise. The mental component of training only kicks in when you're actually training. I don’t care how much Napoleon Hill you read, you're not going to think and grow big or fit! You have no choice but to put forth the effort to move & get going!

Train properly and there will be no time to fuss over details, that in all honesty, have little or no impact on your overall conditioning.

First things first - Make your training sessions short! I know I've said this before but I'll say it again. Don't confuse short with easy. I often simply pick two exercises and work them back to back, superset style. Rather than worrying about muscles, think about moves. We're designed to push, pull, squat, lunge, bend, flex, extend and rotate/twist. So, why not try a lunge matrix followed by a pyramid set of Kettlebell/dumbell squats. How about Hang Cleans followed by wide-grip pull ups? You don’t need a ton of gear to do this and it's simple to take a drill you've mastered and make it more challenging.

For those of you who think of training as a neccesary evil, you'll always be taking two steps forward and one step back. If you can get your head in the game and make your training “playful”, you'll open up a world of potential.

Today? Rain or shine, I might go to the park and swing, roll, run/jog, jump, anything. Bottom line is, I will move!

So yeah, it’s great to have a plan, it’s good to have a goal. More importantly, it’s essential to simply move like you mean it. Embrace the chaos, try stuff, experiment, ditch the stuff that doesn’t work, do the stuff that you don’t like, temper that with the stuff you love.

One thing is for sure…you won't get bored!


Friday, May 14, 2010

Workout of the Day - The Accumulator Extreme

Check out this is a great routine for a strength/interval workout. The idea is to choose about 10 excercises or more (depending on how much time you have), complete each round for a determined number of reps or time and add an exercise in the next round with very little to no rest in between. As each round progresses, start with the first exercise (from Round #1) and work through each one until all exercises & all reps/time have been completed.


Round #1 - 10 Pushups
Round # 2 - 10 Pushups, 10 Squats,
Round #3 - 10 Pushups, 10 Squats, 10 Tricep Kickbacks, etc.

"The Accumlator Extreme"

Goal: Complete 10 rounds, 10 reps or 1-min. of each exercise. Add 1 new exercise/activity each round starting with the first exercise in Round #1.

Challenge: Finish this workout in under 30-minutes and BRING IT!!

Round #1 - 10 Pushups (any variation)

Round #2 - 10 Squats

Round #3 - 10 Tricep Kickbacks (both arms)

Round #4 - 10 Lateral Skiers (R to L - or - L to R counts as 1 rep)

Round #5 - 10 DB Front/Lateral Raise DB Swings

Round #6 - Plank (1-minute)

Round #7 - 10 Mountain Climbers

Round #8 - 10 Hammer Curls with 1/4 Squats

Round #9 - 10 Dymanic Lunges

Round #10 - Knee-In Crunches (1-minute)

Crank it & have fun!


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mission First

I recieved an email from a good buddy of mine yesterday in regards to a "minor" obstacle he encountered. What did he do to overcome it? He had a 'plan B' as he was on a mission.

Here's what he said:

"So, quick story for you. I packed my gym clothes last night for gym ops this afternoon. Well, this morning when I pulled in to the parking lot at work it occurred to me that I forgot to pack socks. I double checked my bag when I got out of the car and sure enough…no socks. Normally, for most of us this would be one of the pivotal points in the day when we say… “Well I guess I won’t go to the gym today”…I call this the Jedi mind screw…when we have suddenly used the Force against ourselves…ha! This seems to happen with a number of things in our lives…but, you know what…guess who is going to buy socks at lunch? MISSION FIRST!"

This is what the true meaning of “determination” is all about. No matter what obstacles, detours, or roadblocks come our way, 'big' or 'small', we must ALWAYS find a way to overcome them by ANY means necessary.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Heavy Lifting....and Bulky Women?

Most women I’ve met have a fear of getting 'big' and 'bulky' when it comes to strength training/lifting weights at the gym. When you mention weights to them - I can almost see the fear and disbelief on their faces that weight training is actually going to do them good. So what do most women end up doing? Endless bouts of slow cardio to drop those unwanted lbs. Or they end up lifting weights that are way too light for them - weights too light to bring about significant positive changes in their physique, and they lift for more repetitions than usual, in the hope to get toned and thin. Now unfortunately, this is a myth - and I'm tempted to blame the many images of 'bulky' women that circulate over the Internet for this fear and also the lack of understanding why and how muscles grow and adapt to weight training.

Women just don’t have the hormones required to get all big and built like a man. In fact, women have about 15 to 20 times less testosterone than men and testosterone is the reason men are men, and women are women. As in men, levels of testosterone will peak in women in their twenties and decline thereafter. The 'scary' images of women you see on bodybuilding magazines and shows are not natural, meaning, they’re built like that with the help of synthetic hormones.

Most women want to 'tone' - but what does 'toning' mean? It really just means increasing muscle and decreasing bodyfat which will allow that muscle underneath to show a little more.

Lifting lighter weights isn't a bad thing - it just isn’t ideal if your goal is to show a leaner and sexier you. Higher repetitions is best for increasing muscular endurance.

So you want to get 'toned'? Then go lift some weights - REAL WEIGHTS! Don’t be afraid to really push yourself. Instead of lifting light weights for 15-20 reps, aim for 8-12 reps but lift heavy enough so you can’t get past the 12th, as recommended by The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

Here are some simple weight training tips you can use to blast your muscles into some new growth:
  • Set goals and strive for them - One of the most important things you can do when starting a weight training program is to set goals. For example, if you'd like to gain 10lbs of healthy weight (lean mass), you'd be training differently to what would be required to lose weight. Once you know your goals, you can design your training routine by choosing exercises that target the proper muscles and lift with a purpose.

  • Vary your exercises - Every women unquestionably has a specific asset they would like to develop on their body, but this doesn't mean you should get attached to any one workout routine or exercise. Most exercises can be performed a number of ways. For example, you can switch to dumbbells for the bench press. The added freedom of movement the dumbbells provide really makes for a much better stretch. Use a variety of different exercises and resistance - use your own body weight vs. gravity. Varying your workout is one of the best things you can do for muscle growth as you are hitting muscle from different angles and constantly challenging yourself.

  • Slower reps - One of the best things you can do is to really slow down your reps and focus on getting a nice tight muscle contraction. Thic concept is known as 'time under tension'. This will help you far more than any other muscle building strategy. It would be pointless to lift heavy while sacrificing proper form. Without good form you won't have good results. Sloppy form will only cause injury and it's not as efficient for building muscle.

  • Lift heavy weight with fewer reps - Yes, you read correctly! Training to gain mass is no different for women. You need to be training like the guys if your intent is to look like a godess. Lifting heavy and doing fewer reps will shock your body into putting on lean mass. There's no rush to increase the weight, lift what you're comfortable with, but the focus of your weight training routine should be on progression. Light weight and more reps will only tone the muscle, but won't do much if you are serious about gaining lean mass. The more lean mass you attain, the greater the calorie expenditure you create, thus resulting in being lean and burning fat!

  • Don't neglect the leg training - Ladies, your legs are a powerhouse of strength. Women actually have stronger legs than their male counterparts. Lower body exercises like squats, deadlifts and leg presses will allow you to lift heavy weight and gain muscle mass all over your body, not just help to develop bigger legs.

Remember that putting on healthy lean mass will come about through a mixture of a proper diet, good training techniques and the right mix of exercises. Make sure you're addressing all three aspects of your weight training program and not focusing too much on just the gym stuff - slow cardio.

Train hard, and safe, and don’t let fear get in the way. Women deserve to get the body they want.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

New Rules of Cardio?

Guest Blog from Alwyn Cosgrove, CSCS - owner of Results Fitness (Newhall, CA)

Cardiovascular programming is an ass backward concept.

I don’t know when I first thought this – but it was confirmed to me when viewing Lance Armstrong’s performance in the New York Marathon.

I’d been taught through my college education and countless training certifications and seminars that cardio vascular exercise was necessary to improve the cardio vascular system and subsequently aerobic performance.

But there seemed an inherent flaw in that argument….

Let’s say I tested your aerobic fitness through a treadmill test.

Then – for sixteen weeks – we developed a five-day per week aerobic training program that involved you running at various heart rates and for various lengths of times – progressively increasing in difficulty and duration – and this resulted in a very significant improvement in your aerobic fitness.

At the end of this sixteen week period, how much do you expect your swimming times to have improved? Marginally, if at all.

Seems dumb to ask right? However – if we have one cardiovascular system – why doesn’t your cardiovascular system improve across the board regardless of the activity?

Why didn’t Lance Armstrong – with perhaps the highest recorded VO2 max in history – win the New York Marathon? Or beat people with lesser aerobic levels than himself?

The greatest endurance cyclist (and possibly endurance athlete) of all time – the seven time Tour De France winner – finished 868th and described the event as the “hardest physical thing” he had ever done.

Runners World Magazine actually examined Lance’s physiology (and VO2 max which was tested at 83) and compared them to the numbers of Paul Tergat (the World Record holder and defending NYC Marathon Champion at the time).

They concluded:

"This figure wouldn’t mean much if it weren’t for the pioneering research of famed running coach Jack Daniels, Ph.D., who first published his Oxygen Power tables in 1979– According to Daniels, who’s rarely off by more than a smidgen or two, a max VO2 of 83 is roughly equivalent to a 2:06 marathon”

Based on his other physical qualities the magazine suggested that Lance was capable of running 2:01:11.

The world record at the time was 2:04:55

Lance ran 2:59:36 (and don’t misinterpet me – that’s still a great time). But it’s clear that the physiology didn’t transfer the way even the running community expected.

The flaw in this thinking was looking solely at aerobic capacity — VO2 max – the “engine” as it were. And it’s fair to say that Lance had a “Formula One” engine.

But he didn’t have the structural development for running. Lance was a cyclist – his body had adapted to the demands of cycling. But NOT to the specific demands of running (in fact Lance had only ran 16 miles at once EVER prior to running the marathon). Lance had developed strength, postural endurance and flexibility in the correct “cycling muscles” – but it didn’t transfer to running the way his VO2 max did.

The muscles don’t move because of cardiovascular demand. It’s the reverse. The cardio system is elevated because of muscular demand. We need to program the body based on the movements it’s going to perform – not based on the cardiovascular system.

Basically, if that muscular system cannot handle the stress of thousands of repetitions (which is what running, cycling etc is) then we have to condition that muscular system first. And by doing so, we automatically improve cardiovascular conditioning.

The only reason that there is any demand on the cardiovascular system is because the muscular system places that demand – the muscles require oxygen in order to continue to work. In fact cardiovascular exercise is impossible without moving the muscle first.

I’ve seen this across various sports. The cardio conditioning required to run a 10K won’t transfer to motocross or jiu-jitsu.

Conclusion – If cardio training doesn’t transfer well from one activity to another – and it only ‘kicks’ in because of muscular demand – why don’t we program muscular activity first – in order to create a cardiovascular response.