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Why dancing is one of the best exercise routines

If you picture a scene in the amazon rain forest full of animals, what is going on?

If they aren’t mating, eating or trying to eat or avoid being eaten, they are singing, dancing and playing.  I’m not saying animals are better than humans, because they are not as developed and don’t have the ability to reason, inspire or create metaphor.  However, I think we often forget that we are animals too. We’ve lost a lot of our instinct and what actually works for us to make our lives better.

In that way we can certainly learn a lot from them.  So let’s go back to that scene and let’s look at the animals singing, dancing and playing.  It’s marvelous when you think about it.  It’s a cacophony of the senses.  They are really in the moment, in the flow and doing great things without effort.  We can really struggle with that.

Our world has moved so fast that we’ve devised a lot of education, lifestyles and practises that were created without thought as to whether we are designed for it.

As a result we are often stuck in the analysis part of the brain, which only makes up a meager 2% of the grey matter.  The rest of it is based on sensory images, and we seriously neglect that to our cost.  Our perceptive ability and potential is often hugely hampered as a result.

In the previous articles, we’ve talked about using more of the brain while exercising to get better results and also to enhance the rest of our lives.

We’ve talked about sport, coordination, balance and ambidexterity.  Well, what about music?  RHYTHM.

So important as well.  Rhythm connects our auditory sense and kinesthetic sense.

What do nearly all top sportpeople, dancers or athletes have in common?  Great rhythm.  Wouldn’t it be a good idea then for us to look at this important factor?

Would a dance class for exercise be a good idea?  Of course it would.  Sure you are using more of your brain, you have to coordinate, get in the moment, stay in rhythm, connect with other people and also keep your balance.

It’s a marvelous thing to do.

If you watch a monkey swinging from a tree, a quick lizard moving at pace along the ground, or a gazel taking off on a sprint what you see is fluid movement.  It is in beautiful natural rhythm.

Dance is a great way to connect this up.  Team sport is also a great way to develop it.  A good team movement is all about rhythm.  It’s not quick, cohesive and elegant without it.  But dance is an easier way to develop this because rhythm in team sport takes some individual development first.

For strength, you can also master bodyweight movement using good technique, rhythm and copy animal bodyweight movements like the lizard walk.  There’s a flow, coordination, balance and rhythm to those movements you just can’t get with a conventional weights exercise.  It will also show in overall results; how you look, how you feel and how you perform.

Really consider taking a dance or zumba exercise class.  It will do wonders for you, even if you start with two left feet.  You can start to get great results just by improving and practising a few times a week.  You only have to look at the enjoyment, posture, fluidity, muscularity and tone of a professional dancer to see what it can do for us.

If you start you’ll be gaining those things too.

All you really have to do is keep showing up to enjoy yourself.

Does jogging make you slow?

Yes and no.

If you only jog for a number of months then you will get considerably slower. I experienced this myself first hand lately. I started playing soccer again after years and years of not playing, aside from maybe one game per year.

I was still speedy in those intermittent games (so long as I wasn’t socialising the night before), no pace had been lost. My stamina had been very poor though, because I’d only been strength training, playing golf and watching my diet.

This year I wanted to also get great cardiovascular fitness as well. So I added jogging three times per week to my regime.

I’m starting to play soccer regularly now. Stamina has improved considerably on the pitch, but I can’t believe how much pace and speed I’ve lost. I can keep on going and going, but my ability to keep up intense work (work capacity) and speed are almost non-existent.

So I’ve learned from this and have added sprinting and interval work into my regime. My speed is coming back and the better work capacity should follow soon as well.

To be honest, it’s not a bad idea to build an aerobic base of stamina first, because first and foremost you need to be able to keep going and also it helps your recovery from hard sessions.

As disappointed as I was with my loss of speed, the fact is I probably gave a better overall performance than the days when I had the speed, but lacked stamina.

Even when slow, I’d arrive in goalscoring positions and get back to defend a lot more, and this gives you more chance to use your hopefully decent skills and finishing. I also had more in the tank than other players as the game wore on, and started to influence the game more and score more.

It’s not easy to go straight into a full fitness regime so maybe this was a decent approach. However, I’m happy the speed is coming back. It’s a great thing to have, not just for running, but it also hugely helps your ability in having quick feet for skills and tackling.

The plan I have now is to play two 1.5-2 hour five a side games per week and do one tempo interval session as well, to cover aerobic fitness. All other sessions will be based on skills, strength, speed, agility and flexibility.

I’m replacing all jogging with the games and a tempo interval session, which is running repeats at 75% of max for 10 seconds and resting a minute or until heart rate goes to 130 bpm, and doing this for 15 to 30 minutes depending on if it is a light or full session. This is basically aerobic training done by easier sprints and work capacity training. It’s not full out intervals, which are great for work capacity, and it’s not jogging either. It’s intervals for aerobic capacity and some work capacity.

This is what sprinters do for conditioning. They are afraid of jogging causing a loss of speed and so am I now!
However, I’m not sure jogging would have any effect on speed so long as you maintain your sprint and speed work. Some boxers and mma fighters maintain blinding speed with regular jogging on top of their speed routines, so that suggests it isn’t a problem if not done in isolation.

But it may be better for athletes that need maximum speed to stick to games and tempo intervals. It is something to consider, it may be more specific to the needs of certain types of sports. In soccer for example, it is all bursts and recovery, which is more suited to tempo intervals and outright speed training on top of games and regular training.

All in all this is something that needs consideration. If you want to build an aerobic base from scratch you are probably better starting with walking alternating with jogging and building up to jogging. However, if you also need or want speed, then beware that this cardio work alone will take all speed away (over a period of months).
Have speed work as part of your routine as well, if so required.

Why I love heart rate monitors and why you should too

Training intensity is crucial for injury prevention, optimal progress, knowing what cardiovascular system you are improving, how hard to train and many more things.

Heart rate monitors give you feedback.

They will tell you how hard to train and even how often. This is invaluable.

Based on your age and maximum heart rate you can work out the heart rate zone you should be training in. For aerobic fitness you will want to be staying in the 70-80% zone. Any higher than this for long periods on a continual basis and you run the risk of injury or burnout.

This will also derail progress because you won’t be recovering properly. You need to train hard enough, but not over do it.

With modern heart rate monitors you can even set the heart rate zones so that it beeps when you go out of a particular zone. This really helps in my experience. There’s no ambiguity.

It’s also very easy to stick to a progressive plan this way.

The best heart rate monitors I’ve used are Polar fitness watches. They are great. Also beware that most HRM’s on machines aren’t always accurate for some reason. You are better off just biting the bullet and getting a proper one.

Nowadays there are also Heart Rate Variability or HRV testers. These are really useful in indicating how well you’ve recovered and how hard to train on any given day. This is also really useful because it can be hard to know when to go all out and when to train easy. This gives you physiological markers that tell you what would be best. There is a sweetspot for the most effective training and it is enough stimulation to force adaptation but not so much to burn you out.

If you overtrain you are open to injury, underperformance or adrenal burnout, and this can totally derail your training until you heal.

I use a HRV monitor called ithlete everyday. It cost £40 and comes with an app. You wrap the sensor over your index finger and plug it into your phone. The app then tells you what condition you are in today, how recovered you are and how hard to train. It is so useful.

These tools give you a better plan, one that is more enjoyable, more definite, increases performance and helps you stay clear of preventable injuries.

I highly recommend making a relatively small investment in these training monitors that will give you benefit for years to come.

Why most vegetable oils are not good for you

We have a diet that is imbalanced to omega 6 fatty acids, instead of omega 3. Nearly all vegetable oils are rich in omega 6. We need that too, but we already get plenty of it from food. We don’t get enough omega 3 and they are anti-inflammatory. Too much omega 6 is pro-inflammatory. Inflammation causes problems with cholesterol, cardiovascular issues, pain, joint issues and all sorts of other goodies.

That’s why fish oil is recommended so often, because it gives you plenty of omega 3’s in the direct form of DHA (which doesn’t have to be broken down).

You should also try to limit any other oils you take, because they are probably omega 6. Olive oil in a small amount is good, because it is omega 9 and those help the cell membranes, but we tend to be okay for omega 9 anyway.

Also, vegetable oils that are omega 3, like Flax seed oil, are basically useless because the enzymes needed to break them down are usually tied up with all the other fats we assimilate.

That’s why it is best to supplement with fish oil.

A good vegetable oil to use is coconut oil. It doesn’t need to be broken down and although it’s not addressing the omega fatty acid balance either way, it is a great source of energy. It enters the system straight away and actually aids fat burning. It helps the body to use fat for fuel, and especially in the first half of the day, it can also aid the body in mobilising and burning body fat (by processes described in the book).

It also contains stearic acid, as does bacon, which is very good for cell membranes.

Granma knew best when she gave you bacon and eggs.

Despite the publicity, the real science says animal fat is good for you and vegetable fats are often a problem creator. I wouldn’t go crazy on the saturated fat because although it is good for you (also good for cell membranes), too much of it can cause cell membranes to get too rigid, but that’s at a crazy amount. It’s not a huge worry. However, fish or chicken without skin is sometimes better than beef.

There are also warnings about dietary cholesterol, but blood cholesterol gets high from inflammation and not directly not from diet.

Diet does play a large role, but indirectly.

The main cause of inflammation is excess body fat and an imbalance of too much omega 6 in the diet (not enough omega 3). Plus, excess body fat is ironically not caused by too much fat in the diet, but too many carbs. Body fat is stored via insulin, which is stimulated by carbs. Carbohydrates are bad if not used correctly. They are what we need to watch and the omega 6 vegetable fat, not the animal fat.

The best diet for health and fat loss is described very well at www.precisionphysique.com/carbbackloading.html

Why building the mind-muscle connection is important to any sportsperson, bodybuilder or gym goer

It’s important because this unseen aspect of training will increase your results.

What is the mind-muscle connection? It’s basically how many nerves are going between your brain and your muscles, and how well grooved the pathways are.

If there are more neurons and connections in your brain for handling certain muscles, then they will function better, contract with more force, fire faster, with more control, coordination etc.

A lot of this is built simply by regular training. If you lift weight you are building the mind-muscle connection to make it stronger. You are building the physical structure in muscle fibre, but you are also building the skill of strength. Your brain is also adapting to get better.

The same goes for any type of training. You have to perform technique a certain amount of times before it is second nature. That’s all neuromuscular adaptation, the neurons getting a blueprint for how to do a movement (using muscles). Anyone who’s trained for a decent amount of time, eventually gains a supra awareness of their body, ‘the mind is more in the body’. It may be noticed as simply feeling muscles contract, but it is a powerful perception and a sign of increased ability.

Furthermore, we can amplify the connection with certain exercises, and it adds a lot to results.

For example, using ballistic exercises not just builds more speed, but it is also very helpful to strength training and general performance. This is because deliberately firing muscles faster is a mental focus that builds the mind-muscle connection. It’s not uncommon for people to increase their bench press 100lbs from adding ballistic training for the chest and shoulders. A lot of this is due to engaging and growing fibres not hit in heavy resistance training, but it is also largely to do with neuromuscular adaptations.

We know it is also nerve power increase because using a different focus during strength workouts also increases lifts quite a bit.

Long term, these practises will make a very noticeable difference. We outline exactly how to put this in a program in our book, Precision Physique: Training (module 2).

What are good body measurements?

There are actually body measurements that are ideal for your height and gender.

And they are attainable long term for anybody with the right training and diet.

They are also not the stereotypes you often see on the front of a bodybuilding or fashionista magazine. Those dudes are often too big and the girls are often too skinny.

That’s not just what I am saying, that is what the maths is saying as well. There is a number throughout nature called Phi, or the perfect ratio. It is the design number. It is in everything from seashells, to plants, to animals, to humans. It is also used in roads, buildings, credit cards, cars, cereal boxes and lots of other things to make them structurally sounder, more visually appealing and to sell more.

Nearly all the great physique statues are on these numbers as well. We discuss the numbers in depth in our book, Precision Physique.

The extremes don’t look right, it is commercialism to try to get people after the unattainable (and actually undesirable), so they will keep buying magazines, the supplements they own, the clothes they advertise and so on.

The young people who are hell bent on getting the drug induced physiques in the pictures end up shooting steroids or with eating disorders. Not good.

So it is not just interesting information to talk about the correct health and physique goals, but it is actually very important information.

There’s nothing worse than a lean girl thinking she would look better if she was skin and bone. Her health, life and even appearance will end up in bits.

The idiots who perpetuate this madness (in the images and articles they write) need to be called out. Hopefully then eventually everyone will be aware of it and then no younger people will want to buy the stupid mags anymore (until they start publishing good material).

Is High Intensity HIIT Cardio Better For Fat Loss Than Steady State Cardio (Like Jogging)?

It is better for fat loss, but not as good as using both.

They both have pluses and minuses when it comes to burning body fat.

High intensity is great at releasing body fat and steady state is great for burning it off so that it doesn’t go back to fat storage.

Either type of cardio will burn body fat, under the right circumstances.

However, from the research and our experience HIIT is superior for fat loss because it encourages sugar to be converted into glycogen and put into carbohydrate storage in muscles. It encourages this more than sugar being converted into fat and put into fat stores. It also does this more than steady state cardio.

That’s not to say steady state exercise encourages fat storage. That’s not true either, it’s just not as effective for changing body composition.

But using both will give you the best results. HIIT is better for teaching the body to mobilise fat, and steady state is better at teaching the body to use fat for fuel. You can also do more steady state than HIIT, which means you can train more by using both, leading to greater results.

A lot of people are trying to suggest that steady state is bad for you. It’s not. Any bad results are due to overtraining, plain and simple. Too much of anything, too often, is bad for you. With steady state, overdoing it just takes longer to show up and does so in a more subtle fashion than usual, and that’s where the confusion comes from. Problems that arise from steady state overtraining are also nearly always accompanied by a lack of resistance training and excessive prolonged calorie restriction.

Using a well designed program and good tests to see when you need rest, will avoid this problem. We have a top quality cardio program in our book Precision Physique: Module 2 training, which covers all types of cardio in the one program. We also make sure you don’t overtrain.

If you do cardio correctly it is a very good fat loss strategy. And if you are strategic in using all types of cardio, then the results are even better.