SANE 202 / Lesson 2

How To Exercise Less – But Smarter


Carrie: Hey everyone! This is Carrie Brown and Jonathan Bailor over at the Smartest Science of Slim HQ.

Jonathan: HQ, the world headquarters…

Carrie: Of the Smartest Science of Slim.

Jonathan: Yes and this…

Carrie: How are you Jonathan?

Jonathan: I’m good Carrie, how are you doing?

Carrie: It’s a very orange shirt you have on.

Jonathan: While we’re making fun of people, my dear Carrie, we talked about buying food in bulk in a previous podcast and even mentioned how Carrie bought some ridiculous, one of those, how much was that?

Carrie: 55 Pounds.

Jonathan: 55 pounds of Xylitol. Yes, so.

Carrie: For you lovely readers so that I can make you yummy stuff.

Jonathan: Yes. Apparently, she’s gonna be cooking non-stop for the next 20 years. Carrie took the bulk advice, buying in bulk to save money.

Carrie: To heart…

Jonathan: She has also purchased 50 pounds of almond meal/almond flour.

Carrie: That is true.

Jonathan: When you start measuring the amount of food you are purchasing in hundreds of pounds, I think we might have to have an intervention, unless you start some sort of a bakery of sorts, but that is, that is a quite epic.

Carrie: I have to invent things and test things, and all of that goods stuff. I will not give our listeners rubbish.
Jonathan: It sounds almost like Carrie is running for office, “I will not give our listeners rubbish” No new rubbish.

Carrie: No new rubbish.

Jonathan: No new rubbish.

Carrie: What are we talking about?

Jonathan: We are going to talk about, we’re going to start digging into the key principles of smarter exercise, and the principles that enable us to exercise less but smarter. The first principle we want to talk about, is we want to exercise more muscle to get more results.

Carrie: You scared me for just a brief second there, exercise more and now I was like, no, but as soon as you said the word muscle, I was like…

Jonathan: Here’s the cool thing by the end of this podcast, you are going to understand the, we’re going to simplify some otherwise complicated physiology that shows that in fact, this is not debaters, this is not controversial, this is physiological fact that the only way to work more muscle is to exercise less. Let me explain, we’re going to spend the rest of the podcast explaining how that can be true, but let me say that again, because is it a physiological fact, that the only way to exercise the most muscle and specifically the most muscle fibers possible, is to do less exercise.

Carrie: I love that.

Jonathan: Love that. Okay, we’ll let us prove it physiologically now. A couple things just to quickly start. We all know we have different muscles in our body, we’ve got a biceps in our arms, and a quadriceps in our legs and our gluteus maximus that cushions us when we sit down, which is actually the largest muscle in our body, and is quite important to work in order to clear our hormonal clog. Most of us may not know that we have individual little fibers, that make up our muscle, muscle fibers and just like we have different muscles on our body, to do different things, we’ve got our biceps to move our arms, and we’ve got our quadriceps to move our legs.

We have different fibers within our muscles, that enable our muscles to do different things. Let me give you specific examples. We have what’s called type 1 muscle fibers. These muscle fibers, allow our muscles to do a little bit of work for a very long period of time. For example, you notice how we can, walk around for a long time, why is that? Well, you can walk around for a long time because you’re using your type 1 muscle fibers to walk, they generate very little force and they can run for a long time, which make sense, like the less force something requires, the longer it can be done but now we actually have three other types of muscle fibers.

We have our type 2A muscle fibers, our type 2X muscle fibers, then our type 2B muscle fibers and kind of imagine that as a stack. On the top of the stack you have your type 1 muscle fibers, then below that you have type 2A, below that you have type 2X and below that you have type 2B. As we get down that stack, those muscle fibers allows us to produce progressively more force but for a shorter period of time. If you hear these, that’s a bad example, let me give you a different one.

We just need to pick up something heavy, like if we’re moving and we need to pick up a heavy box, you can’t pick up a lot of heavy boxes and you can’t hold that box for a really long time and in fact when you do pick up that box, you’re actually going to be using some different muscle fibers. You’re going to be using your type 2 and potentially even you’re type 2B muscle fibers, in addition to your type 1 muscle fibers in order to pick up that box, because the more force you need to generate, the more muscle fibers you’re body is going to recruit and its actually recruit different types of muscle fibers the types of muscle fibers that will allow you to generate the amount of force you need to generate.

Carrie: If I’m ever in that situation, I normally just call somebody else’s husband.

Jonathan: Carrie works the muscle fibers in her fingers to dial her telephone, which is..

Carrie: It works brilliantly for me.

Jonathan: It works brilliantly so, yes but now the key things here folks is if you do not have that luxury, a couple things to keep in mind here. We all know that working more muscle is better than working less muscle, right? That’s why people tell us to do things like ride a bike or run, because using our big leg muscles is better for us than using the little muscle in our hands. Typing on a keyboard, doesn’t really do anything for your physical fitness because, while you are using muscles, your hand anything that makes your body moves is because of muscle is moving, they’re not big enough to do anything metabolically.

We all get and we all agree, that the more muscle we exercise conversations, is the better result we get, but the key thing that’s left out of most traditional exercise conversation, is the physiological fact that in addition to working just more muscle in our body, we can actually use more fibers within our, within each of our individual muscles. So for example, if we pick a type of exercise that requires us to use a lot of force, here’s what our body does.

Our body first says, “Okay, type 1 muscle fibers try to lift this.” Type 1 muscle fibers are like, “Okay, we’re trying,” and everybody’s going to say “crap, this thing isn’t moving.” Its going to say, type 2A muscle fibers, come on down, you’re the next contestant on lift this box, not as popular as the Prices Is Right but still, I think in the UK, it’s a pretty popular show on the television.

Carrie: No TV.

Jonathan: No TV? Okay.

Carrie: Clueless.

Jonathan: Hopefully, our listeners will get how lame of a joke that actually was. Anyway, if the type 2A muscle fibers don’t get the job done, our body recruits our next class of muscle fibers, our type 2X muscle fiber. If that still is not enough, it goes all the way down and it recruits our type 2B muscle fibers. We’ve got all four types of muscle fibers and hopefully we lift that thing up.

Now, we’re using all of our muscle fibers and here’s the key thing. We already said using more muscle is better than using less, so we know that exercises that require a lot of force will require us to use more muscle fibers and that’s good! But here’s the key thing Carrie, these type 2 muscle fibers, basically the deeper down these muscle fibers are, so, type 2A, type 2X, type 2B getting progressively deeper. The deeper we get the more metabolically beneficial exercising those muscle fibers are.

Carrie: Okay.

Jonathan: For example, when we activate our type 2B muscle fibers, we cause this massive hormonal reaction in our body because when you think about it, the only way we ever have to activate those muscle fibers is if we have to do something really intense, like pick up something really heavy and our body is sort of like sounds it’s an emergency broadcast system it’s like, boooooooooooooop “All hands on deck,” just like that. Hopefully that wasn’t too loud on the audience. I’m getting Carrie, this is the second week in a row and she’s turning red. It’s like “boooooooooooooop,” like that and it says “All hands on deck” and because “booooooooop” is happening, our body starts flipping out it’s like “Oh my God! Hormones! We’ve got to burn fat, we need a bunch of energy, it’s like the sky is falling “aaaahhh!”

That is when meaningful change happens in our body. Now contrast that to like, going for a little walk on the treadmill. Our body is like “dotodo” versus “booooooooooop, boooooooooop” which is going, which is going to cause more of a reaction in our body. “Booooooop booooop” is going to cause that reaction.

Carrie: The key to take away for me is like got to stop calling everybody else’s husband.

Jonathan: Yes. Yes, you do. The point here is that…

Carrie: I need to lift my own heavy stuff.

Jonathan: Yes, yes.

Carrie: Okay.

Jonathan: In fact, but now here is the most beautiful thing Carrie, so let’s bring this all back to what we started with originally where we said, the only way to work more muscle is to work out less. Okay, remember that’s how we kind of started the podcast with that fantastic claim.

Carrie: That’s was what you had me with, less.

Jonathan: With less, but now here’s why that has to be true. The more muscle fibers we’re using, the more energy we’re using up, makes sense. In addition, we just talked about these deeper muscle fibers, they generate even more force, so they’re gonna use even more energy. Now, we have a fixed amount of energy in our body, let’s say, let’s just do a simple mathematical abstraction.

Let’s say we have like 10 units of energy, if we do a traditional form of exercise that only works our type 1 A muscle fibers, maybe we use one unit of energy every 30 minutes. That’s why we need to exercise for two hours, but if we’re using all of our muscle fibers and those muscle fibers require even more energy so let’s just go one, two punch, more muscle fibers plus the muscle fibers are uniquely energetic . We use one unit of energy every 15 seconds and therefore, we have to exercise less. We just run out of fuel quickly. This is why you can’t sprint as long as you can walk. When you’re sprinting, you’re activating all of your muscle fibers and your uniquely metabolically beneficial muscle fibers, therefore, you just ran out of energy faster. We’re not just exercising less, that would be not helpful, we’re exercising less but smarter, we’re exercising less because we’re going to put so much safe stress, good stress on our muscles that it is physically impossible for us to exercise more.

Carrie: I have tried over the last, however long I’ve known you to find a hole in this, and I can’t…

Jonathan: Well, Carrie the good news is that there’s…

Carrie: It just makes so much sense.

Jonathan: It makes sense, and again you’ll have to say why we haven’t we been told about this? Well think about it Carrie, I used to be a trainer. If, we all knew that all we needed to do was this very simple, short duration home of exercise that to do it at home…

Carrie: 10 minutes at home, once a week…

Jonathan: I really wouldn’t have that many clients. Let’s be clear, and it’s not to say that personal trainers and gyms are bad, if your goal is to be elite athlete you absolutely need the gym and you absolutely need, you know, complex workout routine but if your goal is just to be…

Carrie: Hot…

Jonathan: Hot, or if you’re goal is to, maintain fitness and, have a wonderful appearance and energy levels, it’s actually really, really simple and again, it’s again it’s not too good to be true. I think a useful analogy is, think of a like medicine. There’s different qualities of medicine, there’s baby aspirin and then there’s Oxycontin, so, a couple reason that analogy is useful, I like analogies.

Carrie: No kidding.

Jonathan: No, kidding, you can take baby aspirin all day, it’s never going to do what, one Oxycontin or morphine will do. It’s a different type of thing. The other thing that keeps in mind is if you have something that extremely high potency you don’t and in fact you shouldn’t use a lot of it. So that’s the other thing we want to keep in mind.

Carrie: Or very often.

Jonathan: Or very often, that’s exactly right, that’s what we’re going to do here. We’re going to, we’re basically prescribing the most effective and home, home of exercise in the world and the cool thing is that is actually incredibly safe. We don’t have to worry about hurting ourselves while we do it but we are going to ache after we do it, like we are going to be sore.

In fact, if we’re not sore, that means we’re not doing it right, because if we were doing it right we would be sore. It’s not this too good to be true gimmick, it’s actually just pretty simple physiology and in fact it’s a trade off right, we’re going to be sore, it’s not fun. If you can smile and talk to your friend while your exercising smarter, you’re not exercising smarter, because it’s too intense to do anything else other than focus on that exercise, but it only takes 10 minutes so, that’s okay.

Carrie: I want to emphasize. This is not fun people, it’s not fun, you’re going to hate that 10 minutes…

Jonathan: You’re going to love the other 1,000 minutes of the week that you don’t have to worry…

Carrie: You’re going to love it long term.

Jonathan: Let’s summarize this a little bit Carrie. It’s kind of funny because let’s think about how can we, once we understand the physiology of our muscle fibers and how working more of them requires us to use more energy so there for we can exercise less and in fact we work more of them we even work more powerful versions of muscle fibers which requires even more energy or even more metabolically beneficial. Let’s talk about how that flips exercising on it’s head and I don’t mean to be redundant here but as you said like this is so counter intuitive it needs repeating a little bit.

If we’re focused on exercising more, if that’s our goal, our goal is to exercise more what are we going to do, what should be our strategy? Our strategy would be, let’s pick an exercise that requires as little force as possible so that we use as few muscle fibers as possible, and as weak muscle fibers as possible so that we can exercise as much as possible okay, but if we do that, we’re going to exercise a few muscle fibers and relatively, metabolically benign muscle fibers and it will take us many hours to use up our energy and we’re not going to cause a hormonal change in our body so we’re going to do a lot and get a little.

Carrie: Right.

Jonathan: Now, let’s look at our smarter approach. Our smarter approach is to focus on exercising less but smarter to focus on the quality of the exercise. How do we do that? We want to pick exercises that requires a lot of force but are very safe so that we fire as many muscle fibers as possible as well as our uniquely metabolically beneficial type two muscle fibers. When we do that, we exercise a lot of muscle fibers, uniquely metabolically beneficial muscle fibers, we use up our energy in a few minutes and what have we done Carrie? We’ve done a little and got a lot.

Carrie: Right, and it’s awesome.

Jonathan: I’ll take that, it stinks while you’re doing it but…

Carrie: It does stink while you’re doing it.

Jonathan: It’s, I think it’s worth to trade off.

Carrie: You can do something that stinks for 10 minutes.

Jonathan: Absolutely.

Carrie: Once a week, you really can. That’s how I look at it, I’m going to hate this 10 minutes but it’s 10 minutes, you can put with anything for that amount of time.

Jonathan: I know folks are going to be, we have a few more principles we want to run through here but people might be craving like what the heck kind of exercise are you talking about? We’re gonna talk it’s called eccentric training and we’re going to talk about smarter interval training in a moment when we get into this but to just quickly for yourself, test what we’re talking about. It’s as simple as doing something like squat down, until your legs are about parallel with the ground.

If you can do this safely, if you need to hold on to something for balance that’s fine and then just try to hold that bottom position and if that’s too easy, hold something heavy or put a backpack on your back. This is not your exercise routine, we’re having something more formal for you or hold a dumbbell, but sit like you’re going to sit down on a chair but don’t actually sit on the chair and just hold that position. Within a matter of seconds, you’re going to feel something that you would never feel even if you walked for three hours.

Carrie: Right.

Jonathan: In fact, if you tried to hold that position for three minutes, you won’t be able to, your muscles will fatigue, to be clear, you will do more to your muscles in less than three minutes than you would in three hours of continuous walking and…

Carrie: And your body will actually fail.

Jonathan: Yeah, you would be like…

Carrie: You will not be able, with all your effort you will not be able to hold it.

Jonathan: Let’s talk about safety, even walking, which is brilliant for us. When you’re out walking, you could roll your ankle, you could trip, you could… All you’re doing here is squatting down and holding it. You’re not even moving, that is the safest, that’s what we talk about. You don’t need to increase the risk of injury while increasing force at all. In fact, you could reduce the risk of injury when you follow the smarter techniques we’re going to talk about here because again, there’s really no movement involved in what we just talked about, it’s pretty darn safe.

Carrie: I was walking down the corridor today and now I have a big old lump on my leg. I was just walking, I slipped over.

Jonathan: Yeah that’s the…

Carrie: Walking, slipped over.

Jonathan: With a bunch of coffee in your hand?

Carrie: Big old bruise now…

Jonathan: With coffee in your hand?

Carrie: Yes. I’ve never bruised myself doing your exercises.

Jonathan: The take away is, it is riskier to carry coffee around the office than it is to exercise smarter.

Carrie: That has been my experience, yes.

Jonathan: That your experience. Yes, you will never pour hot liquid on yourself while tumbling to the ground.

Carrie: The other bonus is that you don’t get a designer stain down your left leg all day long either.

Jonathan: Yes. That is certainly something what we will avoid while we exercise smarter. As Carrie mentioned the other aspect, so that’s for a short period of time. We’ve got, we just showed how you have to exercise less in order to work more muscle fibers because the only way to work more muscle fibers is to use more energy and if you use more energy, you’ve got to exercise less, makes sense. In addition to that, you also will have to exercise less frequently.

The reason for this is the deeper a muscle fiber is, so like again, type 2B versus type 1, type 2B is our deepest, type 1 is our “shallowest” the longer they take to recover. When you’re sore, the muscles are repairing themselves. The more force a muscle fiber generates, the longer it takes to recover. While we could walk for one hour on Monday and one hour on Tuesday and one hour on Wednesday and blah, blah, blah, when we do a smarter workout on Monday, on Tuesday, it’s going to be hard for us to walk down the stairs.

We’re going to be very, very sore and on Wednesday we’re going to be sore, and on Thursday we’re going to be sore and the reason for that is, remember we are working muscle fibers, which we’ve potentially had never worked in our entire lives, potentially.

Carrie: Especially if you call someone else’s husband every time you need something heavy to move.

Jonathan: Especially if you call someone else’s husband and these muscle fibers require more time to heal. We’re going to be sore longer and if your muscles are still healing, not only is there no point in exercising anymore but you’re not, we’re not able to. For example, if we do a smarter exercise routine or what we think is a smarter exercise routine, which of course will cover in the future podcast. We’re all here for the long run folks, we can’t give you all in one podcast, we’re going to give you in be bite size chunks. You won’t be able to do that same exercise again the next day and if you can, that means you didn’t work your deeper muscle fibers because if you did, you, they just wouldn’t, it’s again, it’s a physiological wall that are type 2B muscle fibers when they are in fact activated take between three, in some cases, 21 days to fully recover.

Carrie: So I, you remember that, I don’t know if you remember it was a while back way when we we’re hanging out and you we’re showing me technique or you were trying and you do your workout on a Saturday and this was on a Monday. You came over and I was saying, “Am I doing this right?” and you literally couldn’t show me how to do it because you were so sore still from the Saturday. That was just amazing to me but Jonathan actually couldn’t do it. He was kind of do it but not really because he was still so sore from Saturday’s 10 min workout.

Jonathan: That’s the key here folks. It’s not, this isn’t just some, just exercise less, magic! Remember, we’re talking about trading quantity for quality, that’s key. It’s not just exercise less, it’s exercise less but smarter, so that we’re working these muscle fibers which require us to exercise for short period of time and require us to exercise infrequently, again not because we’re lazy but because if we’re doing these exercises properly as Carrie mentioned, it will be physically impossible for us to them frequently, we just can’t do it.

Carrie: What a great thing that is.

Jonathan: Cool. Let’s actually talk a bit about how we do these types of exercise, exercises most safely. There’s, there’s all kinds of ways to work our muscle fibers intensely. The most common example, example I gave is sprinting but what we want to avoid is that, what we want to, we want to increase the quality of our exercise while not increasing the risk. You can increase the number of muscle fibers you work by moving faster, but if you move faster such as these sort of explosive plyometric type extreme workouts we see you probably are going to hurt yourself.

Another way to do it is to move much more resistance but in a very slowly and in a very controlled fashion. If you’ve ever been to a yoga class, you can actually see people, they get in a pose, they hold it, it’s extremely taxing, and people are, it’s a great workout in certain cases but you’re moving very slowly, you’re moving very deliberately, you’re moving very safely. Our goal here, is to maximize the amount of force, we require our muscles to generate while simultaneously minimizing risk of injury.

Now, if that’s our goal, research has shown that there’s two very specific ways to do that, we’ll cover the first one today and we’ll cover the next one in the next podcast. The first one is known as Eccentric training. Now, quick definitions here, anytime we do an exercise, there’s two components to that. Imagine you’re doing a bicep crawl and maybe even do this while you’re listening so that it’ll make sense to you. If your arms are extended to your side, when you crawl your arm up and your bicep contracts, that’s called the concentric portion of the movement and when you let your arm down and the muscle extends, that’s called the eccentric portion of the movement.

Now, the reason that distinction is important is because your muscles are up to 40 percent stronger eccentrically than they are concentrically, or it’s easier to lower weight than to lift weight because our muscles are literally stronger on the way down.

Carrie: Good.

Jonathan: If you want to test this, there’s an easy way to do this and there’s the more precise way to do this. The easy way to do it, is to walk up a flight of stairs and note how you feel and then walk down the flight of stairs and note how you feel. The trip down is easier, because your muscles are literally stronger on the way down. That’s also why it is easy to sit down than it is to stand up, your muscles are literally stronger on the way down.

Now, of course, gravity matters in those examples and if you have access to a gym, you can test this principle without gravity and you’ll still see that it’s true by getting on a row machine or a chest press machine and picking an exercise or picking a resistance that you can’t lift with one arm but you can lift with two arms and take that weight, lift it with two arms, again you couldn’t lift it with one arm, and then, take one hand away and watch as one of your arms can lower that weight.

Carrie: Right.

Jonathan: It couldn’t lift the weight but it can lower it because again, it’s literally 40 percent stronger eccentrically than it is concentrically. One way to think about this is kind of like we have a dominant hand and a non-dominant hand. You can technically write with either one of your hands but one hand is much better at it than the other. You can contract your muscle concentrically and eccentrically, it’s just stronger eccentrically. We want to focus on eccentric contraction for two reasons.

One, if we’re stronger eccentrically, that means we can use more resistance, which means we can recruit more muscle fibers but in addition, a lot of times when people get injured exercising, they get injured during the transition of the movement, so a simple example of this, don’t actually do this because I’m going to describe how to hurt yourself, so don’t.

Do not do this, is, if you were to squat down and then bounce back up, when you get to the bottom and bounce up like that, transition from down to up, that transition puts an amazing amount of stress on your joints and so forth. When we focus on just eccentric or lowering movements, we don’t do that, we don’t have that risk, so, we can just slowly lower down and that’s the end of the movement. There’s no transition point, so it’s also safer, which is actually cool.

Carrie: Correct.

Jonathan: We’ll talk about how you’d actually do that by yourself and in the comfort of your home in a moment but, the general gist is that, we’re going to find ways to take existing resistance training exercises like at home things like body weight, squats and pull-ups, and push-ups, and lifting things over our heads and kind of a shoulder press movement or if we belong to a gym, things like leg press, shoulder press, rows, chest, excuse me, chest press and we’re going to figure out ways that we can lower more resistance than we’re raising and doing that incredibly slowly and incredibly safely, so that we generate the most force, working the most muscle fibers, working our very unique muscle fibers and therefore getting a better result in less time.

We’ll specifically walk through how to do that in future podcasts but as you can imagine, describing how to do an exercise using only audio, is kind of a challenge so, we’ll put pictures up and there’s videos up on the Smarter Science of Slim website to help with these things but the general gist is, if you can move more slowly, and if you can really focus on the lowering movement, rather than just lifting movements…

Ironically, when you go to the gym, you’ll see there’s a bunch of guys who are just they lift the weight and then they drop it, and then they lift the weight and then they drop it, little do these guys know that they’re really doing a disservice to themselves because it’s that lowering portion where they could really get the most benefit and minimize risk. Let’s just focus on very slowly lowering as much resistance possible really for any exercise. We don’t need new exercises to do this, there’s creative ways to use existing exercises to do this and we’ll cover that but the point is, lowering weights is a great way to lower your weight.

Carrie: Awesome.

Jonathan: Boom!

Carrie: Love it!

Jonathan: Love it! Next week Carrie, let’s talk a little bit more about how we can specifically do eccentric exercise. Let’s talk about some examples, maybe let’s talk about how we can do it at home, and then we’ll talk about how we can make, what’s traditionally thought of as cardiovascular exercise smarter by doing it with more resistance and also in a safer fashion so again we work more muscle fiber and get more result in less time. How does that sound?

Carrie: That sounds great.

Jonathan: I love it! Well, folks thanks for tuning in until next week. Remember to eat smarter, exercise smarter, and live better.

This week:
– How the only way we can work more muscle fibers is to do types of exercise we can’t do a lot of
– How traditional exercise only works our least metabolically beneficial muscle fibers
– How we have different muscle fibers to do different things like we have different muscles to do different things
– How the only way to exercise more is to lower the quality of exercise and thus lower the results we get from exercise
– How everyone agrees that using more muscle fibers is better than using less…so why are we told to do exercises that work so few muscle fibers
– How the more muscle fibers we use, the more energy we use, and the less we can exercise
– How we’re not just exercising less…we’re exercising less—but smarter—because it will be physically impossible for us to exercise more
– How you are more likely to get injured walking around with a cup of coffee than you are to get injured exercising smarter
– How to safely increase the intensity and quality of your exercise
– How lowering weights is a great way to lower your weight