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SANE 202 / Lesson 6

Abs & Intelligent Exercise

Jonathan: Welcome to the Smarter Science of Slim, the scientifically-proven program where you eat more and exercise less to burn fat and boost health.

Carrie: Eat smarter, exercise smarter, live better. I am so ready for that!

Carrie: Hey, everyone! This is Carrie Brown with Jonathan Bailor.

Jonathan: Special guest.

Carrie: Special guest, Jonathan Bailor.

Jonathan: Special but frequent guest.

Carrie: We love him.

Jonathan: Oh…

Carrie: He’s changed our lives. We love that.

Jonathan: Well, that was nice.

Carrie: I have to be nice to you, throw you a bone, every once in a while.

Jonathan: Yes, at least once every four podcasts Carrie is nice to me.

Carrie: Yes.

Jonathan: So that’s nice. So, that’s a good segue, Carrie. I always find good segues. Since this is ‘praise Jonathan week,’ I would like to take a moment to celebrate the segue I’m about to do, which is we’re going to be nice to our listeners by sharing a smarter exercise program with them this week that incorporates both eccentric training, as we talked about and smarter cardiovascular training.

Carrie: Lovely!

Jonathan: Very nice. Splendid! Yes, this will be the theme of this week’s podcast is ‘kindness.’

Carrie: Yes, but you started it because the other day you sent me an email which said, “You rock!” Then a few days later, you sent me another email with my report card which was A+. You see, so if you want me to be nice to you, that’s what you have to do.

Jonathan: I have to pay it forward a little bit?

Carrie: It’s kind of calmer.

Jonathan: Ah, okay, okay, all right. Duly noted. Well, let’s get started, Carrie, on our high-quality and smarter exercise program. I’m going to actually sum it up in seven words and this was inspired by Michael Pollan whom, hopefully some of our listeners are familiar with. Brilliant author! If you haven’t read his books like Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, just brilliant stuff! I’d highly recommend checking it out. Anyway, inspired by Michael Pollan, here is the Smarter Exercise Program in seven words: Exercise forcefully, not too often, mostly eccentric. Again, that really is a good summary, right? We want to make sure we’re exercising as forcefully as we can. When we do that, we can’t do it often because it’s very tiring, and we want to focus mostly on our eccentric exercises and especially exercises that work our legs because our legs are our biggest muscle group in our body, and they’re going to give us the most hormonal bang for our buck. Cool?

Carrie: Sounds awesome to me!

Jonathan: And it’s very, very simple, and that’s important to note because as you start to exercise this way, a lot of people are going to bring up other ways you could be exercising. There’s all these complicated options you could do, and there’s a popular workout program out now that talks about muscle confusion and that we need to continuously do different exercises so that we can confuse our muscles. Our muscles actually don’t get confused. That’s not a real thing. The real physiological thing that this marketing slogan had is that in order for our muscles to develop, we do need to continuously challenge them. We can’t do the same thing over and over again. If we want to make our brains stronger, once we learn our multiplication tables, we can’t just keep rehearsing our multiplication tables over and over. That won’t make our brains any smarter. We have to move on to higher level math. The same thing kind of applies with exercising. Once we can do 20 pounds, we have to do 25, and then we have to do 30. But we don’t need to do different exercises. We can keep the exercises constant and increase the resistance and that will buy all the stimulus our body needs to continue to improve. If we want to change the exercises, that’s fine; but for those of us who like to just keep things simple, just focus on continuously challenging yourself with resistance and you can stick with the four basic exercises we’ll go through today.

Carrie: Awesome! Simple is good. We love simple and short. We love short, too.

Jonathan: That is very, very simple and short and another thing to keep in mind, folks, is that if you happen to do these at a gym, some people may again… You’re going to see people doing things on balls and they’re going to strap themselves into these suspension machines and they’re going to throw ropes around. There’s all this stuff that’s going on, and the question is not, “Is it effective?” Yeah, it’s effective. The question is, “Is it the most effective? What are the side effects?” You could probably get some results by climbing Mount Everest, but you might also get frostbite and die. So, why do that when you can just keep it simple? There’s enough complexity in life! The people who are telling you to do those things, you’ve got to ask yourself, “Is this person telling me to do this because it’s really the best thing for me or because then they can charge me money to teach me how to do it?”

Carrie: Because we’re being nice, I’m going to point out that it could be because they don’t understand the science, and they genuinely think that what they’re teaching is effective.

Jonathan: That is very true. Again, I don’t mean to say that it’s not effective. What I mean to say is that it is not optimally effective. It doesn’t have the right cost-benefit. We can cut our lawn using scissors. We can. You absolutely can. It’s just going to take a really long time.

Carrie: It’s as much as I can do to get me to mow the lawn with the mower.

Jonathan: Here is one week of the Smarter Exercise Program. Day 1, start this any day of the week you want. Day 1, you’re going to do your eccentric resistance training. We’ll talk about sets and reps and that’s really simple, but day 1 you do eccentric resistance training. Day 2, you relax. Day 3, you relax. Day 4, you do your 10 minutes of smarter cardiovascular exercise. Day 5, relax. Day 6, relax. Day 7, relax. And then repeat. So, clearly, that’s pretty cool. We’ve only got two days that we have to do our exercises, and the exercises we do on those two days take 10-20 minutes and though astute listeners may be wondering why we need to do two exercises, two exercise sessions per week, why can’t we only do one since we’re working our type IIb muscle fibers which take six days to recover. Do you wonder that, Carrie?

Carrie: No.

Jonathan: Okay, well, I said for our astute listeners, not just Carrie.

Carrie: I just do what you tell me. I just go, “If Jonathan said it, it must be true.” I’m being nice.

Jonathan: Please, listeners. Yeah, we’re being nice, but do not listen to Carrie. Do not listen to me. Listen to the science. That is why we exist, the Smarter Science of Slim; because biology is not a matter of opinion….

Carrie: It is a matter of fact.

Jonathan: It’s a matter of fact. So, two workouts a week. This is only necessary as we’re first getting started, and the reason for that is, as we’re first getting started, we want to ease our way into this. So as we’re first getting started, we’re not going to be using as much resistance as we will be someday, and we won’t be exercising as intensely as we’ll learn to over time. Because of that, we probably won’t be working our type IIb muscle fibers right from the start. In fact, we shouldn’t be. We want to ease our way into this. If our goal was to be able to run a marathon, we wouldn’t go outside tomorrow and try to run 26 miles. At least, I hope we won’t.

Carrie: If I did, I wouldn’t get very far.

Jonathan: We would start by trying to run a quarter-mile and then we do a half-mile and then maybe three-quarters of a mile and two miles. It’s the same kind of thing here. We want to familiarize ourselves with these movements. We want to get really comfortable, and then as we gain confidence, then we can explore using more resistance; and as we start to use more resistance, we’ll naturally find that something like this will happen. So, we’ll start on this program, we’ll do our eccentrics, we’ll wait for two days, we’ll do our smarter cardiovascular exercise, we’ll wait for three days, and then we’ll go back to doing our eccentrics some point in the future.

Let’s use actual numbers here to help illustrate for our listeners. Let’s say that we’re doing a leg press, an eccentric leg press. Let’s say we’re using 100 pounds. I know that sounds like a lot of weight, but when you do eccentrics, it’s actually not. So you’re doing 100 pounds. You do that on Monday. Tuesday and Wednesday, you rest. Thursday, you do your high-quality cardio. The next three days, you relax. And then you’re back to day 1, and you try to do your eccentrics again. You put 100 pounds on the machine. You try to do it, and you can’t. You’re like, “I don’t understand why I can’t. I did 100 lbs. last week.” Well, what you’re experiencing is during your first eccentric workout, you had the right resistance, you activated your type IIb muscle fibers doing your smarter cardiovascular exercise. You probably hit them again. So, remember they’re worn out. They need 5-6 days to fully recover, so by the time you got back to your eccentrics, they’re not fully recovered, and because they’re not fully recovered, they can’t exert all the force and you’re actually weaker because when we do these kinds of exercises, we actually are breaking our muscles down. This is why we get stronger because then they build back up stronger, but if we don’t wait until they’re fully recovered – it’s kind of a gross analogy – but it’s kind of like we get a wound and a scab forms and we just keep scratching the scab off. That’s not what we want to do. We want to let the skin heal back. Actually, it’s a great analogy. We want the tissue to heal back stronger than it was before it was damaged, and that’s how we make progress. So that’s how you’ll know when you can go from two exercises a week to just doing your eccentrics. Basically, you can eliminate the smarter cardio when doing the smarter cardio impairs your ability to do the eccentrics.

Carrie: Right. Got it.

Jonathan: That’s a generally good rule of thumb. You can do any exercise you want. If you like to exercise, you can do it except if it impairs your ability to do eccentrics. Think about it like your boss at your job is like, “You can do whatever you want outside of work as long as it doesn’t interfere with your job.” So sometimes in life, we have to pick our priorities. Eccentric training is just going to be so foundational to our health and fitness that it’s really good to not do other things that compromise that, and there are strategies we can take to avoid that. That’s just something to keep in mind. So, that’s cool.

Carrie: Very cool.

Jonathan: The other thing to keep in mind is what we talked about like reps and sets. So when we actually do our eccentric training, we’re actually going to end up doing one set. If you’re familiar with exercise terminology, that just means you do it, and then you stop. That’s called a set. A set consists of reps. So you do three sets of six repetitions. We’re not going to get that complicated. We do one set of six 10 second lowerings. So it’s really, the key metric for us is called ‘time under tension.’ So, 60 seconds time under tension. That is really cool because a lot of studies have shown – in fact, Dr. Carpinelli at Adelphi University tells us that there are 57 studies that show no statistically significant difference in the magnitude of strength gains or muscular hypertrophy, which is just muscular development as a result of performing a greater number of sets. So you don’t need to feel bad or lazy about doing one set till failure because the science is on your side. It’s cool.

Carrie: But the problem is that it doesn’t feel right. I mean, that’s the thing we have to overcome is that it’s just like, this can’t be.

Jonathan: Well, the other thing – this is a good sort of self-test of if we truly are working to what’s called eccentric failure – failure in the context of weight training and in fitness is actually a good thing. Like, in other areas of life, failure is a bad thing; in exercise, it’s actually a good thing because it means you’ve taken your muscles to the point where they simply cannot do any more work, and that’s when they get better. So if we are training eccentrically properly, and we do a set of eccentric exercises and at the sixth repetition at the tenth second, we are just like completely… Like, if someone held a gun to our head and was like, “Hold that for one more second.” It’d be lights out for us, because we physically cannot. If we try to do a second set, we won’t be able to, because our muscles will be exhausted. Again, if we can exercise a lot, that means we’re not yet hitting our type IIb muscle fibers. If we can do a lot of sets, because remember there is an inverse relationship between the quality and quantity of exercise we do. So, again, that’s a good thing to keep in mind. If, after actually doing this, we think to ourselves, “I can do more.”, don’t do more. Add resistance. Don’t think of ways you can increase the quantity of exercise you’re doing, think of ways to increase the quality of exercise you’re doing. Makes sense?

Carrie: Yup.

Jonathan: Cool. So the actual exercises we’re going to be doing – Carrie did a great job of explaining the home ones; we’re going to do eccentric squats, eccentric pull-ups, eccentric push-ups, and eccentric shoulder presses. That’s going to hit all the major muscle groups in our body, and that’s great in the gym. We’re doing very similar exercises, but we’re doing them on machines. So we’re doing leg presses, we’re doing rows, we’re doing chest presses, and we’re doing shoulder presses. So, the key thing you’ll know here, Carrie, is that there is no arm exercises. We don’t say anything like doing curls or tricep extensions and there are no crunches or sit-ups or anything for our abs. A lot of people wonder, they want to tone up their arms and they want to tone up their tummies, and we’re led to believe that the only way to do that is to do crunches. If you go into any gym at any point in time, you will see a lot of significantly overweight individuals doing crunches. There’s a couple of things to keep in mind here. One is that if you want defined arms, defined abs, defined anything, you already have those muscles. That’s why you’re able to move. The question is, “Can we see them or are they covered with a layer of fat?” If we can’t see them, it’s not because we don’t have the muscles, it’s not because the muscles aren’t big enough, it’s because they’re covered with fat. So if our goal is to look more defined, we don’t need to necessarily work those muscles more, we need to uncover them. The easiest way to uncover our muscles is to make the hormonal and set point change that we’re after via smarter eating and via eccentric and smarter exercise.

Carrie: And I can tell you this is true because I haven’t done a crunch or a sit-up or all those sideways waist things or any of that for a very long time now, and I do the shoulder press thing and my waist shrinks. I mean, it’s just bizarre! It’s cool, but it’s bizarre. But it’s true.

Jonathan: We’ll cover a study on why that is here in a second, but one thing I did want to cover is, there is a purpose for ab exercises. If our goal is to strengthen our abs, doing ab exercises is the only way to do that, so that’s fantastic! But again, strengthening your abs is a different goal from seeing your abs.

Carrie: Right.

Jonathan: There’s plenty of very overweight people that have very strong abs, and there’s plenty of people that have a six-pack washboard stomachs that may have very weak abs. The way your abs look is a function of your body fat percentage; it is not a function of how strong your abs are.

Carrie: Right.

Jonathan: And to Carrie’s point about even if we don’t do exercises that work muscles directly such as we don’t do crunches to work our abs and we don’t do curls for our biceps, the exercises we are going to do will work those muscles indirectly and in addition, they will trigger a hormonal response that is so significant that those hormones will actually strengthen our muscles even though they’re not being activated. Let me give you an example of this. In an actual study that was performed at the University of Southern Denmark – stick with me for a second because the study takes a little bit of explaining, and I’m actually pulling on my ears right now because I’m trying to think of how to explain this without Carrie… Well, she’s being nice so she can’t reel me in, because I’m going to go for it on this study, Carrie. I’m just warning you right now.

Carrie: I love this study.

Jonathan: Okay, good.

Carrie: This is the coolest thing ever!

Jonathan: Okay, good because this is also one of my favorite studies of all time! I read this study years ago, and it just kind of blew my mind. Awesome! So I have Carrie’s endorsement to go deep. So in this study, they took people, and they divided them into two groups. The first group exercised one of their arms – let’s say, their left arm. The second group also trained only one arm the same way the first group did, but they also trained their legs. So let’s quickly recap – the first group is just working their left arm, let’s say, and the second group also working just their left arm but also both of their legs. Now, the reason the researchers did this is they wanted to see what would happen to people’s arm strength if in any of the following four scenarios, which they could now test based on this very creative setup. Option A: What happens to arm strength if you just don’t train it? So, this would be, like, the right arm. So if you don’t do anything with your right arm, which these participants didn’t, what happens? What happens if you train only your arm? So, these are the people that only exercised their left arm. What if we don’t train our arm, but we do train our legs – our large leg muscles. These are the people in the group that exercised one arm and their legs, but it’s evaluating the arm they didn’t work. And then finally, what happens if we train our arm and we train our legs? So, we’ve got these four possibilities – which is really cool.

Carrie: But they’re testing arm strength.

Jonathan: They’re testing arm strength, yeah. The reason why do they even involve the legs – remember, we talked about this – our legs are by far the largest muscle group in our body. So when we talk about using the most muscle fibers and the most muscles possible to trigger the most globally metabolically beneficial hormones possible, our legs are what do that.

Carrie: Right.

Jonathan: If you don’t work your legs, you are literally leaving 70% of the benefit you could be getting on the table. So, people who trained both their legs and their arms, of course, had the highest increase of arm strength; their arm strength went up 37%. The people who didn’t train their arm or their legs actually saw a statistically, just no increase in arm strength, which is expected. But now here’s what is just so interesting about this study. So let’s look at the left arm of the people who trained their left arm and they trained their legs. We’d expect those people to get the most arm strength and they did; their arm strength went up about 37%, which makes sense – they’re training their big leg muscles, and they’re training their left arm. That’s what was measured, and it went up 37%. Then the other end of the spectrum, the individuals who didn’t train their legs and for the arm they didn’t train, let’s say, their right arm, there was no increase in strength for the arm they didn’t train. The super interesting thing about this study, Carrie, though, is the measurements of individuals’ left arms or the arm that was trained who did not train their legs. So, no leg training, measuring the arm that was trained, these people saw a 9% increase in arm strength. So these are people who are just doing bicep curls. Their arm strength went up 9%. Now get this, Carrie. Individuals who just did leg training, when they measured their untrained arm… So this is an arm that has not been exercised but is on the same body that has had its big leg muscles exercised, their strength went up 10%. Now, let’s savor this moment for a while because people might be thinking they’re misunderstanding this study, so let’s be very clear. So for individuals who just worked their left arm, that’s it! That left arm got 9% stronger. Now, individuals who worked their left arm and worked their legs, their right arm, which they didn’t work at all, got 10% stronger. So, the hormonal impact of working their giant leg muscles actually increased the strength of an arm they didn’t exercise at all more than individuals who worked just their arms.

Carrie: That’s ridiculous.

Jonathan: It’s incredibly ridiculous, and it actually shows that, again, these hormones, these whole body transformational hormones that are activated when we work our big muscle groups are going to do more for our strength, for our physique, and for our health than even just working those muscle groups in isolation. Of course, like we said in the study, the best results come from working the smaller muscle groups and the larger muscle groups. That’s why we’re going to do the exercises we are going to do. They’re known as compound movements, and what a compound movement is, is a movement that works many muscles all at the same time. So we are going to work all of our muscles, but some of them may be getting worked indirectly. For example, when we do our chest exercises, like, our pushups or chest presses, that will work our chest, it will work our shoulders, and it will work the triceps in our arm. And when we do our pull-up exercises, those will work our back muscles as well as our biceps. So our arms are going to get worked. But we’ve got to remember that the key thing we’re after is that release of the whole body transformational hormones, which is done simply by working our biggest muscle groups. We’re going to get the best of both worlds, Carrie, because we are going to be working all of our muscle groups, and we’re going to do it in even less time.

Carrie: Yay!

Jonathan: Yay! So, I’m feeling pretty good in terms of we’ve already gone through how to do these big exercises at home. When it comes to our gym exercises, I don’t want to spend too much time talking about that because these exercises are all explained on the actual machines. Remember, you’re going to focus on leg presses, rows, then you’re going to focus on a chest press and a shoulder press movement. If you belong to a gym, instructions are on the machines and of course, any personal trainer will give you a free consultation. Just remember to perform these movements eccentrically, meaning you’re going to lift the weight with two arms or legs and then lower with one, nice and slowly. But the exercises themselves are explained right there on the machines and using machines is kind of nice because they also guide you through the range of motion and make sure your form is good. So, that’s all positive stuff.

Carrie: It’s all good.

Jonathan: It’s all good, Carrie.

Carrie: And it’s all short and we love short!

Jonathan: And it’s short, and it’s effective and it gives us the most bang for our buck. Remember if you do want to strengthen your abs, a great way to do that is to work your abs, but again if you want to see your abs, that’s all about lowering your body fat percentage and lowering your body fat percentage is all about hormonal change because hormonal change lowers your set point which enables your body to burn fat 24/7, 365 rather than just when you’re at the gym. So it’s great!

Carrie: We love that!

Jonathan: I love it. So, excellent week, Carrie! I’m feeling good. How are you feeling?

Carrie: Awesome!

Jonathan: Well, folks, we’ll see you next week. Jonathan Bailor and Carrie Brown, living the Smarter Science of Slim. Have a great one.

Jonathan: Wait, wait! Don’t stop listening yet.

Carrie: You can get fabulous free SANE recipes over at CarrieBrown.com.

Jonathan: And don’t forget, your 100% free Eating and Exercise Quick Start Program as well as free fun daily tips delivered right into your inbox at BailorGroup.com.

This week:
– How muscles don’t get confused
– How muscles do need more and more resistance applied to them
– How doing a lot of different exercises is unnecessary
– How the vast majority of exercise is unnecessarily risky and complex
– How biology isn’t a matter of opinion but rather a matter of fact
– How it’s critical to ease our way into smarter exercise
– How we’ll start with two short workouts per week, and end up with one
– How to tell when you are using the right level of resistance
– How over exercising is like continually scratching off a scab
– How failure is a good thing when it comes to eccentric exercises
– If we can exercise a lot, we’re not exercising smarter
– How we do not need to work our arms and abs directly when exercising smarter
– How crunches have nothing to do with having a toned tummy
– Jonathan’s favorite study of all time that looked to answer the following questions. How much stronger does an arm get if people:
o do not train it?            [untrained arm + untrained legs]
o train only it?            [trained arm + untrained legs]
o do not train it, but do train their legs?            [untrained arm + trained legs]
o train it and train their legs?            [trained arm + trained legs]