There are a million things to feel guilty about in our day-to-day lives. You don’t call your mother enough, you eat too much bread, you drink too much, you should really call that high school friend whose dad just died. If you really had time to think about it, you could even start having pangs about the fact that a 7 year old Southeast Asian child probably sewed your shirt and your SUV is probably going to be responsible for advancing an impending skin cancer outbreak by a few years. But who has the time?
When our lives are filled with stresses about family and career, often what falls to the wayside is self care. One look at our chubby continent and we can safely say that good nutrition and fitness are two of the primary casualties of our break-neck lives. In a culture that is obsessed with hard bodies, but also weaned on convenience, we don’t understand that to have those hard bodies, we need to make a serious commitment to health. The misconception that everyone can have abs, and that you shouldn’t even have to work that hard to attain them is perpetrated by hard bodied celebrities who find it cute and ironical to say that they never work out and all they eat is KFC with a cup of lard.
That being said, it is overwhelming for many people who feel that in order to make exercise a worthwhile part of their lives, they have to make time for the recommended 40 minutes of cardiovascular exercise three times a week for heart health and to burn calories. And fit in resistance training twice a week to build strong bones and lean muscle tone. For some of us, this kind of time commitment is dedicated only to money-making or sex-having ventures. So how can we fit fitness into our jam-packed week?
If you are able to keep abreast of some of the newer ideas regarding health, weight loss and fitness, you will know that it is becoming increasingly evident that resistance training is as important to weight loss and fitness as cardiovascular training is. While aerobic exercise, that which gets the heart rate into a target, calorie-burning zone for an extended period of time, has always been touted as the key to burning off pounds, the role of building lean muscle mass through resistance training has made its way into the spotlight. Not only does resistance training build lean muscle, which in turn raises the body’s metabolic rate so that it burns calories faster and more efficiently, it helps to increase bone density so that you don’t snap a hip at the company golf tournament.
To maximize the efficiency of your workout, and even reduce the amount of time and variety of activities you need to commit to in a week, there has been an increasing interest in the benefits of slow cadence training. What slow cadence training entails is basically, instead of doing multiple sets of reps in your resistance training regime, you slow down your routine so that you are doing the movements in slow motion, doing no more than one set of 10 reps until you reach total muscle failure. This regimen has been popularized as part of a program and book called The Power of Ten by Adam Zickerman, but the ideas have been supported by trainers for while.
Slow Cadence Training Benefits
Some of the primary benefits of slow cadence training are that the slow movement of the workout forces you to concentrate using the proper muscles, keeping the proper form, and avoiding injury. If you are starting your workout independently, without a professional to show you the proper form, a traditional workout involving several sets of fairly fast reps can lead to some pitfalls. If you do not use the proper form, there is a good chance that you are going to injure yourself. Also, without proper form, there is a good chance that you are not using your target muscle to it full ability. Rather, other muscles often compensate for the target muscle as it reaches failure.
Other dangers of fast, explosive training include a strain on joints due to the jerking motion, and a tendency to use the body’s momentum to push through certain parts of the movement instead of using muscle strength.
What is revolutionary about Adam Zickerman’s Power of Ten program is that he claims that using slow cadence weight training just once a week for 20 minutes can not only replace a more rounded, time consuming workout regime, it is more effective than the standard recommendation of cardio 3-4 times a week for weight loss. Don’t expect to get something for nothing, however. The asterisk at the end of this promise is that it will probably involve changing your diet substantially from that of an average fat-consuming, white-bread eating McNorth American.
The weight training program focuses on the inclusion of all muscle groups, big and small, being worked to failure in 6-8 reps. You do only 6 exercises per work out session, and you must wait a minimum of 5 days in between workouts (well, if you insist). There is an emphasis on proper form, so if you are a newbie to resistance training, it might be prudent to have a trainer, or someone with some weight lifting experience, to help you out with your form. Machines are probably going to be better for you at first, as they guide your movement where free weights rely on you for form.
In addition to the slow cadence of the workout (each rep takes 10 seconds to lift and 10 seconds to lower), there is a focus on proper diet and proper recovery time between workouts. He stresses that the body needs to rest and relax if it is going to build lean muscle mass.
While Zickerman tries to make the diet sound easy and idiot proof, his restrictions are quite restrictive when you really think about them, as “simple” as they sound. The “no” food list is deceptively short: No sugar, “white things” (bread, potatoes), or saturated fats. The “yes” foods include dark green, red or yellow things (except of course, those that contain anything on the “no” list), tons of protein, lots of fiber, water and “whole” foods (why doesn’t he call them “brown things”?). Desserts are encouraged, as long as they are non-sugar sweets (what?) or low calorie, which, in my definition of dessert, eliminates them entirely. He also recommends the adage to eat several smaller meals per day and encourages you to eat whatever you want at least one day a week to keep your sanity.
With the diet Zickerman outlines alone, your chances of dropping some pounds are good. It is a very healthy diet, and probably where those who do not succeed so well in the program fail. Thus far, the press about this program is good, and I have a few friends who have tried it who have seen results. There has been some fuss by health professionals who have said that to eliminate cardio from one’s weekly routine entirely is to neglect the health of your heart and lungs. If you are unable to commit to your heart and lung health, however, the low cadence workout, along with the healthy diet, is certainly going to give you some results. And aren’t those same health professionals always saying that some effort is better than none at all?