Last week I was approached by Gym Junkies to be part of an article in which I and other health and fitness bloggers describe their top 3 favorite exercises with a little reasoning behind each of them.
Here are my current top 3 favorites:
1. Barefoot beach sprints. I ran 80-100 miles a week for years, but I feel more like a true runner just doing one set of these each week (and no other running except when I “play“). Nothing beats the flat, hard sand at low tide with the sun just coming up to make me feel connected to everything. Speed, baby.
Not too long ago, we ran a story about how to incorporate plyometric exercise into your fitness round-up, but warned that because of the explosive nature of plyo exercises, this one was probably best left to those that were in the upper fitness brackets (and free of any sprains, strains or other injuries!).
This post elicited feedback from Mark’s Daily Apple reader, Barry, who wrote:
I’ve been reading your site for almost a year and have adopted a Primal eating style. Before doing so I was out of control having ballooned to almost 350 lbs. I haven’t gone 100% Primal so the weight is coming off slowly. I am now down to 300. My goal weight is 200 lbs. For activity I have been walking and doing some light free weight activities. It is about all I can muster. I read your Primal Plyos posts with fascination and can’t wait until the day comes that I too can do beach sprints, but for now I am limited. What is a 300 lb person to do for exercise? Hint: I can’t jump or sprint like Grok.
A study (abstract here) published online in the American Journal of Physiology, Regulatory, Integrative & Comparative Physiology suggests that short but intense bouts of exercise can confer the same health benefits for the heart as longer, less-intense activities.
For the study, researchers from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada recruited 20 healthy but untrained individuals and assigned them to perform a six week series of either low-volume sprint interval training (SIT) or traditional high-volume endurance training (ET). Specifically, the SIT group performed between 4 and 6, 30-second “all-out” Wingate Sprint Tests separated by 4.5 min of recovery, 3 days per week. The ET group, meanwhile, completed 40-60 min of cycling at moderate intensity, 5 days per week.
Ever heard of it?
If you are a regular to MDA and you subscribe to a Primal Health lifestyle I’m guessing it is likely. If not, now you have.
Crossfit is a type of physical training that blends power lifting, gymnastics and sprinting. Why do we like it? Because it fairly closely aligns with our Primal fitness philosophy in which variety, weight-bearing activity and anaerobic exercise is key. Here is a great description of CrossFit:
CrossFit maintains that proficiency is required in each of 10 fitness domains: cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, agility, balance, coordination, and accuracy. CrossFit uses free weights, kettlebells, gymnastics rings, pull-up bars and many calisthenics exercises. CrossFit may call on athletes to skip, run, row, climb ropes, jump up on boxes, flip giant tires, and carry odd objects. They can also squat and explode up to bounce medicine balls against walls.
CrossFit workouts typically call for athletes to work hard and fast, often with no rest. Many CrossFit gyms use scoring and ranking systems, transforming workouts into sport. CrossFit publishes its own journal and certifies its own trainers. Many CrossFit athletes and trainers see themselves as part of a contrarian insurgent movement that questions conventional fitness wisdom.
Though I don’t believe that the road to health is paved with incessant high endurance exercise, it doesn’t mean that I “can” cardio entirely either. Just as humans didn’t evolve to eat frosted wheat squares for breakfast, I don’t think three hours on the treadmill (or the hill over yonder) would’ve made much sense to your forefathers and mothers of a different era.
Instead, let’s talk “caveman cardio,” those short bursts of maximum output that caught the dinner or protected the tribe. This kind of cardio—practicing brief spurts of high intensity power and speed—both uses the body the way it was meant to be used and sustains the physical potential required for these activities.
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