Drew Baye has been a personal trainer since 1993 and runs a website called baye.com where he shares his expertise on high intensity strength training and bodyweight high intensity training. His goal is to train others in the 'safest, most effective, most efficient manner possible to maximize life-long health and functional ability with enjoyment of life as the standard, and to teach the best methods of achieving this.' He is the author of the following books:

Project Kratos Program Handbook: Bodyweight High Intensity Training

High Intensity Workouts: 100 High Intensity Training Workouts and Guidelines for Performance

High Intensity: The Annotated, Uncensored Post Workout Delirium Induced Ramblings

Getting Ripped: A Short Guide to Training and Eating to Maximize Fat Loss While Gaining or Maintaining Muscle

Timed Static Contraction Training: A Guide to Minimalist High Intensity Isometrics


If you want to increase your strength, muscle mass, lose fat or simply get the most out of your workout in the least amount of time, join us for this episode of the Health and Wellness show.

Running Time: 01:42:45

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Here's the transcript of the show:

Tiffany: Hello everyone and welcome to the SOTT Radio Network Health and Wellness Show. Today is Friday, June 16, 2017. I'm your host Tiffany and joining me from our virtual studio from all over the planet we have Adam.

Adam: Hello.

Tiffany: William.

William: Howdy everyone.

Tiffany: Jonathan

Jonathan: Hello.

Tiffany: Doug.

Doug: Hello.

Tiffany: And we have a very special guest in our health and wellness studio today. Our topic is going to be high intensity strength training. We have Drew Baye here in the studio with us.

Drew: Hi.

Tiffany: Drew Baye is a personal trainer. He's been a personal trainer since 1993 and his website is called baye.com and he shares his expertise on high intensity strength training and body weight high intensity training. He is the author of several books, Project Kratos Program Handbook, High Intensity Workouts, High Intensity, Getting Ripped and Timed Static Contraction Training. So if you want to optimize your workout and get the best out of it and build your strength and muscle mass you are listening to the right show. Welcome to the show Drew.

Drew: Well thanks. Glad to be here.

Tiffany: Just to get us started, can you give us a bit about your background and how you came to get into weightlifting and strength training? Did you start as a 99 pound weakling or what's your story?

Drew: I wasn't quite that bad. I started working out actually when I was 11 years old, just doing bodyweight exercises, basic stuff, push-ups, chin-ups, squats, crunches, things like that to try and get stronger for martial arts. Later when I was about 13 or 14 I started working out with some friends of mine in one of my friend's basement. His older brothers had weight equipment and we would train on that. We didn't really know what we were doing but we were enthusiastic. Fortunately we got a little bit of progress with that and none of us got injured too badly.

Later in high school I got a little bit more serious about strength training and wanted to get a little bigger for football and unfortunately I got a lot of bad advice from coaches, a lot of bad advice from your typical bodybuilding and fitness magazines and progress was not what I would have hoped it would have been. So for the longest time I weighed 140-150 pounds. I'm not very tall. I'm barely 5'8" so it wasn't like I was a stick or anything, but I wasn't as muscular as I would have liked to have been.

In college I started reading some of the other muscle magazines and came across Mike Mentzer's column in Ironman at the time where he was talking about high intensity training. Mike had been a competitive bodybuilder back in the '70s. He most famously competed against Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1980 Mr. Olympia where it was fixed. Schwarzenegger was far from the best person on stage that day. Mentzer wasn't the best either. Boyer Coe probably should have won it but he got frustrated with that and quit. I won't go too much into Mike's background but he spends a lot of time at Nautilus learning from Nautilus inventor Arthur Jones who is the person who is most responsible for revolutionizing the fitness industry back in the '70s and introducing a lot of these high intensity training concepts and principles.

So I started learning about this stuff from Mike and applying it and after years of being stuck and having a difficult time getting my body weight past 150 I was able to get up to 180 pounds. The heaviest I remember weighing in at about that time was about 183 while actually getting leaner and this was over a six month period. It was just following these principles, increasing the intensity of my training, backing off significantly on the volume and frequency and paying more attention to getting adequate recovery in between.

So as I was doing this, as you can imagine it's a pretty rapid change in somebody's body, people started to ask me what I was doing and I started training a few friends and other people saw this and asked if I was available for training. I started charging people and eventually decided instead of just doing this freelance, to go get a job doing it and started working at a Gold's Gym in Green Bay. It just worked out perfectly because the owner was a phone client of Mike Mentzer's and they were using a high intensity training program. At the time they were using the super slow protocol, the Ken Hutchens version of high intensity training which incorporates a very, very slow speed of movement.

But they were also consulting with Mike and so at that time I got really into the whole super slow thing and decided I was going to take a break from school. I was going to the University of Wisconsin Green Bay at the time for biology, and went down to Florida to work with Ken Hutchins, figuring I might as well learn right from the source and through Ken was fortunate to meet some of the other people that had been responsible for all the progress made earlier at Nautilus. Ellington Darden was their director of research, Jim Flannigan who eventually introduced me to Nautilus inventor Arthur Jones.

So it was a series of very fortunate events that allowed me to learn from and work with some of these experts and over the years I've incorporated that, learning also from the experience with all the people that I've trained and that I've come to some of my own conclusions about the best way to go about this.

Tiffany: Well it sounds like you got hooked up with all the right people. I recognize a lot of those names. Can you tell us what is high intensity training?

Drew: In a nutshell, high intensity training is a philosophy of training rather than a specific program or method based on pretty much the best evidence which shows that the results that you get from exercise are proportional to the level of effort put into it. If the effort is high enough there's going to be a greater stress on the body that it has to recover from before producing the adaptations stimulated by the workout. So if you have a very high intensity of effort then to avoid overstressing the body, you need to keep the workouts relatively brief.

Now the workout doesn't directly produce any improvements in fitness. A workout doesn't increase your strength. A workout doesn't improve your cardiovascular efficiency or any of the other things. All the workout does is send a message to your body that your body needs to do those things and for it to do that it has to have adequate time between workouts to recover and adapt.

So high intensity training is training with a very high level of effort but keeping your workouts brief enough that you don't overstress the body and allowing your body enough time between workouts to be able to recover from the stress of the workout and use the adaptation stimulated by it. It is very important to look at it as a philosophy or a set of principles instead of a program because while these principles are universal, the best application of the principles can vary considerably between individuals depending on their genetics and their body's response to exercise, their goals as well as practical considerations; how they are able to effectively fit the workouts into their lifestyle.

It's not a program, it's not specific - 'you do this workout and you do these exercises and you do them exactly this way, this often'. It is a flexible set of principles, sort of a recipe for an individual to determine which exercises, how often, how they should do them.

Adam: I like the way that you keep emphasizing that it's a philosophy not a prescription because I've been reading your site since 2011 and when I first came across high intensity I was thinking about it in terms of a prescribed regimen and it was one set to failure and that was it. But like you said, there is that genetic component where everybody's a little bit different and so it's taking that philosophy and applying it to different people can really vary considerably so I think that's a good thing to emphasize and I'm glad you emphasized it because it can be something that people, such as myself, who take it a little bit too far.

Drew: It's extremely important because there's no single program that is going to work best for everybody and even worse, the people whose programs people tend to copy are the worst people for them to copy. In most areas, if you want to be successful, it makes sense to look at other people who have been successful and to study how they got there. But with exercise a lot of times it's very misleading because of how much variability there is between individuals, you've got some people who naturally build muscle and get very fit very quickly regardless of what they do.

They are genetically gifted. They're fast responders and often these are the people that other people are looking at and saying "You know what? I want to look like that. I want to be able to perform like them" without considering that a large part of their success was not the way they trained.
In fact it's sometimes in spite of the way they train because they have such great genetics. It's a matter of looking at the particular individual and how they got there and just considering their method while failing to ask whether or not there might be some unique circumstances or some unique traits that allowed them to succeed with that method because for the majority of people, to try to follow the workouts of elite athletes and bodybuilders who are often genetically gifted, they're fast responders, they're naturally stronger, more enduring, more durable than most people and often taking performance-enhancing drugs, for the average person to try and copy that would be a recipe for disaster. They would quickly over-train and in most cases also injure themselves.

So it has to be a set of principles instead of a program because there is no single program that is going to work best for everybody. You can come up with something that was average that would work best for most of the people but even an average program wouldn't look like the programs that elite athletes, sport, you know, drug-using competitive bodybuilders would use. Now those programs that they're following, whether or not they call them high intensity training, if a programs works at all it is because it is incorporating certain basic principles. Exercise has to be intense. It has to be demanding. If it's not demanding you're not going to stimulate your body to produce any kind of meaningful adaptive response. It has to be done progressively. As you get stronger and better conditioned you have to increase the difficulty to stimulate further improvement, further adaptations.

The volume has to be enough and you have to have all of the major muscle groups addressed. You can't ignore anything and you have to do enough for all of them that you are sending a message to your body that it has to improve but it can't be so much that you are using resources that you are stressing the body so much that it doesn't have enough left over after recovery to be able to also produce the adaptations. And it has to be frequent enough that you don't allow for any loss of strength or deconditioning, but not so frequent that you prevent your body from having enough time to fully recover and produce the adaptations.

Now all of these things are going to vary between individuals and you will have some people who are just very responsive. They handle a higher volume of exercise very well. They can do more, they can do it more often and they will still be able to effectively recover and adapt. You've got other people on the other end of the spectrum that have to cut way back on the volume and frequency or they end up just overtraining very quickly or even losing strength.

Jonathan: Drew, for people who are beginners - and it sounds like you do a lot of work with beginners - is this something where you really need a professional to help you out, to learn how to do this correctly? Or say someone can't afford classes or a membership at a gym, something like that. What would you recommend as a first step? Like you should do "x" before you do anything else?

Drew: Oh boy! First off, nobody needs a professional but it does help a lot. The problem is there are very few professionals. In some bigger cities you can't turn around and throw a stone in any direction without hitting a personal trainer, or somebody calling themselves one. Most of them have absolutely no idea what they're doing. The average person is often better off figuring this stuff out with good information that they can get online, than going to a typical personal trainer who is going to terribly misinform them.

That being said, for the average person starting out I would recommend a little more volume and frequency than for what I would recommend for somebody who has been doing it for a while. The reason for this is there is an inverse relationship between intensity of exercise and how much a person can do. Most people are not going to train very intensely at first and they shouldn't be trying to.

When you're starting out the focus should be on learning to perform the exercises correctly, on getting better at doing the exercises, becoming more skilled at exercise rather than trying to do it as hard as possible. Doing it right is more important than doing it hard, especially when starting out because you want to make sure that you don't set yourself up for injuries down the line.

So I would have somebody start out with more moderate weights, with more frequent workouts and then gradually increase the weight they use while focusing primarily on form and then when they get to a point where they are consistently achieving momentary muscle failure on most of their exercises, that's when I would have them start looking at how they're progressing over a few weeks time and determining whether or not they need a reduction in volume or frequency of the workout.

Jonathan: Fascinating.

William: On your website you've got a great page where you talk about your philosophy of exercise and I thought that was pretty important for people who have trouble getting themselves motivated to do exercise because it is such an intense activity to do in your life. You had a good paragraph that I'd like to quote.
"Proper exercise is a requirement for living the longest, happiest life possible. It is a requirement for self-actualization, realizing your full human potential and necessary for achieving the ideal of a sound mind in a sound body."
I thought that was a pretty good statement to make and I thought maybe you could go a little bit into your philosophy and how you can get people to be motivated to do exercise.

Drew: Ah well, that actually sums it up pretty well but to expand on that, first off most people don't exercise. Even the very small percentage of people who think they're exercising aren't actually doing exercise. There is this mentality, this belief that anything that involves movement that is relatively demanding is somehow exercise. You ask people "Do you exercise?" and they might say "Well I garden" or "I go cycling" or "I swim a couple of times a week" and these things aren't exercise.

So first off I need to be very specific about what I mean when I say exercise because none of these other activities even come close in the effect that they'll have and the reason it's important to distinguish between the two is that if I tell somebody exercise is extremely important you need to be doing this and they think that they're getting exercise by walking around the block a few times a week then they're missing out.
Exercise is not any kind of activity that involves movement and effort. Exercise is a very specific activity. Exercise is a process that involves working the muscles against meaningful resistance. It has to be difficult enough when you're contracting that you're stimulating an adaptive response. It has to be done in a way that does this efficiently. Specific movements are going to load the muscles more efficiently than random locomotor activities like cycling or swimming or running.

So if you take something like a squat, a properly performed squat is designed to effectively load the muscles of the hips and thighs. Running doesn't. It's a really poor way of doing anything for fitness. Some people might enjoy it and if they want to do it for that reason that's great, but running is a horrible way to get in shape, whether you're trying to improve your cardiovascular, metabolic conditioning or lose weight or whatever. So exercise has to be done in a way that efficiently loads the muscles. It needs to be done in a way that is in accordance with specific muscle and joint function. You can't be copying some activity from daily living and say "Well I'm going to take this movement and I'm going to add weight to it and make it an exercise" because most of those movements are not efficient ways of loading and working these target muscles.
Also, it has to be something that has balanced work for all the major muscle groups and when you're designing a strength training program you can say "Okay, these are all the muscle groups we need to work. We've got this exercise and that exercise. We have every muscle group covered". Whereas if you're doing something like playing racquetball or football or whatever, yeah it's hard physical work but it's not an efficient way to work all of your muscles in a balanced way.

So when I'm talking about exercise, the only thing that I'm talking about is a proper strength training program. In fact strength training isn't even the best way to put it. I would say progressive resistance exercise that encompasses a little bit more but even that's redundant because by its definition if you're doing exercise you should be exercising in a progressive manner. In fact strength training, when it's done correctly, is the most effective way to improve all of the other factors. Lots of times people think "Well I'm going to exercise. I've got to do this for strength and I've got to do that for my cardiovascular conditioning and I've got to do that for my flexibility". But in most cases if a person is exercising at a very high level of intensity, if they're limiting their rests between exercises, they're going to have as much improvement in cardiovascular and metabolic conditioning, if not more, than if they were to spend even more time doing traditional endurance activities.

It's not unusual for us to have men in their 40s and 50s getting their heart rates up to 140 or 150 or more on average, sometimes peaks of 170 or 180, doing these high intensity workouts if they're moving quickly between exercises; more effective than if they were to go for a jog or go cycling or anything.

So when I say exercise, very, very specific activity. And the reason that this is so important is because your ability to do anything, from the most basic activities of daily living to sporting and demanding physical recreational activities depends on your level of physical fitness and health and while the two aren't directly related, they do have a significant impact on each other. This becomes especially important as people get older.
Most people, like I said before, don't exercise and even most of them who think they're exercising, are not exercising. And if you don't exercise properly, if you don't maintain your muscle mass, or if you exercise improperly and you cause yourself degenerative joint conditions or injuries that limit your mobility later on, then with that decline in muscle mass, an inability is going to come with all sorts of other physical problems. Most of the problems associated with aging, including problems with your skeletal system, problems with your cardiovascular system, are caused by a gradual reduction in muscle mass.

I recently spent some time observing physical therapists in a nursing home and they generally divide a lot of the patients into two categories, you've got your ortho and your neuro. Your neurological conditions, if somebody's got a stroke, somebody's got MS or something like that, where the nervous system isn't operational it's a little bit harder for them to do things to maintain the muscle mass. But if you've got a lot of these people who are just physically weak, or have orthopaedic injuries, there are ways to work around that. There are ways that they could have prevented a lot of this.

I'm going off track, but a lot of the people I saw in that nursing home did not need to be there and what I mean by that is if they had taken better care of themselves earlier on, if they had maintained their muscles, if they maintained their cardiovascular and skeletal systems, they would be able to take care of themselves without needing somebody else to do that for them.

As a good example, my maternal grandmother started working out back in the '70s when Nautilus was the big thing and she continued to do that for a long time and actually she was in very good physical shape. Unfortunately she had Alzheimer's and gradually became more and more confused and got to the point where although she was in great physical shape, she got to the point where she didn't know what was going on or who she was anymore or who any of us were, but she ended up living into her nineties and despite being that old and even after a long time without strength training, the effect of it was that she was still so mobile that they had to put an ankle bracelet on her at the home. Before this she would frequently get out and they would have somebody call and say they found her halfway across town.

So she had no problem getting around and doing all this stuff. Diet was also a part of it. She ate really well. But she strength trained and the strength that she built up was able to carry her through that. And this is another thing, the average person - and I'm not even talking about the people who are at the elite level - some people can increase their strength to a level that is almost unbelievable. These are rare. If you hear tall tales and folktales and legends about people like Paul Bunyan, people like Hercules, Sampson and whatnot, chance are that this was based on some of these rare genetic freaks who had the potential for an almost unbelievable amount of strength. People like that exist. They're very rare.

But most people grossly underestimate how strong they could be with proper strength training. The average person walking around that does not exercise properly is a weakling compared to their potential. Consider that if that's where they're starting, they can't afford to lose that much. So even with no strength training that's where they're starting and they're just going downhill as they get older. Even if they were only to strength train for a decade or two and get way, way up in strength and conditioning, they're starting at a higher point. So even if they do stop and they do decline, they're still going to be way better off than if they never strength trained at all.

But here's the catch. It's not enough that you train hard and you train progressively and you do a volume and frequency that's appropriate for how your body recovers and adapts. You have to do it in a way that you don't wreck your body in the process because you don't want to put all this effort into stimulating improvements in strength and cardiovascular conditioning and functional ability only to cause all these injuries in the process that cripple you down the line.

So it's not enough that a strength training program be effective for stimulating these improvements; you also have to take into account that you don't want to wreck your body in the long term because it is possible to do this very effectively for strength but get all these injuries and then still end up being in bad condition later on because you can't move as well as you ought to be able to. It's extremely important if you value your long-term health, if you value your independence and your freedom. But even short-term, in the short-term how strong you are, how well conditioned you are directly affects what you can do physically. And as an adult you have a responsibility to be able to care for yourself and this includes all the typical daily activities that you might encounter but also emergency situations.

If something happened and you require a certain amount of physical strength or endurance to be able to resolve or escape from an emergency situation and you can't because you never bothered to build that ability, well you have neglected your responsibility to do so. Weaklings are less useful to themselves and other people. Even worse, if you are a weakling in an emergency situation it's bad enough that you can't help yourself, you then increase the work that other people need to do to prevent you from being harmed in that situation or to get you to safety.

So it's not enough that you just do it for long-term health and fitness but also so that you can handle as much as possible of what life throws at you on a regular basis. Looking at it another way, from the standpoint of self-confidence and social interaction, the better your physical condition, right or wrong, the more physically attractive you're going to be and that is going to affect almost every interaction you have.

Whether people agree with it or not, people who are more attractive are treated better. It's true! And you're going to be more successful in all sorts of areas. Anywhere there's social interaction, attractiveness plays a role. Go to a store, go to a mall. Just watch people. Watch what happens when a frumpy, unattractive person walks through a store. Watch how the salespeople react to them. And then watch what happens when a really well-built, attractive person walks into the store and the difference in the attention that people get.

Right or wrong, it is the way things are. If you want to be not just physically more capable and healthier and feel better, but if you also want to be more successful in any kind of interaction with other people, you should try to look your best. It amazes me! A friend of mine recently made a comment. He's got a lot of friends that are really into cars and these are people who spend an insane amount of money on classic cars and refurbishing them and making them look incredible and a lot of them are in absolutely horrible physical condition. They take care of these cars but they don't take care of their own bodies.

And I see the same with clothes. I see people who are just sloppy fat and out of shape or they're skinny, they look like a stiff wind would blow them over, and they're spending all this time shopping and accessorizing. They might get 100-something dollar haircuts and might be wearing $500 shoes or whatever, but they absolutely look like shit. I don't know if you guys censor the radio. But here's the thing. You can't cover that up! If you are fat and sloppy or if you are scrawny and have poor posture, then no matter what you're wearing, you're still going to look like crap. You're not fooling anybody. And I told him I would rather drive an absolute junker, the worst car imaginable and still be in great physical shape than have a Lamborghini and look like some of these people.

People need to focus on their health. They need to focus on their physical capabilities. They need to focus on their appearance if they want to live the best possible lives and the most effective way to do that is with a proper strength training program. Diet comes in there too, but from a physical activity standpoint, they've got to strength train.

Adam: As you were saying, the other benefits to exercise aside from just being stronger, we've talked on the show about willpower and doing things that your body doesn't necessarily like, like cold adaptation, taking cold showers and stuff like that. I think exercise fits right in there as another way that you can build your willpower and that can have other effects in your life.

Drew: It makes people less a pussy. Most people go out of their way to avoid being uncomfortable. And it makes them weak as a result. Strength training is one of the ways - cold water adaptation, there's other things - but strength training is one of the ways that people can do that. You should regularly attempt things that are hard for you. If you don't, then when you are forced to do something hard you are not going to be as well prepared for it physically or mentally.

Without going too much off-topic, an interesting thing I read, there was a study that was done on feral children and one of the things they found was that they seemed very insensitive to changes in temperature. If it was extremely cold or extremely hot they didn't seem to be as bothered by it. Now somebody gets hot and they're complaining about the heat. "Oh, there's no air conditioning." Or somebody's chilly they want to get indoors as soon as possible. But these feral children barely responded to it. It's because they had been in situations where that's just how it was. They acclimated to it.

People who regularly do hard things are going to steel their will. They're going to be better at handling things when it happens by chance, when it's not their choice. So yeah, definitely one of the things that you can do that's effective for that purpose.

Tiffany: Yeah, it's not just a physical preparation for the hard times that might come. It's also a mental and a spiritual preparation as well.

Drew: Yeah. When done correctly, it is at least as mentally demanding as it is physically demanding because you are going against every instinct you have. If you're exercising correctly - and it varies. Obviously pain sensitivity and tolerance varies between individuals. But some people are going to experience a tremendous amount of burning in the muscles. You're going to have elevated heart rate. You're going to be breathing pretty heavy. All of these things are extremely uncomfortable if you're training hard enough.

Most people stop when exercise starts to get hard instead of working through that to the point where it's not just hard but it's physically impossible to continue in good form. Regularly doing that will acclimate you, get you better accustomed to dealing with physical discomfort and working through it in other activities. It takes a bit of mental effort to be able to do that because most people want to stop when they get to that point.

Adam: Just as a point of reference for my own experience, I prefer to use weight machines just because I like not having to worry about using a free weight for a squat. But for me, on a light press, I have to keep it as the very last exercise that I do because it's so physically demanding and like you said, when you get to that point that it starts to get really uncomfortable but you pay attention to your form and you know "Okay, my knee's not in physical pain it's just my body's like oh my god, this is so much work! Make it stop! Make it stop!" So you have to develop that resilience to keep pushing through it and to finally reach that failure and then you're on the floor for five minutes.

Drew: Well part of it is also understanding the difference between informative and non-informative pain. Normally pain is your body's way of saying "stop doing this!" and your body doesn't want you doing the strength training either because it's very disruptive to homeostasis. It's going to cause some microscopic tears in your muscles. It does a bunch of stuff that your body doesn't want to happen so your body's saying "Stop doing this!"

But it's not the same as pain that says "Okay, something is tearing or breaking or revulsing" or whatnot. This is also part of the reason I like to start people more moderately and have them gradually increase their intensity and not throw it at them all at once because you want them to differentiate. When you're doing the exercise you know if you are doing it correctly and if you don't have any pre-existing injuries, that if you start to feel something other than that muscle burning, other than that normal heart rate elevation and heavy breathing, then it's an indication that something's going wrong and you never want to challenge that. You don't want to risk injury, but if it's just that burning, if your heart's pounding, you're sucking wind, your muscles are on fire, it's temporary and at that point what you have to ask yourself is if the achievement of your goals long-term is more important to you than the temporary reprieve from that discomfort. Are you willing to keep working through it? Because it's not harmful. Understanding that it's not harmful and it's temporary helps with that.

What people should do is embrace that when they get it. They should chase after that muscle burning. That's what they're trying to get to during the exercise. The better your form is, the sooner it will come on and the better your will, the longer you'll be able to push through it. You don't want to associate that with injury though. That discomfort, that burning you're feeling, is your body letting you know that this is a stressful activity and that means that it's an effective stimulus. If it's sharp and it's sudden, if it's an annoyance, if you feel a headache or something coming on, or you start seeing spots floating in front of your eyes, then you want to stop. You don't want to push or risk injury.

But that muscle burn, you want to go after it and when you start feeling that you want to continue to try and intensify and work through it, not try to run away from it. So go toward that, not away from it.

Tiffany: It's like suffering consciously, putting yourself through the stress on purpose and knowing why you're doing it.

Drew: Absolutely, yes.

Tiffany: And know that it's going to be over in a while.

Drew: This might sound a little bit out there but one of the things that I found helps with this a lot is regular meditation. People who meditate outside of the workouts tend to be able to maintain much better focus during because you don't want to get your mind elsewhere. You want your mind on the muscles that you're working during the exercise. So you don't use it as a way to put your focus outside of your body or on something else. It needs to stay internal but doing that helps with that focus considerably.

Tiffany: On your website you mentioned something about being stoic during your exercises and not all this whooping and hollering and screaming and yelling while you're exercising. Can you get more into the stoicism of exercise?

Drew: Here's the thing. When you're exercising, it's expected that you're going to feel this severe burning and the associated discomfort. Nobody else needs to know. Nobody else is going to be surprised by it. It's something that you know is going to happen going into it. Why shout? Why yell? Why make these noises? The reason people do that sort of stuff has absolutely nothing to do with how hard they're training. In fact the better your form the harder the exercise is. All the thrashing around and the noise making and the grunting and all this distracts yourself from that discomfort, from that burning that you should be going towards.

So people do it partly as a distraction to themselves but the bigger reason that you see a lot of people doing this stuff in the gym is that it is attention-getting behaviour. All these histrionics people engage in - banging weights, the grunting, the yelling - they might as well just look around the gym and say "Hey, look at me! Hey look at me!" instead of doing all this other stuff because that's exactly what they're doing. If you go to a gym and you stand off to the side and just watch people for an hour, the behaviour that you see is not much different than most mammals during mating season. It is no different. Males are attempting to look bigger. Watch people walk around with their lats flared. They're flexing in the mirror not to look at themselves but watch - when people flex in the mirror they're checking to see who else is looking. And they've got the males all trying to puff themselves up and look bigger than they are and draw attention to themselves. The banging of weight plates and the grunting and groaning is basically the modern human mating call in that environment.

And then you have women who go to the gym with more makeup on and brighter clothes than people wear to a club and they're barely touching the weights or they're somewhere preening themselves on a cardio machine. They're typically there also to draw attention to themselves. Now on the plus side, if you go to a gym and you meet somebody at the gym, you have a better chance of meeting somebody who at least has an interest in being healthy and fit which is a big plus over meeting people in bars or clubs.

When I was in college most of the women that I picked up, I picked up at different gyms. One, the lighting is better. You can see what they really look like. And two, if they're at the gym at least they're showing an interest in health and fitness. But a lot of the people there, a lot of that behaviour, all the noise and everything, it contributes nothing to the effectiveness of exercise. It distracts you from it. It distracts other people from it.
When you're doing an exercise, regardless of how uncomfortable you are, there's no reason that you need to grunt or yell or scream or thrash it out or do any of these things. You should look like a machine. You should be performing the movement as smoothly, as strictly as you can. You should be focusing on the muscles you're contracting. In fact everything that you are thinking about should just be what's happening with your body in that space at that time and you should be completely oblivious to everybody and everything else around you. There's no reason to scream. There's no reason to yell.

Some people say "Oh you've got to grunt, the Valsalva manoeuvre. If you're lifting correctly there is no place for that in exercise. There is a role for that in certain competitive lifts which is a specific skill that is related to an exercise but very different but there's no reason to be grunting, screaming, yelling or anything, no physical exercise-related reason. It's all attention-getting and distracting.

Tiffany: Can we talk about recovery? When I do a workout I do get sore. I guess everybody's different but how long should you be sore and when you go back to work out again should all traces of soreness be gone from your muscles before you even attempt to exercise again?

Drew: No. Soreness is subjective. People can have soreness that lasts for days - sometimes it's relatively extreme - and other people, no matter how hard you push them, they barely get sore. It really doesn't give you an objective way of measuring whether or not you've fully recovered. Now soreness can be an indication of which muscles are affected by an exercise to a degree. Again, it varies a lot. You're going to have some people who can barely get sore, some people who get really sore, some people who have certain muscles that get very sore and others that don't. It's not a reliable way to determine this. If you want to know whether or not you're getting enough recovery time between workouts you need to look at how you're making progress in your workouts and in goal-specific measurements over time.

But your goal is improvement in body composition and of course diet's going to play a role in that too but if you're trying to increase your muscle mass, if you are increasing your muscle mass steadily then you're allowing adequate recovery. If you're seeing little or no improvements in muscle mass and if everything else is in order, you're training intensely, you're not overdoing it during the workouts, you're getting adequate sleep, you're eating well, then it may be an indication that you need more recovery time.

If you think that might be the case you need to experiment with it. You need to increase your rest days, pay attention to how your body responds, and in fact a lot of this should be looked at as a lifelong experiment. Again, the principles are identical. They're the same for everybody. These are universal principles that if you apply them to any person, it's going to improve them as much as they can physically be improved, but there is a lot of variability between individuals and the only way to determine what is best for anybody requires keeping track of your workouts and keeping track of how your body responds to it.

If your goal is to become leaner you need to pay attention to your body composition. If it's to build muscle, you need to pay attention to your measurements, how much muscle you're getting, how your strength is changing during your workouts. If your goal is to improve in a specific physical activity you need to make regular assessments of that activity and compare it over time based on what you're doing with your training. If you see that it improves faster when you're doing it one way then you know that that is a step in the right direction.

So with recovery you've got to keep track of your goal-specific measurements, you've got to keep track of your workouts and if you're not making progress, change that. If the change causes an improvement in progress then you're moving in the right direction. If not, change a little further and if you're still not then it's an indication that there are other factors that you need to look at.

You asked earlier about whether people really need a trainer. This is where having a trainer, if they know what they're doing, can be helpful in helping people evaluate these changes and dial all these things in so that you're coming up with a prescription that fits the individual. How many exercises? How often? Which exercises? Protocol? Etc. What they should be eating. It does vary a lot between individuals but with recovery there's no way to say "Well I'm still sore. I shouldn't work out yet." In fact ironically, sometimes the best thing to do if somebody has an extreme level of soreness is have them repeat the exercise. A lot of times that will alleviate the soreness.

Now you wouldn't want to do that frequently because if you're doing it too often you end up over-training but if it's debilitation - and some people get really bad soreness from some exercises and usually it's thighs or calves - a lot of times having them repeat the exercise that caused the soreness can help them to reduce some of that.

Tiffany: Does it flush out excess lactic acid or something? What's the science with that?

Drew: I'm not even really sure but it's not the lactic acid because your body will fix that relatively quickly. You're not still going to have that in the muscles a few days later. That's going to leave in your bloodstream. Some of it gets converted back to pyruvate in your mitochondria. Some of it goes to the liver and it's converted back but you're not going to have it just sitting around in the muscles for that long.

Jonathan: Drew you had mentioned this concept that you maintain proper form and you bring yourself to a point where you can no longer continue the exercise and that's kind of your marker. I was wondering what you think about body weight exercises. Can a beginner achieve that level of stress on the muscles just with body weight exercises or do they need external weights for that?

Drew: You can do it with body weight exercises but it is a lot more difficult. Here's the thing - you need to have enough resistance that you are able to achieve momentary muscle failure within a reasonable timeframe. Some people are so heavy that their body weight is too much. They can barely do a rep, if they can do one at all. For other people their body weight is insufficient, it's not heavy enough if they do the exercises in a traditional fashion. But notice I said resistance is what you need, not weight. A lot of people don't understand that there's a significant difference between the two.

Weight is related to the pull of gravity on the mass that you're attempting to move during the exercise, whether it's a barbell or your body weight or whatever. But the resistance is the combination of the weight and the lever and other factors. The resistance is the force that you have to overcome to perform the exercise with the weight being used and that resistance can be varied.

If you're doing a body weight exercise, most body weight exercises have different difficulty in different positions because of the weight and lever. For example if you are doing a squat, when you are standing, when you're at the top of a squat it's very easy. You can stand for hours. Go to a concert and stand for two or three hours and you don't even think about it. Your feet might bug you a little bit, depending on what you're standing on, but your legs aren't going to be that tired, not if you're even in reasonably good condition. If your legs are tired after standing for two or three hours at a concert, then you are desperately in need of strength.

But if you were to squat down, and if you squat down properly, if you avoid letting the knees too far forward - you don't want to be sitting on your hamstrings. You want your thighs close to parallel but you want your hips a little further back. If you squat down into that position properly it's a very difficult position for a person to hold for a long period of time. Your body weight is exactly the same if you're standing completely upright or if you're squatting down. The difference in difficulty is the difference in the position.

You can take advantage of that difference and make an exercise easier or harder. If you wanted to make a squat harder you would avoid the easiest part of the exercise at the top. You'd avoid the top third or so of the movement. If you wanted to make the exercise easier instead of harder you would avoid the bottom half-to-third of the movement. Go to the gym and watch people squatting and watch people leg pressing and they all do this. I shouldn't say all but most people do this. Most people, when they squat don't go as low as they should. When they leg press a lot of people barely bend their knees. They're staying in the easier portion of the movement so that they can handle more weight because they don't understand that it doesn't make a difference. A big weight and a little lever can be less effective than a much smaller weight and a longer lever.

And then there's also the timing. If you were to squat and you went all the way down, all the way back up and then you stood at the top and you rested for a few seconds between each repetition it would be much easier than if you were to do it in a continuous fashion and if you were to reverse direction with no rest at the top. That's another thing you see people doing. Watch them do a leg press, watch them do squats. They'll stop for a little bit of lock out. They're doing two things. They're manipulating the timing by spending more time where it's easiest and they're manipulating the average lever by avoiding the most difficult portion of the exercise to reduce the resistance. Even though it's a heavier weight than they could handle with proper form, the actual resistance isn't as high.

Now if you wanted to make it difficult you could manipulate the timing by spending more at the bottom. If you were to take a barbell that you can normally squat for a good number of repetitions and when you get to the bottom, instead of coming right back up, if you were to hold there for a few seconds at the bottom of each repetition and then slowly come back up instead of rapidly then it would greatly reduce the number of repetitions you'd be able to perform. In a lot of cases people, if they squat in a way that maximizes the resistance with the leverage and the timing, often would have to cut the weight way back. That doesn't mean that the exercise is any easier. It's just that they are modifying the difficulty by changing the lever, changing the timing instead of changing the weight.

Jonathan: Right.

Drew: In fact it is the better way to do it because, again, a big weight and a small lever can have the same resistance as a smaller weight and a proportionally larger lever but the bigger weight is going to place more compression on the spine. I've heard a lot of people criticize the barbell squat saying that people shouldn't squat because it's bad for their back or hips because you shouldn't have that big heavy weight on your back. Well that's because they don't understand that you don't need as heavy a weight.

In fact, this is going to sound counterintuitive but the goal of exercise isn't to move a heavy weight. The goal of exercise is to place as much demand on the muscles and then through the muscles all the supporting system, the skeletal system, the cardiovascular system, etc. The better your form, the more efficiently you use the weight, the harder the exercise will be, the less weight is required to accomplish the same thing.

Now you should use as much as you can in good form for a reasonable amount of time. I'm not saying people should lighten their weights, but you shouldn't use a heavier weight than required to achieve momentary muscle failure in a reasonable timeframe with good form because if you compromise other factors of resistance, if you try to make it easier by manipulating the leverage like people do with squats, by not going all the way down; if you try to make it easier by resting when you don't need to you're not fooling anybody who actually understands basic physics. Again, it's like the grunting and groaning, it's like "look at all these plates, look at me". In fact there's a trainer in Dubai and I think he put it best. He said the sign of a mature trainee is when they focus more on how well they lift than on how much they lift.

Anyway, to get back to the body weight issue though, a person can scale the difficulty of a body weight exercise so that it is as easy or as hard as necessary for their strength relative to their body weight by manipulating the lever and manipulating the timing and that means that somebody who's very, very heavy and not very strong can make it easier so that it's challenging enough for where they are to be effective. Or somebody who is very strong can manipulate the lever and the timing to make it so that it's as hard as they need it to be.

Now here's where the problem is. If you're doing an exercise with a barbell or with a machine, as you get stronger progression is very simple, to increase the weight. If you're doing an exercise with your body weight you have to change lever or timing or load distribution and you're trying to do this in a systematic way, it's a lot to keep track of and whenever you make a change you're changing the way you do the exercise a little bit.

Eventually for people who are very strong, you have to go from bilateral to unilateral versions of the exercise. Now you asked if there was enough weight, if somebody needed external weight and no, because I guarantee you, you go to a gym and you pick out the strongest 10 people you can find and ask them to do one-arm chin-ups or ask them to do one-legged squats or one-armed push-ups in good form, for some people who are really light they can do a lot of them, if they do typical sloppy fast ones. But if you have them slow down, if you have them do it in a way where they're maximizing these other factors, the timing and the leverage for the sake of increasing difficulty, most of them won't be able to do it.
You take the biggest, strongest guys in the gym and see how many of them can do one-arm chin-ups. Even if you take them and make them do chin-ups regularly, two hands at a time, but have them do it very, very strictly, if you have them stay right around the mid-part of the range of motion where the lever is the largest and if you have them deliberately squeezing those muscles and if they avoid resting at the bottom especially, then it's going to be as hard as they need it to be.

It's just not that simple and the problem - especially with leg exercises like squats - is when you start doing it unilaterally and it starts stretching out the duration of the workout a bit more, if people are trying to do these things efficiently that's not always a good thing. You should always use the best tools available to you and that can mean machines, it can mean free weights or under some circumstances it might mean body weight. You should learn to perform body weight exercises correctly so that when you are in those circumstances you don't have an excuse not to work out but you should always use the best equipment you've got.

So it's something people should learn and they should know how to do correctly. People just like to do body weight exercises. They like the challenge of it or they like not having to go to a gym or maybe they just want to go and workout on the beach or whatever and they don't want to obviously drag a bunch of equipment out. So there might be reasons that people want to do that, but if they want to do that, if they are willing to learn how to manipulate those other factors of resistance, then they can make it as easy or as difficult as they need for their current strength levels and their goals. It's a little bit more involved than just adding or removing plates on a barbell or moving a pin on a machine.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Tiffany: I have a two-part question Drew. Is there an ideal time of day to work out and is there any advantage or disadvantage to working out in a fasted state?

Drew: The best time of day to work out is when there are the least people in the gym. Whenever that happens to be because they just get in the way or they're a distraction. Seriously though, I like to have people train in the morning if they can; not too early because people who think that they're doing some favour or they're showing how committed they are by waking up at 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning to work out is just stupid because sleep is extremely important. If you're compromising your sleep to train, it's idiotic. Get enough rest! Because if you don't you're not going to be able to put the same effort into your workout and your body's not going to be able to recover from and adapt to it as effectively.

Sleep is extremely important. You never compromise sleep. If you don't have a good night's rest you're better off waiting until you do before working out than try to work out when you're tired. Not too early in the morning but if you get it out of the way in the morning it makes everything else you do for the rest of the day seem a lot easier. Obviously it depends on people's schedules. It's not going to be practical for everybody to do that. If you do it later in the day, the problem is the longer you wait the more the possibility that something else is going to come up and get in the way. Sometimes you can say "No, I'm going to work out. This is the priority." But if it's something with your job, if it's something with your family that might not always be an option.

I don't recommend working out fasted. You're not going to be able to put the same level of effort into your workout. The problem with that is that a lot of times when you hear people talking about fasted workouts, what they are thinking about is how being in that fasted state affects fatty acids getting into the bloodstream for use during the workout because they're thinking about the workout as a calorie-burning thing which is also completely backwards.

Forget entirely the idea that exercise has anything to do with burning calories. You don't exercise to burn calories. In fact you don't do anything to burn calories. No activity at all is worth doing for the sole purpose of burning calories because you don't burn enough for it to make any significant difference. If you're doing a workout you're going to burn some calories. If you're doing anything physically demanding you're going to burn some calories but it's not enough for that purpose. The reason for working out, or exercising - which again is specifically strength training, nothing else counts - is that you're stimulating improvements in all these factors of functional ability. If you have an increase in muscle mass you're going to have a higher metabolic rate partly because more tissue requires more energy to sustain but also because there is a significant metabolic cost in terms of both protein and calories, to the recovery process. Your metabolic rate is going to be elevated because of all the materials and energy that has to go into repairing the damage done to the muscles at a microscopic level during the workout.

In fact people used to say "Oh you're going to burn 100 more calories or 50 more calories or whatever for every pound of muscle you gain" which is nonsense. If you gain a pound of muscle, depending on what you're doing with it, you might burn another 10 calories or so per day. The 7-14 number is often given. The reason that there appears to be a much larger increase in metabolic rate with muscle gain is because when people strength train there's a cost in terms of calories and again, protein afterwards for recovery. But you don't do it to burn calories. You do it for all the other things and the calorie burning is just a nice bonus.

If you are fasted though, you're not going to be able to put the same level of effort into your workout and you're not going to get as much out of it. I don't want to go too much into the calorie burning thing right now but again, forget the idea that exercise is for burning calories. Go out and do things. Be physical because there is enjoyment to be had in recreational activities, in socializing. Having something that you do physically on a regular basis provides both motivation for strength training and another tool for evaluation.

For example, say you like to cycle or you like to play basketball or football or whatever, if you do that it's one more reason, one more thing to motivate you during your workouts because you know the stronger and better condition you get into, the better you'll be able to do these things and the more you're going to enjoy them. It comes back to the whole idea of exercise being essential to having as fulfilling a life as possible. But also the better you are performing in these activities, it will let you know that you're doing things right during your workout. So I'm not saying people shouldn't go out and do things and be active. They absolutely should but they shouldn't do these things just to burn calories and they should not confuse them with exercise.

That was the second part, the time and the fasting. Don't sacrifice sleep for workouts. Workout in the morning if you can. If not, whenever there's the least people in the gym or when it's convenient for you and make sure you get something to eat at least about three hours or so before the workout. If not, just have a small snack with a little bit of protein and carbohydrates going into it.

Adam: Well as far as another thing that I've heard from the paleo community, as far as a fasted workout goes, is that there's supposed to be a higher release of human growth hormone as a result but it sounds like from what you're saying that maybe there is a slight bump in the growth hormone release as a result of exercise but you wouldn't be able to do as much.

Drew: Yeah, you've got to look at the net. You've got to be very careful. When you're talking about studies a lot of times the studies will look at an individual factor that may point to something else but ultimately what you're looking at is how do all of these factors combine, what is the net effect. You might - I'm sceptical of some of these things - but you might have a little bit more growth hormone but if the net effect, if it also compromises your workout intensity the net effect might be less results over time.

Also, a lot of times when they're talking about this stuff they're looking at a specific thing. For example, there are some studies that look at this person's fat loss but in the long run you don't just want to lose fat. You want to improve body composition which means both decreasing fat and increasing or at least maintaining muscle mass, once you get to a certain point. And if you look at just that one factor - that fat loss - and you don't look at how it might also affect your muscle gain or maintenance over time - and I'm not saying anything specific, this is a hypothetical - but maybe doing something one way would be a little bit more effective for fat loss but if in the long run it's also less effective for increasing muscle mass, then the net effect would be worse than using an approach that might be slightly slower for fat loss but allows you more muscle gain.

So it's really important that people look at the big picture which again isn't even just the physical results. You have to consider where exercise fits overall in your lifestyle and quite frankly, while it is one of the most important things people can do, you do hit a point of diminishing returns, above some volume and frequency. So people need to ask at what point is it enough? Most people need to have good results. They need to get stronger. And like I mentioned earlier, most untrained people, including most people who think they're exercising but they're really not exercising, they're doing all these other things, they are weaklings compared to what their potential is. For them to even get 75% of the way there would be great. For most people maybe that's what fits in their lifestyle.

Now if you are an athlete, if you are somebody whose passion is a particular physical activity that is affected by your physical fitness - actually any physical activity is going to be - you don't want to go past the point where you're not getting any additional returns, but getting to that optimum point might be worth the little bit of extra time for you. But for other people - and this is where a lot of the once weekly really brief workouts come in - for most people doing one hard work out a week, if they're covering all the major muscle groups, is going to produce a significant rate of progress and eventually they're going to get pretty strong and pretty well conditioned doing that.

It's not going to be optimal for everybody, but for most people it's not necessary. You don't have to do a lot of exercise. You don't have to do it very often if you want to be in good shape. You just have to do it very hard and you have to make sure that your sleep and your diet and all the other stuff is in order. If you want the best possible results, if you want to be as strong, as physically conditioned as you can possibly be, you still don't have to do a lot and you don't have to do it very often but you might need to do it a little bit more than that, depending on your recovery and how much exercise you can tolerate at any particular time.

I got off track there.

Adam: That was actually kind of addressing the next question that I had which was for the average person, if somebody's just starting out, what would be your recommendation for where they should start and how should they go forward and what should they look at.

Drew: I would start most people out training their full body three times a week. More than that tends to be too much for most people and even for people who can handle and recover from that, it's not necessary. Most people beyond that point are not going to get much better results and usually anybody who's training more than that is doing so for psychological rather than physical reasons, or social reasons; they just want to be in the gym looking at people and being looked at.

From a physical standpoint though, most people don't need more than three full body workouts per week. Like I mentioned earlier, there's an inverse relationship between how hard you train and how much you can do and how often. I'd like to have people do more at first because I don't want them training hard initially. When a person is starting out I want them to focus on how well they're doing the exercises, learning to do things right and then gradually increasing the loads, gradually increasing their effort. When they get to the point where they're regularly reaching momentary muscle failure on most of their exercises, then I would start looking at how they're progressing and possibly cutting back on the volume of the workouts or adding rest days in between, depending on how much effort they're able to put into all their exercises, depending on how they're recovering.

You have to do enough exercises to hit all your major muscle groups. It doesn't all have to be in the same workout though. Spread it out over a few workouts. In fact as you do so you should also have a little bit of variety in some of the movements. But beyond that point it really comes down to the individual to look at, are they recovering, how much effort are they putting into each of the exercises and then you adjust it based on that.

Now if a person wanted to just get in shape, so to speak, they don't need to do a lot. They could cut back to once a week if that worked for their schedule and still get good results doing that. It might not be the best possible to them, depending on their genetics, but good. But you do have some people and these people are about as uncommon as the people who are able to train very high volume frequently but you do have some people who actually need that much rest, or in some cases even more and can't do a lot of exercise all at once. Again, it's important - and that's why I'm hesitant to say everybody should do that. Remember I said that three times a week full body is a starting point. It always has to be adjusted based on individual response. But there are going to be some people who need more recovery, who can't handle as many workouts. But again, that seems to be a good starting point for most people and then to back off.

Somebody just commented about branch chain amino acids. Waste of money. If you're eating enough protein on a daily basis you don't need any branch chain amino acids. You're covered if you're already getting enough protein in your diet. It's a waste of money. There are some that are beneficial but the only thing that most supplements are going to do is drain your wallet. You really don't need them.

Tiffany: One of our other chatters had a question about warming up before weight training with cardiovascular exercises, for five or ten minutes. Is that necessary?

Drew: Not at all.

Tiffany: Just jump right into the weight training.

Drew: In most cases, if a person does not have an injury that causes discomfort during a particular exercise, you don't need to do any kind of warm up. If you are performing a very high force, high speed athletic activity where you're jumping right into it, then you would want to warm up but if you're doing an exercise in proper form and you have normal, healthy joints, then everything that would normally occur during the warm up, increased synovial fluid lubricating the joints, increased blood flow to the muscles, all that, is going to happen within the first few reps. An extra warm up is just a waste of time and energy.

I've been doing training for almost a quarter century now and I almost never have anybody warm up and this includes some really old people. I'm talking 80's and I have never in all this time had a person injured as a result of anything they did during a workout. Now if somebody has a joint issue that causes discomfort during an exercise then they'll sometimes do a warm up prior to the exercise just to prep the joint so that they are able to do the exercise with less discomfort.

There are exceptions. There are cases where some people would want to do that but for the majority of people it's not necessary at all. If you are using correct form and if you don't have any pre-existing injuries that you shouldn't be exercising with, you're not going to get hurt doing the exercises. And if your form is bad then it doesn't matter what warm-up you do. If your form is bad you're probably going to injure yourself anyway.

Tiffany: What about stretching afterwards?

Drew: No. You don't really need it. This is something that's situational. If you are doing the exercises through a full range of motion you are going to improve flexibility along with strength and for most people additional stretching is not necessary. It doesn't hurt to do it afterwards but the research is kind of mixed. Some studies show that there's a slight benefit to stretching after a workout but most of it doesn't show that it makes any significant difference in strength. If you're going to stretch though, most people stretch completely wrong. If you guys want to talk stretching sometime we could literally talk about this for another full hour. I'm going to give you the super short version though.

Stretching is not about lengthening the muscles and that's what most people are trying to do. They're trying to force a stretch. Stretching is about retraining your nervous system to allow the muscle to extend further. I guarantee if you all go and get your flexibility tested and then get really, really drunk and then test it again right afterwards, your flexibility will have improved tremendously. You haven't done anything to physically lengthen your muscles but that nervous inhibition is going to allow a little more extensibility. The best way to stretch is not one that's really trying to go for a deep stretch in the muscle but one that retrains the muscles so that they are allowing more extension. Again, retraining, your nervous system to allow the muscle to extend a little further before it starts to tighten.

We should probably talk about that another time. That's a whole other thing. There are at least as many myths around stretching and how it should be done as there is about exercise and strength training.

Adam: Yeah, there's a lot more technical questions that I wanted to get into but we're running a little over.

Doug: Could I throw one question in before we cut away?

Drew: I have as much time as you guys have, so fire away.

Doug: Okay. There was a question earlier on in the chat actually where one person was asking if there's any differences between how men and women would approach this type of exercise.

Drew: No, not really because exercise is about muscle and joint function and the similarities between men and women in terms of general muscle and joint function are small enough that they can be ignored for the most part. There are some very specific things that vary. For example, the minor things about how you might perform an exercise that involves elbow or knee flexion with position because the valgus of the elbows and knees, the angle when viewed from the front in anatomical position varies a little bit. So there are some tiny little things that have to be considered with differences in the skeletal structure but these are not major differences.

The biggest differences in men and women's training is not how the exercises should be performed or the principles in terms of their volume and frequency but usually which exercises they might want based on their particular goals. If a woman is pregnant there are some hormonal changes that affect connective tissue strength and flexibility that you have to be careful about certain exercises with. With women you have to be careful about when you measure because at different times in their menstrual cycle they're going to have different levels of fluid retention. If you're looking at body composition changes you should always weigh and do other measurements at the same time in the cycle because otherwise it's going to be all over the place. But from a strength training standpoint it's pretty much going to be the same. You don't have to have wildly different ways of training men and women.

Adam: Something that I don't think we've mentioned yet, and one of the other questions you were explaining about, performing certain repetitions. I don't think we've talked about the cadence because if you go to a gym you'll just see people pumping out as many as they can as quickly as they can which is really, really bad because it uses a lot of momentum and takes away from the actual force requirement on the muscles. So what would be a good starting point that you could play with to just see what works best for you in that respect?

Drew: Recently I've dropped cadence entirely.

Adam: Really?

Drew: I've dropped cadence. I've dropped repetition counts, everything. The problem with most people in the gym and the reason that they're lifting so quickly is they have a completely backwards mentality about their workouts. They are concentrating on what they're doing to the weight or what they're doing to the machine. You want to forget all that. When you're doing an exercise, it is not about what you're doing to the weight with your muscles. It's about what you are doing to your muscles with the weight and it's not about the amount of times you make a weight go up and down. It's about the demand that you create in the muscles, the tension, the metabolic stress and the microscopic tears in the muscle fibres. All of that benefits from moving slowly.

So you definitely don't want to throw the weights up and down. In fact you want to move as slowly as you can move smoothly. There is a thing called the force velocity curve which shows that at different concentric contraction speeds, depending on how quickly the muscle is shortening, it can produce different levels of force. The slower you attempt to lift the weight, the higher the force the muscle can produce and it will allow you to use a heavier weight for the same amount of time.

For example if you were to lift a weight for one minute, if you did 10 repetitions going up in three and down in three, you would not be able to use as much weight as you could if you did three repetitions going up in 10 and down in 10. The slower you're moving, especially during the descending phase, the more tension your muscle is capable of producing and the larger the weight to the load you're able to handle for the same timeframe, assuming that everything else is equal. This is important because there's a difference between your positive, the lifting, and then your negative, your lowering strength. The lowering is where most of that micro-trauma is occurring and regardless of the speed that you lift, your lowering strength is always going to be much higher. The faster you attempt to lift a weight - again, all else being equal, assuming that form is correct - usually the faster you go the worse your form is. It's part of the reason people use fast movements. But the faster you attempt to lift the weight, the less weight you're going to be able to lift, all else being equal, so the more underloaded you're going to be during that negative which is again, the most important part where micro-trauma is, where microscopic tears are concerned.

For example, based on some old Nautilus research, the reason that people think that you're 40% stronger during the negative is because the testing that this number came from used a four second concentric on an exercise with a specific range of motion. If you change the range, you change the time, you change any of that, then that ratio, that difference changes. We'll use that as an example.

Suppose that if you lift a weight in four seconds then you're 40% stronger lowering it in about the same amount of time. So if you use the 100 pounds to lift then you could lower 140 and that would mean that you would have that much of a gap. You would be using 40% or so less weight than you could have lowering. Well let's say you slow your speed way down. Then instead of lifting 100 maybe you can lift 120 or so. Then you're not as underloaded during the negative.

Now in terms of a specific cadence, part of the reason that for so long I've recommended about a four second positive and negative is because it was a good average for different exercises. It wasn't so long that when you're doing exercises like calf raise or shrugs with a really short range of motion that you were going too slowly, but it wasn't so short that you were going too fast during the longer exercises like pullovers. It was just a good average.

The problem with that is that while it makes for more consistent performance, which is helpful for comparing performance on a workout-to-workout basis, there are a lot of people, when you start counting cadence, it distracts you and especially if you're counting cadence and trying to count your repetitions it distracts from focusing on the exercise. You're compromising your focus on the movement and the muscles for the sake of concentrating on measuring. Measuring is important but doing the exercise as well as possible is more important than being able to measure it. Some people will do better with a little slower speeds or a little faster in some movement, depending on their motor ability, depending on their limb length, depending on the exercise, a lot of other factors.

What I would recommend for people is to move as slowly as they can smoothly. Beyond some point, if you're going too slowly some people will end up performing a segmented movement. They have difficulty with perception of position and movement below some speed where instead of being a smooth, continuous movement, it becomes a series of short starts and stops. For most people, most exercises, it seems to happen once you start slowing down towards taking more than 15 seconds or so - which is a long time to be doing it. For most people, most exercises, if I had to put a time on it I'd say not faster than 5, not slower than 15, and I say 5 instead of 4 here because most people if you tell them, they go 2 seconds. Most people have no concept of how long a second is. The only people that I've ever trained that have gotten it right, right off the bat without practice, have been musicians because they typically have a better feel for it.

Forget the specific time though. When you're doing the exercise get a stopwatch. Start the stopwatch. Put it somewhere you can see it. On an even multiple of five start the exercise and then forget about cadence, forget about the reps. Focus on intensely contracting the target muscles. Focus on reversing direction smoothly. Don't swing, bounce, jerk or do any kind of quick or sudden movement. You want to look like somebody doing Tai Chi in slow motion. You want to be that smooth. As you're doing the exercise, chase after that burn in the muscle. The more you feel it, the harder you want to contract. Don't grunt, scream, groan. Don't thrash around. You want to keep your head and neck steady. You want to keep your face relaxed. All of your focus needs to be on what you're doing with your muscles and just on moving slowly.

Take your time lowering the weight. Be cautious to not drop it as you approach the start point. When you get to a point where you can no longer move the weight in correct form - don't cheat, don't sacrifice your form, don't start swinging, don't start changing your body position to gain leverage - just focus on more intense contraction. If attempting to contract even more intensely doesn't do it, after a few seconds, look at the stopwatch. Make a note of the time and then don't set the weight down right away. If you fail at some point in the range of motion above the start point then just try to lower it as slowly as you can. You don't get to count all that time afterwards. That's why I want to check that stopwatch first but then just lower the weight as slowly as you can. Subtract however many seconds it took you after starting the stopwatch to do the exercise and then write that down.

So if you're doing chin-ups, start the stopwatch, you put it on the ground. You get your grip. You gradually, carefully transfer your weight from your legs to your hands. You look at the stopwatch and note the start time. Begin the exercise. Let's say you start after five seconds. You reach momentary muscle failure, you glance at it. Let's say it says 55. Keep contracting for a few seconds. If you can't go, then slowly lower yourself and then you write down 50 seconds.

But I would forget cadence. Forget reps. Do it as slow as you can. Focus on the contraction of the target muscles and chasing the burn and then just keep track of time. It gets rid of all sorts of distractions. You don't want to be thinking about anything else during the exercise other than what is happening at the immediate moment. You don't want to think about the rep you just did. You don't want to think about where you are or how long it's been or what you're going to do next. Just focus at that particular moment on contracting the target muscles as intensely as possible.

Tiffany: On your website you said that one of the most important tools that you can have while you're working out is a clipboard and pencil so you can keep notes. What exactly are you keeping notes of and is this entirely necessary if you don't have major...

Drew: Yes, it's absolutely necessary.

Tiffany: Okay.

Drew: There's no single program that works best for everybody. There are principles that are universal that apply to every single person and the best program for an individual is going to depend on how their body responds to exercise. To be able to determine that response you need to keep track so that you can compare.

It's like performing an experiment. If you're going to do a study you would have to keep track of all your data. You'd have to perform measurements. When you're doing your workout the experiment is seeing how your body responds to a specific application of those principles. If you are not making progress then you change a variable and then you continue to record what you're doing and how your body responds so that you can look back and say "Okay, when I was doing this I wasn't progressing as quickly but I made this change and then I started getting stronger faster." Or if you're looking at measuring body composition, anything. The measurements are important because to be able to fine-tune the application of the principles, you have to keep track of how your body is responding to changes in those applications or in the variables.

So the workout chart, minimally, every time you work out you should write down the date and for each exercise - and usually I'll have people do just a couple of workouts that they might rotate between so you're not changing every single time. You want to have some consistency so that when you're looking back you don't want to change too many variables. So for each workout you record the date the workout was performed and for each exercise you would record the amount of resistance used or load in this case, the weight, and how long it took you to achieve momentary muscle failure, what your time under load was.

I like to start people with 30-90 seconds but then I adjust it based on how their body responds and this is another variable people might experiment with. Whenever you get a certain amount of time, the next time you do the exercise you increase it a little bit. That's the minimum. When the workout is performed and the load and the time for each exercise.

If you change the order of exercises you should also make a note. Put the order, write down the numbers in the upper right corner of the load and time box on the chart. Some people will record the start and end time so they can compare their total work to rest time and look at the density or the work: rest ratio of the workout. Some people also record their average heart rate, their peak heart rate and one minute heart rate recovery which can be interesting because when you see that that heart rate recovery especially is going down, you'll see that people are recovering faster and faster.

So the data that you keep track of would depend on your specific goals and the time you improve, but minimally every time you work out, the date and the load and time for each exercise. If your goal is to improve your muscular strength, your measurements are right there. If your goal is also improvements in body composition, you should periodically check your weight and check your body fat percentage. If you're trying to improve your skill in some other activity, if it's running or doing an obstacle course or whatever, you would periodically do assessments of your ability to perform that and take appropriate measurements, depending on what the activity is, like total time if you're doing an obstacle course, as well as your subjective perception of how you are feeling while you're doing it and that can also be valuable for workouts. If people are training at different times of day, they want to find out what works better for them. Sometimes just writing down little notes at the end of the workout, "This is how I felt after doing this". The more information that you keep track of relative to your goals, the more useful your workout chart journal is going to be in fine-tuning the application of those principles to your body and your goals.

So it's absolutely important and it's one of the things that drives me nuts. I'll go into a gym and I'll see all these people working out and not a single one of them keeps track of anything that they do and it's just stupid. It would be akin to a researcher performing an experiment but never bothering to measure anything and just saying "Well I'll remember!" It doesn't work as well.

Tiffany: And you have some sample worksheets on your webpage, right?

Drew: Yeah. I need to update those soon. There was a problem with printing some of them, a double thing. I'll probably do that sometime within the next couple of weeks. It'll all be on the same page though if somebody wants to go and look. But all you need is a notebook and a pencil or graph paper. Some people even use just a spreadsheet program to keep track of it.

Tiffany: Guys, do you have any further questions for Drew?

William: No. Sounds like we're good.

Jonathan: It's been great.

Tiffany: Well for our last question, one of our chatters wants to know about breathing. Do you have any specific recommendations for how you should breathe while you're exercising?

Drew: Yeah. Don't stop! That's the main thing. When you're doing an exercise a lot of people say, "oh you should exhale while lifting and inhale while lowering", which is nonsense. If you are moving slowly enough and you're training hard enough, you can't match the two. If you're really working hard you might be taking as many as 30 breaths per minute and you shouldn't be moving so fast that you're doing that many reps per minute. So if you're going very slowly you might take 10 breaths in the time that you complete one repetition.

What a person should do is just let their mouth hang open. You don't want to try and inhale through your nose and out through your mouth or anything like that. Just let your mouth hang open and breath as relaxed and naturally as possible. You don't want to try to time your breathing to your reps. You definitely don't want to hold your breath with a thing that's called a Valsalva manoeuvre where you deliberately close off your glottis and tense up the trunk muscles to increase pressure in the abdomen and thorax. That is a legitimate technique in certain competitive lifts. It has its place, but during exercise, which is different than the skill of a competitive lift, you would not want to do that. You just want to breathe as relaxed and naturally as possible.

Some people tend to hold their breath when they start a pushing movement or they hold their breath when they're squeezing at the end of a pulling movement and if you catch yourself doing this, you want to anticipate it on the next rep and almost try to over-breathe going into that position. And think breathing makes it go. That helps with some people but you definitely don't want to hold your breath. You don't want to perform Valsalva manoeuvre. You don't want to try and limit the way you're breathing and you don't want to try and do anything where you're timing it to the repetitions. Just breathe as relaxed and naturally as possible.

And with this, it does help to have some water or something around to drink because if you're training hard enough and you're breathing through the mouth correctly, you're breathing pretty heavy, especially if you're in a colder environment which is better for exercise, you might get a little bit of a dry throat. Just be careful that you don't set your water bottle somewhere where somebody else can knock it over or you trip over it or anything like that. It does help to have something to drink so that your throat doesn't dry out if you're breathing correctly.

Tiffany: Okay. Well it sounds like we have reached the end of our show. I want to thank you so much Drew Baye for coming onto the Health and Wellness Show.

Drew: It was my pleasure.

Tiffany: Your website is baye.com. That's where people can go and read all of your articles that you've posted out of your writings and they can also find links to order your books. Are your books also available on Amazon?

Drew: No. Everything is through the website. Without going into it too much, Amazon tends to screw over authors.

Tiffany: Okay, well thanks so much. You shared a lot of information with us today and it actually makes me feel inspired to work out.

Drew: Well we've just scratched the surface.

Tiffany: Yeah. Maybe you can come on in the future. For a future show we can do some follow up and some more in-depth on certain topics on high intensity training. But thanks again for coming on. I'd like to thank our listeners and our chatters and my co-hosts and make sure you tune in to the Truth Perspective or Behind the Headlines on Sunday. So thanks for listening in everybody and have a good weekend.

All: Good-byes.