Monthly Archives: April 2017

Best Full Body Exercises

In the episodes How To Lose Fat Quickly and How To Build Muscle, we learn that there is one distinct similarity between both fat-burning and muscle-building goals: They each require the use of full body, multiple-joint exercises that activate many muscles at the same time.

When it comes to full body exercises, some are more effective than others, so in this article, you’ll learn the 5 full body exercises that get you the most results in the shortest period of time. (Each exercise below links to a video demonstration of the movement.).

The Best Full Body Exercises

Full Body Exercise #1: Turkish Get-Up

I may be a fitness buff, but my history and geography skills aren’t quite up-to-par, so I’m not quite sure how of why this exercise is “Turkish.” But the “Get-Up” part is easy to understand once you’ve tried this move.

To complete a Turkish Get-Up, you lie on your side, with a dumbbell in one hand. The dumbbell should be held out at arm’s length. From this position, you simply stand, while keeping the dumbbell overhead at an arm’s length. This means you only have one arm and two legs to help you both stand and push the weight of that dumbbell up as you stand.

This exercise can be difficult to learn, but if you can do 3-4 sets of 5-10 Turkish Get-Ups per side, then you are probably in pretty good shape!

Full Body Exercise #2: Swing Squats

For this exercise, hold a dumbbell or a kettlebell down by your feet with one outstretched arm, then drop into a squat position with your butt pushed behind you, your back straight, and your heels firmly planted. Now, stand about halfway up as you begin to swing the dumbbell up, quickly reverse direction and drop down into a full squat position again, then powerfully stand as you swing the dumbbell overhead.

If you do this exercise as explosively as possible, which I highly recommend, you will find that your heart rate will get very high with just a few repetitions, making the swing squat both a cardiovascular and strength building exercise.

Full Body Exercise #3: Medicine Ball Slams

This is a great stress-relieving exercise, and also helps to build power and athleticism in the upper body, core, and legs. It is also a very easy full-body exercise to learn.

To do a medicine ball slam, you simply get a medicine ball (those big heavy balls you can often find in the corner of the gym), raise it overhead, then swing your arms down as you release the ball and slam it into the ground as hard as possible.

As you can imagine, this can be a loud exercise, so you may want to find a private area of the gym (like an empty group exercise room) and you will also need to be careful not to let the ball bounce back up and hit you in the face!

For an extra challenge, I sometimes finish a workout to complete exhaustion with 50-100 medicine ball slams.

Full Body Exercise #4: Burpees (also known as Squat-Thrust Jumps)

As an infamous exercise used by fitness bootcamp instructors, the burpee is one of those movements that you can love to hate. It will give you a full body workout in a matter of mere minutes, but also requires a great deal of focus and intensity.

Here’s how to do a burpee: from a standing position, squat down, put your hands on the ground, kick your legs out behind you, do a push-up (optional), then kick the legs back up into a squat position, stand and jump as you swing your arms overhead. If you’re an advanced exerciser or want to add even more “oomph” to this exercise, you can wear a weighted vest as you do your burpees.

Most burpee workouts involve doing a series of 10, 15, or 20 burpees as part of a full body weight training or body weight circuit, but you can do just 1-2 minutes of burpees in the morning as a fantastic metabolic booster to jumpstart your day!

New Equipment: Fitness Pro Favorites

Fitness professionals like their equipment—from “tried-and-true” to “oh, so new.” And equipment companies like to fill convention halls with fresh gear to help trainers and clients hit their goals. Of course, fitness pros also enjoy new gadgets for the pure thrill of them—and will sometimes go for equipment that targets a fun goal over a hypertrophy goal, for example.

We talk to trainers about their favorite tools and techniques and profile some of the most fascinating fitness products hitting the market this year.

All About the Wearables

Past years have seen breakout fitness equipment stars such as the Nintendo® Wii™, the Step®, the Pilates reformer, the TRX® Suspension Trainer™, the slide board and even the Shake Weight®. This year the star seems to be a category—wearable technology. While fitness trackers, pedometers, heart rate monitors and smartphones have been around for a while, the diversity of features and capabilities in this group is exploding.

Wrist-worn smartwatches and trackers have evolved into distinct “wearable” categories. And CNET now divides its favorite tracking devices into four discrete headings: best fitness tracker, best smartwatch, most stylish fitness watch and best GPS running watch (Stein & Graziano 2017).

It’s no longer enough to count your steps or measure your heart rate; today’s wearable trackers can correct your form, help you count reps, provide a fairly accurate caloric burn rate, stream notifications to you, recognize a new range of exercises (including yoga moves), detect motion on multiple axes, store freestyle exercises, deliver quantifiable strength data (for free weights, pulleys or even body weight) and send payment reminders. Even our language has evolved to keep pace. Ten years ago it wasn’t common to hear gym-goers discussing OLED touchscreen displays and motion sensor setups (gyroscope, magnetometer and accelerometer) that track movement in a 3-D space, much less understand what those terms meant, but now this kind of discussion happens in Facebook groups that appeal to fitness lovers.

Want some neurostimulation with your workout music? For about $700, you can get Halo Sport headphones that stimulate your motor cortex during athletic training. This increases the excitability of motor neurons, putting your brain into a “hyperplasticity/hyperlearning” state. In plainer terms, your headphones can potentially help you accelerate gains in “strength, explosiveness, endurance and muscle memory” (Fingas 2016).

Some trainers don’t want the bulkiness of headphones, so they prefer earbuds. Headphone specialist Jabra comes through with a headphone that has a heart rate tracker built into the part that goes in the inner ear. Want to calculate your VO2max while walking a mile? The earbuds can do that, plus sync up with your phone apps to offer voice-guided workouts. Or you can skip the app and get another Jabra model that has an automatic rep-counting mode, plus tracked and timed cross-training exercises built in (Sawh 2016).

Probably geared more toward personal trainers than group fitness leaders are two tech products that are not exactly wearable yet are closely aligned because they’re designed to touch the body. One is a phone-sized apparatus called the Skulpt® Chisel; when placed on different areas of the body, it measures body fat and muscle quality via a small current to both the muscle and its surrounding fat. The other is a muscle and joint pain-relief device from Omron® that attaches to the body via gel pads which provide heat and/or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation.

Exercise Types Affect the Brain Differently

Plenty of research has determined that regular exercise benefits brain health. A recent large review got more specific and looked into how different types of exercise affect the brain.

In this review, published in British Journal of Sports Medicine (2017; doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2016-096587), the researchers assessed results from 39 studies. The scientists focused on five forms of physical activity—aerobic training, resistance exercise, “multicomponent training” (combination aerobic and resistance), tai chi and yoga—and studied how those modalities affected brain capacity, attention, executive function, memory and working memory. They also evaluated exercise session duration.

To be included in the review, studies had to have included participants aged 50 and over who exercised in supervised training sessions for more than 4 weeks. There were no baseline requirements for cognitive ability; however, studies were excluded if the participants presented with a neurologic disorder or mental illness.

What did the researchers find?

Aerobic exercise, resistance training and multicomponent training were all associated with gains in cognitive function when exercise intensity was moderate or vigorous, and gains were also seen with tai chi. Optimal session duration was 45–60 minutes. “When exercise mode was examined as a moderator, all modes of exercise produced significant and positive effect estimates, except for yoga,” the authors said.

They concluded, “This meta-analysis showed that physical exercise interventions are effective at improving the cognitive function of older adults, regardless of baseline cognitive status. Interventions of aerobic, resistance training, multicomponent training and tai chi were similarly effective. The findings suggest that an exercise program with components of both aerobic and resistance-type training, of at least moderate intensity and at least 45 minutes per session, on as many days of the week as possible, is beneficial to cognitive function in adults aged >50 years.”

Exercise Has Significant Impact?

Researchers have recently shed light on how exercise benefits the body on a cellular level. What’s more, they’ve determined a type of exercise that’s best for boosting cell health.

Published in Cell Metabolism (2017; 25 [3], 581–92), the study included 36 men and 36 women categorized as “young” (aged 18–30) or “older” (aged 65–80). Each participant was assigned to one of three training programs for 12 weeks: high-intensity interval training (HIIT) on an indoor bike; strength training with weights; or a combination of the two. Study leaders took muscle biopsies from the volunteers—who also underwent lean-mass and insulin-sensitivity tests—and then compared the results with those from a sedentary control group.

Data showed that the exercise groups experienced improvements in cellular function and in the ability of mitochondria to generate energy; this adds further evidence that exercise does in fact slow the aging process at a cellular level. Muscle mass and insulin sensitivity improved with all three training protocols. However, outcomes did vary.

“HIIT revealed a more robust increase in gene transcripts than other exercise modalities, particularly in older adults,” the authors explained. Specifically, HIIT increased mitochondrial capacity by 49% in the “young” group and 69% in the “older” group.

The authors added, “HIIT reversed many age-related differences in the proteome, particularly of mitochondrialproteins in concert with increased mitochondrial protein synthesis.”

For best benefit, according to the study, a combination of strength training and HIIT is recommended. While HIIT proved best at improving cellular health, it was less effective at increasing strength and muscle mass than the strength training protocol.

“We encourage everyone to exercise regularly, but the take-home message for aging adults is that supervised high-intensity training is probably best, because, both metabolically and at the molecular level, it confers the most benefits,” concluded K. Sreekumaran Nair, MD, PhD, a Mayo Clinic endocrinologist and senior researcher on the study.