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The Number One Exercise For Your Health

The Number One Exercise For Your Health

When you read articles I write about fitness, I realise there must be some confusion about what I actually aim for and achieve with the exercise that I do. One day I might put out an article about bench press, and another day I might put out an article on yoga.

Am I someone who has no specific direction? I lift weights and give tips on how to use shortcuts and ideas I have picked up throughout a long life of weight training. However I have no record as a competitive bodybuilder and can’t give advice on the best way to create a contest ready body. I can tell you how to pack on thick dense muscle and get very respectably strong even if you’re a hard gainer but I can’t give advice on powerlifting training.

I have squatted 600lbs naturally and bench pressed 170kgs (whatever that is in pounds) naturally, which as I have found since are reasonably solid lifts for natural. I thought nothing of these lifts at the time, since the powerlifters at a gym I trained at were lifting 60lbs to 100lbs more than me on the squat. I guess though, since there was so much gear about back then, we’re not really comparing apples and apples are we?

I have no proof of these lifts, just my word. The squats were done at an anonymous gym and the bench press was done in my garage. My mate who spotted me can attest to that, but that’s about it. Such is the life of a garage trainer. No glory, but you know how to put together a solid physique.

I give tips on yoga, but I am not certified. It’s just something I have done for a long time. I simply share those things I feel have been beneficial for me. Same with Tai, Chi. Self taught, never got an official status in it, but find it beneficial, so may write about it.

I write about nutrition, without qualifications. It’s a case of this is what I am currently trying to see how it feels and encouraging other to try things, experiment on themselves and see which of the supplements and foods I use improve their health.

This is a brief explanation of my profound interest and knowledge of various training modalities, all totally unendorsed by any official organisation.

So with this jack of all trades, master of none, approach, am I unfocused and aimless? No. Absolutely not. I am very focused, and I have a single aim for the eclectic mix of training modalities that I use.

My goal is to extend my healthspan to as far as I can possibly extend it. This means I need to be constantly experimenting, adjusting things, learning and applying new ideas. In the past 30 years there have been great strides in our understanding of how to optimize human performance and health. For example, plyometrics were only introduced to the west in 1983.

It also means that I must prioritize what I believe to the single most important modality to train. Before I tell you what it is, I need to tell you why it is the most important.

It is most important because of the mitochondrial theory of aging. This theory posits that a key driver of the aging process is the degradation of mitochondria.

If then there is are methods that can ameliorate the degradation and even grow shiny new mitochondria, as well as increase the number of mitochondria in each cell, that must be my priority. First and most important things first. The benefits systemically give you most bang for your bucks, healthwise. You are literally turning back the clock if you can induce sufficient mitochondrial biogenesis (the growing of new mitochondria).

Now that I have explained this, I can reveal the exercise modality that actually stimulates mitochondrial biogenesis. It is HIIT. High intenstity interval training.

Sadly it’s the modality I hate the most. Done right it kills. I’m not talking about the abomination that is commercialised HIIT. A 40 minute Tabata workout? Get out of here.

I guess you can’t really sell a 4 minute workout in a gym. If people take the effort to get ready then drive 20 minutes each way to a gym you feel a bit short changed leaving after 10 minutes. Out of that hour dedicated to the gym, only 1/5th of it was actually work time.

The thing is, if you do a 40 minute Tabata class, you are doing it wrong. Tabata, for the uninitiated, is a 4 minute burst of really intense sets of exercise. If you can do a 4 minute burst and then after a couple of minutes break you can do another burst, that should tell you you’re not doing it right.

Tabata is not a gentle burst of a calisthenic exercise. Tabata is swings with a 30 or 40 kilo (depending on your strength level of course) T-handle or kettlebell, 8 rounds of 13 reps – 104 reps – in 4 minutes.

Do that and you will be sucking wind, big time. If you can do another round of that, you obviously need to up the weight, because you shouldn’t be capable of much for quite a while. You have to exercise to the point of your whole body feeling like jelly.

Like I said I don’t like it. I like weights. I lift a heavy weight for 10 seconds then rest for a couple of minutes. Easy.

However, I force myself to do it. Why? Because the cost benefit is through the roof. Mitochondrial biogenesis occcurs after a single session of HIIT. I can’t claim to focus all my fitness efforts on increasing my healthspan and neglect the single most important tool in my arsenal to achieve that goal.

You have to focus on the things that give you best bang for bucks when it comes to your health. Mitochondrial Biogenesis is one of those things. It stands to reason that strategies that rejuvenate every single cell in your body is is the one to focus on.

When you try Tabata, start relatively gently and work your way up. I know this is not strictly HIIT, but all you are going to do if you don’t build up to it is make it feel very unpleasant and probably stop after 3 days. At some stage in the future, I will go through how I built up my Tabata routine.

There are other ways to enhance mitochondrial biogenesis. Intermittent fasting is one of those ways. There are also specific nutrients that assist, such as Magnesium, B group vitamins and ALA. I will go through the details of this soon in another article that is currently being written.

For now there is no need to focus on more that one thing. That thing is that HIIT will rejuvenate your mitochondria, and as a result rejuvenate you. Adding intermittent fasting will work very well in conjunction with this, but first and foremost you must focus on HIIT.





About The Author


A guy obsessed with stripping down whatever field he studies to get the optimum return from effort expended. Sort of like Tim Ferriss, except with zero fame.

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