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Science-Based Tools to Accelerate Your Fitness Goals

Use these to take your fitness to the next level.

The following science-based tools to accelerate your fitness goals were shared by Andrew Huberman.

Andrew Huberman, Ph.D., is a neuroscientist and tenured Professor in the Department of Neurobiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine. He has a YouTube channel named Huberman Lab with over 3 million subscribers where he talks everything about the brain and, often enough, how to improve one’s health and fitness with it.

The information is based on a lengthy video he shared on his YouTube channel. Below you will find a couple of points he made in that video.

Science-Based Tools to Accelerate Your Fitness Goals

Speaking about strategies to enhance fitness, Andrew Huberman starts by providing a quick overview of what constitutes a core or foundational fitness program. He clarifies that the details he’s about to discuss are not geared towards athletes focusing on specific performance aspects. For instance, powerlifters or marathon runners might have different core fitness requirements.

However, for the majority of listeners seeking better health, cardiovascular fitness, strength, and the ability to perform everyday tasks comfortably are essential goals. Andrew notes that an optimal fitness program, as discussed in a previous episode on optimal fitness protocols, aims to meet these goals while aligning with scientific recommendations for healthspan and lifespan improvement.

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To elaborate, he highlights that the core fitness program includes around 150 to 200 minutes per week of zone 2 cardio. Zone 2 cardio refers to cardiovascular exercises that can be performed while comfortably maintaining a conversation but become challenging if exertion increases. This can typically be accomplished through nasal breathing and is supported by scientific research.

The foundational fitness program also includes 2 to 4 separate cardiovascular training sessions, distinct from zone 2 cardio, as well as 2 to 4 resistance or strength training sessions, possibly targeting hypertrophy. Andrew acknowledges that fitting all these sessions into a week might be challenging due to time constraints and other commitments.

Consequently, Andrew presents his own approach to the optimal fitness program, which he’s personally followed for over three decades. This approach involves three cardiovascular training sessions per week:

  1. A longer-duration endurance session, like a slow jog or hike.
  2. A shorter session of around 25 to 30 minutes, focusing on a higher intensity.
  3. A very brief high-intensity interval training session, such as sprints.

Furthermore, he recommends three resistance training sessions, with specific focuses:

  1. Leg training.
  2. Torso training, encompassing chest, shoulders, and back.
  3. Smaller body parts like biceps, triceps, and calves, often overlooked but crucial for muscular balance and injury prevention.

Andrew acknowledges that not everyone will be able to adhere to this program to the letter, and it’s not a strict mandate. Instead, it serves as a template that individuals can adjust based on their preferences, time availability, and fitness goals. The objective is to provide listeners with a structured approach to enhancing their fitness while acknowledging individual variations.

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Andrew Huberman continues discussing tools to enhance fitness, focusing on two specific tools that he believes can be of great benefit to everyone’s fitness routine.

Tool 1: Meshing Zone 2 Cardio with Daily Activities: Andrew emphasizes the importance of incorporating zone 2 cardio into your routine for overall health and longevity. Zone 2 cardio is the type of movement that raises your heart rate and breathing but still allows you to hold a conversation without gasping for breath. He mentions that the scientific data suggests aiming for a minimum of 200 minutes of zone 2 cardio per week.

What’s interesting is that Andrew highlights a reassuring perspective from Dr. Andy Galpin: Zone 2 cardio doesn’t necessarily have to be scheduled as a separate workout. Instead, you can increase your overall movement throughout the day by engaging in activities like brisk walking, moving groceries, pacing while taking calls, and other forms of daily movement. Andrew points out that these activities, when added up, can contribute significantly to your weekly zone 2 cardio while also integrating seamlessly into your daily routine.

Tool 2: Low Repetition, Pure Strength Work: Andrew introduces the concept of incorporating low repetition, pure strength work into your routine. While many people focus on repetition ranges between 5 to 15 reps, Andrew highlights the benefits of training in the 3 to 5 repetition range for a portion of your yearly training cycle. He explains that doing so can significantly enhance strength and even lead to unexpected benefits.

Andrew shares three key benefits he personally experienced from incorporating this type of training:

  1. Increased strength, with gains that persisted even when returning to higher repetition ranges.
  2. Improved cardiovascular training, likely due to stronger muscles being engaged in cardiovascular exercises, leading to better form and performance.
  3. Reduced muscle soreness compared to higher repetition ranges, making it easier to maintain a consistent training schedule.

Andrew recommends considering an exclusive 10 to 12-week training cycle focusing on low repetition, pure strength work. During this period, you can perform 3 to 5 repetitions per set with heavier weights and longer rest periods.

In summary, Andrew’s approach encourages finding ways to integrate fitness and movement into your daily life through zone 2 cardio, and he highlights the benefits of incorporating focused periods of low repetition, pure strength training to enhance overall strength and fitness.

For those of you who have engaged in the foundational fitness protocol, you’re already familiar with the regimen I’m about to discuss. This program targets both major and minor muscle groups, ensuring that each group is, directly and indirectly, worked on a weekly basis. This structure is designed to allow sufficient recovery time between resistance training sessions, facilitating continuous progress.

The approach I adopted, under the guidance of Dr. Andy Galpin, involves training within a 3 to 5-repetition range. This methodology delivered a range of benefits for me, including enhanced strength, improved cardiovascular output, and reduced post-workout soreness. I also experienced an overall boost in energy compared to my usual higher repetition range workouts.

One significant advantage of training in the 3 to 5-repetition range is the positive feedback loop it creates. The sensation of moving heavier weights and gaining strength has an empowering effect. This style of training is particularly beneficial for those aiming to enhance strength and cardiovascular fitness while avoiding excessive muscle size gain.

However, it’s important to note that individuals concerned about becoming too bulky need not worry. Training in lower repetition ranges primarily focuses on increasing strength, rather than hypertrophy or muscle size.

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The recommended approach to adopting this protocol involves implementing the 3 by 5 regimen. This entails performing three to five exercises per workout for various muscle groups. For legs, three to five leg-specific exercises are performed, and the same applies to upper-body muscle groups. Each exercise consists of 3 to 5 sets, with 3 to 5 repetitions per set and 3 to 5 minutes of rest between sets.

Although Dr. Galpin’s suggestion allows for training three to five times a week, Huberman personally found that training legs in this manner multiple times a week impeded other aspects of his life. Thus, he adapted the protocol to suit his schedule and recovery capacity.

The warm-up routine is a crucial aspect of this training approach. A recommended warm-up involves gradually increasing the weight and reducing the repetitions over several sets, preparing the body for the heavier work sets.

Additionally, Dr. Galpin highlighted the necessity of maintaining strength and power as we age. Beyond the age of 40, there’s a 1% decrease in muscle size per year, a 3% to 5% reduction in strength and power, and an 8% to 10% decline in speed and explosiveness each year. Incorporating dedicated strength training becomes essential for offsetting these age-related declines.

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To further augment cardiovascular fitness, the Sugarcane protocol can be periodically integrated. This high-intensity interval training method involves three rounds of intense exercise with resting intervals in between. The goal is to improve VO2 max and elevate heart rate while engaging in a gamified and challenging workout session.

In conclusion, the 3 to 5-repetition range protocol, along with the occasional integration of the Sugarcane method, offers valuable tools for improving strength, cardiovascular fitness, and overall health throughout one’s lifespan.

Source: Daniel Apodaca on Unsplash

The following strategy for enhancing your fitness is known as “exercise snacks.” As the name suggests, this method, suggested by Dr. Andy Galpin, is a playful approach aimed at either improving or maintaining your fitness level, depending on the status of your core fitness routine. When referring to “core,” it’s not about your abdominal muscles but rather whether you’re consistently engaging in regular cardio and resistance training. Adding one or several exercise snacks per week can yield further enhancements in areas like VO2 max and muscular endurance.

To elaborate, exercise snacks prove especially valuable during periods when external factors like work commitments, family responsibilities, or travel hinder you from adhering to your primary fitness regimen. These bite-sized activities ensure that even during busy times, your established fitness level remains intact without regressing.

Exercise snacks come in various formats. For simplicity, we’ll categorize them into two primary groups. The initial category focuses on exercise snacks that bolster or uphold your cardiovascular fitness, enabling you to sustain activities such as running, cycling, or rowing for durations exceeding 12 minutes. However, it’s vital to recognize that these snacks are exceptionally short and don’t require you to exercise for a minimum of 12 minutes. Instead, they’re intended to maintain or enhance the endurance necessary for 12-minute-plus activities.

The second category involves exercise snacks targeting muscular endurance. Muscular endurance, a critical fitness facet, pertains to your capacity to sustain a fixed posture for around 1 to 3 minutes. These bouts of endurance won’t extend beyond 12 minutes, unless you’re extraordinarily advanced in terms of muscular endurance capabilities. Exercises like planks, wall sits, and push-ups are exemplary representatives of this category.

Exercise snacks of both types serve as valuable complements to your existing fitness routine. They elevate your heart rate, all while harmonizing with other forms of exercise like strength training, hypertrophy training, and high-intensity interval training. The key is to incorporate them without impeding your progress and to perform them safely and gradually.

Remember that exercise snacks can be seamlessly integrated into your daily routine. Whether done while watching TV, conversing on the phone, or even during moments of leisure, they’re designed to be enjoyable, efficient, and effective. Furthermore, incorporating exercise snacks at least once a week, or even three to five times, has demonstrated positive correlations with overall fitness improvement.

In essence, exercise snacks function as enjoyable and easy-to-integrate tools for enhancing fitness. Their simplicity and versatility make them an engaging addition to your routine, fostering both motivation and physical progress.

There is more to follow on his video that you can see below regarding breathing techniques and much more.

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