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“How is it possible that a twenty minute workout once a week is all I need to maximize my health, fitness and appearance?”

This is a question I often get asked from people who have just heard about the concept of High Intensity Training for the first time. And I’m not surprised by this initial reaction, after all back in 1999 when I first learned of this approach to health and fitness I had the same reaction as you may be having right now. At the time I was training in the gym five days a week.


How is it that some people find this a challenging concept to grasp initially?

We have all been exposed to a “conventional wisdom” about exercise propagated by the fitness industry, television, magazines, newspapers and websites that suggests that at the least we should be training for at half an hour three times per week bare minimum to be considered healthy.

Unfortunately unlike many fields in the modern world where safety, effectiveness and efficiency are encouraged and applauded, exercise has for many years been left in the dark ages, surrounded by myth, folklore and often machismo. Some of us even bring it on ourselves believing that unless we are trashing our body nearly every day in some frenzied masochistic ritual that we cannot be fit.


Enter some truly great minds

Fortunately some very forward thinking minds including inventors, scientists, doctors and personal trainers at the cutting edge of the application of exercise have looked deeper into what actually causes positive physiological change. Buried within the folklore of exercise were some principles and techniques that actually work safely and efficiently, but previously few had ever teased out the positive and purged the negatives.

Principles developed first by trial and error back in the 1970’s and 80’s by Nautilus exercise equipment inventor Arthur Jones were then refined through the 1990’s by Superslow creator Ken Hutchins and exercise research scientist Wayne Westcott. Through the last decade Dr. Doug McGuff, John Little, Bill DeSimone, James Steele II, Arno Parviainen and the team at David Health Solutions among others, have all developed similar conclusions and protocols for maximizing the benefits and minimizing the risks of exercise. The pioneering work of these individuals, ahead of the scientific research curve as it was, has over the last ten years caught the wider attention of the exercise research community and finally exercise has been flashed forward from the dark ages to the 21st Century.


For example here is what NASA research shows about exercise:

Earlier this year Scott Trappe, the director of the Human Performance Lab at Ball State University, in Muncie, Indiana, used NASA’s data from nine astronauts aboard the ISS to conduct and publish a study about exercise in the Journal of Applied Physiology. Using MRIs and biopsies to measure muscle fibers, he concluded that intense movements, like lifting weights, resulted in better muscle size, the key element of a healthy body. The discovery wasn’t exactly surprising, but Trappe’s study did bust one misconception about the amount people exercise. “Most people think that more is better,” he says. “But our study showed that exercise should be done much less frequently than conventional wisdom suggests — but with much greater intensity.” In a more recent study, Trappe found that one high-intensity workout a week was all that was required. (Adapted from an article in The New Scientist 2010).


Muscle tissue is the key to fitness and the window to the rest of our body

Our health, fitness and our body’s appearance are all directly linked with our muscle tissue. The robustness and functioning of all our internal organs is improved by stimulating our lean healthy muscle tissue. This includes our heart, lungs and entire cardiovascular system.

Our ability to physically do more than just sit and walk around is greatly enhanced by awakening our strength-giving lean muscle fibres. This becomes increasingly important as we age, for once we get past 30 years old, if we don’t intervene we lose muscle year on year, effecting our mobility, strength and general health.

Our appearance and body fat levels (though primarily driven by what and how much we eat) are improved by having a speedier metabolism- our metabolic rate is increased by stimulating lean muscle tissue.

All the benefits that exercise can possibly provide are linked to lean muscle tissue.


How does one develop their individual ideal amount of lean muscle tissue?

By exercising your body with specific movements that track natural muscle and joint function, in a safe and controlled manner. It happens that performing movements to cover the whole body in this fashion takes about 20 minutes per session. After being challenged in this way, the vast majority of people will require a period of 3-7 days to have passed for them to improve and be ready for the challenge of this type of exercise again. Every week your newly improved lean muscles will be stronger and fitter and their improvement will clearly show on the exercises in your next workout.

Not only will your muscles be fitter, all the body’s systems that support your muscles will be fitter- for example your heart, lungs and entire cardiovascular system.

Your metabolism will be revved up to maximum during and directly after performing the movements, and during the week your metabolism will be slightly faster than before due to the new muscle tissue demanding energy (which, when your nutrition is healthy) will mean any excess body fat we have will gradually be used or “burned off” to feed our muscles.


Exercise for everybody

Fitness training performed in this manner is beneficial, even vital in terms of health, fitness and appearance for everyone, women and men alike. Women need not be concerned about developing bulky muscles as it is primarily genetics, and not training that dictates the size of your muscles and 99% of women do not have the genetic make-up to develop large muscles. You will discover your personal ideal level of well-being, body shape and leanness through these workouts- and it literally only takes 20 minutes once or twice a week to produce these results.


What about other physical activities that are enjoyable?

This doesn’t mean you have to refrain from doing anything else active, if you want to and enjoy doing so. If you play a sport, enjoy walking around the park, taking a yoga class then you may wish to continue doing so. In fact after a couple of months of us training together it is natural for you to desire to be more physically active in your everyday life. I have a simple rule, any other activity you do do outside of our appointments together should be spontaneous rather than scheduled, done because you truly desire it and feel up for it rather than because you feel you ought to.

Your one or two 20 minute appointments per week will have stimulated your physiology to be its best possible version of itself, what you do with the benefits of that is then up to you!

     © Simon Shawcross