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Tabata Complex: Cable Bands

For those who are unfamiliar with a Tabata workout, it's essentially a series of full-intensity bursts (:20-30 usually) with VERY brief rest periods (roughly :10 at most).  There can be between 4 and 5 different exercises, and one rotation through completes one Tabata circuit.

Tabatas are a great way to get an intense workout in when crunched for time.  People exercising on their lunchbreak who need to get their heart rate up and break a good sweat without time to spend pounding away on the treadmill can see real benefits.

Here's a description of a typical Tabata workout structure:

  • 5 minutes of warm-up
  • 8 intervals of 20 seconds all-out intensity exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest
  • 2 minutes cool-down

Tabata-style workouts are also beneficial when traveling or on vacation, since if there is no real gym access, you may only have room in your travel bags for one singular peice of equipment.  These can obviously be done in a body weight format with drills like burpees, mountain climbers, and plyo jumps for example, but here is an excellent video of Baltimore-area trainer Nick Tumminello demonstrating an upper body Tabata circuit with cable resistence bands.

Here's another with one of his clients, Alli McKee doing similar exercises:


Fitness Spotlight: Alli McKee

Over the past two weeks I've been helping a friend develop her workout and nutrition program with an eye towards developing lean muscle tone and shedding body fat.  Those goals aren't necessarily unique, in-fact they're fairly common.  The unfortunate part is that even though so many of us have the same group of goals, we rarely find someone whose nutrition or training patterns set them on a direct course towards the physique they want.

Fitness competitor Alli McKee is one of those people. 

I stumbled onto her blog and series of YouTube videos after reading articles by her trainer and boyfriend Nick Tumminello.  Alli McKee's training is a huge departure from so many of the ladies I see each day slaving away on the treadmill or elipticals, or doing dozens of arm curls with 3-pound dumbells. 

Alli McKee trains the way I do, and I've actually borrowed a few drills from her videos to use in my fitness classes very soon.  My favorite class attendees are the ones who love a challenge and don't back down from something that starts out as very difficult.  Particularly the women who ignore classic stereotypes of being intimidated by "heavy" weights or "intense" drills.  That's one reason why I think Alli McKee is worth highlighting.

You can check out her frequently updated blog here and below is just one sample of her many training videos available on YouTube.  I'll also be using her videos as upcoming samples on my Training & Workouts page.



Should I stretch before I workout?

Answer: No.

Really. No.  You shouldn't stretch before you workout. 

Without getting into the science of it all (there is plenty of scholarly writing available on Google), think of your body as a car. 

Now this is a timely metaphor since it is less than 20 degrees outside and all of our cars are covered in ice.  Each morning before work, all of us take an extra 3-5 minutes to scrape the ice off the windshield and let the car warm up before heading out.  You wouldn't take the car on a stop-start trip, back and forth in the parking lot.  You might let it idle in park, or rev up the engine until the little heat meter moves a few centimeters up from "C".

Warming up your body serves the same purpose.  Another metaphor would be to stick a bandaid in the freezer for an hour.  Then pull it out and try to stretch it.  Odds are it probably won't be very flexible.  Scary to think your hamstrings and deltoids work the same way.  Take that same rubber band out of the freezer and stick it in hot water or in the microwave for a little bit.  Chances are it stretches much more easily. 

There are a number of ways to get warm (jogging, body weight squats, jumping rope, burpees, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, etc).  A "dynamic warmup" is basically a movement-specific way to get the blood circulating and the heart rate up prior to your key exercise. 

One of the biggest life-long values I received while running track in college was the art of the dynamic warm-up for both the legs and core/abs.  Here's a few videos demonstrating exercises that fall in the dynamic warm-up category:

Sprint Warm-Up:

GPP (General Physical Preparedness):



What do you think of P90X?

People often ask me "Hey, what do you think of P90X?  I've seen the infomercial a dozen times and was thinking about getting it."

Well, my personal thoughts on P90X are pretty simple, so I'll try to keep it simple here.

In a nutshell it looks like a pretty good program.  I should start by saying I have not purchased P90X but I do have a few friends who have used the program with varying results.  Being curious about the structure, I asked a few questions and looked through some of the materials to get a fuller understanding than just what we see on television.

The program works for many of the same reasons any other workout program would work: intense circuit-style cardio program interspersed with full-body resistence training and a fairly clean nutritional approach.  Any fitness approach that incorporates these elements will, in a general sense give you success (body fat reduction, increase in personal fitness levels).

The "host" and creator, Tony Horton also ads a lot to the program.  He has a high energy level which should keep even the most "motivationally-challenged" people upbeat during the workout.  He's also in great shape and to me, I'd have trouble buying into someone's workout advice if they aren't in great shape themselves.

My .02 cents: For those who want to do more than just go jogging once in a while and desire something faster-paced that works their muscles as well as their cardio system, yet don't have a gym or fitness club membership (and don't want one), then P90X is probably a solid investment. 



How long after a workout do I have to eat carbs?

Someone asked me today, "how long do I have after a workout to eat my carbs?"

She had just been at the gym taking a lunch hour fitness class and wanted to know just how much of a free "window" she had left to eat a few carbs.  Well, my answer as it almost always seems to be was, "...it depends..."

As anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of post-workout nutrition would tell you, there are several interrelated factors that determine whether the carbs you are eating are going to refuel your muscle glycogen stores, or being stored away as excess body fat (which, since you are reading this I feel safe assuming you do not want to happen).

Factor #1 - How intense was your workout?

Factor #2 - How long has it been since your workout ended?

Factor #3 - What type of carbs are you about to eat?

Factor #4 - What has your carb intake looked like for the past 3-4 days?

There are even more factors than this at play, but I think you get the general concept.  I'll try to attack these one at a time.

Factor #1 - Workout intensity has a number of post-workout effects on one's body.  Generally speaking, high-intensity exercise (sprinting, a spin class, intense circuit training with weights, etc) will deplete your body's glycogen stores moreso than low-intensity exercise (unless you put in a marathon/triathlon-style workout).  So when those glycogen stores are fairly empty, all the more reason your post-workout carbs will be soaked up by the right places (namely your muscles).  Not only that, but in a general sense when you worked up a sweat and raised your heart rate during a workout, your body burns (slightly) more calories post-workout while trying to return to homeostasis.

Factor #2 - There is generally considered to be a one-hour window of time post-workout when your carb intake will be shuttled directly to thirsty muscles.  However the "lower" you fall on factor #1 (ie: lower intensity training) then the shorter time period you will have for your post-workout carbs to go straight to muscles and skip past the fat stores.

Factor #3 - This one is arguably the MOST important in a lot of ways.  So important actually that I'll need to come back to this for another day.  But for now, if you absolutely have to eat simple or starchy carbs (white breads, bagels, muffins, etc) then immediately following an intense workout is the absolute best time.  The "simplicity" of how easily they are broken down and get into the blood stream is in most cases a bad thing (since it's easily converted to fat) however post-intense workout this actually works to your benefit.

Factor #4 - Think of your body's carb stores (muscle capacity to contain glycogen) as fuel tanks.  If you've eaten a carb heavy diet for the past few days, then your tanks are likely either still full, or moderately full even with an intense workout within the past hour.  You won't need more post-workout carbs as much as a person who's been going low carb for the past 3-4 days.

Here is another (longer) read on post-workout nutrition:


Key Takeaway: The harder you've worked out...and the lower your carb intake has been before today...the better the opportunity you have to consume some "bad carbs" you've normally been avoiding.  Just be sure not to overdo it.