November 18, 2021 1 Comment
One of the very first things you learn when you start going to the gym is that you lift lightweight for muscle hypertrophy and heavyweight to get stronger. Everyone knows that! And this isn’t just bro-science. The training rep spectrum is also one of the first things you learn when you begin to study exercise science. In fact, you can find a version of it in just about every single textbook or training manual.
However, this advice was built off of what science had told about the body’s physiological systems. The thing about science is that when you do more of it, we sometimes find that we have been mistaken about our initial concepts. It just so happens that this phenomenon occurred with the training rep spectrum.
So what changed? Well, that’s what we will discuss in this post. To be clear, if you followed the traditional rep continuum, it doesn’t mean you were wrong as everyone said the same thing; it just means that you haven’t seen the latest research. Well, now you will!
In the past, when you were going to train, you would decide what you wanted to train for and choose the appropriate rep scheme for that. This fell into 3 categories;
Above is the basic model that you would see in the majority of textbooks or something similar. There may be some variance, and to be fair, most textbooks made the point that there is a little bit of overlap. However, it is implied that this is how you will train, and most lifters take this to heart.
So what changed? Well, earlier in 2021, top sports researcher Brad Schoenfeld and his team conducted a huge review of all the available literature on training loads and their effect on the body. They discover that the concept that each variable can only be trained within a specific rep range is not entirely accurate.
Initially, it was thought that you needed to use a moderate load (70-80% 1RM) with a moderate rep range of 8-12. The theory was that this would create maximal muscle damage, increase metabolic stress, and increase volume. Now, this isn’t entirely wrong; however, you often hear from coaches or bodybuilders that they don’t lift heavy because they want to get big. Therefore, you have guys who never lift heavier weights because they don’t care about getting strong and just want to build muscle. We now know that this train of thought is misguided.
The one thing that is true with training for muscle hypertrophy is that you want to accumulate volume as this is the main driver. However, while volume still seems to be the main driver, it doesn’t really matter what load you use to fulfill this.. In other words, as long as the total volume of two training programs is equal, muscle hypertrophy should be the same.
This concept was beautifully illustrated in a study by Brad Scheoenfeld et al (2014), which compared the effect of a powerlifting program and bodybuilding program on muscle hypertrophy. Each program used the same 9 exercises training 3 days a week (3 exercises per day). While they used their own specific rep range, the volume was equated for. The two programs were as follows;
At the end of this training program, they discovered that muscle hypertrophy was similar for both groups. Further, they made another important discovery which will be discussed below.
Another study found no differences in muscle hypertrophy between loads using <60% 1RM or > 60% 1RM. In fact, Dr. Brad Schoenfeld’s major review found that similar results in hypertrophy are seen throughout the entire loading scheme down to >30% 1RM.
Further, the idea that shorter rest periods need to be used for muscle hypertrophy doesn’t seem to matter much as the end result is total volume. When trainees use too short of a rest period, they are not recovered efficiently, thus producing less volume. One interesting concept found in a systematic review of intra-set rest times suggests allowing trainees to use self-regulation during their rest and let them choose when they feel ready to do the next set. The point being is that completing the set is more important than using a specific rep range.
When training for muscle hypertrophy, using longer rest periods (2:00) is most likely more effective as it will give you time to fully recover and complete the most reps.
Similar to training for muscle hypertrophy, training for strength can technically be done with any rep range. However, as you progress with your training, using heavier loads becomes more essential. So in this aspect, if you want to keep getting stronger, you NEED to lift heavy. This obviously comes with some caveats.
Remember the above powerlifting study vs. bodybuilding study? The other discovery they made was that while both groups can get stronger, the increase in strength from the powerlifting group was much, much greater. Actually, this same discovery was found in the other study above that looked at using loads of <60% 1RM and >60% 1RM. While both groups did get stronger, the groups using >60% saw significantly greater strength gains.
This concept is seen across the board in the majority of studies. While you can get stronger using any load, using heavier loads is much more effective at creating the appropriate stimulus for greater gains.
However, we have a major caveat we need to discuss. The magnitude of this concept seems to be relative to how well trained you are. In other words, if you are an experienced trainee, using heavier loads will be much more critical in getting stronger as lighter loads will have a minimal effect. In contrast, if you are a beginner, you can get stronger just as quickly using light loads down to about the 8-12 rep range. In these instances, you just need to train with adequate intensity and use progressive overload.
Put all together, when you first begin training, you will be able to get stronger just as effectively using lighter loads (<80% 1RM). In fact, this may even be the superior option as you can use a lighter weight to work on form and get in more volume which will quicken your learning curve.
However, once you’ve been training with a progressive overload program for 6-12 months, the need for heavier loads will increase. At this point, if you want to keep getting stronger, you’ll need to use heavier loads to optimize your strength.
There are a few major takeaways from this information.
TRAINING FOR MUSCLE HYPERTROPHY
That being said, you should still concentrate on using the previous loading spectrum of 8-12 reps. However, the reasoning behind this is different. This rep range with the load still gives you the best bang for your buck when creating total volume. While lighter loads can still create muscular hypertrophy, there is some debate as to if the targeted type II muscle fibers will begin to see more growth or if the hypertrophy occurs in your type I endurance muscle fibers.
However, it’s time to stop saying you don’t want to lift heavy because you just care about muscle growth. Using a heavy load (>85% 1RM) isn’t going to take away from your muscular hypertrophy as it will just be added to your total volume. Further, using a wide range with your loads could create a different stimulus for muscular growth, so variation and volume are still the primary variables when gaining muscle mass.
Further, stop taking a 30-second break between sets to “break down the muscle”. While this method is appropriate in some cases, they are the exception rather than the rule. Training for muscular hypertrophy does not mean you need to train at “a mile a minute”. Relax between sets and rest adequately so that you can lift the most reps for the most total volume.
TRAINING FOR STRENGTH AND POWER
This is a bit more straightforward. If you want to get stronger, you’ll need to drop the load. Since you know that using a heavy load will still cause muscular hypertrophy, there’s really no reason not to. While you can get stronger using any load, heavier loads will produce greater results.
However, similar to training for muscle hypertrophy, stop refusing to lift more than 6 reps because you’re a “strength athlete”. Use the higher rep ranges with high intensity, and you’ll still get some strength benefits with added volume.
With this new information on the repetition continuum, a style of periodization known as daily undulating periodization, or DUP, stands out. This method of training has you train for strength, power, and hypertrophy simultaneously by using different days to concentrate on different training variables. In this manner, you will be sure to hit everything you need to.
Or, you can simply set up your program to include a mixture of loads using something similar to a powerbuilding program. This method is great because you can augment your plan to fit your needs. For example, if you like training for muscle hypertrophy, you can maybe just include one or two strength movements a session. Vice-Versa if you are a strength athlete.
Stop thinking of the repetition continuum as a spectrum where a training variable has a defined range to use. Instead, realize that every load has the ability to contribute to strength and hypertrophy, assuming the appropriate intensity is used. However, using lower loads is still favorable for strength because they provide the neuromuscular stimulus needed. At the same time, using moderate loads are still favorable to muscle hypertrophy because they produce the most volume.
The best way to view this is to know that all loads are beneficial and should be included in every workout program. This is a great thing as now you can use periodization without thinking you’re missing out on what you really want to do. In fact, using a variety of loads is actually the best thing for you!
October 08, 2021
It’s never too late to start being active according to a large-scale study with more than 30,000 heart patients. We often hear about all the health benefits of staying active throughout our lifetime. Many older people who didn’t exercise regularly during their life might’ve thought that it might be too late to start but that’s not necessarily the case.
This study showed that those with coronary heart disease who changed to a more physically active lifestyle later in life is almost as beneficial to survival as being active for your whole life.
“Those with coronary heart disease may benefit by preserving or adopting a physically active lifestyle”, remarked the study’s author Dr. Nathalia Gonzalez of University of Bern, Switzerland.
The leading cause of death in developed nations is heart disease despite there being a number of actions people can take to prevent or reduce risk of dying from it. A typical type of heart disease is coronary heart disease also called coronary artery disease. The coronary arteries that supply the heart with blood can be damaged by buildup of fatty material called plaque. Then blood platelets (the cells that help with clotting) can stick to the damaged areas of the arteries lading to blockage of blood flow. This in turns leads to ischemia (lack of oxygen to the heart muscle cells) or a heart attack (myocardial infarction).
A number of scientific studies have identified multiple risk factors that increase a person’s chances of developing coronary heart disease. This is important because if we know the risk factors, we are able mitigate some of them by changing lifestyle habits. Coronary heart disease isn’t always accompanied by any symptoms, the first sign of heart disease could be a heart attack or cardiac death. This unpredictability means that it’s imperative to start doing something about the risk factors that you can control.
The main purpose of the study was to look at activity levels over time and their correlation to the risk of death in patients with heart disease.
Patients were divided into 4 groups based on their activity status at baseline(beginning) and follow-up.
Active: At least ~150 minutes of moderate activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity weekly
Inactive: Less than above would be considered inactive
The activity levels were based on validated questionnaires at the two data collection points (baseline and follow-up)
The researchers studied the risks of all-cause death and death from cardiovascular disease compared to patients who were inactive over time.
The results related to all-cause death were as follows:
The results related to death due to cardiovascular disease were as follows:
According to Dr. Gonzalez "The results show that continuing an active lifestyle over the years is associated with the greatest longevity. However, patients with heart disease can overcome prior years of inactivity and obtain survival benefits by taking up exercise later in life. On the other hand, the benefits of activity can be weakened or even lost if activity is not maintained. The findings illustrate the benefits to heart patients of being physically active, regardless of their previous habits."
Coronary heart disease is a serious problem many people face throughout the world. Although we can’t change our genetics, we can control a number of the risk factors by making healthier choices. This study shows that it’s better to start getting active later than never.
October 05, 2021
Life is short and so is most people’s time that why this new research focused on time efficient training should get you excited. Designing Time-Efficient Training Programs for Strength and Hypertrophy: A Narrative Review was published in June 2021. A few of the most well respected names in exercise science poured over 100 different studies to generate some guidelines to follow if you’re short on time but still want to make strength and hypertrophy gains in the gym. Be aware that if you read this article, you won’t have any more excuses to why you can’t stay in shape or can’t hit the gym. In this post we’ll summarize the researchers’ key points so you can put science to practice.
Strength training is beneficial for the vast majority of the population because of the numerous health benefits. However, up to a quarter of the world’s population is at risk for health-related problems due to inactivity. One common excuse for not staying in shape and following a regimented exercise program is the lack of time.
That’s where this study comes in, giving you the exact tips and tricks to maximize your efficiency. The researchers looked at how multiple variables could be altered to optimize training efficiency. Some of the variables they looked at were:
The researchers of this narrative on time efficient training looked at multiple aspects of strength training. They divided their findings into the following categories and gave brief recommendations on each topic.
The common recommendation is that people should train 2-3 times weekly. But new studies are showing that less frequent training can produce similar effects if training volume is the matched. Therefore, the number of times you train each muscle group can be reduced if you’re able to match training volume (sets x reps) or total volume loading (sets x reps x loads). With that said, higher training frequency can result in higher training volumes which enables the potential for more strength and muscle gains.
Training volume seems to be the dominant factor related to hypertrophy and strength gains as studies like this showed frequent short training sessions of 15 minutes in length might be comparable to regular training sessions.
Other interesting findings based on training frequency showed that muscle gains can be attained through training with low volume. This study showed that single set training once per week can be effective in increasing strength and hypertrophy. It’s important to note that different muscle groups have different responses to stimuli and the amount of volume needed for growth. Generally speaking, the lower body muscles will respond better to higher volume compared with upper body muscles unless the trainee is advanced. In this case the upper body muscles might require more training volume to grow.
The last area that was covered regarding training frequency was how many sets are needed per week for strength and hypertrophy gains. A meta-analysis was done which showed that hypertrophic gains were made in less than 5 sets (+5%), 5-9 weekly sets (+7%) and 10+ sets (+10%). This means that higher training volume will lead to more gains but you can still make progress with lower training volume. The researchers advised at least 4 weekly sets per muscle then adjust based on progress made.
Training load is typically defined as the target reps to muscle failure or a percentage of 1 rep max. American College of Sports Medicine breaks down reps as:
New research has shown that hypertrophic response can be the result of wide rep ranges up to 40 reps, as long as they’re performed at a high intensity and total volume is sufficient. Seeing how the main purpose of this narrative is based on time efficient training, heavy-loads may be preferential because you’ll be doing less reps which takes less time. Overall, the most effective zone for muscle gain still seems to be in the 6-12 rep range.
Within exercise selection, the researchers broke it down into type of exercise and equipment used.
Most exercises can be classified as single joint (isolation exercises) or multi joint (compound exercises). We always recommend employing a mixture of exercises into your workout program. In general, multi joint exercises will produce more strength improvements in shorter time-frames according to this study.
If you’re short of time for training and want maximum results then you should prioritize multi joint big compound exercises.
Resistance training can be done with the use of a variety of equipment such as barbells, dumbbells, cable machines, Smith machines and so on. There is little scientific evidence to say that one training modality is far superior to the next.
However, free weights tend to make it easier to mimic real-life or sport specific movements.
Pros of free weights:
Cons of free weights:
Pros of machines:
Cons of machines:
Dumbbells and barbells both are great for strength and hypertrophy training. The main differences between these are that barbells allow for heavier loads to be lifted because the need to stabilize the weight is reduced. This study showed that resistance trained people could lift 20% heavier loads compared with dumbbells.
Overall, barbells will stimulate more muscle activation and will allow for lifting heavier loads. This means barbell exercises can also be more efficient when considering the limited time factor. Dumbbells are great for exercises that require more range of motion or to target specific muscles.
The researchers concluded that the best equipment for time efficient training would be dependent on a number of aspects including lifting experience, available equipment and targeted exercises.
Many exercises can be performed bilaterally or unilaterally. Bilateral training is when you train both sides of the body at the same time, like squats or bench press. You can lift heavier loads as there is greater stability and more muscle mass involved. Unilateral training is where you perform exercises one side at a time like dumbbell bicep curls.
Both bilateral and unilateral exercises produce similar results when it comes to hypertrophy for both trained and untrained individuals. Therefore, with regards to limited training time, bilateral training will be more time effective and should be prioritized. The exception to this is if the person needs to train for more core-activation or to increase difficulty if training at home with limited equipment.
Elastic resistance bands a.k.a. loop resistance bands can be considered a time efficient alternative to free weights if not available. Resistance bands offer some invaluable benefits such as portability, cost and versatility. Multiple studies have shown that resistance bands will produce similar muscle activation to free weights in both single joint and multi joint exercises. However, if free weights are available for heavy load multi joint exercises, then that is the preferential option.
Related: Benefits of Resistance Bands
Bodyweight training presents numerous benefits as they can be done practically anywhere and are good for your overall health. As for hypertrophy, there’s not much evidence to show that bodyweight training can stimulate muscle growth.
This study did show that certain upper body bodyweight exercises such as pull ups, chin ups and push ups can lead to muscle growth. However, there is the potential for bodyweight exercises to help with strength and muscle mass gain. Even though you can’t necessarily add external loads, you can change body positioning to make certain exercises more difficult. You can also train to failure with bodyweight exercises, this low-load high repetition method can be effective for hypertrophy training.
The researchers suggest that a well thought out bodyweight program could potential lead to muscular improvements.
More Resources On Bodyweight Training:
There are three types of muscle action concentric (when the muscle shortens), eccentric (when the muscle lengthens) and isometric (when there’s no change in muscle length). Each muscle action has its own merit. Concentric actions enables higher rates of force, eccentric actions allow for more power exertion and isometric actions offer the chance to apply force in pain-free joint angles. Most exercises will be the combination of eccentric and concentric actions which should also be used for the purpose of time efficiency.
Repetition velocity is the time it takes to complete one rep or both muscle actions of the concentric and eccentric. General recommendations from American College of Sports Medicine for beginners and intermediates to complete exercises with a rep velocity of 1-2 second concentric 1-4 second eccentric phase. Many people assume that the more time under tension, the better chance for hypertrophy to occur. However, in 2015 a meta-analysis was done that showed similar hypertrophic gains for rep tempos ranging from .5 seconds to 8 seconds. This means that varying rep tempos can lead to hypertrophy but in regards to saving time you should aim for a faster velocity. The researchers recommend that you avoid super slow tempos over 10 seconds if training for strength, power or hypertrophy.
Related: Velocity-Based Training Guide
Rest periods is the amount of time you will rest between sets. The rest period is vital for allowing the body to remove lactic acid and replenish the natural chemicals needed by your muscles for contraction. Industry standards for rest periods are as follows:
There’s been some interesting studies that show shorter rest periods can still lead to strength gains but the researchers recommend 1–2-minute rest intervals for untrained people and 2 or more minutes for trained people.
Lastly, the researchers looked at a few different time saving training methods. Although there are other training methods, they focused on supersets, drop sets and rest-pause sets.
Superset training is when you combine two exercises back-to-back without a rest in between. This type of training allows for more training volume in shorter time periods. Super sets can be done by pairing exercises on the same muscle group like squats and leg extensions or can be done with different muscle groups such as lat pull down and bench press. Because the purpose of this post revolves are training with little free time, we won’t consider supersetting same muscle groups to be a good approach. There is some evidence that supersets of antagonist and agonist exercises can improve strength performance. More research needs to be done to definitively say how the body responds to supersets.
Drop sets reduce rest time between sets. To do a drop set you will perform one set then reduce the load then perform another set then once more reduce load and do another set. Drop sets generally reduce the load 20-25% each set and 1-3 drops are used per exercise with each set going to muscular failure.
Drops sets need to be studied more but according to the scientists, drop sets enable shorter workouts with little to no negative effects on training volume or training outcomes. Therefore, drop sets might be a viable solution for those who have little time to train. It is important to note that you should approach drop sets with multi joint exercises with extreme caution as it could lead to potential injury.
Rest pause training method is where you will plan rest periods in the middle of your sets. The are two common approaches to rest-pause sets as:
Rest-pauses are used so that there are short breaks for recovery when lifting heavy loads with high power output. The researchers believe that although the rest-pause method needs more study, that it can be a good training modality when time is of the essence. Once again caution is needed if using the rest-pause method with big multi joint lifts due to the high intensity.
Use it or lose it, many people might be familiar with this phrase related to weight training. The researchers pointed to this study which had 70 young (20-35 yrs old) and old (60-75 yrs old) men perform 3 sets of 3 different leg exercises 3 times a week.
Then the participants were split into three groups and proceeded to train for 32 weeks. One group didn’t train, one group did 3 sets of all exercises once a week and the last group did 1 set for all exercises once a week. Both of the maintenance groups maintained or increased 1RM. However, only the young participants maintained their hypertrophic gains. This means for time frames of up to 32 weeks young adults could maintain muscle mass and strength by one weekly session while older adults might need to increase weekly training volume to maintain muscle.
This matched other studies that suggested one training session of 3-4 sets for each exercise weekly may be enough to maintain muscle and strength for a while. The researchers noted that maintenance training volume could differ depending on the individual.
The researchers looked at the topic of warm ups and stretching and whether they’re necessary if you’re pressed for time. The warms were divided into two types:
The researchers looked to studies like this which showed both types of warm ups failed to provide any significant benefits in regards to fatigue or total maximum reps. Other studies showed that exercise specific warm up showed some positive benefits while the general warm up failed to produce any positive effects.
Therefore, they conclude that short exercise specific warm ups would suffice and that they are more important when lifting heavier loads.
Stretching is great for improving joint mobility. But in regards to saving time while training, stretching might not be imperative. Scientific studies don’t back the claims that stretching will reduce DOMS, prevent injuries or improve performance. Static stretching can actually reduce strength if done prior to lifting as demonstrated by studies like this. If short on time, then stretching shouldn’t be a priority in your workout programming unless your end goal is to improve mobility.
It’s vital for your health to do some strength training even if it’s at a bare minimum. It's not easy to fit a structured strength training program into a busy life but it's possible to accomplish if you follow these key points:
Time Efficient Workout Protocols:
June 03, 2021
There are more obese people in the world than there are people underweight, yes you read that right. The trend is clear, especially in high income countries like the US, obesity has run amok. An often-asked question online is “How many calories does squats burn?”, we will try to break down the answer to this question in this article. We will also look at the calorie counts of some of the most popular foods and drinks in the US then tell you how many minutes of squats are needed to burn them off. Squats are one of the best bodyweight exercises you can do if you want to burn calories fast.
You need to consider a few factors to determine how many calories squats burn. The main factors to consider when calculating how many calories someone burns while doing anything (or not) is based on the weight of the person, the amount of time doing the activity and the level of intensity when performing the activity. The weight and time are easy enough to determine but you will need to do a little math to calculate the intensity variable AKA the metabolic equivalent (MET). There are squat calorie calculators online for those who abhor math.
The definition of one metabolic equivalent (MET) is the amount of oxygen consumed while sitting at rest and is equal to 3.5ml O2 per kilogram(2.2lbs) body weight x min. MET gives us common people a way to easily comprehend and express the energy cost of physical activities as a multiple of the resting metabolic rate. We can determine the energy cost of an activity by dividing the relative oxygen cost (ml O2/kg/min) x by 3.5. To give you a benchmark, sitting watching TV should give you a MET value of 1.
Take a look at this MET Table below:
Another way of determining your MET is judging how you feel while performing an exercise.
The MET Formula
.0175 x MET x weight (kg) = Calories burned per minute (*using kgs)
.0175 x MET x (weight x 2.2) = Calories burned per minute (*For Americans)
We will look at how the MET formula works based on the average American female and male to see how many calories squats burn.
The average American woman is 170lbs or ~77kgs while the average American man is 198lbs or 90kgs.
High intensity squat session
FEMALE: .0175 x 8 x 170= 10.78 calories burned per minute
MALE: .0175 x 8 x 198= 12.6 calories burned per minute
Moderate intensity squat session
FEMALE: .0175 x 5.75 x 170= 7.75 calories burned per minute
MALE: .0175 x 5.75 x 198= 9.06 calories burned per minute
Low intensity squat session
FEMALE: .0175 X 3.5 X 170= 4.7 calories burned per minute
MALE: .0175 x 3.5 x 198= 5.5 calories burned per minute
The number of calories consumed daily drastically varies depending on the person. The only answer should be; the number of calories consumed daily has been skyrocketing. This increase is most alarming in wealthy countries but it especially holds true in America.
There has been a 24% increase in daily calorie consumption since 1961. The average American now consumes more than 3,600 calories daily. We took the liberty to help you visualize how long you would have to perform body-weight squats to burn off some of the favorite foods and drinks in the US. The results may surprise you…
Just being alive burns calories as your body expends energy to sustain itself such as cell production, breathing, protein synthesis, blood circulation, ion transport and processing nutrients. There is a method called the Harris Benedict formula to help calculate your BMR or basal metabolic rate. Your BMR dictates how many calories you need to consume daily to function at a resting state.
The basal metabolic rate or BMR is also referred to as resting metabolic rate (RMR). These two terms aren’t exactly the same, the difference being BMR is most likely determined in a lab or medical setting where they only test the calories needed for the basal functions mentioned above. Whereas RMR is measuring the number of calories that your body burns while resting, usually measured in the morning before doing anything that day including eating or drinking.
This is based on the individual and how active they are during a normal day. The US Department of Health and Human services says that the average adult man expends 2,000-3,000 calories per day while the average woman uses 1,600 to 2,400 calories per day.
If you want to calculate how many calories you need per day you need to do some math, or you can cheat using free online calorie calculators. Using the analogy of taking the stairs or the escalator, let’s hit the stairs and break it down.
First you need to account for your sex, age and weight (don’t lie we’re not judging). Because we’re Americans we will use inches and pounds.
Females use this equation:
In this example we will use the average American woman according to the CDC in 2016: 20 years old - Weighs 170 pounds - 5 feet, 4 inches tall
For non-American women use this equation:
Males use this equation:
In this case we will use the average American man: 20 years old – Weighs 198 pounds – 5 feet 9 inches tall
For non-American men use this equation:
Select your normal activity level:
Some real-life examples:
An Amazon worker walking around a warehouse and packing boxes (not taking bathroom breaks) might be a 1.725.
A software developer that sits at a desk all day then goes home at night to partake in some epic video game battles might be a 1.2.
Almost there…. All this math and thinking should help you burn an extra calorie or two (yes critical thinking burns more calories). Now to finish the Harris-Benedict equation:
BMR x activity level = calories needed to maintain weight
Just looking at the 170lb American woman who’s slightly active, will need:
1601.4 (BMR) x 1.375 (slightly active) = 2,202 calories
A normal 198lb American man who lives a sedentary lifestyle, will need:
2,034.7 (BMR) x 1.2(sedentary)= 2,441
There is no one size fits all equation to answer the question how many calories do 50 squats burn. The number of calories burned is based on a number of variables. However, let’s say that you complete 1 squat every second for 50 seconds at a high intensity. A rough calculation would come to around 10-13 calories burned while doing those 50 squats. This was calculated for an average man/woman working at high intensity. You can follow the same methodology to calculate how many calories does 30 squats burn or even how many calories 1000 squats burn.
FEMALE: .0175 x 8 x 170= 10.78 calories burned per minute
MALE: .0175 x 8 x 198= 12.6 calories burned per minute
If we look to the previous example of how many calories you can burn by doing 50 squats then we can determine that it would take around 500 squats at a high intensity level for an average person to burn off 100 calories. You can find a more exact answer to this by calculating based on your weight and workout intensity level.
Seeing how squats are a lower body exercise it might be obvious that they make your legs stronger. The main muscles worked during squats are the glutes, quads, hamstrings, adductors, hip flexors and calves. Squats require these muscles to work in unison stimulating muscle growth. Beginners can actually build muscle with bodyweight squats but once your body has adapted to the workload you will need to add weight to your squats to see any muscle growth. You should be able to do at least 100 squats successively before trying to add weight.
As long as you are performing your squats properly (we’ll get into that later) you will be moving your body through a wide range of motion. There is a plethora of squat variations that will have your body moving through even more planes of motion. These muscles in our legs help to support our body providing strength and stability for everyday life whether it’s walking, running or jumping.
Squats can help to improve bone health, even at high volume and low weight. If you want to get the best possible results to improve bone density, you’d need to start doing weighted squats. However, bodyweight squats are a great compound exercise to keep your bones healthy.
When you perform squats your knees and hips become stronger and more stable. Squats are the perfect exercise to remedy certain muscle imbalances. This is especially important as we grow older. To preserve our ability to balance; our leg strength, core and stabilizing muscles are essential. Squats can also help improve the mind body connection which can help mitigate potential falls in the future.
The more effort used to complete various exercises is directly correlated to how hard your heart and lungs muscles have to work. Because squats are no walk in the park, you can capitalize on this strenuous effort. This holds even more true once you start adding weights to your squats.
Squats are one of the best exercises for weight loss due to the immense number of calories they burn compared with other exercises. Your body will consume a lot of energy moving large muscles all at once. This study had 94 already healthy adolescent males complete an 8-week body weight squat protocol which had some astounding results such as dropping body fat percentage by 4.2% while increasing lean body mass by 2.7%.
Even though squats are a lower body exercise it is important to keep you core engaged throughout the movement. Your entire core area should be utilized including lower back, mid-back, obliques, inner spinal stabilizers and your abdominal muscles. Squats have us moving through multiple planes that force our core to work in order to stay balanced.
Seeing how legs are comprised of the largest muscles in our bodies it’s no surprise that most of our power is generated from our lower body. You can try doing some jump squats to give an extra boost to your vertical. Jump squats have also been proven effective to improve sprint times.
Squats target both your lower body and core simultaneously. When performing squats with good technique your back will be straight with your head up helping to reinforce the engagement of your torso. These anterior and posterior muscles work together helping to combat that hunched over posture. As most people are sitting all day at a desk it is important to counteract this sedentary lifestyle, squats are the perfect exercise for this.
Doing squats regularly keeps your knees and ankle joints from becoming stiff. Squats can help to strengthen your ligaments, tendons and bones. The old adage is true, move it or lose it!
Related: Front Squats vs Back Squats
Remember that form is an essential component to all exercises but this holds true especially when considering squats. Eventually you should want to add some weight to your squats, this means you need proper form to avoid any potential injuries. And as always, consult your doctor before beginning any new workout routines.
Here’s a look at the simple steps on how to do a squat…
Note: Keep your back straight throughout the movement. If you need to counterbalance this movement you can bring your arms straight out in front of you at shoulder height
Note: Make sure you don’t lean forward off of the wall. Your knees shouldn’t go past your toes.
Note: Keep your lower back straight throughout the movement with your feet planted to the ground at all times.
Note: Try not to lean forward when lifting your leg out to the side.
Note: Don’t let your front knee go over your toes and make sure to keep your toes and knees aligned.
Note: Keep your back straight and your head looking forward throughout the movement.
Note: Keep your back straight while performing the squatting portion of the movement.
Note: Keep your arms out in front of you at shoulder level to help keep yourself balanced.
More Squat Resources:
Tabata Style Circuit: Perform each squat variation for 20 seconds then take 10 second rest before moving onto the next type of squat. Do this until the 10 minutes are up.
You need to start squatting if you don’t already. Squats are one of the quintessential exercises that can be performed just about anywhere. There are so many benefits of doing squats but now you should know that squats burn a massive number of calories. So, if you feel guilty about eating that extra slice of pizza (by the way the average person eats 3 slices or 816 calories), you know what time it is. Squat Time!
March 13, 2019
Today, we are talking about the importance of SLEEP. One of the most underrated aspects of overall performance in fitness and sports, and life in general.
We are here to impugn the old saying, “I’ll sleep when I die”. A saying that is not only terribly counterproductive but also extremely detrimental to longevity and sports performance. If you plan to sleep when you die, you will be receiving that fate much sooner than if you simply sleep enough when you are alive. In the long run, you will have more time with adequate sleep and your time awake will be far more productive.
Neuroscientists have only recently begun to uncover all of the mysteries of sleep. We are writing this article to express the importance of the findings from our research into recent studies on sleep. It’s not easy to write this but…the facts are pretty much utterly terrifying - If you aren’t getting enough sleep, that is.
In 2019, the scientific community's recognition on the importance of quality sleep is like the recognition of how cigarettes kill over half a century ago. The scary thing is, when everyone found out that cigarettes were causing cancer 50-some years ago, it’s not like everyone quit. Now, studies are going to hit the masses about the terrible effects of sleep deprivation…and do you think everyone will adjust their schedules to make sure they are getting the necessary amount of sleep? Not likely.
Lack of sleep is a pandemic that needs to be resolved.
Now, to put these "fatalist" views aside...
The good news is, this information on the importance of sleep can literally save lives.
Yes, some of the findings are scary, especially if you are someone who doesn’t sleep enough, however, there’s always time to change and it’s better late than never. Those who sleep as much as they should, and those who take (or will take, from now on) sleep seriously, will reap the benefits that come with good sleep. Understanding that proper sleep will boost the quality of your life is something we all can rejoice over.
It’s been said by Sleep Expert and Neuroscientist Dr. Matthew Walker that “Sleep is the greatest legal performance enhancing drug that most people are probably neglecting”.
If you make sure to get your zzz’s (naturally, meaning no medication), you can improve your brain and body better than any sports performance enhancer ever could. Side effect NOT included. Consistently getting good sleep is like steroids for the mind and body.
Recent studies prove that good sleep directly correlates to immense recovery and improved performance, which, of course, is vital for an athletes’ (and, in general, people’s) success. Thanks to these studies, doctors and athletic coaches are bolstering sleep just like they do exercise and nutrition. Sleep has always been considered important, of course, it’s basic knowledge, but it was still something that went by the wayside for many athletes. This is no longer the case. Trainers are constantly asking their athletes, “have you got enough sleep?”. This question is asked more than any other question these days.
Pro trainers and athletes know exactly how to optimize sleep. So the quality of sleep has improved as well.
In this article, we are discussing everything sleep, with an emphasis on sleep for athletes and fitness enthusiasts. We hope that after you finish reading this article you will be inspired to get that beauty rest each and every day, without fail.
As these two states of sleep are so different from one another, neuroscientist/physiologists have identified the REM and NREM as distinct behavioral states.
During NREM, our brain has lower activity and consumes less energy. REM on the other hand, which is referred to as paradoxical sleep, has similar brain activity as when we are awake.
One sleep cycle lasts around 90-110 minutes and depending on how long you sleep, there are 4-6 cycles on average per night.
Now, although there are two types of sleep, there are, in fact, four unique stages of sleep. Let’s breakdown the four stages of a sleep cycle.
This stage occurs when you first fall asleep and it is very light sleep. It only lasts around 1-10 minutes. At this time, you can quickly return to fully awake. If you are awoken during the first stage, you may feel like you didn’t even fall asleep.
In this stage, your muscles are not restrained by your mind, although your breathing, body temperature, blood pressure and heartbeats do decrease slightly.
In this stage, it is a bit more difficult to be woken up. Metabolic functions, blood pressure and body temperature further decrease. Stage 2 is also considered light sleep and it makes up 45% of our sleep.
Now, even though the true resting happens during the next two stages, there’s a lot of evidence now that light-sleep is also crucial, in that it boosts our ability to learn. One important thing neuroscientists are certain of is that this is the stage that prepares our bodies for deep sleep through the process of slowing down our metabolism.
The Deep Sleep stage is also known as ‘slow-wave sleep’ and it begins at around 45 minutes into a sleep cycle. Brain waves get slower and larger, and at this time, it is the most difficult to be woken up. You’ll likely show no reaction to sounds and movements around you. If you are awoken during deep sleep, you will feel disoriented for a few minutes.
It is in deep sleep where we get the most restorative benefits to our bodies, all the way down to a cellular level. A strong HGH hormone is triggered during Deep Sleep, sending us waves of it, which rejuvenates the cells throughout our body.
Furthermore, as the body has lower metabolic rates, heart rate, and use of oxygen, the cells recover from damages caused by oxidation. Although oxidation is a normal and necessary process, it is very important that we heal from it. This happens during deep sleep. Neuroscientist state that being awake is actually low-level brain damage. It is during sleep that our brain heals itself from the time spent being awake.
Deep sleep is the sleep that offers us a clean slate for the next day. It’s the most “refreshing” stage of sleep, as it erases the sleepiness that we have accumulated during the day.
Moreover, this is the time when our body repairs itself. Here are some benefits of getting the right amount of deep sleep:
Also, during Deep Sleep, our memories are processed, such as personal experiences and factual information.
This is the stage where dreams are made (no-pun intended). Although our eyes are moving rapidly, our body paralyzes itself as to not act out the dreams.
Typically, you will experience REM sleep 90 minutes after falling asleep. The first REM sleep of the 4-6 sleep cycles per night will be the shortest, then it increases in the following cycles.
We know deep sleep’s main function is to repair the body, therefore REM sleep is what repairs the mind.
To this day, REM sleep is not completely understood, as are many mechanisms of the brain. What we do know is that a lack of REM sleep leads to many behavioral and physiological irregularities.
REM sleep heals the mind and consolidates information that you absorbed during the day, which helps your memory. This is managed by the brain through the formation of neural connections and replenishment of neurotransmitters. These same connections and replenishments emit those feel good chemicals, dopamine and serotonin, thus boosting your mood during the day. This is exactly why a lack of sleep leads to emotional instability.
Although some dreaming happens in light sleep stages, dreaming is the most prevalent during REM. Dreaming is super important for us as it is believed to help process emotions and solidify particular memories.
REM sleep is shown to relate to procedural memory, which is the memory that stores new techniques for solving problems and acquiring skills, along with new ways of moving our body (i.e. how we move our fingers for activities like playing the piano). With that, it becomes clear that practice doesn’t make perfect - practice with a good nights rest makes perfect. Our bodies are actually developing the skills we learned while we were awake during REM sleep.
There isn’t a “most important sleep stage”, even though one would conclude it’s Deep Sleep and/or REM sleep.
Evolution gave us all the stages of sleep for a reason, so each should be treated with equal importance.
With that being said, Deep Sleep and REM sleep are what gives us the most replenishment, both physically and mentally.
The most important thing is that you sleep enough hours each night and that your sleep cycles are that of a healthy, natural sleep pattern. You need Deep Sleep just as much as you need REM sleep. So, if you have any concern about the quality of sleep you are getting, you should run some tests. These days we have tools and technology that allows us to test our sleep fairly well.
Most adults require 7-9 hours of sleep per night. After the age of 60, sleep tends to be shorter, lighter and disrupted by multiple awakenings throughout the night.
Serious athletes require more sleep, ranging from 8-10 hours, due to their strenuous activities during the day. People who do intense workouts 4-5 times a week need to get sleep in this range so they can completely recover and benefit from the rigorous workouts. Sleep is easily the number one element to athletic recovery.
Lebron James is the perfect example of a pro athlete who takes sleep extremely serious.
We listened to a recent Tim Ferriss’ podcast with Lebron James and Mike Mancias (James’ trainer), and they discussed how James aims for 8-10 hours of sleep per day, without fail, which is the biggest factor to his “never-ending” recovery regiment.
Lebron makes sure his bedroom is optimized for sleep, using a sleep app, temperature control, and other important factors for optimal sleep, which we will get into further below in the “Optimal Sleep” section.
Here is a quote from Mancias (taken from Tim Ferriss’ podcast).
"Number one is being very accountable in that room. Create an environment. For us, it's always, for LeBron, in his hotel room. Making sure the temperature is set at a particular—probably 68 to 7o degrees is probably optimal. Making sure the room is completely dark. You have no distractions. Trying to turn off all your electronics, televisions, phones, etc. Turn everything off probably a half hour to 45 minutes before you actually want to go to sleep. Really commit yourself to that. We all love to scroll on the internet and our social media accounts at night to catch up on everything, but you owe it yourself and you owe it your recovery to commit and create an environment. The room at optimal temperature, dark, dark room, comfortable bed.”
The right amount of deep sleep per night is around 62-110 minutes (13-23% of your sleep), however, being on the higher end of the spectrum is better for athletes. There doesn’t seem to be an issue with too much deep sleep. Of course, too much sleep isn’t good, but in regards to a 7-9 hour sleep, the more deep sleep the better.
With that being said, the amount of deep sleep one gets per night decreases with age. For those under 30, you might get up to two hours of deep sleep every night. However, for those over 65, you might only get about a half hour of deep sleep. This is likely because younger people need deep sleep for normal growth and development. But that’s not to say older people don’t need deep sleep, as it is beneficial for any age, especially if you are very physically active.
REM sleep makes up around 20-25% of sleep, on average. This is a healthy amount of REM. To put this into minutes, for 8 hours of sleep, you should be getting 96-120 minutes of REM sleep.
What about light sleep?
Sleep scientists concur that light sleep is important, but they don’t put a minimum or maximum number to aim for. The first two stages of sleep are considered the “default” stages, as it is essentially impossible to avoid or get a lack of light sleep…as long as you are sleeping, that is.
The Sad Truth For Americans:
American kids’ sleep stats are no better.
Why aren’t people getting the sleep they need?
The biggest reason people aren’t getting enough sleep is because of such early start times for jobs, which in turn means very early start times for schools, as schools follow parents' work times…the need for round-the-clock entertainment doesn’t help either.
The sad thing is, it doesn’t even make sense in terms of productivity. Less sleep equals less productivity. It’s extremely counterproductive to the workplace.
Moreover, drowsy driving kills more people than alcohol or drugs combined. So not only is a lack of sleep caused by early work times unproductive and for kids a disadvantage to learning, it is dangerous.
And that’s not even considering the long term effects that a lack of sleep has on a person, which we will get into below in the lack of sleep section.
“I’ll catch up on sleep during the weekend”
You’ve definitely heard this one before.
Unfortunately, you can’t. Although you can make up for some sleep, there is no way you can make up for an entire week in one weekend. So, as much as we all wish that were possible, it’s just...not.
For example, if you were to pull an all-nighter, then the next day sleep all that you want, you’d only make up around 3-4 hours of the lost 8.
It’s really too bad our bodies can’t store sleep like we can fat :’(
“I’m good with 4-5 hours a night!”
You’ve probably heard this before too, and you probably have a friend who claims they can function perfectly on something like 5 or 6 hours of sleep. Sadly, this just isn’t true either. Nobody can. Literally, nobody.
Someone saying this to you is the same as someone who says “I drive better when I’m drunk” or “I’m a good drunk driver”. They may actually think that to be the reality, but it’s not.
“You don’t know you’re sleep deprived, when you’re sleep deprived”
- Sleep Expert and Neuroscientist Dr. Matthew Walker
WHAT ABOUT NAPS?
Although naps have proven to be helpful in gaining some replenishment, they are not effective enough to regain the sleep we’ve lost.
While awake, your brain is creating adenosine. Adenosine is what allows you to remain energized, and stay #AlwaysReady.
However, the longer you are awake, the more adenosine your brain has to carry. In higher and higher concentrations, adenosine causes you to become sleepy. The only way you can release the adenosine and become refreshed again is to sleep.
Thankfully, your internal alarm clock, which is called ‘circadian rhythm’, tells you when to wake up and when to sleep.
So, once you fall asleep, your adenosine levels lower and again, then your circadian rhythm tells you to wake, and your low levels of adenosine can start to increase, giving you the energy for the day.
Another component of how sleep recovers your brain is in regards to CSF.
Your brain is lined with a liquid full of nutrients called cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). During the day, your brain cells absorb these nutrients from the CSF, then excretes the waste back into the CSF. The waste builds up throughout the day, and at the end of the day there’s simply too much of it. This causes the brain to function adversely.
Sleep is what resolves this everyday occurrence. As you sleep, channels open up, thus flushing out that day’s supply of CSF. Fresh CSF comes in, allowing you to awake with a “clean” brain.
How is CSF created and absorbed?
The CSF is created by the specialized ependymal cells in the choroid plexuses of the ventricles of the brain, and absorbed in the arachnoid granulations.
In the next section, we will discuss some ways that you can test your sleep cycles/stages to make sure you are in the healthy range.
Before 2009, to actually test your sleep properly, you would need to go see a sleep doctor and get a bunch of wires connected from special monitors to your body. And, you’d have to sleep in their “lab”. This is definitely not conducive for a good night sleep. At least not the first night of testing. You’d need to get used to this, as much as possible, to get proper results.
Nowadays, we have smart technology that makes testing our sleep in depth, simple, and it can be done in our own home in our own bed. There are millions of people using apps and wearable tools, like bracelets, smart watches, and even headbands, to collect and analyze data from their sleep.
This smart technology records sounds and movement while you sleep. They record the hours you slept and it monitors your heartbeat and your breathing, which tells you mostly everything you need to know.
If you want to see two of the best wearables on the market today, check out our post Oura Ring Vs WHOOP.
This type of data will allow you to understand how you are sleeping. It will tell you how much deep sleep and REM sleep you are getting. How your sleep cycles look. And more…
You can send it to a sleep doctor to analyze or you can make informed analysis by reaching out online in certain forums or studying what a healthy, normal sleep pattern looks like.
If you have any concern about your sleep, you should definitely get on this. One of our friends recently did this and ultimately found out he has sleep apnea.
Now, this kind of test is good, but if you have serious concerns or find something peculiar about your sleep that requires more advanced testing (as smart technology is still relatively new), your doctor can set you up with a polysomnography (PSG).
A PSG effectively measures the following:
Afterward, your doctor can study the results and recommend you treatment from there, if necessary.
What happens if you aren’t getting enough sleep? Here are the signs, symptoms and long term effects of not getting enough deep sleep, REM sleep, and sleep in general.
Not Getting 7-9 Hours of Sleep
Long Term Effects - Not getting enough quality sleep is one of the biggest causes of:
Sleep is as important as food and water. Some side effects/signs of sleep deprivation are:
Not Getting Enough Deep Sleep
A lack of the deep sleep stage is associated with particular disorders, such as:
Here are some effects of a lack of REM sleep:
Too much or too little REM sleep
If you get too much REM, it has shown to lead to depression and anxiety because it replicates the same pathophysiology of major depressive disorder. Too little REM can also cause anxiety issues. In regards to too much REM and depression, it has been shown in studies that suppression of REM leads to greater anti-depressant effects. Yet, this isn’t a good strategy for depression. Mother Nature most likely didn’t create REM to induce depressive symptoms, so the long term effects of suppressing REM sleep isn’t clear, but we can assume it isn’t conducive to a healthy functioning brain. The point is though, REM is a tricky beast. REM sleep is one of the least understood stages of sleep. What we can conclude is, getting in the healthy range is important. Thankfully, for most of us, it comes naturally.
Substance use can have a serious impact on REM sleep. The following substances are proven to suppress REM sleep:
Below we will go over how to create the optimal environment for a good night sleep (that means good deep sleep too!)…
In order to sleep, your brain must drop its temperature by 2-3°F. To help with this, studies show that sleeping naked or with less clothes can be somewhat helpful. Keeping your hands and feet warm can also help as it moves the blood away from your core and out to the surface.
Warm baths before bed are also great. A warm bath will cause vasodilation (that’s when you get rosy cheeks and red skin), which causes all of the blood to rush to the surface. When you get out, you have a big drop of heat from your body, which causes a decrease in your core body temperature.
Evolutionarily speaking, hunter gatherers would sleep 2 hours after night began as that was when temperatures started to drop. They would wake up about 30 minutes before sunrise due to temperatures starting to increase.
Work on going to bed and waking up the same time every day. This means weekends too!
During the last hours of the day, turn most of the lights in your house off. Try not to use your phone or computer for around 1 hour before bed. The light will affect our natural release of melatonin.
Don’t go to bed too full or too hungry. Eat around 2-3 hours before bed. Furthermore, diets that are high in sugar and low in fiber are shown to hinder good sleep. These kinds of diets cause less deep sleep and makes your sleep more fragmented throughout the night.
Melatonin is created naturally by our bodies. Sometimes, when you are traveling between timezones, our circadian rhythm gets thrown off, which causes our bodies to produce melatonin at the time it should have in our previous timezone. This is when melatonin is useful. It will help you get your sleep schedule adjusted to the new timezone. However, once your body is stable in a new timezone, melatonin doesn’t show to be effective for getting better sleep. In fact, for many people (who are stable in their timezone), taking melatonin is more of a placebo effect. With that being said, if its working, placebo or not, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be taking it. It won’t hurt.
Exercising for 20-30 minutes a da is super effective for good sleep. So try to exercise daily. BUT, don’t exercise a few hours before you plan to go to bed, as your body needs time to come down from the workout to get into rest mode.
If you workout in the evening, say 6-8pm, try to avoid pre-workout drinks or caffeine. These will keep you awake even after you think the effects have worn off.
Try to reduce stress, this will help your body and mind relax. It’s hard to sleep when your body is tense and your brain won’t stop churning out thoughts, especially negative ones. A good way to reduce stress is through mediation. Practice meditation to calm the mind. There’s a reason people have been practicing meditation for thousands of years. It works!
We don’t necessarily promote the use of supplements to sleep. The best way is to follow our optimal sleep recommendations above. However, there are some natural supplements that can’t be harmful to try, and if it works for you, great! Not all are exactly 100% proven, but there have been studies done on the following:
Check out our favorite supplement for improved sleep, enhanced mood and increased energy all in one!
These are all worth a try.
***There are affiliate ads above that we will receive a small commission on any purchase you make.***
All in all, the key takeaway here is, we all need to get our 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Our lives depend on it. Sleep now, don’t wait until you die.
As a final takeaway, here are some further important points about sleep for athletes.
REM Sleep for Athletes
Although physical recovery mostly comes from non-REM sleep, it’s not all physical when it comes to sports. Athletes need high levels of mental acuity. From memorizing plays to understanding the opponent to keeping stress levels low during a clutch moment, mental awareness and acuity is extremely critical and athletes need to be at their best.
Even with the most well rested body, an athlete can’t perform at his or her best without the ability to make good split second decisions. Sports are demanding, both physically and mentally.
Lack of Sleep in General
Studies show that a lack of sleep is the number one cause of athletic injuries.
Athletes who get enough sleep experience 60% fewer injuries and 54% less sickness. LeBron James is the perfect example. He has played in 94% of possible games in his career, and he has never missed a playoff game. Why? Because he makes sleep his biggest priority.
Sleep is not only for recovery, but it’s also for “prevention” as well.
Deep Sleep for Sports Recovery
When it comes to physical health, deep sleep is essential. Potent hormones, like GH and IGF-1, are released during deep sleep. These same growth hormones relate to physical health and performance.
During deep sleep, blood flow delivers restorative oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, tissues and cells, which aids in muscle recovery and growth.
When you don’t get enough deep sleep, you can’t heal and grow, which results in a loss of muscle mass. This affects your overall strength and endurance during workouts and during sporting activity. One more thing: Before you drift off for a solid nine hours of deep sleep, don't forget about taking a protein shake first. That, in combination with good sleep, will help your muscles recover even more.
Improve you sleep with Heat Therapy! 3 Types of Heat Therapy and the Benefits of Each
If you have any anecdotes or questions/comments regarding this post, please feel free to leave them in the comment section below. Sleep well people!
Source: Check out The Joe Rogan Experience – Sleep Expert and Neuroscientist Dr. Matthew Walker.
February 24, 2019
After a long and intense workout, you head to the locker room, walk by the mirrors (quite possibly flex on 'em), take your post-workout supplements, walk past the sauna to the showers, then you shower, change, and head out to start (or finish) your day.
But, what if you take an extra 15-20 minutes and put your already exhausted self into the sauna? It's something that crosses most people's minds...Tempting, huh?
However, even as tempting as it is, many people decide to skip that post-workout sauna session.
If that's you, you are missing out on myriad health and wellness benefits that come with frequent thermotherapy (in this case, heat therapy) sessions.
If you have been wondering...
"Should I hit the sauna after the gym?"
"How long should I use the sauna, steam room or hot tub?"
"What are the benefits of saunas, steam rooms, and hot tubs?"
"How often should I do heat therapy sessions?"
"What type of heat therapy is best?"
...then we have the answers for you. This article will tell you everything you need to know about full-body thermotherapy.
Heat therapy is an ancient practice that can be traced back thousands of years to the ancient Greeks and Egyptians. The practice of thermotherapy wasn't limited to these two civilizations either. From England, all the way to China and Japan, heat therapy has been a form of rehabilitation, treatment, and relaxation for countless centuries. Each culture had its own form of heat therapy, from mud baths to hot springs, to smoke houses, and more. Because of this, heat therapy is an activity that's ingrained into modern human society.
Nowadays, although we have advanced methods and technology, the basic nature of each type of heat therapy is essentially the same as it was for our ancestors.
Heat therapy is getting even more attention as of late with all the studies proving the plethora of benefits. The benefits relate to our overall health, well-being, recovery, and performance, and they extend far and wide in each of these areas.
With that being said, here are 3 types of full-body heat therapy that most people can gain easy access to, and the benefits that come with them. At the end of this article, we have chosen our favorite type of heat therapy, and we also provide a heat therapy "workout" that you can implement into your routine on a weekly basis.
A saunas session is an incredible way to start (or end the day) or hit just after a workout. If you don’t own a sauna, most gyms have them. So you can use the sauna at your local health club after you finish a workout.
All you need are three things, your body, a towel, and self-control. Enjoy sauna sessions by engaging in deep breathing, and for the more advanced, focused movements (even yoga) 3-4 times a week and enjoy the numerous benefits.
Both methods are great, and for many, it comes down to personal preference. With that being said, knowing how they work will give you a better understanding of each, thus helping you decide which one you prefer.
Dry saunas use electricity to heat up a small room made of soft wood, but they can also use hot rocks. They work by heating the room, which then heats the surface of the skin, thereby warming the underlying muscles and tissues.
Dry saunas are HOT, typically around 176-194 degrees Fahrenheit (80-90 Celsius). With that being said, some people like them even hotter. Tony Robbin says he likes a more intense and short-lived experience, heating his sauna up to 212 degrees F (100 degrees C). In any case, be sure to take off your wristwatch because that puppy is going to burn.
In regards to humidity, pending no one is tossing water on the stones (or no idiot is tossing water on the electric burner), the dry sauna is around 10% humidity.
Infrared saunas are extremely popular these days and they work differently than dry saunas, although both traditional dry and infrared saunas share many of the same benefits.
With that being said, here’s how an infrared sauna differs (both near and far infrared saunas). Firstly, infrared sauna rooms aren’t as hot, by a long shot. The ideal temperature range is between 130-140 degrees Fahrenheit (with essentially no humidity), but you can go as low as 120 F. You might be thinking, it’s not nearly as hot as a dry sauna, it can’t be as effective. You’d be wrong with that thinking. Being less hot isn’t an issue, at all. Why? Because infrared saunas work differently than dry saunas.
Instead of heating the air surrounding you, as a dry sauna does, infrared saunas radiate heat directly to your body, similar to the way the sun heats up your body. It’s more efficient as your body absorbs 93% of the heat produced from the carbon fiber heaters. It penetrates deeper within. So put that high heat ego to the side when it comes to infrared saunas, they are extremely effective. In fact, they offer a few more benefits, according to recent studies, than traditional dry saunas.
Who wins? Both saunas are great for health benefits, being social, and simple relaxation, AND, both will have you sweating profusely. If you are looking to spend more time in the sauna, go for an infrared sauna. If you want a quicker and more intense experience, go for the dry.
Dry saunas are effective from 10-20 minutes. If you are a beginner, limit your time to 10 minutes until you get used to it. Even more experienced sauna users shouldn’t exceed 20-25 minutes in a dry sauna.
At any time, if you start to feel nauseous, dizzy or like it’s hard to breathe, get out immediately. This could be a sign that your body is overheating and dehydration or exhaustion is taking hold. It’s always best to drink a bunch of water before starting your session.
Regarding how many days per week, you can use the dry sauna as many as 3 times a week (preferably every other day, not three days in a row). However, even one day a week will allow you to cash in on the benefits.
Infrared saunas allow users to spend more time in the room. Due to the nature of the infrared sauna, you can spend around 20-30 minutes in the sauna after you begin to break a sweat. Experienced users average around 25-45 minutes per session. When it comes to infrared saunas, you can also do them more often, in fact, you can do it once every single day. We recommend around 3-4 times a week to experience all the incredible benefits.
Saunas are an incredible performance enhancer. Here are the reasons why…
There are a few extra benefits that come with infrared saunas according to recent studies.
Although dry saunas have effects that correlate to these kinds of benefits, infrared saunas are proving to directly affect users in these positives ways. Note: most research regarding saunas in the athletic field is done using infrared.
There are a few other saunas. We kept most of our information in this article to the two most popular saunas (dry and infrared), however, here are two others that we think are pretty damn cool.
Great for your backyard (or home in general). You can set up your barrel sauna to have an incredible view while having a sauna session (depending on where you live). They are charming, as they are aesthetically pleasing, and installation is pretty simple.
This is one that you likely won’t find without heading over to Finland. It has a wood-burning stove and no chimney. The sauna is heated by burning wood under big rocks for many hours. After the room is hot enough, the room is ventilated and ready for use. This type of sauna dates way back, as it is an original method used by the Finnish.
Steam rooms provide a lot of the same benefits as saunas. In a steam room, the temperature usually doesn’t exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit, but due to the very high humidity, it feels just as hot as a dry sauna and you will sweat just as much too (if not more).
You could put steam rooms into a class of saunas, however, we think of it more as a mix of sauna and hydrotherapy.
The benefits of steam rooms can all be achieved in saunas, such as boosting the immune system, loosening stiff joints, aiding workout recovery, promoting skin health, clearing congestion, reducing stress, improving sleep, helping blood circulation, and sweating at this rate is great for detoxifying water-based organs.
People choose steam rooms over a sauna simply because they enjoy this steamy type of heat therapy. It has a very therapeutic feel when you step into a room full of haze.
The only reason we would choose a sauna over a steam room, religiously, is in public places. Why? Well, because you can be sure of how well the health facility filters the water that’s being pumped into the sauna. There have been cases of gyms not filtering properly and people are unknowingly breathing in fluoride, chlorine and other things like pharmaceuticals. It’s likely not the case for most gyms, but you really can’t be sure. If you have one at your home, and you can control any mold or fungi, it’s a pretty great option. For these same reasons, though, it’s also not ideal to install a steam room in your home. You really need to be thorough with caring for your steam room. A sauna would make more sense if you want something for the house.
Hot tubs are also a great form of heat exposure therapy.
Hot tubs shouldn’t exceed 104 degrees Fahrenheit and you shouldn't spend more than 15 minutes in a hot tub.
Hot tubs offer some of the same benefits that saunas do, such as improving sleep, improving blood circulation, alleviating rheumatoid arthritis, congestion, headaches, and joint pain, reducing anxiety and stress, and inducing quality sleep. Hot tubs are said to be the best for relaxing the muscles and as they have jets, so you can get a nice massage in. They also decrease blood sugar levels.
When it comes to purchasing a sauna or hot tub for your home. A sauna requires less maintenance, but it’s harder to install. A sauna can add value to your home, and a hot tub doesn’t (bummer, right?). Hot tubs, in our opinion, win on the family time front, as they are more bearable and can make for a really relaxing time together (not that saunas can’t, but in general, we think of saunas as a type of thermotherapy and hot tubs more as chill time).
Both hot tubs/jacuzzis and saunas provide wonderfully therapeutic heat to the body for relaxation and can offer a sense of well-being, alleviate muscle soreness and body pains. Saunas have a wider range of benefits, and they trump hot tubs in regards to most of the shared benefits, with the exception of muscle relaxation.
SAUNAS, without a doubt. They provide the most shock to the body as the temperature is the highest and they offer more benefits, which has been proven through pretty hardcore studies. They can increase core temperature in a shorter time, and they offer dramatically more benefits for improving athletic performance.
As for which type of saunas, we choose infrared, which should be clear after reading this. However, dry are great when you really want to feel the “pain” heat can induce (more mentally challenging, which is great in our opinion). With that being said, infrared’s slight superiorness makes it an easy choice among the two. It expedites detoxification, heats the tissues several inches deep (not just on the surface), greatly enhances the metabolic processes and blood circulation, AND it helps to oxygenate your tissues better.
Too much time in the sauna, steam room, or jacuzzi can lead to dehydration, as you are sweating out tons of water in your body. It also has been stated that too much time in heat exposure can lead to a decrease in fertility in men. However, if you practice heat exposure for the correct amount of time and you stay hydrated, you can feel safe knowing that you are doing a major service to your body and overall well-being, especially in a sauna ;)
FIRSTLY, NEVER DO THIS BEFORE A GYM WORKOUT. THIS IS A POST-WORKOUT SAUNA “WORKOUT”
If you only have access to a dry sauna, then use the times in the parenthesis.
We are assuming you are just getting into sauna heat therapy, or just getting back into it.
Week 1: 2 sessions a few days apart.
Week 2: 2 sessions a few days apart.
Week 3: 3 sessions, every other day (2 sessions a few days apart)
Week 4: 3 sessions, every other day (2 sessions a few days apart)
From here, continually build up until you can reach the max recommended times, which are:
Infrared: 30-40 mins (no break) 3-5 times a week (every day is ok as well, but breaks are good for your body, similar to working out)
Dry: 20 mins (no break) 2-4 times a week (every other day).
Let us know which type of thermotherapy you prefer and why in the comment section below.