Three to five months ago from the time I’m writing this I met a 71 year old individual struggling with asthma and found himself plateauing in his exercise routine and wanted to improve his cardiovascular capacity. Well I wasn’t going to make him start running on the treadmill, he's 71 years old and inclined walking isn’t exactly an asthma friendly approach to cardiovascular fitness (ACSM 2014). So what was I supposed to do? I decided to take a mixed approach to various styles of Meathead Metabolics. I know what you're saying, “Brandon you're insane there’s no way something called “Meathead Metabolics” is any safer for a 71 year old asthmatic than treadmill walking. There’s probably an even smaller chance that it’s even effective.” I’ve got some news for you. I’m going to take you through various styles of meathead metabolics and prove not only are they safe but effective as well.
Villanueva, Joy Lane, and Schroeder (2014) conducted a study looking at short rest interval times of approximately 60 seconds versus a rest time of about 4 minutes over 8 weeks. This study was done with men with an average age of 65 years and differences in body fat percentage, lean body mass (LBM) and functional power. These individuals found that shorter rest intervals lead to decreases in body fat percentage, increases in lean body mass, and that they also increased their functional power much more significantly than the group who had 4 minutes of rest between sets. Functional power is often equated to ability to complete normal activities of daily living. An increase in functional power would essentially translate to decreased risk of falling in these individuals, increased ability to do household activities, and eventually increased quality of life. This type of training promotes muscle growth and muscular endurance, which go on to result in improvements in cardiovascular ability and capacity as well.
A similar study was conducted by Ratamess et al. (2015) looking more specifically into how short rest intervals should be and their influence on metabolism (energy/calories expended) as well as cardiovascular responses. In their study they used battle ropes and intervals of 1 minute rest and 2 minute rest between sets and completed approximately 3 sets of 30s. The individuals performing the study found that with the shorter rest intervals individuals experienced greater caloric expenditure and higher heart rates in the one minute rest intervals than the 2 minute. This shows that a repetitive upper body workout is still effective for promoting cardiovascular health and fat loss.
The last method, CrossFit. Yes, THAT CrossFit, which is a form or style of meathead metabolics. The sport where individuals compete to be crowned the “Fittest Man or Women on Earth.” Is there any truth to that title or is this sport just a mash-up of random exercises thrown together? Smith et al (2013) created a study looking at men and women as young as 21 and as old as 48 and the effects of this type of training and aerobic/cardiovascular fitness. For a proper introduction into CrossFit, the name of the game is to complete as many sets of any number of exercises as many times as possible within a specific time frame (AMRAP) or to simply finish and specifically prescribed sets x rep scheme of exercise in the fastest time possible. When looking at a 10 week study, they found that decreases in body fat percentage were noticed and increases in VO2 max (Maximal oxygen consumption), the gold standard for assessing aerobic or cardiovascular fitness or function. So there’s something to that style of exercise and the title of “Fittest Human on Earth.”
Remember the 71 year old I was talking about. We used these same strategies from these forms of meathead metabolics from shortening rest intervals and high intensity power training with med balls. If you’re more curious about that story follow our Instagram account @thegym.ma where the man himself can tell you the results of meathead metabolics.
SPOILER ALERT: they went well.
Brandon Mgeni CSCS, CPT
Personal Trainer, The GYM @ Milford
B.S. in Exercise and Sports Science
Smith, M. M., Sommer, A. J., Starkoff, B. E., & Devor, S. T. (2015). Crossfit-based high intensity power training improves maximal aerobic fitness and body composition. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 27, 3159–3172.
Ratamess, N. A., Smith, C. R., Beller, N. A., Kang, J., Faigenbaum, A. D., & Bush, J. A. (2015). Effects of rest interval length on acute battling rope exercise metabolism. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 29(9), 2375–2387.
Villanueva, M, G., Lane, C. J, & Schroeder E. T. (2014). Short rest interval lengths between sets optimally enhance body composition and performance with 8 weeks of strength resistance training in older men. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 115(2), 295-308.