High Intensity Training at Ideal Exercise of Seattle

After posting The Myth of Cardiovascular Training, I received an email invitation from Greg Anderson to come visit his North Seattle gym. Ideal Exercise is not a glitter gym (bright lights, treadmills, etc) nor is it a rust gym (hard rock and free weights). Ideal Exercise is all about coached High Intensity Training using specific machine based exercises. What does High Intensity Training meaning? Although it has several definitions, in this case it mirrored the training protocols outlined in the phenomenal book Body by Science.

Body by Science: A Research Based Program to Get the Results You Want in 12 Minutes a Week
Body by Science: A Research Based Program to Get the Results You Want in 12 Minutes a Week by Dr Doug McGuff and John Little

Greg has worked with several well respected high intensity fitness experts, including Mike Mentzer and even Dr. McGuff. For more information on Greg and his gym Ideal Exercise, check out the podcast High Intensity Interview of the Month: Greg Anderson.

Unlike the Glitter Gyms, the temperature at Ideal Exercise was a crisp 61-62 degrees. I love it. Back when I was in Queen Anne at Prorobics, I’d open the window even in the dead of winter to drop the temperature in the free weight room. My goal was not to sweat, but to lift heavier weights. Heavier weights, not sweat is what makes you stronger. I later learned from an interview with Dr. McGuff that 61 degrees was ideal for generating the most intensity. Intensity is not about increasing your core temperature and sweating off calories. Intensity is about recruiting maximum muscle fibers in a brief and safe manner. Weight training will increase your core temperature, so starting from a cool temperatures will allow you to be comfortable and not hot when lifting. Therefore you can direct more attention and energy into the weights.

High Intensity Training is about using slow controlled movements. After a failed start with this method last spring, I restarted a slow protocol in December. After 16 years of lifting the other way, I have been trying to learn how to generate high intensity safely using the slow method. During my workout with Greg Anderson, he gave me lots of tips and information to assist with my knowledge. He explained breathing, jaw position, where to focus your eyes and tempo.

After getting my height and asking a few strength questions, Greg set up the Big 5 workout for me. The Big Five exercises are:

  1. Leg Press
  2. Bench Press
  3. Pull down
  4. Overhead Press
  5. Seated Row

Each exercise is done 1 set to failure. For my workout, failure was not defined as the inability to do another rep, but the inability to even move the weight another inch. This was an important concept for me to understand. At the completion of one exercise, I was quickly moved to the next one. The entire workout lasted just under 9 minutes. It was the hardest most brutal workout I’ve ever done. Greg – through coaching, never yelling – was able to push me to intensity levels that I didn’t know I was capable of reaching.

In this video Dr. McGuff explains the background the Big 5 Workout.

The level of intensity that this type of workout requires would not be safe to do with free weights. For the next 48 hours I was sore, but sore in a good way. Unlike the soreness you get from doing low-weight, high repetitions where it hurts to move, I was functional sore. My movement was fine and fluid, just a little slower. I was still able to go snow tubing on Saturday.

I am still a student of slow movement high intensity training. I’m not ready to endorse or dismiss it yet, although I am liking it more each week. I’m going to keep at it and report back on this blog. One thing I am already convinced of is how important it is to slow the negative portion of your lift. Don’t let gravity take the tension off your muscles. Control that movement.

If you are interested in trying this type of workout and live in North Seattle, I highly recommend contacting Ideal Exercise.

Ideal Exercise is located in the Bitterlake Center (behind Car Toys) at 929 N 130th St Ste 4, Seattle, WA

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Comments

  1. says

    @Mike – The focus is less on reps and more about TUL (time under load). The eccentric and concentric portions of the lift take 5-10 seconds each with no pause or lock out. Momentum is removed. I wish I could recall the number of reps, but I was so focused on my breathing and slowing the weight that I didn’t pay attention. My guess is it was in 5-7 range.

  2. Dan G says

    I agree with you Mas to endorse it or diss it their are many ways to accomplish a goal but when we talk about fitness I think about movement not being confined to a chair or lying on my back let’s face the truth we work with our hands and standing on are feet I grew up working on a horse farm from a small child working daily chores lifting 10gallon buckets of water carry back and forth to the stalls moving bales hay and straw and 50 to100 pound feed bags by the way hay is also very heavy all of this required movement various types and if we were going to move things the last thing on your mind would be to move it slow we would move it with force pick it up and throw it it’s an opinion and I value everyones but my take on it would be if you want to lay on your back or sit and a chair and lift things slowly than do so and you’ll be good at it but the application does not carry over to the real world thanx so much Dan

  3. says

    @bgt – Greg asked my height and then I shared with him how much weight I added to my dips and chin-ups. From there he used his many years of training to correctly dial in the settings on his equipment.

  4. Greg Anderson says

    Michael,

    Thanks for the post and the kind words. Much appreciated! Your workout was very good, and you exhibited excellent intensity and motor control. Perhaps the most difficult part of this type of training is remaining stoic while in the throes of exertional discomfort.

    @Dan,

    While I understand your opinion (and that it was respectfully expressed), I would invite you to investigate BBS a bit further. Our goal is to develop general metabolic conditioning and structural improvements to the body. The positive structural/metabolic adaptations developed by proper training can be applied to any movement activity. In other words, if you work on a farm (which is damn hard work), you will be able to work harder, with greater endurance, and with greater insulation against injury once so conditioned.

    Over the last 20+ years, I have trained many professional and college athletes using this method. I have also trained members of elite military teams, law enforcement, fire fighters, and even manual laborers. Personally, I have found this training protocol to be a great way to condition for my many athletic pursuits: Track and field, wrestling, semi-professional football, and martial arts (I’m a 3rd Dan). I also trained a swimmer to seven gold medals in international competition.

    Now, I’m not claiming that BBS is the “only way” and I certainly agree with you that movement (or the ability to move) is a component of fitness. But research into the area of motor learning indicates that “movement skills” are specific while “physical conditioning” is general. In other words I wouldn’t replace sports practice or farm work (or whatever) with BBS. I would simply use BBS to augment the individual’s conditioning and ability to carry out such work.

    Apologies for being a bit long winded, and again, I do appreciate your opinion.

    Greg

  5. Dan G says

    Thanx Greg for your reply much appreciated and well spoken and well explained thank you so much for educating me and for what you do in helping all facets of the fitness industry Dan

  6. thomas says

    I tried this as a workout today. I used maybe 60% of what I am capable of. It was very, very difficult even with only 5 second up/down. I am sort of skeptical of how it can help my muscles grow larger and have a body that is athletic and toned; however I think it can make me functionally stronger. Maybe this would be a good workout once a week.

  7. says

    @Thomas – Each week I become less skeptical. The more I learn about HIT, the more it makes sense to me.

  8. thomas says

    Thanks for the reply. I can’t seem to gain any mass. No matter what I do. I get stronger and get some definition but thats it. I am an ectomorph. Do you think HIT plus an extra meal a day will do the trick. I was told to just schedule your meals pre/post workouts only. I understand each situation is unique. Any thoughts?

  9. says

    @Thomas – I don’t know how the HIT experts would answer that question, but my experience is you need MORE FOOD. It also helps if you are younger. I recall you followed a vegetarian diet for a period of time. You may not have adjusted to a higher level of protein yet. Source some high quality pastured eggs. If you can handle dairy, get a full-fat yogurt or milk. I’m a fan of creatine monohydrate too. It is one of the few supplements that I think us male ectomorphs benefit from using.

  10. GWhitney says

    Many thanks for the though-provoking post.

    This isn’t a trick question, I genuinely am intrigued by BBS. It what ways does BBC mimic movements/efforts that would have been made in the “ancestral environment.”

    Thanks.

    GWhitney

  11. says

    @GWhitney – I believe the foundation of BBS is biomechanics – not primal movements, although there is overlap. BBS goes after the bodybuilder belief that hitting muscles from different angles can somehow alter its shape.

  12. Darren says

    Michael, I too am trying the one-set-to-failure method. However, I get fairly bad headaches during and after the exercises. Have you ever come across this?

  13. says

    @Darren – Yes. I found it has to do with oxygen intake. When you do classic lifting, your breathing matches the tempo of the exercise. Up/down, breathe in/out. When you first start super-slow, your breathing will get behind where it should be. You need to decouple the two.

    Watch this video and listen to the breathing tempo.
    Super Slow Training in Brownsburg, IN

  14. Kyle says

    Hi MAS,

    I signed up with the The Perfect Workout doing one session per week. In your experience when did you start to see muscle gain.

    Thanks,
    Kyle

  15. says

    @Kyle – There are many factors that determine the rate of muscle growth. Nutrition, sleep, age, training age, body type and recovery speed are a few. The exercise protocol outlined in this blog post is nothing like I did at age 24, when I first started lifting.

  16. bgt says

    MAS – since you are only working out once per week, what do you generally eat for your post-workout meals? Just curious if you increase carbs and/or increase your protein post-workout. (If you’ve covered this in another post, please feel free to just direct me to that.) Thanks!

  17. Stuart says

    Are there a lot of illustrations in this book? I prefer Kindle books but not if I would miss out due to color pictures and exercise photos.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] to HIT and still trying to figure things out. After that post, I received an invitation to visit Ideal Exercise for a HIT workout. Super trainer Greg Anderson took me through the most intense 9 minute workout I’d ever [...]

  2. […] My first few years of lifting in Seattle were mostly very conservative Pavel style low-rep workouts. I started paying more attention to safety. I reduced the weight and increased the time between sets. I fell into a rhythm that was more motivated by not getting hurt than making gains. Then a combination of three things happened that changed everything. I read about High Intensity Training on Conditioning Research, got ahold of a library copy of Body By Science and an email invitation from Seattle based HIT trainer Greg Anderson to workout at his gym. […]

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