Welcome to the Huberman Lab Podcast,
where we discuss science
and science-based tools for everyday life.
I’m Andrew Huberman,
and I’m a professor of neurobiology and ophthalmology
at Stanford School of Medicine.
Today, we are discussing fitness.
Fitness, of course, is vitally important
for cardiovascular health, for strength, for endurance,
for lifespan, for healthspan.
I can’t think of anyone out there
that wouldn’t want to have healthy hormonal function,
healthy cardiovascular function,
to live a long time and to feel vital,
that is to have a long healthspan
as well as a long lifespan.
Fitness and fitness protocols are tremendously powerful
for developing all of that.
However, despite there being an enormous amount
of information out there on the internet
and in books and elsewhere,
it can be a bit overwhelming.
So today’s episode is really designed
to synthesize science-based tools
that we’ve covered on the podcast,
some with expert guests like Dr. Andy Galpin
or Dr. Peter Attia,
or world-renowned movement specialist, Ido Portal,
or physiotherapist and strength and conditioning coach,
We’ve had all of them as guests on the podcast,
and each and every one of them provided a wealth of knowledge
in terms of the various things that you can do
to optimize very specific or multiple aspects of fitness.
Today, we’re going to do something
a little bit different than usual.
Typically on the Huberman Lab podcast,
I offer mechanism upfront or first,
and then we talk about protocols
that really lean on those science
and science-based mechanisms.
Today, I’m going to describe a specific protocol
that serves as a general template that anyone,
in fact, everyone can use
in order to maximize all aspects of fitness.
So that includes endurance, strength, flexibility,
hypertrophy, aesthetic changes, et cetera.
However, this general framework can also be modified
that is customized to your particular needs.
So if you’re somebody who really wants to build
more strength or bigger muscles,
you can change the protocol
and the overall program according to that.
And I’ll talk about very specific ways to do that.
Or if you’re somebody
who really just wants to maintain strength,
but you want to build endurance, we’ll talk about that.
And of course, we will cover real life issues,
such as should you train if you are sleep deprived?
What about food?
When should you eat?
What if you haven’t eaten and you’re hungry?
Should you still train, et cetera, et cetera.
We’re going to cover all of that, again,
in the context of this,
what I would call foundational template of fitness.
And this foundational template of fitness
is something that I personally use.
In fact, I’ve used it for over three decades.
Hard to believe that I’m that old,
but I just recently turned 47.
And I still use this basic protocol
or template across the week
and modify it according to what my particular goals are
that year, that month, even that day.
Because I, like you, live in the real world.
And sometimes I’ve been traveling or I miss a workout.
Yes, it does happen.
Or life isn’t organized in exactly the way that I need to
in order to have everything go
according to the protocol that’s on paper.
So we’re going to discuss real world issues
and how to work with the real world issues
in order to get the most out of your fitness program.
And again, by the end of today’s program,
I can assure you, you will have a template protocol
that you can build up from, build out, change and modify,
and that will really serve your fitness goals
according to the science and what peer-reviewed studies
and the experts that appeared on this podcast
and other podcasts really tell us
is best and optimal for our fitness.
Before we dive into today’s content
about fitness and fitness protocols,
I want to tell you about a brand new study
that is very exciting and frankly, very unusual.
This is a study that was published
out of the University of Houston,
examining a, what I would call a micro exercise
or a micro movement.
It’s a very small movement of a very small portion
of your body.
In fact, just 1% of your musculature
that when it’s performed continuously
while seated has at least what they report
are very dramatic positive changes
in terms of blood sugar utilization and metabolism.
So the title of this study is a potent physiological method
to magnify and sustain soleus oxidative metabolism
improves glucose and lipid regulation.
This study was published in iScience.
And as I mentioned earlier,
it is getting a lot of attention and it’s very unusual.
Without going into all the details of this study,
let me just briefly give you a little bit of the background.
First of all, you have a muscle called the soleus.
The soleus muscle is a more or less wide flat muscle
that sits beneath what most people think of as their calf,
although it’s part of the calf muscle.
The other portion of the calf is called the gastrocnemius.
The soleus sits below that.
Now the soleus muscle is a unique muscle
because it’s largely slow twitch muscle fibers.
It’s designed to be used continuously over and over again
for stabilizing your body when you’re standing upright,
This is a muscle that’s designed to contract
over and over and over again.
In fact, you could walk all day on this muscle
and most likely it would not get sore.
You’ve probably done that and it did not get sore.
In contrast, a muscle like your bicep or your tricep,
if I were to have you perform hundreds
or thousands of repetitions, even with a very lightweight,
you know, one pound weight or a two pound weight,
eventually it would fatigue.
You would feel a sort of a burn there.
It’s a very unusual set of muscles to use repeatedly,
but the soleus is an unusual muscle
in that it really is designed to be used continuously.
Now, this study was focused on how people
who sit a lot of the day and don’t have the opportunity
for a lot of physical movement,
or maybe who don’t even exercise at all,
can improve their metabolism and glucose utilization.
Without going into a deep dive about glucose utilization,
because we’ve done the deep dive on this podcast,
episodes such as metabolism, et cetera,
you can look those up at hubermanlab.com.
They’re all timestamped and available there.
Anytime you eat, your blood sugar goes up to some extent.
So your blood glucose, as it’s called,
goes up to some extent.
And then insulin is a hormone that’s used
to essentially chaperone and sequester
and use that blood glucose.
Or it’s basically the idea is you don’t want blood glucose
to go too high.
Hyperinsulinemia is something associated
with blood glucose that’s too high
because insulin goes up to essentially match
the level of blood glucose.
You also don’t want to be hypoglycemic.
You don’t want to have blood sugar that’s too low.
And insulin is involved in both regulating peaks
and troughs in blood sugar, blood glucose.
So we can basically say, and this is very simple,
but we can basically say that you don’t want blood glucose
to be elevated too much or for too long.
That’s not good.
In fact, people who have diabetes,
because they don’t make insulin,
people who have type 1 diabetes do not make insulin at all,
their blood glucose is so high
that they actually have to take insulin
in order to regulate it.
Otherwise their blood glucose can go so high
that it can damage cells and damage organs.
It can even kill people.
People who have type 2 diabetes
are so-called insulin insensitive.
They make insulin, but the receptors to insulin
are not sensitive to it.
And so they make more insulin than normally would be made
and blood glucose isn’t regulated properly,
et cetera, et cetera.
The take-home message about blood glucose
is that you want your blood glucose levels
to go up when you eat, but not too high.
And you don’t want them to stay elevated for too long.
This study looked at how people who are largely sedentary
or at least sitting can increase the utilization,
the clearance of glucose from the bloodstream after eating.
And they also looked at overall metabolism for people,
get this, that were using just that 1% of muscle,
the soleus, by doing what they call a soleus push-up.
So the soleus push-up can be described very simply
as if you’re sitting down with your knee bent
at an approximately right angle, like a square corner,
and pushing up, or I should say,
lifting your heel while pushing down on your toe
and contracting the calf muscle, as it were,
and then lowering the heel
and then lifting that heel again,
lowering the heel, lifting the heel again.
Each one of those is what they call a soleus push-up.
This study had people continuously do soleus push-ups
and they looked at things like blood glucose utilization,
they looked at metabolism and so on.
Now, a couple of important things about this study
before I tell you what they discovered,
which was frankly pretty miraculous,
almost hard to believe, and yet I believe the data,
the data look to be collected quite well.
And there are a lot of statistics
and the study looks to be quite thorough.
First of all, they used an equal number
of male and female subjects.
There were a wide range of body mass indices, okay?
So this wasn’t just super fit people
or people that were purely sedentary and not fit.
They used a wide variety of ages, time of day,
people who tended to walk a lot or not walk a lot.
They measured changes in metabolism
and blood glucose utilization
in people that had done these soleus push-ups
while seated in the laboratory.
And I must say they had them do these soleus push-ups
for quite a long while continuously.
So they had them do it for as long as 270 minutes total
throughout the day.
So if you divide that, that’s four and a half hours.
You might say, well, four and a half hours
of lifting the heel and putting the heel down,
lifting the heel, putting the heel down, that’s a lot,
but they didn’t always do it continuously.
They had some breaks in there.
So this is the sort of thing that you could imagine
you or other people could do while seated,
while doing Zooms or while on calls,
or maybe even while eating, doing that sort of thing.
Although I’m not suggesting that you constantly
be focusing on soleus push-ups throughout your life.
The point is that people who did these soleus push-ups
experienced dramatic improvements
in blood sugar regulation and in metabolism,
despite the fact that the soleus is just 1%
of the total musculature.
So here I’m going to read from the abstract
about what they found.
People who did these soleus push-ups,
despite being a tiny muscle
and using very little local energy.
In fact, they measured muscle glycogen,
the burn or essentially the utilization of fuel
within the muscle.
And there was very little utilization of fuel
within the soleus itself.
And that’s because the soleus has this unique property
of needing to basically keep you going all day,
walking all day, or moving all day.
What they saw was a large magnitude,
for example, 52% less postprandial,
that’s after a meal, glucose excursion.
So 52% less increase in blood glucose
and 60%, six zero less hyperinsulinemia.
So reduced levels of insulin.
They also miraculously observed that despite this being,
again, a small muscle, 1% of the total muscle mass.
So very small oxidative use.
They saw big improvements in systemic metabolic regulation.
So this is interesting.
And I think something that we should at least know about,
I’m not aware that anyone’s replicated this study yet.
I know there’s a ton of excitement about this study
in the popular press.
And if the data turn out to hold up,
which I like to imagine they will,
I can understand why there’s so much excitement.
What this means is that if you’re somebody
who cares about blood glucose regulation,
you want to keep your metabolism running,
please don’t stop exercising the other ways
that you exercise.
But if you’re somebody who wants to maximize your health,
doing these soleus pushups fairly continuously
while seated is going to be beneficial.
And in addition to that,
I know that there are going to be people out there who,
for instance, might be injured,
or you’re traveling and you’re stuck on a plane,
or you’re in the classroom and you’re forced
to study all day or take notes all day.
You’re just not getting enough opportunity
to get those steps that you want to take,
whether or not it’s 10,000 or fewer or more,
getting enough steps or movement.
Maybe you don’t have time to get out and do your run,
or maybe you’re also running weightlifting
and doing yoga classes and things of that sort,
but you want to further improve your fitness,
at least in terms of your metabolic health.
This seems like a terrific,
very low investment way to do it, certainly zero cost.
It does take a little bit of attention.
So you have to divert your attention
from other things you’re doing to make sure
that you’re still doing these soleus pushups.
I’m sure that many of you are going to have a lot
of detailed questions such as,
how high did they lift the heel?
And did they contract the muscle very hard or not?
They did not have subjects really contract the muscle hard.
They did measure the angle of heel raise,
and it was anywhere from 10 to 15 degrees.
So they didn’t have to go way, way up on their tippy toes
or things of that sort.
In any event, 270 minutes, four and a half hours
of doing these soleus pushups is a lot,
but by my read of the data and the rather significant,
or I should say very significant effects that they observed
on blood glucose regulation and metabolism, et cetera,
seems to me that doing less would still be beneficial
and that you don’t necessarily have to do the full 270
minutes in order to get the benefits that they observed.
More about this study includes the fact
that the benefits they observed were very long lasting.
As long as two hours after a meal,
they could still see this improved blood glucose utilization.
I don’t know because I wasn’t able to find it
in the methods whether or not they were doing
the soleus pushups while they were consuming blood sugar
in this study.
The point being that if you’re somebody who cares
about their fitness, this study is interesting
because what it means is that, again,
if you are forced to be immobile or sitting longer
than you would like, if you’re stuck in a meeting
or Zooms or class or on a plane, et cetera,
or if you’re simply trying to add a bit more fitness
and metabolic health to your overall regimen,
soleus pushups, at least to me,
seem like a very low investment, simple,
zero cost tool to improve your metabolic health.
For those of you that want to peruse the study
in more detail, we will provide a link to this paper
published in iScience in the show note caption.
Before we begin, I’d like to emphasize that this podcast
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Let’s talk about fitness,
and let’s talk about how you can develop
the optimal fitness protocols for you.
So that includes what to do each day of the week
and your fitness protocol across the week,
and indeed across the month and the year,
and even year to year.
When we had Dr. Andy Galpin on the podcast,
he said something very important
that we want to keep in mind today,
which is concepts are few, methods are many.
That is, there are an infinite number
of different programs and exercises
and set and rep schemes and different runs
and burpees and pushups, et cetera, et cetera,
that one can follow.
However, there are really just a few basic concepts
or principles of muscle physiology,
of cardiovascular function, of connective tissue function
that provide or set the basis for the adaptations
that we call fitness or that lead to fitness.
So I’m going to list those off now.
We can talk about a fitness protocol
that’s really aimed mainly toward developing skill.
Or speed, that’s another.
Or power, which is speed times strength.
Or specifically strength.
Or hypertrophy, growth of muscles.
Or endurance, such as muscular endurance.
Muscular endurance is, for instance,
your ability to stay in a plank position
or to do a wall sit, you know,
to sit on an invisible chair against a wall.
Or other forms of endurance,
like near pure anaerobic endurance.
So a one-minute sprint or less,
or a one-minute all-out cycling on a stationary bike,
this sort of thing.
Or endurance that occurs in the kind of
three to 12-minute total duration range.
So that might be sprints
or high-intensity interval-type training.
It could be a all-out swim.
It could be all-out row.
That’s another form of endurance.
Taps into different fuel systems,
different aspects of muscle physiology, et cetera.
And then endurance that lasts 30 minutes or more,
which is typically what people think about
when they think about endurance.
But of course, the other forms of endurance matter.
So we’ve got skill, speed, power,
strength, hypertrophy, muscular endurance,
what I would call three to 12-minute endurance,
although it goes by other names as well.
And 30 minutes or more endurance-type
exercise and adaptations.
Each and every one of these
requires different principles, different concepts,
in order to improve, say, your muscular strength
or your hypertrophy or both.
However, there’s a general theme
that sits beneath all adaptations leading to fitness.
And that’s what we’re really going to set down
as the base layer,
the foundation of everything we talk about today.
And that’s that we need to think about
what are the modifiable variables?
Again, I’m borrowing directly from the episode
with Dr. Andy Galpin.
He was the one that said modifiable variables
are the key thing to think about.
What are you going to modify?
What are you going to change
in order to increase one or some
of the various things I listed off before,
skill, speed, power, strength,
hypertrophy, endurance, et cetera, et cetera.
And some of the key concepts
that emerge from that discussion
are that we need to think about progressive overload.
Normally, when people hear about progressive overload,
they think about adding more weight to a bar
or picking up heavier dumbbells,
but that could also be progressive overload
in the context of running up a hill of steeper incline
or running a little bit faster or a little bit further
and so on and so forth.
Now, as I promised earlier,
today we are not going to drill
into each and every one of the mechanisms
that underlie the different adaptations
that are going to develop speed and strength
and endurance, et cetera,
because that was covered in the podcast
with Dr. Andy Galpin and the other podcasts
with experts that I mentioned earlier.
And we, again, we’ll provide links to those podcasts
if you want to drill into those mechanisms.
Instead, what we’re going to do
is we’re going to start with a program
that essentially is designed for you
to maximize all aspects of fitness
to the extent that you can simultaneously
maximize all aspects of fitness,
but then to change or modify that protocol
so that if you want to build up more, for instance, strength
and you want to just hold on to the endurance you have,
you don’t want to build endurance,
at least not in that week or that month, you can do that.
Or if you want to improve your endurance
while maintaining your strength, you can do that
and so on and so forth.
Most people I do believe would like a combination
of strength and endurance and flexibility
and maybe even hypertrophy,
particularly for certain muscle groups
that maybe are not as well developed
as other muscle groups.
They want to bring balance to their physique,
both for sake of aesthetics and for sake of health
and for sake of general functioning,
maybe even to eliminate pain.
The protocol that I’m going to describe
really works as a foundational template for that as well.
So let’s drill into that foundational protocol
and I’ll keep referring to it as the foundational protocol,
not because it’s the one that I use,
although it is the one that I use
and not because it’s the one that we’re talking about today,
although it’s the one we’re talking about today,
but because we need some general framework
from which to build out the more specific protocols
that we’ll get into in a bit more detail later.
So in this foundational protocol for fitness,
what you’ll notice is that on any one given day,
you’re going to focus on one particular aspect of fitness.
Maybe it’s endurance, maybe it’s strength,
maybe it’s hypertrophy.
In particular, it might be hypertrophy
for a particular muscle group or muscle groups.
That said, across the entire week,
it’s designed to bring fitness
and different forms of fitness to all aspects of your body.
So this particular protocol begins on Sunday,
although that’s simply the day
that I happen to begin the protocol.
And again, this protocol is not important
because it’s the one that I follow.
I follow it because it is important.
In other words, it’s a protocol that’s really gleaned
from the scientific literature and the experts
that is for you.
So this fitness protocol is really about you.
I just may refer to it as the one that I follow
simply for ease of communication.
And for me, my week begins on Sunday.
So I do my very best to get a workout in on Sunday.
And for me, that workout is that of a endurance workout.
It’s designed to either maintain or increase my endurance.
And the endurance type that I’m referring to
is endurance of 30 minutes or more.
In fact, for me, the goal is always to get
either 60 to 75 minutes of jogging.
So this would be so-called zone two cardio.
People probably have heard of zone two cardio,
but if you haven’t, that’s okay.
Zone two cardio is something that you could measure
with a heart rate monitor or other device,
but you don’t need to.
Zone two cardio is the kind of cardiovascular exercise
in which you’re pushing yourself to move
such that you’re breathing faster than normal.
Your heart is beating faster than normal.
However, you are still able to sustain a conversation.
But if you were to push yourself any harder,
that is move faster or go up a steeper incline
at the same rate you happen to be at any one moment,
you would lose that ability to speak.
You wouldn’t be able to complete sentences.
You would be out of breath
or you’d have to pause mid-sentence.
Now, it’s near impossible, even with a heart rate monitor,
to stay exactly in zone two
unless you’re very, very skilled at that.
So I don’t obsess over that.
And in fact, I don’t wear a heart rate monitor
when I do this exercise.
But for me, the goal is to head out on Sunday
and get 60 to 75 minutes of jogging in zone two.
Now, of course, I like to jog,
but that doesn’t mean that you have to jog.
You could replace jogging with rowing on a rowing machine
or maybe even rowing an actual boat
if you have access to that or cycling or swimming,
something that allows you continuous movement
for 60 to 75 minutes at that zone two threshold
we talked about earlier.
For me, that can include some hills.
And when I say hills, they could be very steep hills,
but I’ll simply slow my pace down
in order to stay in that roughly zone two range.
Or it could be that they are more low grade hills
and I might just slow down a little bit
or I might even push myself a tiny bit that day,
but really I’m just trying to build that long endurance.
I’m trying to build up my capacity or maintain my capacity
to go a long distance without fatiguing.
Now, some days, meaning some Sundays,
since I tend to do this almost always on Sunday,
although there are exceptions,
instead of doing the 60 to 75 minute jog,
what I’ll do is I will head out for a long hike
that could be two and a half hours or three hours
or maybe even a four or five hour hike.
Sometimes it’s very long.
And I’ll do that sometimes simply to mix up the routine
because sometimes jogging and jogging the same routes
gets boring to me.
I do enjoy running.
That’s something I’ve been doing for a very long time,
but sometimes it just gets a little bit tedious
and I want to do something different.
Also, sometimes I want to be social on Sundays.
I want to head out on a hike with my partner
or I want to meet up with friends and hike with them.
And so taking a long hike on Sunday
is something that also could be quite social.
And then I don’t have to worry about
also getting in my workout
when heading out on a hike with my partner
or going out to meet with friends or things of that sort.
I will say that there’s a specific tool
or a specific change that you can make
to this Sunday long endurance,
or at least what I consider long for me.
I mean, it’s by no means a marathon or an Ironman,
but this long endurance training.
And that’s the use of a weight vest.
So something that I’ve really started utilizing
more recently, and by more recently,
I really mean within the last year or so,
is I purchased one of these weight vests
that can be anywhere from 10 to 50 pounds.
What I use in the weight vest is irrelevant,
but it certainly changes the level of effort required
when taking a hike or even a walk.
Now there’s an additional benefit of the weight vest,
which is that if you are going out for a hike
or even for a walk for social reasons,
and you’re with somebody that’s not quite
at the same fitness level that you are,
frankly, it’s a little bit rude
to just keep walking ahead of them and running back
or running ahead and running back.
You know, oftentimes you really want to spend time
with the person and you don’t want them to feel
as if they’re holding you up.
And so the weight vest is a terrific way
to get some additional work.
Then as you’ll find, if you wear a weight vest,
it is additional work on say a shorter hike.
So maybe the person you’re with only has time
for an hour long hike,
or maybe they just don’t have the fitness
to do a two hour or three hour hike.
So I’ll throw on the weight vest
and I’ll head out for a walk with them or a hike with them.
Or sometimes I’ll go out on a long hike
with a weight vest myself.
So again, the point of this for me Sunday,
although it could fall on any day for you,
workout is really to build up that long form endurance.
And this fits well with what Dr. Andy Galpin
and Dr. Peter Attia referred to as the real need
to get in some long endurance type work at some point
or even multiple points throughout the week.
For me, this long Sunday jog of 60 to 75 minutes
or long Sunday hike or weighted walk or weighted hike
really accomplishes that goal.
Sometimes leads to a little bit of soreness,
particularly in my calves,
or if I’m wearing the weight vest,
sometimes my midsection will get sore
because I’m trying to remain upright.
So I think it also builds up some muscular endurance,
not just cardiovascular endurance.
But again, throughout the entire time
that I’m jogging or hiking,
what I’m trying to get to is a place where I can feel
that my pulse rate is definitely elevated,
but it’s not so elevated that I have to stop
because I’m out of breath.
And because I know some people out there
might be really neurotic about this sort of thing.
If you have to stop because you’re out of breath,
that doesn’t mean that you blew the workout
that you aren’t getting endurance.
Of course, you’re getting benefits from it.
So I’m not absolutely neurotic about always staying
exactly in that heart rate zone.
I might stop and have a conversation for a moment
if it’s a longer hike,
although I really try and keep moving
and I try and push myself just a little bit further
than where I’m exceedingly comfortable.
And so for me, doing this long Sunday hike or jog
really provides a foundation, a base for endurance
that then the other endurance workouts
that I’ll describe later in that type place
later in the week can build on.
Now, as I mentioned earlier,
we will get back to the mechanisms that this taps into
and why this is so useful.
There are multiple benefits to doing these kinds of
endurance type workouts and zone two cardio,
but by putting it at the start of my week,
again, my week starts on Sunday,
I’m sure that regardless of how the rest of the week goes,
that I got my endurance training in.
And of course I’m going to want to,
and I will do endurance training other days during the week,
but if something comes up or I happen to get sick
or I’m really behind in terms of work
and I can’t get other workouts in,
this Sunday long jog or hike really provides
that fundamental, I can honestly say foundation
for cardiovascular fitness and endurance
that I can hang my hat on and say,
okay, I’ve got that one in the bag
and I can then look to other days of the week
to focus on other aspects of fitness.
Now, a really important point to make
about this Sunday endurance workout
is that allows you to check off a box
and that box is 75 or so minutes of zone two cardio
because as you may have heard,
either in this podcast or from others out there,
like Dr. Peter Attia,
getting 180 to 200 minutes of zone two cardio per week
has enormous positive effects on longevity
and enormous positive effects on general health.
Again, in terms of cardiovascular function,
but also metabolic fuel utilization,
also in terms of your musculature
and your ability to use your body over long distances
for long periods of time.
So while it doesn’t complete all 180 to 200 minutes per week
it certainly gets you a good distance,
pun intended, toward that goal.
Now, I want to acknowledge that some people
might be starting a fitness program
and so 60 to 75 minutes of jogging might be too long
or a three hour weighted vested hike
or some people might even do what’s called a rock,
like you wear a rucksack, that might be too much.
In which case, certainly start with less
and go on flat ground and go at the rate
that allows you to get into zone two,
but that is not excessively difficult for you.
And then as you build up fitness, you can add time
or you can add weight through a weight vest
or if you don’t want to buy a weight vest
or can’t afford one, there’s a simple solution to that.
I actually have a good anecdote about that.
One time I was heading out for a hike with a friend of mine.
He was a former SEAL team operator.
I’ll never forget this.
And he said, oh yeah, I’ll bring you a sack.
And I thought he meant like a sack lunch,
like he was going to bring lunch.
And I showed up and he basically gave me a backpack
that was loaded with a bunch of stuff
and the backpack weighed about 40 pounds.
And then we took a hike.
So I was thinking lunch, he was thinking weighted backpack.
And a weighted backpack, or even just any kind of strong sack
that you can put over your shoulders
or even carry in your arms,
it’s going to work exceedingly well
to build in some extra requirement for effort.
So you certainly don’t have to purchase a weight vest
in order to get the benefits
of bringing additional weight along with you
on these long cardiovascular events.
But again, build up over time.
You can add time, you can add weight.
And that’s also a really nice feature of adding weight,
which is at some point your schedule might be such,
or you just don’t really want to keep adding more and more
and more time on this long endurance Sunday,
in this case, workout.
In that case, add weight.
You can also, as you build up fitness,
you can add speed to it.
Your zone two and what zone two is won’t shift,
but what work is required from you
in order to get into zone two will shift.
That is, as you get more and more fit,
you’ll have to move faster and or bring more weight
in order to stay in zone two.
And that will simply tell you
that you are indeed improving your endurance.
Okay, so then Monday rolls around
and I, like most everyone else out there, I work on Monday.
I get right into my emails and preparation for podcasts
and running my laboratory, et cetera.
However, I make sure that at some point on Monday,
and for me, that some point is typically
and ideally early in the morning.
So 7 a.m. or so, I train my legs on Monday.
So that includes quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves.
Why do I do that workout on Monday?
And what is that workout designed to do?
Well, that workout is really designed to make sure
that I’m either maintaining
or building strength in my legs.
And this is not simply for aesthetic reasons.
This is not simply to grow bigger calves
or grow bigger quadriceps and hamstrings.
Although it can accomplish that as well,
depending on how you train.
We’ll talk about details of training.
The reason for training legs on Monday is several fold.
First of all, they are the largest muscle groups
of the body.
And by training your legs on Monday,
it sets in motion a large number of metabolic processes
that carry you some distance even through the whole week
in terms of elevating metabolism,
in terms of amplifying certain hormonal events
in your body, et cetera, that are really beneficial.
In addition to that, I’m of the belief
that the legs are the foundation of the body
and provided you can train legs safely,
that training legs is vitally important,
not just for strength of the legs,
but also for strength of your entire body.
Again, some of that is through systemic hormonal effects,
because if you’re going to train the large muscle groups
of your body under substantial loads,
you will get systemic release of hormones,
not just testosterone, although certainly testosterone,
but also things like growth hormone.
You get increases in all sorts
of so-called anabolic hormones
that even if you’re somebody
who’s not trying to increase muscle size,
because I realize a lot of people are not trying to do that.
These are hormones that shift your metabolism
and your overall tendon strength and ligament strength
and overall musculature
into what I would call a strong foundation.
So for me, Monday is leg workout.
It also just feels good to get the leg workout
out of the way early in the week.
And it accomplishes another goal,
which is that I sometimes will take one or two days
off of a leg workout because they can be very intense
and they are large muscle groups.
And I’ll explain what I do on the off days.
They’re not pure off days.
They actually include some recovery type training
or even some all-out training.
But by training legs on Monday,
I’m able to get what I consider the hardest strength
and hypertrophy workout out of the way.
And again, set all those positive physiological effects
in motion for the entire week.
The other thing is that no workout exists in isolation.
What you do one day is going to be determined
by what you did the previous day.
And even though the previous day,
I may have taken a three-hour weight-vested hike,
never are my legs so sore
from that long, slow endurance work,
because it is long and slow,
that I’m unable to train legs.
Contrast that with a, say,
high-intensity interval training workout,
which comes later in the week,
and my legs might be sore.
In fact, they might not even be recovered
such that I’m able to do a real leg work.
And when I say a real workout,
I’ll describe what that means in a moment.
So legs come on Monday.
And I think that for those of you that are using
or interested in using resistance training,
I suggest getting your leg workout done early in the week.
And for those of you that have heard the phrase,
you know, don’t skip leg day,
I will go a step further and say, don’t skip leg day.
In fact, make leg day your first day
of strength and hypertrophy training.
Put it on Monday.
I’d like to take a quick break
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Okay, so now that we’re talking about resistance training,
the question is going to come up about sets and reps
and all of that business.
That was covered in a lot of detail
on the podcast with Dr. Andy Galpin,
and I’m going to get into some of that detail now,
but I’m going to wait until I describe
the entire set of workouts for the week
before I go into even more detail,
because there’s a way of what’s called periodizing,
that is changing the sets and reps, et cetera,
across the week and indeed from month to month
that’s really optimal.
But I don’t want to make it seem as if all of that
just pertains to the leg workout,
it actually pertains to all of the resistance training.
So I’ll just give you a couple of teasers
about the key principles of resistance training
that I think are almost universally,
if not universally, then generally accepted
in the strength training and physiology community.
And then later I’ll get back
to some of the overarching principles
that apply to all strength and hypertrophy workouts
across the week, including the ones for the torso,
the arms, et cetera.
Okay, so legs fall on Monday.
I should say that leg workouts,
like all resistance training workouts for me,
consist of about, again, I’m not neurotically attached
to this, but about 10 minutes of warming up,
and then about 50, five, zero to 60 minutes of real work.
Now, of course, some of that is going to be rest
between sets, but by real work, I mean really hard work,
not necessarily to failure,
we’ll talk about failure in a little bit,
but hard work where I’m struggling
to complete the final repetitions,
if not going to failure
to continue to move the weight repetitions.
And again, the entire work portion of that workout
is about 50 to 60 minutes.
Well, past 60 minutes,
you start getting increases in cortisol
that really impede recovery.
And I personally am somebody that does not recover very well
from high intensity exercise.
I realized that within the literature,
it is believed, and I think generally accepted,
that when you stimulate muscle hypertrophy
or strength increases, it impacts the nervous system.
It also causes things like protein synthesis, et cetera.
There are a number of different forms of adaptation
that occur to give you muscle strength and size changes.
And these days people talk a lot
about needing to stimulate muscle growth or muscle strength
at least every 48 hours.
But I can tell you that I recover rather slowly
and I benefit from working the same muscle group
about twice per week with longer,
or I should say more days of rest in between those workouts.
So if I train legs on Monday, believe it or not,
I’m only training legs on Monday.
I do not have a second leg workout during the week.
However, on Friday,
I do a high intensity interval training session
that serves two purposes.
One is it serves the purpose
of triggering a certain type of endurance
and getting my heart rate very, very high.
And in addition to that,
because of the way I do that workout,
it acts as a sort of supplement
or a more moderate intensity workout
for quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves,
such that I at least never lose strength.
And in fact, generally build strength
from one leg workout to the next,
provided I’m doing things correctly.
So what I’m not referring to is the kind of classic,
you know, super high intensity training once per week,
and then not actually training that muscle group again.
For me, it’s really training each muscle group
twice per week, once directly,
and then once indirectly,
either during another weight training workout
or during a cardiovascular,
I should say endurance training workout.
So again, legs on Monday,
the workout is 50 to 60 minutes after a brief warmup.
I generally pick two exercises per muscle group.
So again, I’m doing calves,
I’m doing quadriceps, and I’m doing hamstrings.
You should pick the exercises that work for you.
So that’s why I’m actually not going to share
which exercises I use.
I’ll give you a couple of suggestions
about the ones I do use,
but really exercise selection,
as Dr. Andy Galpin pointed out,
is a very important variable.
And the key thing to emphasize for that variable
is that you need to be able
to perform the movement safely.
So I know there’s a huge debate out there
and people love to argue about whether or not
one can squat or deadlift for long periods of time
or should or should not.
Some people say you absolutely should.
I personally do not squat and do not deadlift.
I’ve actually never done much squatting or deadlifting.
I know some people out there are probably rolling their eyes
or switching the channel at this point.
But I can say that for me,
I’ve been able to achieve the strength and hypertrophy goals
that I’ve been seeking,
doing things like leg extensions and hack squats,
or for hamstrings,
doing things like leg curls and glute ham raises,
or for calves, doing standing and seated calf raises
and so on.
I think a key principle
that everyone should pay attention to
is one that was taught to me
by an excellent strength coach years ago.
And I still use this and at least it works for me.
For each muscle group,
try and find an exercise in which you get that muscle
into a weighted stretch position.
So this would be, for instance, the standing calf raise,
you know, down at the bottom, it’s weighted,
and you’re in a deep stretch
provided you’re doing the movement correctly.
As well as another exercise
where you’re getting contraction
in the shortened position of the muscle.
So for the hamstrings, that would be the leg curl.
For the calves, it would be a seated calf raise.
Or for the quadriceps, the leg extension is, you know,
if the machine is designed right
and you’re doing it correctly,
the peak contraction is largely going to occur
at the leg’s extended position.
But then another exercise for each muscle group
that puts the muscle into more of a stretched
or at least a larger range of motion
or compound type movement,
but ideally where there’s some stretch there.
So I guess I will tell you what exercise I do.
For the quadriceps,
it’s going to be leg extensions and hack squats.
I use hack squats because I don’t do free bar squats
for safety reasons.
And I like the hack squat machine.
I’ll do leg curls and glute ham raises for hamstrings.
And I’ll do standing calf raises
and seated calf raises for the calves.
Again, those are the movements that I use
because I can perform them safely in the repetition ranges
and with the weights that are required for me
to either maintain or build leg strength and calf strength.
But you might decide that for you,
deadlifts are absolutely essential and terrific.
Or squats, free bar squats are absolutely terrific.
Or front, you know, front squats.
I’m not here to tell you which exercises to do or not do.
I am telling you that it’s probably wise
to at least consider doing
at least two exercises per muscle group,
probably three maximum,
if you ask me,
if you’re doing your entire legs and calves in one day.
But to think about doing one exercise
where the muscle is brought
into that shortened peak contraction position,
like leg curls or leg extensions or seated calf raise.
And then another exercise for each muscle group
where there’s more of an elongation
and maybe even a stretch on the muscle group.
In fact, that’s a principle
that you’ll hear me talk about later
when I talk about training other muscle groups
for strength and hypertrophy.
So now you know approximately how long to train.
You might be somebody who can get away with training
for an hour and a half,
and that won’t impede your recovery.
For me, that really starts to impede my recovery.
Also, if I’m staying on task,
that 60 minute limit really works well for me.
Do I occasionally train for 75 minutes?
Yes, because if I’m waiting for a piece of equipment,
sometimes I have to just wait longer.
So that happens,
but I really try and keep the total duration
of the workout shorter.
How many sets and reps and rest intervals?
Well, that was covered by Dr. Andy Galpin as well,
without getting into the total science.
Here’s a brief summary of how to structure that.
It’s pretty clear that if you’re going to do
lower repetitions and heavier weights,
that you’re going to want to do a bit more volume.
I know that this spits in the face
of what a lot of people think,
but so if you’re going to do five sets of five,
I would consider five repetitions,
low repetition range, heavier weight.
And if you’re going to train with higher repetitions,
you can do fewer sets.
That certainly works for me.
I generally follow a program where for about a month,
so three to four weeks,
I will do all my resistance training
in the repetition range of about four to eight repetitions.
So that’s rather heavy.
A few more sets.
So it might be anywhere from three to four sets
per exercise, again, still just two exercises,
and longer rest between sets,
anywhere from two minutes to maybe even four minutes
if it’s really heavy leg work.
And then for the next month,
switch to repetition range that’s closer to eight to 12,
maybe even 15 repetitions per set,
but do fewer sets overall.
So maybe just two to three sets per exercise,
again, just two exercises per muscle group typically,
and shorten the rest between sets
so that it’s more in the 90 second,
maybe even as short as 60 seconds rest between sets,
but typically 90 seconds to about two minutes
or two and a half minutes.
So basically it’s one month heavier,
the next month slightly lighter,
although I wouldn’t say light,
I would say moderate weight and moderate rep range.
That tends to work well for me.
It also adheres to a principle that came up
during the discussion, again, with Dr. Andy Galpin,
that for hypertrophy, you really can use repetition ranges
anywhere from five to 30, three zero reps.
But he emphasized changing the repetition ranges
in order to offset boredom.
Frankly, I like to train heavier,
I enjoy training in the four to eight rep range.
However, I noticed that if I do that
for more than four weeks in a row,
and I don’t switch over to training in the eight to 12,
maybe in 15 repetition range for about a month,
well, then I can’t make continuous progress,
I start to actually lose ground.
But by switching back and forth,
I actually can make continuous progress
at least across the year.
So I hope that that principle,
or I should say that protocol was communicated clearly.
It works very well, I assure you.
Does that mean that I never get 10 repetitions on a week
when I’m supposed to train
in the four to eight repetition range?
No, occasionally I’ll venture up
into the 10 repetition range.
But I really try and cluster the low repetition work
for about a month, again, across all workouts
and all exercises, and the slightly higher,
I would even say moderate repetition work
across to the next month.
One thing that you’ll notice
since we are talking about total fitness programming
is that during the month
where you are doing moderate repetitions,
you’ll notice that your endurance work
will actually be facilitated.
And I do not think that’s a coincidence.
In fact, it’s not a coincidence.
It’s because when you are training very heavy
or in the heavier range, lower repetitions, et cetera,
you’re tapping into different processes in those muscles.
So when you head out for that long Sunday hike,
or as you’ll soon hear,
whereas on Friday you’re going to do
high-intensity interval training,
what you’ll notice is during certain months
of weight training, when you’re training more heavy,
those workouts will feel, literally,
will feel different than they will during the months
when you’re doing moderate repetition work.
I am not a competitive athlete.
I’m not running races or triathlons
like some of my friends.
I’m very impressed by them.
I’m really just trying to get
overall cardiovascular fitness, overall strength,
overall hypertrophy where I need it,
maintain muscle size, et cetera,
in muscle groups where I’m just trying to maintain.
That’s really my goal.
So I’m not trying to optimize any of these workouts
for any one performance feature,
but in a little bit, we’ll talk about
how you can change various aspects,
that is variables of this protocols,
in order to say, for instance, really emphasize hypertrophy
or really emphasize endurance.
Okay, so with what I would call
a standard endurance workout done on Sunday,
and I say standard because most people,
when they hear endurance,
they think of the ability to endure,
to continue in a repeated movement or exercise
over some period of time.
With that workout done on Sunday,
and then with the leg workout done on Monday,
you can feel really good about
how you’re heading into the week.
However, after training legs on Monday,
I experienced that doing cardiovascular workouts
the next day is either inefficient
or at least doesn’t really allow me
to completely recover from my leg workout.
Now, I realize that some people
are going to immediately scoff at that.
And in fact, there are really beautiful papers out there
talking about how one can actually do
a fair amount of cardiovascular exercise
without interfering with their strength
and speed and hypertrophy improvements and vice versa.
In fact, there’s a terrific review that was mentioned
on the podcast with Dr. Andy Galpin.
This is a review that we’ll provide a citation to
and a reference and a link to,
which is the review by Murak and Bagley,
which talks about whether or not there’s interference
between strength and endurance workouts.
Really interesting review if you want to peruse that.
But with all that said, I like to take Tuesday
as a no endurance, no resistance training day.
But that doesn’t mean that I’m not doing anything
for my overall health and fitness.
On Tuesdays, I do a series of heat cold contrast.
In other words, I get really, really warm,
and then I get really, really cold.
I get really, really warm,
and I get really, really cold repeatedly.
And the way I do that is by getting into a hot sauna.
So for me, that’s really hot,
but I’ve built up my heat conditioning.
So please don’t do this unless you’ve built up
your ability to withstand heat.
And I’ll get in for about 20 minutes,
sometimes 15, but usually 20 minutes.
Then I get out, and then I will get into an ice bath
or a cold water bath that’s about 45 to 50 degrees
Again, don’t get into water that’s so cold
that you go into shock.
I’ll explain what a good cold stimulus could be for you
and how to determine that.
Or if I don’t have access to my sauna and my ice bath,
what I can do if I’m traveling is I will take a hot bath
and then alternate with cold shower, hot bath, cold shower.
It’s hard to do hot bath, ice bath,
unless you have two baths.
I don’t know any hotel rooms.
At least I’ve never stayed in one that has two baths,
although I’m sure they’re out there.
But for me, this is heat, cold, contrast.
And really what this day is about is two things.
First of all, I’m trying to accelerate recovery
from the leg workout I did previously.
Also, if you listen to our episode
of the Huberman Lab Podcast about deliberate heat exposure,
or you listen to our episode of the Huberman Lab Podcast
about deliberate cold exposure,
I talk about some of the benefits of heat and cold,
and I get into a lot of details
about how you can access heat.
You can do baths, you can do saunas,
you can even take hot showers.
If you don’t have access to any of that,
you could even wrap your body from the neck down
in garbage bag, plastic garbage bags.
Believe it or not, wrestlers used to do this.
Put on some sweats and go running.
That’ll get you warm.
Again, be careful not to overheat.
And then you can get into a cold shower.
So there’s a lot of ways, depending on your budget
and what you have access to.
I don’t use cryo, these cryotherapy chambers.
They’re hard to find, they’re expensive.
Again, I use sauna and ice bath,
and I will do anywhere from three to five rounds,
which is a lot, anywhere from three to five rounds
of heat for about 20 minutes and cold for about five minutes.
How cold should the cold be?
We covered this in the episode on deliberate cold exposure.
Here’s a general rule of thumb.
It should be cold enough that you really want to get out,
but not so cold that it’s unsafe.
And that will vary from person to person.
So I cannot give you a simple prescriptive there.
Same thing with the heat,
hot enough that you’re sweating
and that you want to get out,
but not so hot that you’re running the risk
of injuring yourself or killing yourself.
And again, that will vary from person to person.
So you have to build up slowly,
be careful and build up empirically.
I do that on Tuesdays, again,
as a way to accelerate recovery.
And because it’s very clear
that there are cardiovascular benefits,
maybe even benefits for the brain
related to the cardiovascular benefits,
because of course the brain needs a lot of blood flow
and needs a lot of nutrients
and other things flowing into and out of there,
debris out and nutrients and other things into the brain.
Heat can help accelerate that or improve that.
And so I’m doing that to improve cardiovascular function,
improve brain health.
And then the cold contrast
provides a sort of accelerator on that,
or an amplifier, I think is the better way to phrase it,
on that process.
Because in the cold you get vasoconstriction,
and then in the heat you get vasodilation.
And so you’re maximizing that process,
which is actually a neural process.
Nerves actually innervate the blood vessels and capillaries
and even the arteries
in order to allow that constriction
and dilation process to occur.
So Tuesday is really about recovery,
but my recovery day isn’t necessarily
about just laying around and not doing anything.
I might still also take some walks that day.
Remember, I want to try and get that 200 minutes
of zone two cardio across the week.
And sometimes, not often,
but sometimes I’ll get in a few minutes
or more of walking quickly that day.
But generally I’m working a lot on Tuesday
as I do on Monday,
and I’m a little bit tired
or maybe even a little bit sore from my leg workout
the previous day, Monday.
So I try and get that hot, cold contrast.
There are other benefits to hot and cold contrast.
We have a description of the different protocols
for hot and for cold and their contrast
at our Huberman Lab newsletter.
You can find that by going to hubermanlab.com,
go to the newsletter tab under the menu,
and you can sign up.
You can actually download those protocols very easily
without even signing up
if you just want to access it straight off.
So Tuesday is really about recovery
and about getting some additional cardiovascular benefits
from heat, cold contrast.
One other thing that’s built into the rationale
for doing a lot of heat and cold on one day
as opposed to doing it every day.
Well, in addition to it being a little bit more convenient
because certainly some people don’t have access
to heat and cold, sauna and cold dunks, et cetera, every day.
So maybe getting to do that one day
is more accessible or feasible.
But in addition to that,
it’s very clear that while there are benefits
to doing sauna often,
and we talked about this in the Deliberate Heat episode
and the episode with Dr. Rhonda Patrick
when she was a guest on this podcast,
it’s also clear that if you do sauna seldom,
that is once a week, but you do a lot of it on one day.
So in this case, it’s an hour.
If it’s, remember it’s, or more,
it’s three to five rounds of 20 minutes of sauna
followed by about five minutes of cold or so.
By doing that all on one day,
the peer-reviewed research that’s covered
in the episode on Deliberate Heat
this is a study out of Finland
showed that you get massive,
even 16-fold increases in growth hormone,
which are extremely beneficial for metabolism
and for recovery.
So these massive increases in growth hormone
are seen when you are doing these sessions of sauna
that are repeated on the same day.
And you’re only doing that about once a week.
Whereas if you do sauna more often,
there are certainly benefits to that,
but it’s time-consuming and you need access to sauna
more often than one day a week
if you’re doing it more than one day a week.
But if you do it one day a week
and you’re doing a lot of sessions within that day,
as I’ve detailed here,
you see these massive increases in growth hormone
that are not observed if you’re doing sauna more often
for the other benefits of sauna.
Now, the effects of cold are many.
It’s not just vasoconstriction,
but the effects of cold are also counterbalanced
by some of the problems with deliberate cold exposure
that maybe you’ve heard about on this podcast
and a lot of other podcasts
and seem to be a kind of a buzz theme
on Twitter and elsewhere.
And the point is this,
there are a number of quality studies
showing that if you do deliberate cold exposure,
in particular ice baths or getting into very cold water,
immediately after an endurance training session
or a strength and hypertrophy session,
it can indeed, yes, it can disrupt
or prevent some of the adaptations that you are seeking
with strength and hypertrophy and endurance workouts.
Okay, so you heard that right.
And I believe that to be true
based on now several quality peer-reviewed studies.
So by doing your deliberate cold exposure on Tuesday,
you’re not going to get those effects.
That is the blocking of hypertrophy
or the blocking of strength improvement
or the blocking or prevention of improvements in endurance
that would occur if you immediately got into the ice bath
after a hypertrophy strength or endurance workout.
Now, the caveat to that is
if you are somebody who likes to do cold showers,
I am not aware of any data
that says that cold showers cannot be performed
after a strength, hypertrophy or endurance workout.
Cold showers are different than submersion up to the neck
in an ice bath or another cold body of water
for a number of different reasons.
In fact, they tap into different aspects
of the nervous system entirely.
We don’t have time to go into that now.
It’s covered in the episode on deliberate cold exposure.
But the simple point is by doing your heat and cold contrast
or, hey, listen,
if you’re somebody who doesn’t have access to sauna
or you don’t like hot baths
and you just do some deliberate cold exposure on Tuesday,
you are doing that separate from your strength
and hypertrophy and endurance workouts
such that it will not impede the benefits of those workouts.
Okay, so long endurance on Sunday,
leg resistance training on Monday,
and on Tuesday, heat, cold contrast.
That brings us to Wednesday.
And on Wednesday,
we get back to a resistance training workout.
And the resistance training workout
that I emphasize on Wednesday
is one in which you train your torso.
Yes, literally your torso.
I know this is counter to the so-called bro science
of bro splits.
I don’t know who originated that term.
It’s a terrible term.
It essentially alienates anyone who’s not a bro
or considers themselves a bro.
But in any case,
this is not about training chest or back or shoulders.
In fact, it’s really about strengthening
the muscles of the torso.
And of course includes the chest
and the shoulders and the back.
And I’m sure as I say this,
a number of people out there
who are obsessed with hypertrophy and muscle growth
and filling out their shirts or whatever it may be,
are thinking, oh no,
this is just kind of all around fitness.
But no, the point is on Wednesday,
you train your torso.
And that’s going to involve some pushing.
So that’s good for you.
It might include some training of things like bench presses
or incline presses,
as well as shoulder presses or lateral raises,
things for the shoulders, as well as for the back.
Some pulling exercises.
These can be bent over rows or chin ups or pull-ups.
Again, there are enormous number of exercise
for each and every one of these muscle groups.
Now, I believe there’s a clear benefit
to training all these muscle groups together
on the same day.
Because much in the same way that training legs
all on one day can lead to these systemic effects
because they’re large muscle groups,
working both the pushing muscles
and the pulling muscles of the torso on one day,
at least in the context of this program,
is very time efficient
and tends to wick out
into a number of different dimensions of health
that at least I’m interested in
and I think a lot of other people are interested in.
What are those?
Well, let’s think again.
I want to be strong in not just my legs, but my upper body.
I also may want to engage some hypertrophy,
to grow certain muscle groups
in order to create a sense of balance.
That could be for aesthetic reasons,
but also for balancing strength and for health
and the integrity of the joints, et cetera.
And in addition to that,
by training a bunch of different muscle groups together,
you have the opportunity
to get the more systemic hormonal effects
and metabolic effects that occur
when you’re not just training one muscle group
and isolating that one muscle group,
but rather training a bunch of muscle groups together.
So Wednesday, I train torso
and I do that in push-pull fashion
just for kind of time efficiency.
Sometimes that means doing a pushing exercise
and then a pulling exercise.
Sometimes it might even mean doing a set of pushing
and then a set of pulling and going back and forth.
However, if you’re in a gym and a particular crowded gym,
please don’t be one of those people
that colonizes multiple pieces of equipment
and says, I’m working there, I’m working there.
And that can be quite a dance
and it can be hard to orchestrate a workout like that.
So sometimes it will be starting off
with a set of shoulder presses
and then doing all your sets of those
and then moving to your chin-ups
and then moving perhaps back to shoulders
and realizing, ah, someone’s on the machine that I wanted
or using the equipment that I wanted.
So I’ll just finish up the pulling,
I’ll finish up the back work and then going to the push.
I don’t obsess over the alternation
in any kind of strict way.
I really just try and get the muscles of the torso trained.
And again, it’s two exercises per muscle group.
And one of those exercises is going to be something
where there’s, I realize this isn’t physiologically accurate
but a shortening of the muscle
or where at the end of the movement,
the muscle is under maximal contraction.
I could throw out some names of exercises
just for purpose of understanding.
So this would be, you know,
like cable crossovers for the chest,
the peak contraction is at the end.
Whereas something like an incline press,
there’s more of a stretch provided
it’s done over a full range of motion
at the beginning of the movement.
So again, something where there’s a stretch
and something where there’s a peak contraction
for the shoulders, it’s a little bit harder to do
although there are ways to do that.
And Jeff Cavalier has excellent workouts available
zero cost on YouTube.
He also has excellent programs on his athleanx.com site
but certainly has a lot of excellent protocols
on his YouTube and Instagram.
But on YouTube, you can put in his name
and any muscle group that you want to train.
He has some terrific videos describing exercise choice
and other features of exercise parameters.
Again, a peak contraction or shortening of the muscle
peak contraction exercise and a stretching exercise.
And so for the back, one might say, okay,
a seated row or a bent over row or a dumbbell row
where the elbow is brought behind the torso
for a peak contraction movement.
And then for more of a stretching movement
might be something like a chin up or a pull up.
And as I say this, I understand that stretching
and peak contraction aren’t the exact terms
that one would use if they were a physiotherapist
or a strength and conditioning coach.
But I think for the typical person
who’s trying to generate strength and hypertrophy
in those muscles or maintain strength and hypertrophy
in those muscles, this kind of nomenclature way
of describing it at least should be clear
and even efficient.
And just to remind you, as with the leg workout,
the total duration of the torso workout
is going to be 50 to 60 minutes after a brief warmup.
The sets and repetitions are going to be dictated
in the same way that I described earlier.
So for about a month, it’s going to be more sets.
So anywhere from three to five sets
in the lower repetition range, so four to eight repetitions.
So that’s going to be heavier weights and longer rest
as I described earlier, the rest intervals.
And then for the next month,
it’s going to be moderate repetitions, fewer sets,
the same way I described earlier.
And if you want more details on all of that,
you can find that in the newsletter related
to the optimal or foundational fitness protocol
that you can access at hubermanlab.com.
One thing I should note about the Wednesday torso workout
is that I am a big believer in training
the, what I believe is the highly avoided
or at least overlooked, but vitally important aspect
of total body stability, strength and safety,
really safety, which is the neck.
And I realize a lot of people don’t want a large neck
and I totally understand for aesthetic reasons
why they don’t want that.
It’s kind of interesting, actually, if you think about it,
that people who have a large neck are often told
they have no neck.
People will say that guy has no neck
or they have no neck when in fact,
they’re referring to the fact
that they have a very large neck.
I don’t know how that came to be.
Somebody put in the comments why that is.
How come when people have a big neck,
they refer to it as no neck?
So why do I train the neck?
I train the neck for a couple of reasons.
One is years ago, I had an accident
where I actually fell off a roof
and I’d been training my neck at that time
for a sport that I was involved in.
And I walked away from it with a sore neck,
but not a broken neck.
And I thought, wow, it’s really great
that I have been training my neck.
In addition to that, I was once in a car accident
where I was parked, I just bought the car.
It’s my first new car purchase.
Parked in that car with my mother
and my grandfather in the back seat at the red light
and someone rammed into us at full speed.
Now, fortunately, none of us were hurt.
We were all rattled.
And once again, I was very sore in my back and in my neck.
But I think one of the reasons why I was able
to essentially walk away from that,
I didn’t have any sustained damage,
was because I trained my neck.
But I started training my neck for sport.
And I continue to train my neck
because I noticed when I don’t train my neck,
I start getting shoulder issues.
And if you talk to an excellent physiologist
like Dr. Kelly Starrett of The Ready State,
has an excellent channel.
You can find him on all the social media
and standard channels.
You can talk to anyone out there who really understands
the strength of the torso and the upper body
and even the back.
What you learn is that, of course,
being the upper portion of the spine,
stabilizing your neck is very important.
Now, training the neck can be a little bit detailed
and specific and even dangerous if you do it wrong.
Again, Jeff Cavalier has a terrific set of videos
on training the neck properly.
I know a lot of people out there might think neck bridges.
And I used to do neck bridges.
I occasionally still sneak in a neck bridge here or there,
although I don’t recommend it
because in discussions with Jeff,
he will tell you, and it’s true,
that the discs eventually go
and you can run into serious issues from doing bridges.
And it doesn’t happen gradually.
So you can’t notice it happening.
It just happens suddenly.
So I might occasionally do a neck bridge,
but in general, I’ll train neck by wrapping a plate
in a towel so that I don’t end up with an imprint
of the weight value on my head or face,
and then moving the neck from side to side or front or back.
And again, we’ll provide a link to those videos.
It’s a terrific set of videos
that describe how to train your neck properly and safely.
So even if you’re not trying to grow your neck,
you definitely want to make sure
that you use some light weights
to make sure that your neck is stable and upright.
And I say stable and upright because it’s very clear
that for reasons related to texting
and staring down at computers
and related to weak neck relative to the rest
of the muscles that stabilize the spine,
a lot of people, their default stance
or their default posture is with chin forward.
And that’s not good.
Not only is it aesthetically not good,
but it also can create all sorts of issues related
to back pain and headaches and things of that sort.
This is a real thing.
Training your neck allows you to stand upright, sit upright.
I even believe that it allows you to do things
like public speaking or have conversations
with people on the street in a way
where you are front-facing as opposed to looking down.
So Wednesday is torso and neck,
and then comes Thursday,
and that means another cardiovascular exercise session.
Although it’s a brief one.
Unlike the endurance training on Sunday,
the cardiovascular session on Thursday,
and again, for me, it falls on Thursday,
but for you, it could fall on a different day,
depending on when you started this protocol,
is going to be about, again, about 35 minutes
of, for me, running, although it could be rowing
or it could be cycling, it could be something of that sort.
The goal of this workout is what’s important.
The goal of this workout is to tap into,
remember that long list that we talked about earlier
where you’ve got skill and speed and power and strength
and hypertrophy, et cetera, different forms of endurance,
is to get into that range of endurance
where your heart rate is elevated
quite a bit more than zone two,
but that you’re not really going all out sprint.
So what that means for me is warming up
for about five to 10 minutes.
That could be jogging, a little bit of light calisthenics,
might even be hopping on a stationary bike,
although to be honest, I loathe the stationary bike,
and then setting a timer and doing about 30,
but ideally 35 minutes of what I call 75 to 80% of all out.
Okay, now I realize this spits in the face
of all you heart rate monitor wearing
super techie exercise types,
but when I think of all out sprint, I think of 100%.
And what is that?
In my mind, that’s somebody is chasing me
with a needle full of poison
and I am sprinting away at maximal speed.
That for me is 100%.
So after a brief warmup, what I’m going to do
is go out, typically outside,
although sometimes it has to be on a treadmill
if I’m traveling, and move, run for about 30 to 35 minutes
at about 75 or 80% of that all out.
What that means is that I’m striving to keep a steady pace,
but in reality, I don’t.
I sometimes have to stop at a stoplight.
There are cars, please don’t run into traffic
just to maintain that speed and that timing.
That would be terribly antagonistic to fitness
in particular lifespan.
That running tends to be running
in which I’m breathing hard.
So I’m not able to restrict myself to purely nasal breathing
and I should have mentioned earlier on the Sunday,
long rock or weighted hike or jog.
If I’m alone, I try and do pure nasal breathing.
If I’m with other people or I’m talking,
obviously I’m not going to do pure nasal breathing
because I’m talking, although I am sure that sometimes
they wish I was doing pure nasal breathing.
That Thursday workout accomplishes a number of things.
First of all, it really gets my heart rate up
and it improves multiple aspects of endurance
because as you recall earlier,
the different bins of endurance
that include muscular endurance, anaerobic,
that three to 12 minute range,
and then 30 minutes or longer,
none of them really precisely match
what’s accomplished in this 35 minute or so
cardiovascular session where I’m pushing hard,
but not all out.
But that’s exactly the reason to do it,
which is that it taps into multiple fuel systems
for the muscle and multiple aspects of the heart
and capillaries and arteries and veins
that are involved in generating that movement.
So it really cuts a broad swath
into multiple categories of endurance.
And also just keep in mind what this foundational
or optimal fitness protocol is really designed to do.
In my mind, a foundational fitness protocol
is one that leaves you or has you in a state
where if you need to walk really far
and carry a bunch of weight, you can do it.
If you need to lift a heavy object with your legs,
you can do it.
If you need to run really fast for two minutes,
you can do it.
And if you need to run a little bit further,
like maybe in 10 minutes for whatever reason,
you can do that.
So it’s a really kind of all around fitness program.
And that 35 minute run, again,
could be swapped with a 35 minute ergo
or sometimes if you only have access to a stationary bike,
you could do that.
I suppose if you didn’t have access to any equipment
and running is not your thing,
one thing that I have done,
especially if I’ve been stuck in a hotel
because I arrived late someplace
and I really want to get this workout in,
you could do the dreaded burpee.
I know there’s a lot of opinions out there.
Some people think burpees are downright dangerous.
Other people love burpees.
You could do that.
Or you could do really fast, but full jumping jacks.
I know that’s a little PE class, right?
Physical education class-ish.
But sometimes if I need to get the workout in,
what I’ll do in a hotel if I’ve arrived late,
a particular day of travel,
is I will find the stairwell, the fire stairwell.
I’ll make sure by the way that I can get back
into the building
because I’ve been locked in those stairwells before.
And I will simply walk really fast up the stairwell
as many flights of stairs as there are,
or maybe even jog it.
Not quite sprint,
but maybe run up those stairs over and over and over again
in order to get that 35 minutes of 75 to 80%
of max output cardiovascular work done.
And if I’m really just restricted to my hotel room,
I’ll just do jumping jacks for 30, 35 minutes,
sometimes while watching something on TV.
And believe me, if you’re doing full jumping jacks,
like really extending your legs,
really getting arms overhead
and really doing the full movement,
by the time you hit five or six minutes,
you are going to be sweating
and your heart rate is really going to be up.
I also sometimes will travel with a jump rope.
I always try and travel with a jump rope
and skip rope,
much to the dismay of the people
who are housed below me in the hotel room.
Skipping rope, I should mention,
can be a very effective way
of getting cardiovascular training
while you’re on the road.
But in all seriousness,
if you’re in a hotel room or an apartment
and you can’t really jump high
and you’re very good at jumping rope,
what you’ll find is it’s not going to get you
into that higher elevated heart rate zone.
Okay, it can be great for zone two type training,
but if you’re really good at skipping rope,
and I wouldn’t say I’m really good at it,
but I’ve done enough skipping rope
that I can just kind of cruise and talk
and it’s more zone two-ish,
even feels like walking at times.
Now you can do double unders
where you’re really jumping
and putting the rope under you twice each time
or crossovers, et cetera,
depending on your skill level.
But again, if you’re in an apartment
or you’re in a hotel,
that’s going to be harder to do.
And because of there’s some skill involved,
sometimes you’re stopping more often
than you’re continuing.
By the way, and I just have to mention this,
a really terrific Instagram channel is Anna Skips.
This is a teacher, a science teacher,
or I believe it’s a math, maths,
as they say in the UK,
because she’s in the UK,
I don’t know Anna,
but I know she skips
because she has this amazing Instagram channel
called Anna Skips.
And what’s really cool about her Instagram
is she shows you her progression
from not being able to skip rope at all
to the absolutely incredible types of rope skipping
that she’s doing each morning
while getting sunlight,
which of course is a essential health protocol.
So check out Anna Skips on Instagram,
and made me want to get better at skipping rope.
I’m still working at it.
Okay, so with that Thursday cardiovascular,
let’s call it endurance,
but cardiovascular training workout done
around rolls Friday.
And on Friday,
I’m going to do another cardiovascular training session.
And I alluded to this earlier,
but this cardiovascular training session
is also designed
to tap into some of the ability of hard,
I should say high intensity interval training
to tap into strength
and hypertrophy increases for the legs.
Because remember we train legs on Monday
and what the science tells us
is that protein synthesis in a muscle group
can be stimulated about every 42 to 72 hours.
And so we’ve had Tuesday off,
Wednesday off and Thursday off.
And you don’t want to lose progress
that you made from that terrific Monday leg workout.
But in order to make sure
that you can do the other things
that follow in this program
and pick back up on Monday with another leg workout,
at least for me with my recovery abilities
and my work schedule,
I’m not going to do an entire other leg workout
because it’s going to set the whole thing out of whack.
That is I won’t be able to consistently
do the same workouts on the same days of each week.
Now, with that said a little bit later,
I’ll explain what happens if you have to miss a workout
and how you can combine days, et cetera.
But I really strive to get certain workouts done
on certain days consistently,
at least as best I can.
So Friday is high intensity interval training
and that can take a variety of different forms.
For me, the ideal thing to do for me,
again, you could do something completely different.
Exercise choice, again, should be governed
by what you can do safely so you don’t injure yourself
and that you can perform effectively
and that gets you or provides you the stimulus
that you want.
And what I’m trying to do on Friday
is get my heart rate way, way up.
Talked about this in the episode with Dr. Andy Galpin.
In addition to the benefits of getting 180 to 200 minutes
of zone two cardio per week minimum,
it’s a really good idea to get up to that max
or near max heart rate at least once a week.
And you’re not going to do that
for very long periods of time.
You’re not going to do that for 30 minutes.
You can’t sprint all out for 30 minutes
unless you’re Steve Prefontaine.
If you haven’t seen the movies without limits
or Prefontaine, you should absolutely see those.
He was able to, you know, go out and run 12 laps
what seemed to be an all out sprint or close to it.
But most people are not going to do that
or are going to be carried away on a stretcher if they try.
These high intensity interval training for me
ideally would be on so-called a salt bike or airdyne bike.
So these are bikes that have the fan,
which might seem like, oh, you know, it just cools you off.
But actually there’s a lot of resistance there.
So what I will typically do is a 20 to 30 second
all out sprint using arms and legs
and then 10 seconds rest and then repeat.
All out sprint for 20 to 30 seconds,
10 seconds rest, repeat.
And I’ll do that for anywhere from eight to 12 rounds,
which trust me, even if you start out a little bit less
or I should say not all out intensity or effort,
by the time you hit the fifth or sixth one,
you will be certainly headed into,
if not near your maximum heart rate.
Now, what is your maximum heart rate?
Do you need a heart rate monitor?
If you’d like using that sort of thing, great.
But again, Andy Galpin beautifully supplied us
with the information.
He said, if you take the number 220
and you subtract your age, that for most people,
most is going to be your maximum heart rate.
Although for certain people who are very fit
or certain ages, that’s not going to apply.
So it’s a little bit too crude to measure,
but it’s a good starting place
and you can look up other information
or see that podcast episode.
We provide a link to it in the show note captions
if you want to get more details on that.
I don’t use a heart rate monitor.
What I’m trying to do is get to that point
where I quote unquote, feel like I want to die.
Now I don’t want to die and please don’t die, right?
If you’re not in good cardiovascular health,
do not just jump right into this fitness protocol.
But I want to get to the point where I really feel
like I could not pedal any faster
or pull any faster on the assault bike, the airtime bike.
Or if I’m doing this workout in a place or at a time
or because I choose to not use a bike or a rower,
because you could also use a rower,
I will simply do sprint jog intervals.
I will sprint for 20 or 30 seconds,
then jog for 10 seconds.
Sprint for 20 or 30 seconds and then jog for 10 seconds
and just repeat.
I used to have a big field next to my laboratory,
my old laboratory,
and I used to bring my bulldog Costello out there.
He was really good at the first sprint part
and then he would just lie down and watch.
He didn’t even do the jog part.
I would just go back and forth, back and forth,
back and forth, panting like a bulldog nonstop,
barely able to recover before sprinting again.
And the basis of this workout, again, is several,
first of all, it’s to get the heart rate really high,
up towards maximum heart rate at least once a week.
So you accomplish that this Friday.
Also, if you are sprinting and then jogging,
or you’re really pushing hard on an assault bike
or an airtime bike, or using a, for instance,
a skier or the skier machine,
or any number of different cardiovascular training tools,
you are going to get activation of the legs.
Of course, not to the same degree as you would with squats
or deadlifts or leg extensions and leg curls.
That’s simply not the case,
but you’re going to trigger strength and hypertrophy
and other types of adaptations in those muscle groups.
So this for me also represents the second leg workout
of the week where I’m not touching any weights.
One important point that I don’t think I’ve heard mentioned
anywhere else, but that I hope to have Dr. Kelly Starrett
on the podcast to discuss,
and that I’ve discussed with him one-on-one,
which is be careful with all out sprints
or all out anything cardiovascular exercise.
You can get injured doing those.
So for instance, if you go out
and you just sprint across a field all out 20 or 30 seconds
and then walk back and can do it again and again,
don’t be surprised if the next day you have some sciatica
or even some pelvic floor pain.
I don’t recommend going all out on any movement
that you can’t perform with perfect form, okay?
So for me, I really try and stay away from all out sprints.
I’ll sprint at about 95% of what I can do
because I find if I go all out sprint,
I don’t know what the reason is,
but it might be an overextension of a limb
or something like that.
I’m not a sprinter.
I’m not a sprinting coach.
I do hope to get Stu McMillan on here or Dan Pfaff.
They were excellent sprinting coaches at some point.
They’re world-class sprinting coaches,
but I’m not a pro sprinter.
I’m not even a amateur sprinter.
I’m a fitness sprinter.
So the airdyne or assault bike or the rower
is really a safer option for me.
And if I’m running or I’m doing some sort of movement
where I’m unconstrained,
really in terms of how far my stride is,
I mean, I’m obviously constrained by the musculature.
I’m really careful to not overextend
or do something like that.
And the only way to do that is to not go all out.
So again, the goal for this Friday workout
is to really get the heart rate high,
do high intensity interval training.
There are a number of different ways you could do that.
You can look up HIIT, hit workouts online,
find the one that’s best for you
and really pick something that’s safe
that you can do consistently.
And I believe that ideally will also trigger a bit
of either strength and hypertrophy
and speed power maintenance,
or even give you a little bit of a stimulus
so that by the time you roll around to that leg workout
again on Monday,
you’ve got a little bit of an additional boost
to your leg strength, hypertrophy, speed, and power.
So we’ve covered Sunday through Friday,
and then Saturday rolls around.
And Saturday is when you train arms, calves, and neck.
So this may sound as if you’re training
a bunch of small muscle groups,
biceps, triceps, necks, and calves.
And that’s true, but I should mention
that you are also training your torso a second time
and you’re doing it indirectly,
or sometimes not indirectly.
Why do I say this?
Well, keep in mind again,
that for strength and hypertrophy,
you’re going for that once about every 48 to 72 hours.
You want to stimulate that.
On Wednesday is when you trained your torso, right?
Chest, shoulders, back, and neck.
You’ve had Thursday to rest, Friday to rest.
I know a lot of people are going to want to emphasize
those body parts and they’re going to think,
oh, you have to train it twice a week.
But if you have modest recovery ability
or low recovery ability, such as I do,
and you’re doing these other cardiovascular training
sessions, et cetera,
well then on Saturday is when you will train arms,
calves, and neck directly, but included in that,
remember two exercises per muscle group,
one with a peak contraction,
one with somewhat of a stretch in there,
included in that,
I suggest doing some sort of dip movement,
which I think it was Pavel Satsulin said
the dip is synonymous with,
or at least similar to an upper body squat.
Excuse me, Pavel, if I got that wrong,
maybe it wasn’t you that said that,
but I’m a big admirer of his work.
And certainly the dip is a great exercise
to hit multiple muscle groups,
chest, shoulders, and triceps,
maybe even some back to some extent,
depending on how you do it.
So doing some dipping movement will indirectly
stimulate strength, hypertrophy, et cetera,
in the chest and shoulders,
and including some sort of pulling movement for the bicep,
like a chin up or palms facing movement,
pulling up to the bar,
especially if it’s a close grip type movement,
but even if it’s a wide grip type movement
will of course trigger strength and hypertrophy,
maintenance or improvements in the biceps,
but will also trigger strength hypertrophy
in the lats, in the back.
Okay, so Saturday is this arm workout
with that I’ll just give an example of a potential workout
where you might do a few more exercises,
maybe not just two, but maybe three
to make sure you get the torso indirect stimulation.
So what would this look like?
Well, this might be your sort of classic
dumbbell curls for the bicep
and maybe incline curl for the bicep
because it has more of a stretch.
So on an incline bench,
and then you might finish with two sets of chin-ups.
So palms facing you, chin-ups or three sets of chin-ups,
depending on whether or not you’re in a heavier load month
or a more moderate weight month.
Again, activating the biceps muscles because it’s arms day,
but also activating strength and hypertrophy in the lats
or at least maintaining it.
So that because you’re not training those torso muscles
again until Wednesday,
you’re not allowing the hypertrophy and strength gains
that you generated on Wednesday to atrophy, to disappear.
Then thinking about triceps,
it might be some sort of triceps isolation
or peak contraction movement.
So that could be tricep kickback
or some overhead extension
would be more of a stretch type movement than a kickback,
but then also doing regular old dips.
You might even start with dips,
which again are going to activate those torso muscles
and the triceps.
And then calf work in the same way that you did on Monday
and neck work.
Again, I am a believer in training neck
multiple times per week.
And if you are able to finish all of that
in 45 or 50 minutes, great.
Most people will find
when you’re doing a lot of small muscle groups,
it actually takes longer
because you have to go around to more exercises.
But again, just adhere to the same principles
we talked about before.
About 50, five, zero to 60 minutes of real work
after a warmup with an asterisk next to that,
that if someone’s on the equipment
or you can’t find the dumbbells you need, et cetera,
then maybe 75 minutes max.
But really trying to not extend that workout too long,
making sure that you activate the arms directly,
but also activating the torso muscles indirectly.
And again, I won’t repeat it this time again,
but following the same weight and repetition
and rest interval scheme that we talked about earlier,
a bit heavier, lower reps, more sets,
and longer rest for about a month.
And then alternating to more repetitions, yet fewer sets.
Shorter rest intervals and do that for about a month.
This carries through
for all the resistance training workouts,
regardless of the day of the week.
So we’ve completed the total arc across the week
and we can summarize it as saying Sunday is,
let’s just say long endurance.
Monday is leg resistance training.
Tuesday, heat, cold contrast.
Wednesday, torso training plus neck.
Thursday, I would call it moderate intensity
So that 35 minute moderate intensity
Friday, high intensity interval training of sprinting
or some variation thereof.
And Saturday, arms, calves, neck, and torso indirect work.
That’s the total structure.
But I want to emphasize again,
you do not need to start this on Sunday.
That is you could make the long endurance work
start on Tuesday and then just fill in the rest
as described before.
It’s really up to you.
There’s another important point I want to make,
which is that neither I nor anyone
is going to be successful in doing the exact workouts
on the exact same days of every week
because of travel, work, illness, other demands, et cetera.
The thing about the schedule that I like so much
that I do believe that will benefit you as well
is that you have some flexibility there.
What’s the flexibility?
Well, let’s say you train
your typical Sunday workout of endurance.
Then you train legs on Monday
and then you don’t manage to do your heat cold contrast
on Tuesday for whatever reason.
Well, you can put it on Wednesday.
Just make sure that if you’re going to do the cold stimulus
that you don’t do it too close,
not within four, ideally eight hours
after the training of torso, but you could do it before
or you could do it just heat
and skip the cold that particular week, right?
Not ideal, but better than not doing anything.
Let’s say for instance,
the leg workout was particularly brutal.
You don’t sleep that well on Monday night or Tuesday night.
Well, then should you do the torso workout on Wednesday?
Well, I would say,
why not move the heat cold contrast to Wednesday
and then push that torso workout to Thursday
and maybe also try and do that 35 minute run on Thursday
every once in a while,
rather than lose the total control of the program
and let everything shuffle forward.
Here’s the basic principle.
I do believe that any one of these workouts,
whether it’s for endurance or resistance training
can be shifted either one day forward or one day back,
You could delay it by a day
or you could accelerate it by a day
in order to make sure
that you get everything done across the week.
In fact, I would say the best way to think
about this foundational fitness program
is not from the details up, but from the top down,
from the big picture down to the details
and say to yourself, once a week,
you’re going to get some long endurance in.
Another day during the week,
you’re going to make sure that you get a kind of moderate,
faster endurance workout in.
And then one other day during the week,
you’re going to get an all out sprint,
high intensity cardiovascular exercise workout in.
You’re going to get those three workouts in somehow.
And then in addition to that,
you will also do resistance training
for every muscle group in your body.
And that means doing your legs hard, at least once a week,
your torso hard, at least once a week,
and your arms hard, at least once a week.
And of course you are also paying attention
to train your calves.
And I do, for reasons I described before,
believe that you want to train your neck
at least to keep it strong.
You may not want to generate hypertrophy there.
People vary in terms of how quickly their neck grows.
Some people grows very, very fast.
Other people for the life of them,
they can’t get much hypertrophy in their neck,
but keeping that neck strong,
at least through some very light work
to moderate weight work, very, very important.
For reasons I stated earlier.
If you set out those goals,
then the specific days that you do each workout
isn’t as critical, but the specific spacing is.
So for instance,
you’re not going to want to do
your high intensity interval training
the day after you train your legs,
because if you’re doing
that high intensity interval training correctly,
you’re going to be taxing your legs
and eating into their recovery.
And so you want to space them out by two or three days.
So I think you’ll notice that the point is really
to optimize everything on the whole,
rather than any one specific aspect
of training or adaptation.
Now that said, I do realize that some people
might be hyper-focused on things like
strength and hypertrophy
and the aesthetics that come with it.
A key point about strength, hypertrophy and weight training.
And this is something that has been covered
on multiple podcasts,
certainly the one with Jeff Cavaliere
and with Dr. Andy Galpin,
and the one that I did on building muscle strength
and hypertrophy, the solo episode.
And that is the following.
It is the rare individual
who has perfectly balanced musculature, right?
Most people can be a bit quad dominant
or hamstring dominant,
or they have trouble activating their glutes,
or somebody has a terrible time
trying to activate their chest muscles,
but they’re very strong in the back, et cetera.
It’s very clear that we can know that
not just based on aesthetics, right?
But based on deliberate contractibility of those muscles.
So I don’t want to get into this in too much detail
for sake of time,
but this is something that has peer reviewed research
to support it and was also discussed extensively
with Jeff Cavaliere when he was a guest.
And that actually he’s really popularized this notion
and it’s absolutely true,
which is that if you can contract a muscle very hard
to the point where it almost feels like it’s cramping,
if you can do that,
even when there’s no weight in your hand
or there’s no resistance against it.
So you’re just using your mind muscle connection
to contract that muscle hard and isolate it.
Chances are you will be able to generate hypertrophy
and strength gains pretty easily in that muscle
compared to muscles that you have a harder time activating.
So during all resistance training,
that mind muscle link is really important.
So much so that some people will even try and emphasize
contraction of the muscles in between sets, et cetera.
because I’m not somebody who likes a mirror when I work out,
and I’m not somebody who wants to spend time
between sets flexing muscles and et cetera,
for whatever reason,
I want to actually rest between sets.
And I’m more concerned with performance during those sets
and really putting my mind into the muscle during the set.
I really try and emphasize deep relaxation between sets.
And so here’s a tool that again is built out of science.
And I should say peer reviewed studies,
some of which are being done in my lab,
but other labs as well,
which is that in between sets,
what I really strive to do is to bring my heart rate down
as much as possible,
calm myself down as much as possible.
And I’ll do the so-called physiological sigh
in order to do that.
That’s two inhales through the nose, back to back,
and then long, full exhale through the mouth.
I just did it partially there for sake of time again.
So a big, deep inhale through the nose
and then sneak in a little bit more on a second inhale
to maximally inflate the lungs and the alveoli, the lungs,
and then a full exhale of all your air via the mouth
to empty your lungs.
That’s the fastest way that we are aware of
to calm your nervous system down.
And really in between sets,
you can use that to calm yourself down and conserve energy.
But then as you move into the weight training set,
you really want to ratchet up your focus and attention
to the muscles that you’re going to be using.
Now, I’d like to acknowledge
that there’s a huge range of parameters
in terms of how to actually perform during the set.
You can focus on a particular muscle
and try and really isolate
from the beginning of the movement.
Some people will really try and isolate it
only during the peak contraction.
Some people will accentuate the negative.
There’s speed and cadence.
There are, again, remember, concepts are few,
methods are many.
And if you’re interested in the various methods
of eccentrics and concentrics
and all the different ways of changing up cadence
and so forth during sets,
there’s an enormous amount of quality information out there,
far too much for us to get into detail now.
But what I describe the general principles
of how to set your mind, if you will, during the set,
you should be focused on the muscles that you’re using
and or moving the weight.
If movement of the weight is more important,
you can either focus on moving the weight
or challenging muscles, right?
You can either try and isolate muscles
and make specific muscles do the work
or simply moving the weight.
Moving the weight is going to be more geared
towards strength improvements,
but focusing on the muscles,
so-called my muscle link is going to shift
that very same set more toward hypertrophy.
I realize I’m painting with a broad brush here,
but nonetheless, this is grounded in the way
that the nervous system governs muscular contraction.
And while I think most people are familiar
with the number of different variables
associated with the resistance training,
you know, sets, reps, rest intervals, cadence, et cetera,
there are also a tremendous number
of very important variables for endurance
and any kind of cardiovascular training.
And there are a lot of excellent resources
out there about that.
I think the most important one,
in fact, I will go on record saying
what I believe to be the most important variable
for any endurance or cardiovascular training
is that because it’s a repetitive movement
that you’re able to complete the movement safely,
meaning you’re not putting your body
into range of motion or into positions
that can damage joints or put you
in any kind of compromised state.
And some people might think,
well, that seems kind of silly,
but if you’ve ever set the, for instance,
the seat too high on a stationary bike
and then done, you know,
air dyne or assault bike type interval training sprints,
if it’s set too high and you’re over striding, as it were,
the next day you can really pay the price
in terms of some back pain or sciatica.
And sometimes that pain can extend for quite a while.
So of course you don’t want to approach any exercise
with so much caution that it’s neurotic and preventative,
and yet you don’t want to approach any exercise
in any way that’s so cavalier, forgive the pun, Jeff,
that you’re also going to compromise
the integrity of your joints and musculature
and connective tissue.
Let’s talk about some real world practical variables.
For instance, let’s say you get a poor
to terrible night’s sleep.
Should you train the next day or not?
Well, that really depends.
I can honestly say I’ve had some
of the best training sessions,
resistance training or endurance training sessions
after a really poor night’s sleep,
but that’s the rare event.
More often than not, if I’m not sleeping well,
I’ve had a terrible night’s sleep,
the next day I will just skip training that day.
I know that will shock a number of you out there,
or perhaps you’re already calling me names,
weak, et cetera,
but I find that if I’ve slept really poorly
or I’ve had a very stressful event the day before
and I don’t sleep well,
training the next day sets me up for getting ill
and getting ill sets me up for not being able to train
for multiple days.
So it is my preference in that case to skip a day
and really focus on recovery.
And then, as I mentioned earlier,
slide that workout to the next day
and rarely double that workout up with another workout,
but then just slide the schedule forward by a day.
But I really try and strive,
I really try to double up at least some workouts
later in the week in that case
so that I can get back on schedule
of starting the seven-day protocol again on the same day.
I don’t want to be excessively vague there.
What I’m trying to say is
I try and adhere to the same schedule,
but if I get a poor night’s sleep,
I’ll just simply skip the workout the next day,
slide the workout forward.
There is one exception to that,
and it’s an important exception,
which is there are times when I’ve not slept well
or I’ve had some particularly stressful event
the day before and haven’t slept well,
but I’m able to do so-called NSDR,
non-sleep deep rest the next day.
So there have been times when I’ve only got
three or four hours of sleep the night before,
and I’m feeling really behind the ball the next morning.
I really want to get my workout in,
so instead what I will do is a 10,
but ideally in that case,
a 30 or even 60 minutes non-sleep deep rest.
And there’s a 10-minute non-sleep deep rest protocol
read by me,
but it is a non-spiritual, non-mystical,
science-supported non-sleep deep rest protocol
available on YouTube.
You can simply put my name, Huberman,
put NSDR and Virtusan, V-I-R-T-U-S-A-N,
into YouTube and you’ll find that script.
There are other NSDR scripts that you can find now
on Spotify and on YouTube.
And if you fall asleep during those
non-sleep deep rest scripts, that’s great.
And if you don’t, you will also find
that it will restore your ability
to perform mental and physical work.
So there are times when I haven’t gotten
as much sleep as I would like,
or I’m feeling a bit more stressed for whatever reason,
and I’ll do NSDR and then I will go train.
And that often works fabulously well for me.
And then I don’t have to skip a workout entirely
just because I didn’t get a good night’s sleep.
A lot of people ask whether or not
you should train fasted or fed.
And this is a very controversial area.
I personally prefer to do my cardiovascular work
not having eaten anything in the previous
three to 10 hours.
And typically that’s because I wake up
and I’ll do the cardiovascular training
within about an hour of waking up,
or sometimes later because my first meal generally falls,
generally, not always, falls around 11 a.m.
I don’t do any kind of formal intermittent fasting,
but typically my meal schedule somewhere between 11 a.m.
and my last bite of food is around 8 p.m.,
but I’m not super strict about that.
I might eat as late as 9 p.m.
and I might eat something at 10 a.m.
If I wake up really hungry,
I might have something before 11 a.m.
I’m not neurotic about it.
But in terms of training, I like to train fasted,
and that includes the resistance training workouts,
and those come early in the day for me.
And typically if I’m going to train legs on Monday,
for instance, which is when I train legs,
I’ll make sure that the night before
I’m ingesting some starch, some carbohydrate,
like rice or pasta or something of that sort
to make sure that when I do that morning leg workout,
I have enough glycogen in the muscles, et cetera.
Again, nutrition is a somewhat controversial area.
In fact, it can evoke very strong feelings
because I know we’ve got vegans and we’ve got omnivores
and we’ve got carnivores and people who are keto.
This isn’t really the format for us to get into all of that.
I think the rule to follow is figure out
what optimizes your training
for your particular training goals.
For me, that most often means training fasted
and then eating pretty soon after I train.
And if it’s a high-intensity resistance training workout,
and frankly, all of my resistance training workouts
are pretty high intensity,
I’m not going to failure on every set,
but at least say about 30% of those sets,
I’m going to failure.
And the other sets I’m working very hard nonetheless.
Well, then I eat some starches after I train
and I also ingest some protein
in the form of a protein drink or a meal
that includes some protein food.
But I don’t like to eat before I do resistance training
or at least not within the hour or two
before I do resistance training.
There are exceptions to that.
And I should say that the same basically applies
to endurance work.
If I’m going to head out for a run,
typically I don’t want my belly full of food
or any food at all.
But there are times where I wake up hungry
and I very much need to eat something
or I have something scheduled socially like a breakfast
and I’ll have that breakfast.
And then an hour or 90 minutes later, I’ll do my workout
because I want to make sure that I finish the workout.
I, again, am not neurotically attached
to training fasted or fed.
For me, fasted is preferred,
but if I have to train fed,
better to train than to not train at all.
We haven’t talked so much about flexibility yet,
but we did an entire episode
of the Huberman Lab Podcast on flexibility.
And I encourage you to check out that episode
if you’re interested in increasing your flexibility.
But the basic takeaway from that episode
is that if you look at what I like to call
the center of mass of the research,
that is most of the studies and what the conclusions
of most of the quality studies point to.
So not the exceptions, but the kind of general rules
that have been gleaned over time from multiple labs,
over multiple decades, et cetera.
What you find is that static stretching,
that is holding a stretch and in fact,
exhaling and relaxing the midsection and torso
and relaxing into the stretch
as opposed to staying full of air and tense,
but mentally and physically relaxing into the stretch,
but not stretching maximally.
That is not extending as far as you possibly can go,
but more like 60% or even less.
And then holding those static stretches
for anywhere from 30 to 60 seconds and then repeating,
doing that two or three times throughout the week
for multiple muscle groups.
So it could be for your quadriceps,
could be for hamstrings, for your lats.
There are protocols out there.
In fact, we have a newsletter that is focused entirely
on protocols for flexibility and stretching.
You can find that again by going hubermanlab.com.
You don’t even need to sign up for the newsletter,
although we invite you to if you like,
but you can simply go there,
scroll down to the flexibility newsletter
and all the protocols are there
for each of the muscle groups, et cetera.
But what I typically try and do is some stretching
in the evening because I train in the morning
as I’m perhaps getting ready for bed,
or if the TV is on, which in our house
doesn’t typically go on because we don’t have a TV,
but of course there are computers
and people are on their computers, et cetera.
Well, I’ll try and do some stretching while I do that.
I also have a standing desk.
So during the day at work,
regardless of whether or not I train that morning or not,
or I’m going to train in the afternoon,
I’ll try and do some static stretching for my hamstrings,
my quads, my lats, my shoulders, my back,
really doesn’t take much time.
And I really try to space that out throughout the week,
which if you look at the peer reviewed research,
matches well to what’s known to be most effective,
which are going to be short repeated sessions,
ideally every day.
But truth told, I fail, I categorically fail.
I was about to think of whether
or not I ever stretch every day.
I fail to do it every day,
but I get about three or so stretching sessions
in per week.
And again, it’s just static hold,
trying to really relax into the stretch.
Now, the relaxing to the stretch is something
has been talked about in martial arts circles.
And Pavel Satsulin has an excellent book on stretching.
We can provide a link to that.
Talks about this,
has a lot to do with relaxation of the nervous system
and the way that the nerves innervate muscles
and allow for stretch, if you will.
Also the way that the tendons and ligaments
are innervated by nerves.
The converse is also true.
And here, again, this is a principle
that Pavel has put forth.
I believe he calls it irradiation,
meaning irradiating out or emanating out from a source,
which is that while exhaling and relaxing the torso,
the midsection, some people call it the core,
although some people don’t like that term,
can facilitate relaxation and stretching
through a larger range of motion.
So too can contracting the core, the midsection,
or gripping very tightly with the fist
can facilitate muscular contraction
because of the way that the nervous system heavily,
we can even say over represents the fists in the brain.
And so how would you apply this
to your overall foundational fitness protocol?
Well, it turns out that let’s say you’re doing a movement
that involves one limb moving and then the other,
let’s say it’s bicep curls, just for sake of example.
It turns out that you will actually be stronger
in moving that dumbbell
with the arm that happens to be moving
if you grip the handle very tightly,
but also grip the handle
of the opposite dumbbell very tightly.
Now that said, in between sets,
I encourage you to do the opposite,
to try and completely relax in between sets,
combine that with the physiological side.
And then when the next set commences,
employ that very strong grip,
both again of the weight that’s moving
and the weight that at that moment might be stationary
or in isometric position.
So the nervous system, of course,
is what controls muscles
and that operates in both directions.
If you want to relax, try and use long exhales,
maybe even physiological size,
and really concentrate on mentally and physically relaxing,
in particular, your core and your fists.
And if you want to generate force,
and you want to move a heavy barbell or dumbbell,
you want to do a chin up with the maximal force,
that’s when you can employ the opposite,
which would be to grip the bar or dumbbell, et cetera,
And you want to contract your core
or even fill your body with air
as they say, plug all the leaks, et cetera.
So this gets into kind of form and movement,
which is an extensive near infinite landscape of discussion,
again, that we don’t have time to go into.
I just want to mention those two nervous system
related tips, because I suppose as a neuroscientist,
they appeal to me because they are grounded
in fundamental principles
of how the nervous system innervates muscle.
And I know that they will benefit you
the first time you use them and every time.
Speaking of grip and nervous system
and fitness and longevity,
Dr. Peter Atiyah, who is a medical doctor,
was a guest on the Huberman Lab podcast
and provided an enormous wealth of information
on that podcast episode.
I really encourage you to check it out when you have time.
And of course has his own spectacular podcast,
The Drive with Peter Atiyah.
Peter, Dr. Atiyah, I should say,
often talks about certain movements
or exercises that you should perform,
not just to improve your fitness,
but also to touch into or measure how fit you are
and how well you are progressing
toward a long lifespan and healthspan.
And one of those includes the ability to hang from a bar
for a minute or longer.
And there are a number of different expectations
that one can have of how long they should be able
to hang from a bar, depending on their age
and their fitness level, et cetera.
Please check out Dr. Atiyah’s podcast
and his various social media sites
to get more information on that.
But what I can tell you is that if you’re going to hang
from a bar and you want to hang from that bar
as long as possible, which turns out to be a interesting
and important metric of your health,
then gripping the bar very tightly will actually help.
Earlier, we talked about whether or not to train
if you’re sleep deprived and how to recover
from what I would say is moderate sleep deprivation
by doing NSDR as opposed to total sleep deprivation,
like being up all night or having a truly miserable night,
which case I think you should just skip training
the next day and slide it forward.
Now, a similar issue comes up from time to time
where people wonder whether or not they should train
or not if they are sick.
Here, there’s all sorts of crazy gym lore
and sport specific lore.
For instance, I used to hear this.
When I ran cross country, there was this adage
that if the symptoms were from the neck up,
you could still train.
That is, if you were really congested
and you had a headache, you could still run.
Whereas if it was in your chest and in your lungs,
you couldn’t run.
I don’t think there’s any data whatsoever to support
whether or not that’s true or whether it’s not true
for myself and because my general goal
is to be training and fit over time,
but also to include general health in the fitness equation,
that is to not be sick or chronically sick
and certainly not to get other people sick.
If I have a little tiny sniffle,
like I think I might be getting sick,
even then I’m a little cautious in the sense
that I’m not going to do my typical workout.
I might stop it about 15 minutes earlier
and I would do that not by neglecting any body parts
or anything of that sort.
If it’s a weight training workout,
by simply reducing the total number of sets,
I probably wouldn’t do any sets to failure.
If I did, I might reduce the total number
or percentage of sets to failure from about 30% of sets
to maybe closer to 10% of sets, something like that.
And if it was endurance work,
I might throttle back by 10 or 20%.
And I will shorten the total duration of the workout.
And I often find that because of the known,
yes, peer reviewed,
known immune system enhancing effects of exercise,
sometimes that alone will allow me to avoid getting sick.
But of course, I’m also careful to get home,
take a hot shower, not stress myself out if I can,
avoid getting myself stressed out and focus on sleep and SDR
other forms of recovery, good nutrition, et cetera.
If however, I have a real sniffle, a cold,
I’m not feeling well,
or I think I might be coming down with a flu,
I absolutely do not train.
And I don’t get back into training of any kind
until I’m completely recovered.
So what I’m basically saying is that,
no, I don’t believe you should train if you’re sick.
And perhaps equally importantly,
when you come back from a layoff of any kind,
whether or not because of illness or for whatever reason,
I do believe that because your body is a bit untrained,
it’s not ideal to jump right back into maximal training
and to take one, maybe two weeks of ramping up
to the full duration and intensity of workouts
that then I would continue on going
for however many cycles I can complete
before I hit another sickness
or I hit another gap in my schedule
due to family obligations or other obligations, et cetera.
So we’ve covered a lot of tools and protocols
and variables related to fitness,
but we have by no means covered all the available tools
and protocols and variables.
Before we wrap up, I do want to emphasize one tool.
It’s a very easy, in fact, zero cost,
very low time commitment tool.
And this was one that was provided again by Dr. Andy Galpin
when he was on the Huberman Lab podcast.
And it’s a tool that there’s excellent research
to support the effectiveness of,
and that I do believe should come at the end
of every training session.
And that’s to do three to five minutes
of deliberately slow breathing.
It sounds so simple,
three to five minutes of deliberately slowed breathing.
So this could be while you’re in the shower
or when you arrive at your car,
you might sit in your car quietly and do that
if you have time, or maybe even while you’re driving
back to or onto your next destination,
just to really slow down your breathing,
to really look at the recovery period
that has to follow each training session.
And of course, during which the adaptations,
the changes that make you more fit
than you were going into the exercise occur.
And that three to five minutes
of deliberately slowed breathing has been shown
in Andy’s group and in related experiments,
not exactly the same, but related experiments
in our laboratory and in other laboratories
to really so-called downshift the nervous system
and really set you up for maximal recovery,
rapid recovery, and allow you to lean
into the next training session with full intensity
when that training session eventually arrives.
So it’s a very simple tool,
but a very potent tool for your overall fitness.
So thank you for joining me for this discussion
of what I’m calling a foundational,
or I guess we could even get bold
and call it an optimal fitness protocol.
Although the word optimal is a tricky one.
There’s no real optimal fitness protocol.
And today, what I’ve really tried to focus on
is this foundational protocol,
because it does allow you to check off most,
if not all the boxes related to strength,
endurance, hypertrophy, speed, power, flexibility.
It will also teach you how to regulate your nervous system
up and down, that is to ramp up and focus,
mind muscle link, et cetera,
and then quickly calm down physiological size,
three to five minute decompressed breathing
at the end of training, et cetera.
Really, even though I talked about the protocol
that I follow, and again, that we will provide
as a newsletter at hubermanlab.com,
if you want to look at it in more detail.
Even though we talked about it in the context
of what I do, again, I really want to emphasize
that this protocol and the description of this protocol
and all its variables, it’s really for you
and for you to tailor to your specific needs.
So please take the protocol into consideration,
but do not treat it as wholly,
treat it as a starting point from which you can adapt it
to your specific fitness needs.
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So thank you for joining me today for our discussion
about building your optimal toolkit for fitness.
And last, but certainly not least,
thank you for your interest in science.