Cosgrove vs. CB

Cosgrove vs. CBAlwyn Cosgrove is a SUPERSTAR in the world of physique transformation for men and women. He’s trained champions in multiple sports and winners of multiple 12-week body transformation contests. Alwyn owns and operates a training facility in Santa Clarita, California and he’s also written his own fat loss book called “Afterburn” available at

CB:  Alwyn, I think that for men and women with a lot of body fat to lose, that doing some LONG DURATION CARDIO will help them get started on their fat loss goals. But you are totally against aerobic work in this case, right?

AC: (I just want to clarify that we are talking about otherwise healthy individuals – because steady state aerobic work definitely has its place in certain populations).

I’m not totally against it – but I still PREFER interval work. I mentioned in an earlier interview with you that there was a study (Jones et al – can’t remember the date) that showed that the intensity required by a sedentary person who is trying to improve their cardio respiratory fitness level, might create an excessive muscular overload

Jones et al, noted that in the initial 6 weeks of training there was a 50-90% injury rate. This occurred in training programs specifically designed to minimize risk of injury. The bottom line is that the musculoskeletal system is very easily OVERTRAINED when it is de-conditioned. So anything I can do to keep volume in cardio training low (ie less reps right?) I’ll do it.

So even with beginners I will do some form of interval training. But that just means maybe walking a little faster for a minute, then backing off for two. It doesn’t necessarily mean sprinting or anything like that.

CB:  Alwyn, you like to use what are called hybrid exercises. But I don’t and I think you are BETTER OFF super-setting the two exercises rather than combining them into one. My belief is, you try and do two things at once, you end up doing them half-assed. Lets say we do a curl and shoulder press…well, the intensity of the shoulder press is not optimal. Therefore, why not do them in a superset instead.

AC:   A) Well that example is weak and wouldn’t work :).  A curl shouldn’t be a part of a hybrid because it is such a low level strength exercise. It limits everything. But you could just do two reps of a shoulder press in that example if you wanted to. A better example would be a front squat push press hybrid. The metabolic cost of that type of exercise is HUGE.

B) A hybrid is just one tool in my box. I also use supersets. I also superset hybrids :).  It’s back to the Bruce Lee philosophy of never ignoring anything that works.

The biggest problem or COMPLAINT I get from clients who use commercial facilities is that it’s really HARD for them to tie up two pieces of gym equipment at peak hours.  You can use hybrids or combinations instead and use only a bar or one pair of dumbbells.

(Let me define the difference between combination lifts and hybrids)

Combination lifts (performing one rep of an exercise and then another with a brief pause), hybrids, (the same as combination lifts but without any rest between reps – no discernible pause) and complexes (performing all the reps for one exercise and then performing the next exercise – e.g. 6 reps front squat, 6 reps push press) allow us to technically perform supersets with ONE piece of equipment.

But the key is to be sensible. You can’t do a hybrid of Deadlifts and curls for example – the difference in loading is too great.

As for “two things at once” meaning you do them “half –assed”. Olympic lifters doing a clean and jerk might take OFFENCE to that 🙂

But to summarize: Here are the four main reasons to consider combos or hybrids.

1. Time / Space / Equipment

  • Small facility + large group
  • Lack of equipment….got DB’s and/or barbells??
  • Only have your clients / athletes for limited time periods or sessions per week

2. Increase training volume

  • Add volume to your Olympic variations
  • A 5-movement complex x 6 reps has a total volume of 30 repetitions per set!. At only 100 lbs., this comes out to 3000 lbs. of total work…per SET!

3. Change-up…Break-up monotony (this is more for athletes)

  • Long in-season cycles
  • Off-season loss of focus
  • Break-up a long microcycle phase (i.e. hypertrophy…high volume)
  • Unloading phase

4. Metabolic / conditioning effect

  • Increase work demand, use more muscle groups
  • Increase caloric expenditure in fat loss programs
  • Increase work capacity

And again, I doubt that it’s an either/or scenario. You don’t need to choose between the modalities.

CB:  Let’s discuss intervals. I prefer that people do their INTERVALS immediately after the weight training component, so that they have more days off from the gym. Do you like to do them on off-days instead?

AC: I don’t really have a preference. Often my clients do the intervals immediately after their workouts and they have more “off days” from the gym. With others, they tend to come in more frequently for shorter workouts.

Interestingly, with some clients I see better results if I can get them in the gym more often – it changes their mindset. Keeps them focused. But in reality I doubt over the course of the year that there would be much difference in results if total work done was the same.

I’m not stuck on one method over the other.

CB:  In a recent newsletter, you also recommend the Tabata protocol for intervals (20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest). I think this approach is OVER-RATED. What are your thoughts on using these intervals? Is this the best?

AC: For fat loss – I’m not sure that it is.

It’s just a very time efficient way to improve your cardio (based on the research).

I haven’t read anything putting it head to head with other forms of interval training though.

I just think for energy system work for athletes it’s EFFECTIVE and extremely TIME EFFICIENT. The biggest problem I think people run into, is a lack of time. Anything that solves that problem in terms of efficiency is worth having in your toolbox.

Not convinced that it’s as effective for fat loss though.

I just don’t want people to think that I PREFER the Tabata protocol over others.

I’m just a big believer in the “Absorb what is useful” Bruce Lee philosophy.