Welcome to The Fat Burning Man show, where we talk about real food and real results. Today’s episode of the show is with Craig Ballantyne, the man behind Turbulence Training and an expert in bodyweight workouts.
Before we get to the show, I wanted to let you guys know that if you go to FatBurningMan.com right now and sign up for the email list I’ll send you a free copy of my ebook The Primal Rock Stars, which features fat burning tips, muscle building strategies, and ways to optimize your health from guys like Dave Aspre, Mark Siss, Robb Wolf, and tons more. All you have to do is go over to FatBurningMan.com, enter your best email, and I’ll shoot that right over to you.
Craig Ballantyne is a fat loss and fitness expert who specializes in helping people get incredibly lean and strong with short workouts. Craig has a Master’s of Science degree in Exercise Physiology from McMaster University and he’s written for Men’s Health, Maximum Fitness, Oxygen, and Men’s Fitness.
On today’s show Craig and I cover how to get lean in just a few minutes of exercise per week, yes it is possible, why willpower always seems to crumble in the face of adversity, why you should consider getting a dog, and how to be your own science experiment. This is a fun one, so listen up…
Abel: Craig Ballantyne is a well known fitness expert who specializes in helping people get incredibly lean and strong with short workouts. He has written for some of the largest fitness magazines in the world, including Men’s Health, Maximum Fitness, Oxygen, and Men’s Fitness. He’s also a fat burning beast. What’s cooking, Craig?
Craig: Thanks for that excellent intro.
Abel: You bet. Your reputation preceded you. Why don’t you talk a little bit about how you got into all this jazz?
Craig: Like a lot of fitness experts, I was the kid who was very active when I was younger and I thought, “I just have to get a job in this field, it’s awesome.” When I was younger I was thinking athletics, so I was thinking, “How can I get into the pros? I’m certainly making it into the pros with my athletic ability.” That was my original thought.
I went to McMaster University here in Canada, it’s quite well known among the exercise science world. I had some great advisors, I did a Master’s degree there in exercise physiology.
We’re going to talk about some of the stuff that I learned along the way. It was around then that I started writing for Men’s Health in 2000 when I was still a graduate student.
Then I realized I could help way more people doing what I wanted to do by bringing what I learned for elite athletes and helping them and actually helping the regular reader of Men’s Health and Women’s Health and Oxygen Fitness Magazine to get amazing results in a short amount of time with what you might say is athletic type training.
Abel: I used to do marathons and I’ve always loved running, it’s kind of like a meditation for me. When I first was introduced to the approach of getting a lot more in terms of results in less time I thought, “Yeah, whatever.” But then I tried it on myself as kind of a case study and it was shocking the amount of fat that I lost and muscle that I built, all from exercising less.
When people ask you, “Is it really possible to get super-human results in just a few minutes of exercise?” how do you answer that question?
Craig: These days you can actually answer them with research. There was a study that came out that really influenced me last year, it was from the Journal of Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. It was a Canadian study actually. It was very similar to the Tebata Training Studies, but it’s not tebata training. Tebata training is 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off, at 170% VO2 max, and it’s very specific to that.
With this training what they did is they had people do those 20 seconds of work, but they had them do bodyweight exercises. They did burpees, mountain climbers, pushups, and then they rested 10 seconds. They did eight rounds of this. That was one group and it was all women in this study.
The second group was the control group that did nothing. The third group was a group that did 30 minutes of jogging.
What they found was the aerobic fitness levels were the same among the two training groups. So the four minutes and the 30 minutes of training resulted in the same fitness gains for cardiovascular. They found, and this is pretty obvious, that the muscular endurance gains were only present in the bodyweight exercise group. Just as important, in almost all of this is that the bodyweight training group enjoyed the training the most compared to the other groups.
So now I can say with research, “Here’s the fitness gains in this.” I don’t have research that shows four minutes of exercise is better than 30 minutes for fat burning, but I have hundreds or maybe even thousands of case studies that have used my programs. Even in my Transformation Contest I can say, “Look what this person did and what this person did.”
One other thing that I will mention on that is we tend to talk about who gets the greatest result in this. It’s that person who is making that switch from the low intensity long exercise to the high intensity short exercise. That’s when you see the greatest gains is when you make that switch.
Abel: Is four minutes the most effective protocol, or is it just a matter of hitting that high intensity for some period of time and that’s the minimum effective dose?
Craig: That’s a great question. I don’t have research to say what is best. I certainly don’t limit the workouts to four minutes. We think that four minutes seems to be great, but what if we did four minutes of a lower body exercise, four minutes of an upper body exercise, maybe two minutes of a core training exercise? We can do some really great workouts in under 20 minutes.
When using that specific style in my bodyweight stuff I try to keep them around 12 to 15 minutes, but we’ll go a little bit longer sometimes. Certainly the more work you do, the diminishing returns kick in. We can talk about that in weight training in the one versus three sets and all that sort of stuff.
I don’t know if you would get the same results in two minutes. Probably not. But it’s pretty cool and I’m sure there will be more and more studies coming out on this stuff just to see exactly how little of a stimulus you need for a response. That’s really what people need to understand on a general and basic level about exercise is that what you’re doing is you’re applying a stimulus to your body and your body responds by adapting to the stimulus.
You can get into the entire neuromuscular physiology and the biochemical reactions in the muscle and why this happens, and it’s an interesting conversation, but once you understand that what you’re doing is applying a stimulus, then you can understand why the shorter workouts work.
Conversely, you can understand why too much exercise leads to overuse injury, because if you keep applying a stimulus your body doesn’t have a chance to adapt to it and you get overuse injuries. That’s why runners are in the physio office so often, and people that weight train their shoulder joint too much as well. Certainly every exercise has its drawbacks.
Abel: Yes. If you’re doing bodyweight exercises, for example, how do you counteract creating a muscular imbalance?
Craig: The key is really to make sure that you attack the different movement patterns of the body. When we do our programs that’s another reason why they’re longer than four minutes, we make sure that if we do some pushing muscles today or yesterday we’ll make sure that we do a good amount of pulling exercises that are the antagonistic movement to the movements that we did in the same program or in a different workout so we make sure that we train all the muscles of the body.
And just make sure that the person’s posture and their form is correct as well, that’s a key component of it. Also, we take a look at their daily activity habits. People that sit all day long, first of all sitting is very dangerous for your health in general, but also it really ruins your posture. We have to take a look at what the client brings to the table in terms of have they’ve been sitting for 20 years and they have really terrible posture. We have to take a look at that in how we do our workouts.
Abel: Totally. I actually just got a new computer, one of those big iMacs, and I set it up on a jerry-rigged stand up desk and I’ve decided to do all of my interviews standing up. So I’m standing up right now. It’s awesome, it’s so much better. You just feel like blood is flowing.
Craig: I’ve been walking around while I’ve been doing this. I don’t necessarily have the reference for it, but from what I understand there’s research that shows when you’re up and moving about you have more energy and you do much better when you’re doing these phone interviews. So I try to move around quite a bit when I do them as well.
Craig: I’m walking around opening doors, checking on dogs, and getting drinks of water. It’s all purposeful.
Abel: That’s awesome. I do something similar when I’m on phone interviews. I love just having my hands available and kind of multitasking. I also find that when you do that low intensity exercise, just walking around, it gets your brain moving in a way that it doesn’t when you’re just kind of sitting there stagnating.
Craig: There’s certainly research that shows that when you get out of your regular work area that’s when you’re more creative. You think back to when Newton came up with the idea of gravity under the apple tree. It wasn’t just because an apple hit him in the head. Research shows that people are more creative outside of their regular work environment. If you’re trying to come up with a really big idea in whatever job you have, it’s probably not going to come to you sitting at the computer, it’s going to come to you when you’re out walking the dog or when you’re in the shower.
That’s why people get so many ideas in the shower. You just have to make sure that you’re able to write them down as soon as you get out because they’re slippery fishes and they get away from you.
That’s all for now. Join us in part 2, where we go how to managing your expectations.
Craig Ballantyne, CTT
Certified Turbulence Trainer