The Best of Men’s Health May 2011

Great issue of Men’s Health this month. By this month, I mean May, 2011. The magazine is heavier on recipes and cooking advice than I have noticed in the past, so if that’s your thing, this is a “must-get”. There’s also a thorough Triathlon Training article in here that I can’t even begin to summarize, so if you’re thinking of trying a tri, you’ll need to head straight to page 106 for the article and workout program. Training for a tri is one of the most common workout questions that I can’t answer, so I was happy to see this article in the mag.

Now let’s take a look at the training advice from the magazine. First, I want to cover an interval training suggestion they make based on a Scottish research study that found six 30-second intervals done 3x’s per week for 2 weeks leads to weight loss and increased fitness.

The exact workout goes like this:

A) 4-minute warm-up

B) Six 30-second sprints with 4.5 minutes (270 seconds) of recovery between sprints

Men’s Health then recommended this routine.

Now here is the PROBLEM…

This interval program – and most other interval programs that use this similar “30 second sprint and 4 minute recovery” protocol – was done on a specially designed stationary bike in an exercise physiology laboratory.

Now, if you do this interval training on a bike in a regular gym, you probably won’t be able to work at the same intensity provided by the bike in the lab, so you can cut back on the recovery period…to 90 seconds, and maybe even 60 seconds. Add 2 intervals, and you should be set.

However, do NOT do this by sprinting. You will hurt yourself.

You need a LOT more warm-up than 4 minutes if you plan to go out and sprint/run as hard as possible for 30 seconds. If you don’t warm-up properly, you will get hurt. Guaranteed. So be careful.

I highly recommend interval training on the bike because it works, it is safe, and it is the method used in almost every interval training research study I have ever quoted on this blog. So that’s it for the interval training discussion.

Now let’s move on to low-back/core/torso/ab training advice. First, we eliminate low back pain with the help of Bill Hartman, the smartest man in fitness. Bill comes through on page 20 with advice about one of the best stretches that you can do to combat back pain.The stretch is called the “3-D Psoas Stretch” used to target the hip flexor area. The psoas is one of your hip flexor muscles, but you don’t actually have a single muscle called “the hip flexor”. Random muscle trivia for you there.

As Hartman notes, sitting often results in a tight psoas. And that’s what you are doing right now, and probably for 6-10 hours of your day. A tight psoas pulls your spine forward, and messes up your pelvic alignment – one of the many, many causes of back pain. If this sounds like you consider using this stretch, because your body stretches in all three planes of movement: From front to back, up and down, and from side to side.

This isn’t exactly it, but this image shows you a similar stretch.

In addition, later in the magazine, Certified Strength Coach PJ Striet suggests two uncommon but powerful ab exercises – neither of which are bad for your back. In fact, just the opposite, as these exercises are recommended by low-back health guru, Dr. Stuart McGill. These exercises are called the “Stability Ball Stir-the-Pot” and the “Stability Ball BodySaw”. They both look like typical Stability Ball plank exercises, but movement is involved to increase the level of difficulty.

I first heard of the Stir-the-Pot exercise from my Toronto Chiropractor, Dr. Michael Sommers, after he attended a lecture by Dr. McGill. Here’s how to do the “Stir the Pot”.

– Assume a Stability Ball Plank position with your elbows and forearms resting on the ball. Move your elbows in a circle, making sure your core doesn’t rotate. Go in one direction for 2 reps, then switch. Repeat for a total of 12-20 reps or for 30 seconds. If you can go for 60 seconds with perfect form, you’ll have an incredible abs.

Now for Nutrition…

Again, the magazine was packed with recipes, recommended foods, nutrition shake reports, and more. I guess they are getting my message that diet is more important than exercise. Here are a couple of quick tips that I had to share:

1) According to Danish researchers, following this simple diet advice will help you lose weight. Simply make sure you are getting 25% of your calories – during weight loss dieting – from protein. So if you are getting 2000 calories, than you’ll need 500 calories from protein – and that is equal to 125 grams.

2) Other research suggests that drinking Green Tea after a meal will help you feel fuller, longer. Therefore, if you find that your meals aren’t taking the complete edge off your appetite, just add a cup or two of Green Tea to get you through to the next meal without additional calories or hunger pains.

3)  Lou Schuler reports on some of the latest weight loss science, and says that people who keep the weight off the longest tend to do several things, including weighing themselves frequently, planning their meals, and simply eating the same thing most of the time. Now what you could do is have “3 go to options” for each meal that you know are best for your weight loss. That will give you a little variety, without the danger of overeating due to lack of planning. Also realize that most people mess up on weekends, so make sure you plan your weekend meals too, not just weekday meals.

4) On a more interesting nutrition note, one of my favorite nutrition experts, Alan Aragon, reports on the “foods you need to eat now” on page 65. Among the surprises are macadamia nuts and navy beans. I like Alan’s articles because he isn’t an extremist against milk or grains. Very common sense advice. In a pullout poster that follows his article, the argument is simply made that we should emphasize VARIETY in our diets. Something that my friend, Brad Pilon agrees with.

By the way, both Brad and Alan were interviewed by Men’s Health for a debate on fasting, and they had a little disagreement. Check it out here.

5) On page 133 we get into the good stuff, with a review of the best steaks to get in a steakhouse, and then on page 153, you get instructions on how to cook the perfect steak, from a Spanish chef.

There’s a ton of eye candy in this issue if you like red meat, so enjoy.


Finally, being a fan of the motivational quote, I was happy to see the top 3 football quotes on page 26. Here they are:

“Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.” – Vince Lombardi

“It’s not the will to win…it’s the will to prepare that makes the difference.” – Bear Bryant

“Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” – Lou Holtz

Stay strong,

Craig Ballantyne, MS, CSCS, CTT
And guy who was not quoted at all in this month’s Men’s Health magazine. Boooo.