This is a Guest Post by Drew Harrisberg.
When it comes to different training styles, the opportunities are endless. We are living in an age of rapid innovation. There are new gym programs, exercises and training methods popping up all the time, and most of them are claiming to be the ultimate way to get fit. One minute the buzz is all about Crossfit, the next minute it’s, Spin Classes, Boot Camps, HIIT, Tabata, Yoga, Pilates – the list goes on. There aren’t enough days in the week to do them all but that doesn’t mean you can’t get the most bang for your buck by selecting just a few.
The best training styles for you depend on your personal preferences and your goals. Ask yourself this question: What do I genuinely enjoy doing and what do I want to achieve? If someone tells you that powerlifting is the best way to get results but you hate lifting heavy weights and love doing yoga and running, then why sacrifice the things you love? Just because it worked for someone else, doesn’t mean it will work for you. Figure out what exercises you enjoy doing, that way you’ll do them more consistently over your lifetime with maximal enjoyment and minimal resentment.
All of the different training methods have their own unique physical and physiological benefits. I want to be a well-rounded athlete so I ensure to cover all bases when it comes to the exercise selection. I want a level of cardiovascular fitness high enough that I can set out on a 15 km run without hesitation, while simultaneously being strong enough to deadlift double my bodyweight, and crank out 20 consecutive pull-ups. The point is, you can have your cake and eat it too when it comes to being a well-rounded athlete but it takes time, effort, and a high level of programming.
Here are my top 4 forms of training that I do every week:
The base of my training is calisthenics (Cali) i.e the ability to move my body without any equipment, utilising a range of angles, levers, and velocities. It is the most primal form of movement that we can do as humans. Running, jumping, climbing, pushing, pulling, and balancing are all calisthenics movements. The bulk of my Cali training includes movements like pull-ups, chin-ups, push-ups, dips, front levers, jumping, burpees, rope climbing, and muscle-ups. I also do weighted calisthenics such as heavy weighted dips, push-ups and pull-ups using a weight vest or a weight belt. Cali is a great way to improve strength, power, balance, core stability, agility, coordination, proprioception and build a strong, muscular, balanced physique. It’s also very liberating knowing that I can get a high-quality workout anytime, anywhere using just my body. When I’m travelling I often take a set of gymnastics rings with me which I can suspend from a tree in a park or any overhang for that matter.
Full body circuits are a key part of my successful diabetes management and I attribute them to maintaining a lean physique year-round as well as a high baseline level of fitness. I fell in love with this form of training when I realised how effective it was for helping me manage my insulin and blood glucose levels. I often create my circuits but I’ve recently discovered a new training style called 12 RND fitness which, I must admit, I’m slightly addicted to. It’s a full-body workout with a focus on boxing. The structure of the workout mimics a 12-round championship boxing title fight i.e 12x 3-min rounds with 30 seconds rest between rounds. It appeals to me that I can show up at any time and jump straight into the circuit because a new round begins every 3 minutes meaning there are no fixed class times. The full-body nature of the workout means I can burn a lot of muscle glycogen, stabilise blood glucose levels, improve insulin sensitivity and flood my body with feel-good endorphins. Plus, it feels damn good letting out some steam on the punching bags.
Cardio doesn’t have to be boring like many people think. If running on a treadmill sounds boring to you, there are so many other options you can do instead. I like to keep it fun, outdoors and adventurous by going on long trail hikes and scenic coastal runs. I see cardio as the foundation for all of my other workouts. With a good engine capacity, I’m able to lift more weights, pump out more reps, sets, and total volume, while keeping my HR elevated the entire time. I do a lot of running outdoors on a range of different terrains including stairs, hills, soft sand, grass, and road. I enjoy cycling, be it on my road bike, an indoor spin bike or an assault bike in the gym. I love swimming, especially on active rest days when I want to reduce ground reaction forces and joint loading but maintain an elevated cardiovascular and respiratory rate. I mostly swim in the open ocean/ocean pools. I also love rowing on the indoor rowing machine. I always make sure to vary the intensity and duration of every workout. Some workouts are short and sharp like HIIT/sprints. Other workouts are longer and moderate in intensity. Variety is key.
Resistance training and weight lifting is another staple in my program. I focus on the main compound lifts such as the squat, deadlift, standing overhead press/military press, bench press, farmer carries, and sled pushes. The nature of these lifts is that they are all multi-joint, functional movements that have a very large metabolic cost. They are typically performed in the gym using barbells and dumbbells but occasionally I’ll do them at my home gym too. I follow a training program called daily undulating periodisation (DUP). Each workout is in a different rep range. Some days I lift heavy weights in the 3-5 rep range. Other days I lift moderate loads in the hypertrophy rep range i.e 8-12 reps. And I also make sure to include days where the focus is on lifting lighter loads in the 15+ rep range utilising drop-sets and supersets. Again, the key is variety. By giving your body a variety of stimuli to adapt to, you can ensure to gain the unique benefits from all of the different intensities, loads, and rep ranges such as metabolic overload (the burn), mechanical muscle tension, and cellular swelling (the pump).
The Take-Home Message
Think of your health and fitness endeavour as building an empire. First of all, it takes time. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Secondly, different jobs require different tools. All of these training methods are just tools to add to your toolbox. They all have a place in your training program.
There is no single training method that trumps the rest. The most effective one for you is the one that aligns with your goals and personal preferences. It’s the training that you’re going to do most consistently with maximal enjoyment over your lifetime. Maybe it’s one of them, maybe it’s all of them, but whatever it is that you choose – learn to love it!