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Is your Personal Trainer stuck in the 80s?

By March 30, 2010 October 20th, 2011 No Comments

Ok, so you’ve got the trendy leg warmers and are even considering some spangly dangly earrings, but should you be training like it’s the 80s again? How have modern training techniques changed, what can we take from the 80s and what does modern science and training say we should do?

The 80s were characterized and sometimes demeaned by lycra clad goddesses like Jane Fonda, who encouraged us to exercise in a high impact fat burning environment. The theory that we burn the highest percentage of fat at around 60% of maximum heart rate (so 220 minus your age times 60% for the mathematicians out there) was the prevalent driving force behind training. Activities that put you into the much vaunted “fat burning zone” were thought to be most effective. This meant long sessions of cardio based exercise like step aerobics, dance aerobics and medium distance machine work on a treadmill or bike. Resistance training was deemed secondary (especially for women) and was based on high repetition exercises of 20 or more preferably done to some Howard Jones or Bananarama. Although effective to a degree, this training tends to cause a results plateau quite quickly. So although some improvements are made, these soon tail off and then cease altogether. Plateaus lead to frustration. Frustration leads to doubt and doubt leads to failure. Some of the problems with this type of training is that longer duration aerobic activities can burn away valued muscle AND have shrinking effects on the heart and lungs. Your body will adapt to stresses placed upon it (the basis of ALL training) so if you make it do an activity for a long time that is endurance or aerobic it will want to be as lean and stripped as possible thus causing loss of lean muscle. This in turn will cause a lowering of your metabolic rate (how many calories you need to stay the same weight) and lead to weight gain. The high impact nature of the 80’s also led to many wear and tear problems in the joints. Jane Fonda’s x ray would show nice replacement hips, not so hot in a pink catsuit. 80s training also neglected the muscles of the core, the area of the trunk that supports movement between the upper and lower parts of the body. 

Modern training is about functionality, higher intensity interval training, strength and flexibility. Functionality means that what you do in the gym should reflect what you will do in the real world. Higher level interval training (1 minute fast, one minute slow for example) will not only make you fitter much more quickly, but will burn more fat. Although the % of fat used at these higher intensities is lower, the overall calories used are so great that the total fat burned will still be more than for a longer less intense session. It’s also shorter, so it will fit more easily into busy lifestyles. What you also miss out on are the “afterburn” effects that modern types of exercises can provide. Most people lose any and all the benefits of a heightened metabolism within 30 minutes of finishing a step aerobic workout. Compare that to the 72 hour lift in metabolism that interval training and weight training can provide and you can now start to understand why many of the people that are actually on the workout floor subjecting themselves to more grueling workouts look and feel better than their “step aerobic” counterparts.

Training in the 10s is also about strength and core stability. Resistance training at lower reps (around 14 reps in a set) and in a higher volume of sets (3-6 sets) also has far greater benefits than leaping about to “Come on Eileen”. Functional strength, strong backs and of course a higher metabolic rate means a svlte nymph like you. Core stability (exercises like the plank are good for this) is also now vital, to keep the link between upper lower body working properly.

So if your personal trainer is making you exercise for ages in the “fat burning zone” think about changing what you do, vary your exercise every 4-6 weeks, be sure to do resistance training, go more intense for a shorter period (unless training or a long distance race-for that you have to train at running long distances!) keep stretched and be functional! There is a lot more on this and a proper explanation of exercise zones on our website at  -go to the knowledge section. If you are setting out on your own it might be a good idea to have a few sessions with a well qualified personal trainer. Even if it’s only for a couple of weeks it’s vital to get guidance and start effectively. Good Luck!!

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