Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Precision Nutrition Informal Experiment: 8-Week Training Study!

"Work hard and become a leader; be lazy and become a slave."
- Proverbs 12:24

In February, I was selected as one of 60 volunteers (30 male and 30 female) to participate in one of the Precision Nutrition Informal Experiments: 8 Weeks With Cosgrove and JB.

The experiment was set up as an 8-week training program that consisted of two strength training workouts and two conditioning workouts per week.

The Goal
The program was designed to look at the effects of three different strength and conditioning programs on fat loss and overall fitness. There were three similar, but distinct programs designed to boost performance and fat loss. The goal was to find which method was the most effective.

The three training groups were divided as follows (20 people per group - 10 male and 10 female):

Group 1
Two days of strength training and two days of steady state cardio

Group 2
Two days of strength training and two days of interval cardio

Group 3
Two days of strength training and two days of TRX conditioning circuits

The groups were divided based on age, training experience and other factors. I was selected to participate in Group 2.

All three groups followed the exact same strength training program twice a week, but each group followed a different conditioning and fat loss workout for the other two days of the week.

Prior to the start of the program, there were several tests that I had to complete including the following:

Maximal Push-Up Test
After a 5-minute warm-up, start this first test. This test is quite simple. Using a 2" sponge or yoga block as a depth marker, do as many consecutive push ups as you can. Start with the arms in full extension, descend to the depth marker, and extend back up. This counts as one repetition. Do as many as you can without resting. Once you're finished, record your number.

Inverted Row Test
With your feet elevated on a Swiss ball, box or bench and your arms gripping a barbell or smith machine bar, do as many inverted rows as you can. Start with your arms fully extended, pull up until your chest touches the bar and extend back down. This counts as one repetition. Do as many as you can without resting. Once you're finished, record your number.

Standing Broad Jump Test
Choose an open area and using a countermovement knee bend, jump as far forward as you can, going for maximum distance. Start with two practice jumps, aiming for about 80% of your maximum distance. Then, on your third jump, give it your all. Have someone mark where you landed and measure the distance from where your toes started to where they landed.

Treadmill V-max Test
Perform this one on a treadmill. Begin by running at 7-9mph (choose 7 if you're not a very good runner and 9 if you're a good runner) and 0% elevation. Every minute, increase the elevation by 1%. Continue this until you simply can't continue running. Go to complete exhaustion. Once you're finished, record the speed and elevation at which you stopped. These numbers represent your V-max.

Treadmill T-max Test
Come back to the gym rested and ready to run. After a 5-minute warm-up run, set the treadmill to your Vmax (speed and elevation recorded above). Run as long as you can. Go to complete exhaustion. Once you're finished, record the total time you lasted. This represents your T-max.

My pre-testing results were as follows:

Max Pushups = 43
Max Inverted Rows = 13
Standing Broad Jump = 95"
V-max Test = 7mph @ 5%
T-max Test = 270 seconds

8-Week Training Program
The training programs for each group were developed by Alwyn Cosgrove, Fraser Quelch of TRX Suspension Training and John Berardi.

During the first four weeks of the 8-week training program, I performed two full-body strength workouts on Monday and Thursday. Lower reps (6 or 6-8) were used to help preserve strength and muscle mass during the program. During the last four weeks, the strength workouts changed to one upper body workout (Monday) and one lower body workout (Thursday) using a similar set/rep scheme as the previous four weeks.

The interval cardio was performed on Tuesday and Friday. The intervals were performed on a treadmill set at the above-mentioned V-max setting (5% incline at 7mph) beginning with 25 minutes of intervals during the first two weeks, 30 minutes for weeks three and four, 35 minutes in weeks five and six and 40 minutes in weeks seven and eight. The intervals consisted of a 1:2 or 1:1.5 ratio of work to rest.

For example, conditioning workout A during the first week consisted of 30-second inclined treadmill intervals and 60-second rest breaks (1:2) for 25 minutes. Conditioning workout B consisted of 60-second inclined treadmill intervals and 90-second rest breaks (1:1.5) for 25 minutes. The interval workouts changed every two weeks (different work to rest periods and overall time - increasing from 25 minutes to 40 minutes during 8 weeks).

My Results
At the end of the 8-week experiment, my post-testing results were as follows:

Max Pushups = 47
Max Inverted Rows = 14
Standing Broad Jump = 98"
V-max Test = 7mph @ 7%
T-max Test = 210 seconds

The above shows that I improved in all areas. The one thing I could definitely tell was the difference in my conditioning when I played ultimate frisbee. Although I only increased my V-max from 5% to 7%, that 2% increase was significant on the field. I was able to run harder, faster and longer without tiring during the game.

However, I did not lose weight on the program. In fact, I gained three pounds overall after hitting a six-pound gain a couple weeks into the program and then slowly coming back down and holding a steady three-pound gain once the program was over.

Also, I retested my one-repetition maximum on several exercises once I completed this study to see if I had lost maximal strength. My bench was down by 10 pounds, my front squat was down five pounds, my standing overhead press was the same and my deadlift increased by 15 pounds.

The Next Step
At this time, I am waiting to see the final results of all three groups and how they compared. I think I know which group may have had the best conditioning and fat loss results, but we'll have to wait until John Berardi and the researchers with Precision Nutrition post the information. I will post the final results of the study in the next week or two.

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