04 High Intensity Training Defined

InForm Fitness Podcast


What exactly is high-intensity training? Is high-intensity training safe? In this episode we’ll hear
from a longtime Inform Fitness client, who is 72 years old, describe the intensity of his slow motion
strength training at Inform Fitness in Toluca Lake, California. Adam continues his explanation of
muscle failure in high-intensity training and the value of having a personal trainer guide you
through your 20-minute workout.

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Intro:               You’re listening to the InForm Fitness podcast, 20 minutes with New York Times, best-selling author, Adam Zickerman and friends. Brought to you by InForm Fitness, life changing personal training with several locations across the US. Reboot your metabolism and experience the revolutionary Power of 10, the high intensity, slow motion, strength training system that’s so effective, you’d get a week’s worth of exercise in just one 20-minute session, which by no coincidence is about the length of this podcast. So, get ready InForm Nation, your 20 minutes of high intensity strength training information begins in 3, 2, 1.

Keith:              You know, I like the philosophy of the program of taking each one of the muscle groups to meltdown [laughs]. Surely what it is and you know there’s a certain amount of emotion that goes along with these meltdowns. So, you kind of have to be willing to get into that thing where, okay, the sabretooth tiger’s got me and it’s going to bite off my head and it’s — but it’s a slow bite and you just got to be willing to stay there [laughs]. You know, I mean, anybody can do half an hour a week.

Tim:                Anybody can do a half hour a week of a sabretooth tiger biting down on your head. If that doesn’t define intensity, I don’t know what does. That was Keith from the Toluca Lake InForm Fitness location. He’s one of the clients. He’s been coming for quite some time, I believe. Is that right, Sheila?

Sheila:             Yeah. He’s been coming for probably a year and a half now, I would say.

Tim:                And Keith is how old?

Sheila:             Keith is almost 72 years old.

Tim:                And he has been doing this for quite some time and that’s how he describes high intensity strength training and great selling point for InForm Fitness and that’s exactly what we’re doing here today. Welcome to episode four of the InForm Fitness podcast. My name is Tim Edwards and of course joining us again is Sheila Melody from the Toluca Lake location. We have Mike Rogers from New York City and across the hall from him, the founder of InForm Fitness and the author of Power of 10: The Once-a-Week Slow Motion Fitness Revolution, Adam Zickerman. This episode, intensity, could probably turn itself into two, three, maybe even four episodes because this is kind of the foundation of what you put together with InForm Fitness, Adam.

Adam:             Yes, and that description of a sabretooth tiger biting down on his head slowly — I’m almost cringing thinking about what people who’ve never heard about this work out and they come across this podcast and if they listen to this they’d be like, “Screw that.”

Mike:              Well, it’s a slow bite, Adam. [laughter]

Tim:                It’s a slow bite but you know what, you got to listen to what he said.

Adam:             Yeah.

Tim:                Anybody can do anything for 20 minutes and the last episode that we had, The Importance of Muscle, is the result of what happens when you’re able to just do something for 20 short minutes a week which is also the length of our podcast as well. So, just to kind of give you an idea of how little of an investment it is for some long-term bigtime gains. So, yes, we don’t want to scare anyone away with the sabretooth tiger comment but here’s a 72-year-old man talking about something he’s able to endure 20 minutes a week and I think that’s just a fantastic testimonial, maybe not the most accurate description. [laughs]

Adam:             No, no, no. I don’t want to — listen, I was smiling and smirking and kind of cringing at the same time. I mean, I understand why he’s saying it and the fact that you just pointed out that he’s 75 and doing it should say it all that —

Tim:                It does.

Adam:             You know, if he’s 75 and enduring this kind of intensity, it should give you —

Tim:                Well, let’s not give him that much credit. He’s 72 but — [laughs]

Adam:             [Crosstalk 03:53].

Tim:                But close enough. [laughs]

Mike:              72 years young [crosstalk 03:57].

Sheila:             He’s an intense guy too.

Tim:                He is.

Adam:             Now, you know, this is such an incredible topic because what I’d want people to get from this episode today, is understanding that, as important as intensity is for exercise, it doesn’t mean danger. Doesn’t mean I can’t do that because I’m out of shape or I’m not that strong right now. I can’t work out that hard or I’m not young enough to work out that hard because that’s not where the danger lies. It’s not intensity that causes the dangers of exercise. It’s intensity coupled with high force crazy movements, ballistic movements.

Mike:              High repetitions.

Adam:             High repetitions. It’s this force associated with that intensity. So, we don’t realize that you can have a very intense experience weightlifting and have it be of the utmost safety at the same time which is the real profound thing about this. I think we talked about this on the first episode, about the safety and intensity.

Tim:                Mhm [affirmative].

Adam:             So, the thing about intensity is you can get there. I mean you have to get there and if you can get there in confidence that you’re not going to get hurt, like our friend Keith just mentioned.

Tim:                Mhm [affirmative].

Adam:             At 72 years old being able to work out that hard and not worry about hurting himself, that’s the beauty in this. That is the true beauty in this.

Mike:              Things that are generally worthwhile often times are not easy and that goes with everything I think we do in our lives and I think it’s just, you know, if you want to do something that’s worthwhile that’s only 20 minutes once or twice a week, I mean, the bang for your buck, this really, really hits hard there. I mean, and we hear all sorts of different scenarios. Like he’s mentioned being bit by a sabretooth tiger. The most common one I think I hear especially for women is childbirth and things like that. [laughs] you know something and it’s not and they go all over the place.

Adam:             Another really attractive description.

Tim:                Yeah. [laughing]

Mike:              Definitely.

Adam:             People are going to be lining up.

Tim:                Sign me up. Yeah. [laughs]

Sheila:             Well, let me just say, you know, as a, you know, as someone who never really went that intense before I started doing this workout and when I was opening InForm Fitness in LA here and our trainer — I brought our trainer, Ann Kirkland on and she’s amazing and we were doing each other’s workouts and there was one moment that I’ll always remember because it was doing the leg press and the leg press does get scary. Like what Adam says, we don’t want them to think that intensity means danger but in your mind it is a little scary when you’re lifting the heavy weight and you’re feeling in your body that you can’t go on but I remember I was getting a little scared, you know, because I was going up towards 200 pounds at that point and Ann said, don’t worry nothing bad is going to happen.

And that just all of the sudden, that’s was like an ‘aha’ moment for me because we go so slow, we’re watching you the whole time and nothing bad is going to happen. I’m not going to die. I’m not — the worst thing that’s going to happen is I will not be able to push that weight any longer. I will not be able to hold it. The worst thing that would happen is that I suddenly, you know, just stop doing it and drop the weight a little bit. That is the worst and that’s what you have to kind of have to work through in your head is just this — to me it’s a very great mental conditioning, you know so.

Tim:                And that’s the value of having a trainer like the three of you and the rest of the staff you have at all the InForm Fitness locations is the fact that there’s a trainer with you one on one for that 20-ish minutes or so. And then the part that got a little scary for me like you Sheila was my very first time through the workout is when you hit that point of failure where you can’t move that weight anymore, well our natural response is just a boom let it down but as Adam has said, that’s where the magic happens.

And so then you say, “Alright you’re at that failure point, 10, 9, 8,” and you’re counting down to one and we’re holding it and we’re sitting there struggling. That’s the pinpoint of the intensity that it doesn’t necessarily hurt, there’s that burn. It’s intense and you want to beat it. You want to be able to hold it as long as you can and then you let it down and there’s that amazing release. That to me is the intensity and as Adam, you said in previous episodes, that is where the magic happens.

Adam:             It is and, you know, again we talk about failure too. The word failure, muscle failure and that scares a lot of people. If you’re not careful to define what failure is and that failure is a good thing, people can feel, “Oh, I suck at this,” or, “I’m too weak. I can’t do this,” and working out to that level of intensity and muscle failure will do that to you.

So, you have to educate. You have to understand that there’s a totally different mindset, totally different objective to what we’re trying to achieve when we do a set of exercise here. We’re lifting weights slowly because it’s safer. We’re going to safely lift this weight until our muscle has nothing left and that can be a scary proposition. There’s a natural survival instinct that I want to kick in, this fight or flight thing but we’re smart people. Right? And we’re human beings and we have thinking capabilities.

So, we’re going to overcome that fear. We’re going to overcome that temptation to panic and we’re going to stay in the pocket and we’re going to push that level of intensity where we can’t lift the weight anymore and push a little bit beyond that and endure that burn, embrace that burn if you will and then just expire and then like you said Tim, that’s where the magic happens but it’s also where the exhilaration comes in. You actually get it that you focused on it and the whole experience is only a minute in a half and really it’s the last 20 seconds or so that will be uncomfortable part. So, it’s 20 seconds of what I like to just call, severe discomfort.

Tim:                That’s right. That’s really all it is.

Adam:             Severe discomfort. And when Ann said, “Well, what’s going to happen?” Because as soon as you stop, the severe discomfort goes away immediately.

Mike:              Yup.

Tim:                It goes beyond just goes away. It’s almost exhilarating. [laughs]

Adam:             Exactly.

Tim:                It really is.

Sheila:             Yeah.

Tim:                There’s seven times a workout where I’m like, “Oh, that feels really good for that to stop.”

Sheila:             So glad you’re done. [laughs]

Tim:                [laughs] Yeah but —

Mike:              You know, I think the word sometimes — you know, like Adam is a very, very direct and I appreciate that and the truth is I actually am attracted to that term ‘muscle failure.’ However, over the years I have noticed a lot of people, they don’t connect to it and it’s something I think we do have to work on with some people. They just won’t stick around and sometimes the concept, especially with type A people, the word failure does not sink in quickly. Even if they love a good challenge. I mean, I play around with the terminology. I almost always go back to muscle failure also but —

Tim:                That’s a big hurdle to overcome when I was first exercising with Sheila and she was training me through this, I didn’t like the failure. I was like, “Oh, I failed.” Right, you know —

Adam:             Right.

Tim:                But after a while, once you learn to manage that and understand it as failure, that is the goal. It’s the only option and then we’re able —

Adam:             Right.

Sheila:             Yeah.

Adam:             Well, that’s how I like to approach it. I call it what it is and I say, “But that’s okay because failure can have different meanings.” That you can have personal failure, we’re not talking about that kind of failure. We’re talking about different types of failure.

Tim:                The threshold.

Adam:             Kind of like the word ‘shalom’ in Hebrew. It can mean goodbye and hello. You know and the thing is failure can mean several things also. Alright. So, we’re smart intellectual people. We’re all big boys and girls here. Alright. We’re using the word failure in a different way. Alright, get over it. Stop being so touchy feely sensitive, you know. You know a lot of people will say, “Well, I’m not really in great shape. I haven’t worked out in like six years.” I mean, I’m very careful — we all are very careful explaining when you start this workout we’re going to kind of build you up to that. We’re not treating you like an advanced client from day one.

We’re going to teach you what muscle failure feels like. We might not even go to muscle failure the first couple of workouts. We might get close to it. We’ll bring you up, we’ll bring you into it. Then I always like to say to people, we’re not going to go anywhere where you’re not willing to go yourself. I’m not going to make you do anything. You’re going to feel confident enough to do this the right way. You will go to muscle failure and confidently go to muscle failure. Not because I’m imploring you but because you feel safe doing so.

Tim:                Well, what you just said supported what I was about to say and I’ll just follow up with this. I really struggled with understanding A, what failure was until after a full week of going through all the exercises, understanding I can’t move that weight anymore. Then dealing with the fact that oh, well I failed. I wanted to go more. I believe it takes a couple of weeks at least for me it took a few weeks to really wrap my brain around what failure was and my trainer Sheila helped me get there to understand that.

And then the beautiful thing about reaching that failure, that threshold, that limit, is understanding those limits later were pushed just a week or two later when you go up weight in maybe two to four to five pounds up on the amount of weight that we’re pushing, lifting or pulling. When we passed that threshold that helped me understand it and that’s the goal and it’s wonderful to push yourself to the limit because otherwise you don’t know how far you can go. You’re not going to see any strength and I have seen incredible gains over the last four months.

Mike:              You know Adam talked about educating and talking to people and giving credit to our clients and he’s absolutely right about that because you know when you — like failure if we look at in exercise or all aspects of our lives, like when we look back on times we’ve failed we’ve always grown from those types of things in everything. They’re always — when we look back it’s always a very positive aspect of our life and we’ve — I’ve conveyed that to clients and reminded them about, “Hey, what about the time when you lost that job but you got a better one later?” Or this thing happened but then the next thing came as a result of that.

I read something that my brother wrote years ago and he said something like, I trust my failures much more than I trust my successes because they happen much more often, you know. And I think as a result of just life experience and I think that’s what — like, literally, most things that are worthwhile are difficult. They are challenging. They’re — and this work out is a part of that. This is not a recreational fun activity. I mean, it can be because the trainers are all fun and we have a wonderful environment but when most people come to do is to work out safely and efficiently so they can get back to their life, their work or whatever. And, hey, well, that’s my take on failure. I think it’s a good thing and we should be looking at it in a very positive light as we educate the clients.

Adam:             So, Tim, you talked about your relationship with failure and how you kind of learned to embrace it and it took you several workouts and several weeks to kind of understand where we were going with this and where you should be going with it. And it made me think about any process whether it be a language, guitar, martial arts. The thing about — martial arts is a good example because you get your black belt but you’re not done learning. Black belt, you’re considered fairly proficient at that particular martial art but you’ve got different degrees of black belt. So, there is no ends in this process.

I’m doing it 18 years this way and I am still learning about myself and I’m still finding out things about myself and it’s interesting because it’s a simple thing going to muscle failure in a way it’s a simple, you know, just go until you can’t go anymore. I mean it doesn’t get simpler than that. I mean there’s no degrees of muscle failure. Either you go until your muscles don’t have anything left. Done. So in one sense, muscle failure is very simply just go until you can’t go anymore, where your muscle just fails. At that point you can’t lift the weight anymore and there’s no degrees of failure. You didn’t almost fail. You either failed or you didn’t. It’s like being almost pregnant. There’s no such thing.

So, it’s very simple in one hand but then it gets kind of sophisticated on the other hand where there are nuances to going to muscle failure, your breathing, the way you approaching it mentally. It’s kind of like meditation in a way. The idea of meditation is very simple, just focusing on your breath and staying focused on your breath. Very simple premise but you never perfect it. Even the gurus of meditation never perfect that.

Mike:              I think a lot of it is reading your client and their attitude towards a challenge and some people are very excited to about this 90 second challenge ahead of them. Some people have a mediocre attitude towards it and some people have a very poor attitude towards it and among other — even if you have poor attitude towards it a lot of them are here because they know that what they’re doing is very, very good for them still you know. And I think we have to work with that and that’s where we set the level of intensity. So, we don’t — so they can continue doing it and they can get the stimulus that is necessary. It’s a little bit of an art form from the trainer’s point of view.

Adam’s right though, inevitably the goal is to get to the point where you just can’t go anymore and as you evolve as a client or in just doing the technique on your own or with a trainer you get better at it. At tolerating what is an unpleasant feeling, what’s a lot of discomfort which people sometimes use the word pain dare I say, but it’s like it’s just a hard activity. It’s a hard stimulus but the good thing is it’s over quickly. It’s a worthwhile stimulus. It’s very challenging but it’s over fast.

Sheila:             And then the other thing about that too is they might be a little afraid to go to that level of intensity. We do have to guide them through it and it takes a few weeks for you to really kind of mentally get into it but you will leave that first session feeling something and that is what, “Wow. Oh my gosh. I’m going to go back and try a little harder next time.” You know and then they get to know themselves better that they can handle more than what they thought they could.

Mike:              And after six to twelve sessions you start to notice and feel and see benefits like the changes in your body and people feel it. So, it’s all very worthwhile.

Adam:             When I give a consultation I’m not trying to push them as hard as they ever worked out in their life before. I’m not trying to prove to them how tough I am as a trainer. I’m not trying to get them to prove to me how tough they are. What I’m trying to do the first workout is to get their attention if you will. Like, “Wow. I can’t believe how my legs feel after just two minutes of doing it.”

When they say how amazing it is after their first workout and I know they didn’t go into muscle failure and I know they have a lot of experiencing to do. I always say to them, I’m glad you just said that to me. If you think this is crazy cool now, I’m going to ask you how you feel about it in six to twelve weeks and you’re going to look back on today’s workout as like, “Wow. I thought I was doing it back then. Now, I see I’m doing it.” You know, so, you’re going to look back on today’s first workout with fond memories if you will because it’s never going to be so easy ever again.

Tim:                Well, there’s definitely something special about that first workout. It is an eye opening experience and a first step towards rebooting your metabolism, burning fat and building muscle. Thanks team. Alright, here’s our music composed and performed by our very own Mike Rogers, the GM at the InForm Fitness location in New York City. That music means that we’re close to that 20-minute mark in the podcast. So, if you began your slow motion high intensity workout at the start of this podcast, you’d be finished by now for the entire week.

If you’d like to ask our InForm Fitness experts a question or have comment regarding the Power of 10, it’s very simple, just shoot us an email or record a voice memo on your phone and send it to podcast@informfitness.com. You can also leave us a voicemail by calling 888-983-5020, Ext. 3. That’s 888-983-5020, Ext. 3. All feedback is welcome. Chances are strong that you’ll end up right here on the show.

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Don’t forget to join us in our next episode as we continue the series on intensity. We’ll provide you with a very descriptive and detailed definition of a high intensity workout from Ken Hutchins, one of the pioneers of this protocol. We’ll also discuss how this type of workout will enhance your performance in whatever activity it is you enjoy.  I’m Tim Edwards. For Adam, Mike and Sheila, thanks for joining us on the InForm Fitness podcast, 20 minutes with Adam Zickerman and friends right here on the Inbound Podcasting Network.