Only one set per body part for maximum gains? No aerobic training and you can still lose body fat? Only three 1/2 hour workouts a week to get fit? I have been told I need to do aerobic training almost everyday to lose body fat and 3 to 4 times a week with weight training for one hour to get tone, how is that possible? It is possible, and quite efficient. To understand better how the HYSTRENGTH(sm) training program works, we need to understand a little bit of physiology (the science of mechanical, physical and biochemical processes) of the human body. Three main concepts we are going to focus on are: slow twitch and fast twitch fibers, the all or none principle, and briefly touch on the different energy systems to gain true clarity on how best to exercise. Slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fibers. The voluntary muscles throughout your body consists mainly of two different types of fibers: slow twitch and fast twitch (there are also intermediate muscle fibers that have characteristics of both slow and fast twitch that gravitate toward one or the other depending on training stimuli). Slow twitch fibers produce low levels of force but can sustain contractions for a long period of time. They are the endurance fibers, so if you want to do well on running a marathon, for example, you train these fibers to perform better. Fast twitch fibers produce a large amount of force for a brief period of time, and then they kind of poop out. These fibers are used in such sports as shot putting or sprinting. Now here is what's interesting: the slow twitch fibers do not change shape much, if at all, as they get better developed (improving one's marathon running time, for example), whereas the fast twitch fibers do. As they get stronger, they become more defined, shapely, and aesthetically pleasing. So if a woman wants to see more tone and definition, she needs to work the fast twitch fibers. If a man wants more muscle and cuts (basically the same thing as definition), he needs to work the fast twitch muscle fibers as well. The best example I can give to demonstrate the difference between the development of the two types of fibers is by comparing a marathon runner to a sprinter. Marathon runners really don't have much tone or shape to their muscles, and many still carry a lot of fat for that matter. On the other hand, sprinters have more shapely and toned muscles, and generally have lower body fat levels. The all or none principle. The all or none principle means that when a muscle fiber is recruited to contract, it is giving 100% effort. In each muscle group, such as a bicep, there are thousands of muscle fibers, but the body will call into play only the amount of muscle fibers it needs to produce the appropriate amount of force against resistance. It will also always recruit the slow twitch fibers first before the fast twitch fibers. Let's use the biceps for an example. If you were to lift a glass of wine to your mouth, the body will recruit the exact amount of fibers it needs to move the glass. It will recruit the slow twitch fibers too, at first. Let's say the body recruits 10 fibers to do the lift. This means two things. First, if only 10 fibers are recruited, it means thousands of other fibers within the biceps are doing nothing. They have not been called on to do work. Secondly, since the resistance is so light, and slow twitch fibers produce low levels of force and can do it for great lengths of time, the body has no need to recruit more fibers to continue the lift. It can do so with the same fibers even though they give 100% effort every time. Now let's add some real weight. Let's bump it up to, say, 30 lbs. It is a real struggle to lift the weight. The body will still recruit the slow twitch fibers first (it doesn't skip over to the fast twitch fibers), but will obviously have to recruit more fibers and some of the fast twitch fibers to do the task. Let's say it needs to recruit 100 fibers in this case. It is still only, even with more resistance, going to recruit the exact amount of fibers it needs to get the job done. These fibers are also giving 100% effort, but with this weight, they actually fatigue a little bit. Now let's do a second repetition. On that second repetition, the 100 fibers are still firing, giving 100% effort but can only produce 70% of the amount of force as before. So the body has to call into play 100 more, fresh fibers to finish the lift. Third repetition: The first 100 fibers giving it all, but only capable of 50% force production, the second 100 fibers giving it their all, but only capable of 70% production. The body will need to call into play yet another 100 fresh fibers to continue the lift. Here's the point: to get to the fast twitch fibers and stimulate them to get stronger (hence more shape, definition, etc), you have to have the load adjusted right, and you have to do roughly 8 to 15 repetitions to get to the deeper fast twitch muscle fibers. In other words, the burning sensation you feel from hard work is a good thing-the more the better. One other very important point; for best results, the muscle must stay under continuous tension. As soon as the muscle has a chance to rest, even for a split second, blood and oxygen gets back into the fibers you are working and they get recharged. When that happens, they can give more force production again, meaning the body will not recruit more fibers to finish the lift. So let's go back to the biceps example. If you do a repetition all the way to the top where there is no resistance, or bounce the weight out of the bottom, or are choppy or too explosive with the repetition, you allow the muscle to rest and recharge the muscle fibers. This is the biggest mistake I see most trainees make. It is in large part why they spend up to 4 to 8 hours a week in the gym and do not see the changes they desire from their training program.
A brief overview of the energy systems. There are three energy systems the body utilizes for conversion of fat, carbohydrate, and protein to energy. The first one is the Atp/creatine phosphate system, the second one is the Glycolosis system, and the third one is the Aerobic Oxidation system. To begin with, all three energy systems produce as the end result a chemical called Adenosine Trisphosphate (ATP), which is the unit of energy that the body uses to perform muscle contractions. It is not fat. It is not carbohydrate. It is ATP. The first two systems mentioned, the ATP/creatine phosphate and Glycolosis system work in the Anaerobic system (simply meaning without oxygen), therefore they cannot tap into the fat stores for ATP production (breaking fat into ATP is a time consuming process. Anaerobic work needs energy now). They rely on the carbohydrate stores in the muscle and liver (this is called glycogen). What needs to be known is that there is a limited amount of glycogen stored in the muscles and liver, and when they are drained, intense muscular contractions cannot continue. That is why it is not good to do aerobic training before weight training. The Aerobic system, on the other hand creates ATP through the breakdown of fat, coupled with glycogen and oxygen. The slow twitch muscles has what's known as mitochondria that functions as the catalyst for aerobic energy production. Here's the main point: using fat for energy cannot happen if the intensity of the exercise is too high (above the aerobic threshold), and if someone wants to burn fat, anaerobic training cannot do this. That is why exercise physiologists recommend aerobic training. There's more. Energy production happens on a continuum. One isn't entirely excluded from the others. As the intensity goes up, more of the anaerobic systems are used. As the intensity goes down, more of the aerobic system is used. Here is the paradox: The more sedentary you are, the more energy used comes from fat. Sitting and watching T.V burns more fat than doing a moderate bike ride. But people that sit around and exercise very little struggle more with body fat loss than those that are active, especially those that train with intensity. Why? Here's the part people don't want to hear. It is not of matter of where the energy comes from during exercise that determines body fat loss, but how many calories are consumed in relation to how many calories are burned. In other words, you still have to eat less calories than you burn on a daily basis consistently for a period of time to see true body fat loss. Even if you do aerobic training everyday and burn, let's say 2000 calories a day, but eat 2500 calories a day, you will gain fat. If you eat 1700 calories a day and burn 2300 calories a day, you will lose body fat. Coming back to the two main questions: Can one set per body part work be enough to bring about muscular gains? I do not need aerobic training to see body fat loss? The answer to both questions is yes. Doing the exercise under continuous tension with the right amount of load is plenty of stimulus to bring about optimum strength gains, and body fat loss is simply burning more calories than you take in, regardless of the amount, form, or duration of exercise.