Peak Fitness is a term that describes a type of exercise which utilizes high intensity, short duration cardio activity. This particular form of exercise has a multitude of important health benefits: weight loss, aerobic and anaerobic benefits at the same timeand, most of all, it promotes the natural production of human growth (youth) hormone (HGH) at a very high level (after the age of 20 the production decreases rapidly) in only 60 minutes a week!
One of the sources of information I consult with frequently is Dr Joe Mercola through his website Mercola.com. Dr Mercola has had the opportunity to collaborate with many world renowned experts in the world of health care. One individual that Dr Mercola has collaborated with in recent years is Phil Campbell. Phil Campbell has been a veteran researcher in the field of fitness for 35 years working and training with professional athletes. According to Dr Mercola’s interview-article, Phil has worked with 18,000 athletes, teaching them how to run faster with the proper speed technique. Below, are excerpts of the interview that Dr Mercola conducted with Phil. (The full article can be found on Dr Mercola’s website: mercola.com)
“Most exercise programs today are built based upon a very incomplete picture of the physiology of your body. For example, long slow cardio [jogging], “calories in, calories out,” would be a perfect way to look at the body if it were all slow-twitch fibers, but … [in reality] there are three muscle fiber types: slow, fast and super-fast … both types of fast-twitch fibers are essentially 50 percent of your muscle fibers that don’t get recruited until you add a velocity of movement.”
If you don’t actively engage and strengthen all three muscle fiber types and energy systems, you’re not going to work both processes of your heart muscle. Many mistakenly believe that Cardio works out your heart muscle, but what you’re really working is your slow twitch muscle fibers. You’re not effectively engaging the anaerobic process of your heart.
” … the American Heart Association and the American College of Sports Medicine have taken long-slow cardio out of their exercise guidelines and the reason is pretty clear – It just doesn’t work! It doesn’t work both processes of your heart muscle, aerobic process and anaerobic process. It doesn’t work for your fast-twitch fiber…
To really work your cardiovascular system the way you should, … you should do moderate-intensity cardio (which is still pretty intense) five days a week for 30 minutes ─ or vigorous intensity cardio for 20 minutes, three times a week…
if you do long and slow exercise, your muscle — that’s slow-twitch fiber — can heal pretty quickly, in one day. But when you work fast-twitch fiber, whether it’s an NFL athlete, or me or anyone, it takes about 48 hours for that fast-twitch fiber to truly heal back and totally recover…
The benefit of doing this program three times a week comes not only from the way it works your fast and super-fast muscle fibers, but also the way it increases your growth hormone with each session. The longer you can keep your body producing higher levels of HGH, the longer you will likely experience more robust health and strength…
In fact, an eight-week study conducted by Phil and colleagues found that a Peak Fitness session resulted in an average HGH increase of 771 percent! This also translated to increased fat burning among the study participants.
“At the end of the eight weeks, results were phenomenal. The average body fat loss was 31 percent. Sprint 8 was designed to replicate the growth hormone production, which in the average case increases 14.4 percent. Basically, Sprint 8 in this one study on middle-aged workers shows that it’s twice as effective in body fat loss as injecting growth hormone.”
Another great facet of Peak Fitness is that it gives you both aerobic and anaerobic benefits at the same time, essentially replacing the need to do long, slow training.
“With long-slow cardio there’s some benefits, but we know from the sport sciences now that the best way to increase endurance capacity is through hard, fast anaerobic training…”
Here’s a summary of what a typical Peak Fitness [aka Sprint 8] routine might look like: Warm up for three minutes. Exercise as hard and fast as you can for 30 seconds. You should feel like you couldn’t possibly go on another few seconds. Recover for 90 seconds
“… In Sprint 8, you only get a recovery of a minute and a half because we’re trying to multitask an aerobic workout and an anaerobic workout… So Sprint 8 is actually much more intense than [long slow cardio].” Repeat the high intensity exercise and recovery 7 more times…”
This technique described by Phil Campbell grabbed my attention because of the simplicity but yet very powerful effect it has on the body in the short time it takes to do the entire routine – only 20 minutes, 3 times per day adds up to 1 hour of work out per week!
Another interesting element of this exercise protocol is it’s correlation to what is referred to as “paleolithic exercise.”It has been clearly demonstrated that the modern day, 21st century life style habits which have accompanied man in his evolution have a strong correlation to the chronic diseases that have developed in this same period of human history. It has been suggested by many authors (and I find it to be very logical) that a “return” to previous indigenous patterns of living could very well reverse, or at least lower the incidence of our most common modern day maladies. The logic behind the “Sprint 8” protocol more closely coincides with presumed paleolithic activities which were once part of our natural way of living. That is, the indigenous hunter-gatherer society of the past would have been much more likely to utilize this high-intensity type of activity for their survival.
In his interview with Phil Campbell, Dr Mercola discusses the best possible methods for applying this methodology. Personally, I have recently been experimenting with as many different types of sports-activities as possible using Sprint 8 in order to get a full appreciation of the affects of it’s effects. I also want to discover the most practical method, in accordance with the environment I live in and the time and instruments at my disposition. At this point in time, I have used Sprint 8 with: running on various surfaces, jumping rope, bicycle and swimming. I have also bought an elliptical machine which has many advantages. Firstly, you have the advantage of a controlled movement that integrates both the upper and lower body. Secondly, you can monitor electronically, among other things, your heart rate. No doubt certain activities lend themselves more to the Sprint 8 protocol, than others.
It is also important to remember to accompany Sprint 8 with the appropriate pre-post stretching and warm-up, warm down procedures in addition to following the guidelines which have been researched as part of this routine. Here is a list of rules to follow that I again extracted from Dr Mercola’s article:
“… As you can see, the entire workout is only 20 minutes. You can use virtually any type of equipment you want for this – an elliptical machine, a treadmill, swimming, even sprinting outdoors (although you will need to do this very carefully to avoid injury) — as long as you’re pushing yourself as hard as you can for 30 seconds. But do be sure to stretch properly and start slowly to avoid injury. [For first timers] Start with two or three repetitions and work your way up, don’t expect to do all eight repetitions the first time you try this, especially if you are out of shape.
“There are many different ways you could do Sprint 8. As long as you can get totally exhausted in 30 seconds or less. That’s the key. If you can’t go longer than 30 seconds — no matter if you’re a professional athlete or just starting — that means you’re doing it correctly. It has to be so intense that after 30 seconds, you’re just praying for those last seconds to go by … “
“I really discourage people from using the treadmill … I don’t believe it is ideal … You can use virtually any type of cardio exercise, as long as you get your knee movement up [to waist level] and your heart rate up, that’s the key. Do not bend forward – like riding a bike – it decreases the efficacy of the exercise and benefits. The key is to get knees to waist level – a stepper is not sufficient…”
“I would strongly recommend that you invest in a chest strap heart rate monitor to make sure your intensity is on target. If you are able to exceed your calculative maximum heart rate, which is 220 minus your age, by five or 10 beats, then you know you have trained.
“It’s the same principle… So if it’s a push or press movement away from the center — like [weight lifting] the chest press, bench press, shoulder press, squat or any push or press movement away from the center of the body — those muscles return loaded with fast-twitch fiber that a lot of times simply don’t get worked… It’s real simple to engage that muscle fiber. So if you come down like on a push-up or a chest press, pause and then explode out — don’t use momentum to come out — just pause and then explode with velocity because you’re getting an intensity of movement.
Whether Sprint 8 or lifting weights, you get intensity from resistance and the velocity of movement. So when you factor in a velocity of movement into that equation, you recruit fast-twitch fiber and so you get all three muscle fiber types in the same exercise if you do it that way…”
Once you have gone through all the time, effort and energy of stimulating growth hormone release, there’s an exercise recovery phase of two to three hours, where you have to be somewhat careful about what foods you choose to eat. If you aren’t careful, then you could suppress the stimulus and you won’t get that growth hormone benefits that you would have if you have been more careful with your diet.
Specifically, in order to promote HGH release, you do need to restrict sugar intake post exercise.
“What we recommend … is to get 25 grams of protein afterwards within that 30-minute “golden window.” There is a lot of research to support that, but there’s also some research done by Dr. John Ivy of the University of Texas, a great researcher on a young cyclist who made recovery. They’re not looking at growth hormone or maximizing growth hormone. They’re trying to get to recover as quickly as possible so they can cycle several days in a row.
it’s important to avoid carbs, especially sugar or fructose-containing foods, in the two hours after your workout, and this includes sports drinks, to be sure you’re getting the full HGH benefits.
I have known the importance of recovery in exercise training for ages but never applied it to what I have been teaching for an equally long time, which is to Listen to Your Body when it comes to selecting foods”