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The Wisdom of Frank Part II

“Keep Your Legs In The Game”

I met my friend Frank when I was 21 years old and working out at a local gym.  Frank was sixty-eight years old and in great condition.  He had been a professional boxer, army fitness instructor, and then a physical education teacher.  Frank was an incredibly well read student of fitness and human performance.  He was stronger, more agile, and fitter than most people in their twenties.  Success leaves footprints, so I was eager to learn from a master.

Frank would work through some stretches, warm up and start in on the jump rope.  He was amazing with the rope.  Frank said an athlete was “nothing without his legs”.  “Power comes from the ground” and strong arms were useless without legs that could react.  He told me that keeping the “pop in your hop” was critical to successful aging.

Recent research on lower extremity power production and aging has proven Frank correct.  As we age, we lose lower extremity power nearly twice as fast as we lose strength.  Power production is what keeps us competitive on the field of play and safe during our daily tasks.  The current area of interest in exercise science has been the “discovery” of the benefits of lower extremity power training with older clients.  One of the best books on this subject is Bending the Aging Curve, by Dr. Joseph Signorile.  I read this book in 2011 and thought to myself, I heard all of this from Frank in 1979.

Michael S. O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS

For years, I have been pushing gym goers away from long duration, low-level, steady state cardio training to higher intensity, interval-style training.  One of the objections that I commonly encounter is that training at higher exertion levels is not safe.  A recent New York Times article by Jane Brody, “Why Your Workout Should Be High-Intensity,” will help calm those fears.

Most gym members have at least heard of interval training.  During an interval training session, you perform repeated bouts of vigorous exercise interspersed with rest periods.  A typical interval training session consists of 60 seconds of work followed by 60 seconds of rest, repeated for eight to ten intervals.

In the gym, interval training is usually performed on a ladder, treadmill, bike, or elliptical, but you can also use a jump rope, kettlebell, or battling rope.  Most clients report a level of perceived exertion at a 7 or 8 on a 10-point scale during the work portion of the interval.  Interval training takes much less time (10 to 20 minutes) than the 30 to 40 minutes of conventional steady state training.

For almost all fitness goals, interval training produces better results.  Intervals speed up your metabolism so you burn more calories all day long.  If better body composition is a goal (less fat/more muscle– the number one goal of fitness clients), it is vastly superior to low-level steady state training.  Interval training takes up less of your valuable training time.  You can then use that time to develop a higher level of fitness with strength training.  You will no longer need a television for mental distraction as interval training is not mind-numbingly boring.

While interval training takes more effort, it is more efficient, produces better results, and as recent research has demonstrated, is safe.  Drop the steady state stuff and train on an interval program three times a week for six weeks.  The results will surprise you.

Take the time you will be saving with interval training and use it to read this article.  Click on the link below:


-Michael O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS