"It's medieval and unbelievable." That's how fitness expert David Jack describes this "barbell complex" -- five exercises strung together to create one serious fat-loss routine. "It's a metabolic nightmare for your body, but in a good way," says Jack, a Men’s Health advisor and director of fitness at TeamWorks in Acton, Massachusetts.

Here at Men's Health, we don't actually call it a complex. We call it the workout from Hell. Try it just once and you'll no doubt agree: It incinerates fat and lights your muscles on fire. It may even leave you begging for mercy. (And if you really like tough workouts, make sure to try The Ultimate Fitness Challenge.)

Here’s how it works: You first put weight on the barbell. That's normal. But once you pick the barbell up, you never put it down, using the same weight to perform 5 consecutive exercises: the deadlift, straight-leg deadlift, barbell row, jump shrug, and hang clean. Watch the video below to see exactly how to do the routine.

The key: Choose your weight for all the exercises based on what you use for either the barbell row or the hang clean. These are the exercises in which you'll be the weakest. While this may seem too light when you start the routine, you'll quickly understand how challenging it can be. Do 8 reps of each exercise, then rest for 90 seconds. That’s one round. Try doing three to four rounds. This can be a workout on its own, or you can use it as “cardio” training at the end of your regular weight workout. (For more super-simple, fat-loss routines, check out the Fastest Cardio Workouts Ever.)

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to read them first!

And in case you're wondering, we certainly didn't invent this kind of fat torcher. (Or is it "torture"?) The credit for that goes to famed Romanian weightlifting coach Istvan Javorek. He's thought to have first brought "complex" routines to the U.S. back in the 1980s -- after he defected from Romania. Today, he's the professor of fitness at Johnson County Community College -- where he's known as "Coach Javorkian" -- which is a small school located in the Kansas City suburbs. Sound like an odd job for a guy whose athletes have medaled at the Olympics? We thought so, too. That's why we profiled this icon of fitness -- and his training methods -- in the Men’s Health feature, "Inside the Ab Labs." Enjoy.

Full Story >>




How do you know if an infomercial "ab device" is a ripoff?

Simple: If you answer "yes" to any of the three questions below, consider it a red flag. And if you answer "yes" to all three questions? That's a dead giveaway.

Question #1: Are you being sold a complicated-looking (and expensive!) piece of equipment to do a simple exercise?

What you need to know: Typically, most infomercial products offer a "better" way to do the basic crunch or sit-up. These upgrades usually involve increasing your range of motion, so that you work more muscle. But when researchers at Slippery Rock University put several ab gadgets -- including the Ab Rocket, Ab Lounge, Bender Ball, and The Bean -- to the test, they discovered that the infomercial products didn't activate any more abdominal muscle than the classic sit-up. Here's a quick rundown of how each product fared.

Ab Rocket
This device actually edged out the sit-up in regard to upper-adominal activation. However, the sit-up fared better on lower-abdominal activation. Interesting note: The makers of this abdominal rocking chair tout its neck- and back-supporting design. Yet study co-author Jeff Lynn, Ph.D., says users reported neck strain and thought the motion felt "unnatural."

Ab Lounge
Participants enjoyed this exercise; their backs, however, did not. "It allows you to hyperextend your back," Lynn says. "This puts potentially damaging pressure on the low spine." For an at-home routine can help prevent and even alleviate back pain, check out The Best Exercises for Your Lower Back.

Bender Ball
Standard sit-ups produced 25 percent greater lower-ab activation than the Bender Ball. What's more, a rolled-up towel can serve the similar purpose of increasing your range of motion. So can a Swiss ball, which you can pick up for about $20, and is more versatile. That's because the Swiss ball allows you to perform a much wider range of exercises -- not just for your core, but for your upper and lower body as well.

The Bean
Banish this blow-up chair to the kiddy pool. "The Bean was the worst of the lot," Lynn says. "It actually facilitates movement forward, so you do less work."

Question #2: Does the ad claim that the machine makes the exercise effortless?

What you need to know: You won't sculpt your abs without some work. That should be a given. After all, if it were so easy to achieve a washboard stomach, anyone with a credit card would have abs like Georges St. Pierre. (For comparison’s sake, click here to see The Georges St. Pierre Workout.)

Question #3: Does the commercial suggest that simply using the device will transform a fat gut into flat abs?

Full Story >>

Imagine a way to burn a ton of calories, save your knees, work your core and quads, have fun, and stay in the air conditioning.

No, we're not talking about Wii Bowling. We're talking about trampoline dodgeball.

A company called Sky Zone is building these indoor playgrounds entirely of trampolines for 3-D dodgeball, SkyRobics, basketball and just plain "open jump." And these bouncy wonderlands are attracting everyone from gymnasts to the elderly to -- of course -- kids. (Moonwalks are quivering in fear.) Sky Zone started as a class project at Washington University's Olin School of Business, but investors jumped (ha!) at the opportunity. Now franchises are opening almost as fast as the guys in this video can launch a squishy ball.

"We get all kinds of customers," says Anthony Woods, assistant manager of Sky Zone in Rocklin, Calif. "Of course for 3-D Dodgeball, we have to separate by sizes to keep it fair. It's really popular with the 16-and-up crowd."

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to read them first!

Spinning and boot camps might burn a ton of calories, but they certainly don't make you feel like you're flying. Woods says an hour or so of playing at Sky Zone can burn up to 1,000 calories, depending on your size and fitness. He claims you have to use 30 percent more energy to balance and move in the Sky Zone. And if you've ever used a Bosu ball, you probably see the logic.

"We've had 90 year-old men come in and use the Sky Zone for tumbling," Woods says. "It's very low-impact."

Take it from your elders: You don't have to wear butt-toning sneakers to get a great workout. Though if you run into these cats, you might have to wear a helmet.

Full Story >>

All in all, it wasn't a bad summer to be an NFL player.

Aside from a few weeks of financial uncertainty as the shutters went up and the minds responsible for a nation's Sunday sanity cranked out a solution, 2011 was just fine, thank you very much.

A few weeks extra vacation, with a sparkling new collective bargaining agreement containing some welcome new regulations at the end of it? Check. And, perhaps most importantly, no more of the gut-wrenching, lung-bursting, nightmare-inducing feats of sadistic torture known as two-a-day practices.

Yet while the boys of winter were cooling their heels, there was another group of NFL athletes in full training mode. A group that even now, with the new season just a long Hail Mary away, doesn’t get to put its feet up after one daily session.

They are the cheerleaders and by the time that special day in September rolls around and we remind ourselves what we've been missing, they will have been 'in camp' for six months already. Whisper it now, especially around Bart Scott, but could the hardest working people in the NFL be a bunch of girls waving pom-poms?

Full Story >>

If you don't watch your figure, the saying goes, who will? Kind of a harsh statement, for sure, but that's now a corporate policy at Equinox Fitness.

Personal trainers at Equinox will be wearing form-fitting shirts to help show off their physiques. In June, Equinox sent trainers an email announcing the change, giving them time to lose weight -- lest a compression-type shirt would be less than flattering.

Ouch.

From a purely superficial perspective, it makes sense. To some, a trainer who looks great in a tight shirt must really know a lot about fitness, right? And besides, for lots of us, our appearance is the main reason we hit the gym.

And yes, if you work in the fitness industry, you shouldn't be carrying a bunch of extra weight around the middle. We all know the irony of an overweight doctor or nurse telling us to lose weight, and the same goes for a personal trainer.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to read them first!

However, selecting a trainer is a process that should be much more thorough than checking if he or she has a six-pack.

When car shopping, you don't automatically buy the best looking car in your price range without any regard for performance and reliability, right? The same should go for your personal trainer.

You're selecting someone that will ideally help you look and feel better. Just because someone won the genetic lottery doesn't mean they're automatically the smartest person when it comes to training.

"Experience is what yields perspective," Eric Cressey, a owner of Cressey Performance, says. "When you look at a fit personal trainer, it can either come from being genetically blessed, or from actually having to work for it. I'd estimate that it's about a 50/50 split, based on what I've seen at industry events.

"Additionally, looking fit is just one piece of the puzzle. I've seen trainers who looked fit, but were complete wrecks in terms of musculoskeletal health, blood work, and psychological health."

So what's really important in finding a trainer?

1. Ask for biographies of all of the personal trainers at your gym. Yes, a lot of biographies are needlessly pumped up, and more certifications aren't necessarily better. However, you can get an idea of which trainers would be compatible with you and your interests, and you can Yahoo! search what ACE, NSCA, NASM and other acronyms mean.

2. Pay attention to what trainers are doing with other clients. Don't stare, of course, but keep an eye at the form that clients are using and the exercises that are being prescribed. Does a trainer have his or her clients do quarter-squats and crunches? Bad sign. Move on.

3. Before you commit to buying a training package, talk to your trainer. And after you put down the money, an assessment should always be first. These are your goals and your body. The plan should be adapted to you. You shouldn't be adapted to the plan. "In the initial orientation, make sure you feel comfortable with the personal trainer," says Jessica Velazquez, a Kansas City-based personal trainer. "Initial orientations and assessments between the health-seeker and personal trainer can be intimidating. Nobody likes to get picked and poked and told in several different ways how they are out of shape and fat. Make this an opportunity to assess your trainer as much as they assess you."

4. Question, question, question. No, I'm not saying you need to buy some textbooks and study yourself, but if you're unsure of what muscle the exercise you're about to do is supposed to work, ask. Are you wondering why you're feeling the soreness in a specific area? Ask. Every great trainer should have a specific reason for every person and every exercise. If you find a lot of hesitation or some shoulder shrugs, find another trainer. This is one thing that isn't like car shopping. You should never be locked into a long-term lease.

Full Story >>




If you rely on your treadmill readout, you may be burning fewer calories than you think.

But more important: If you rely on conventional exercise advice, you may be burning fewer calories than you could.

Let's start with the treadmill. Anytime you see "calories burned" on an exercise machine display -- or anywhere else, for that matter -- it includes the amount of energy you expend when you're just sitting around, says Alex Koch, Ph.D., an exercise scientist at Lenoir-Rhyne University. "For instance, depending on your size, you burn about 1.2 calories a minute while you're sleeping," explains Koch. "So to know how many extra calories you're burning with exercise, you have to subtract that number from your total." (Click here to learn The Truth about the Calories You Eat.)

Example: A 180-pound guy might burn 120 calories while mowing his lawn, but that's not 120 additional calories (as many people assume) -- it's 120 calories total. Turns out, it's only 60 more calories than what he'd expend while surfing the Web.

The same rules apply to your workout. If you really want to know your true bonus-burn, you have to calculate the calories you would have expended had you not exercised -- see the alternative "activities" in the chart below -- then subtract them from your total. You might find that the 400 calories you burned at the gym was actually just 300 more calories than you would have burned at your desk.

Activity Calories per minute
Watching TV 1.4
Typing on a computer 2.5
Driving a car 2.7

Admittedly, this information is more interesting (and disappointing) than it is useful. After all, most of us only have so much time to exercise in the first place. As such, what truly matters -- at least in terms of fat loss -- is that we maximize every minute of our workouts. And perhaps that's where we've been misled. (Watch out at the grocery store, too: These 18 Supermarket Lies could be making you fat.)

It's well-documented that an aerobic activity like moderate jogging burns more calories than weight training -- an activity that's highly anaerobic. In fact, if you go by the published numbers, you find that even golfing beats out a light circuit workout with weights. But recent research shows a new perspective. (Sorry, golfers!)

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to read them first!

When Christopher Scott, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist at the University of Southern Maine, began using an advanced method to estimate energy expenditure during exercise, his data showed weight training burns more calories than originally thought -- up to 71 percent more. Based on these findings, it's estimated that performing just one circuit of eight exercises -- which takes about eight minutes -- can expend 159 to 231 calories. That's about the same as running at a six-minute-mile pace for the same duration. (Yes, that's total calorie-burn, just like the treadmill calculates.)

"Exercise physiologists often use the techniques for estimating the energy expenditure of walking and jogging and apply them to weightlifting," says Scott. "But clearly, aerobic and anaerobic activities differ, and so too should the way we estimate their energy expenditures."

Scott's revelation is most certainly a relief to gym rats everywhere, who no doubt wondered why an intense, energy-sapping weight workout supposedly burned so few calories.

Case in point: Watch this video of the dumbbell lunge with single-arm overhead press, as demonstrated by Men's Health fitness expert B.J. Gaddour. Then try doing 10 repetitions on each side, while using a challenging weight. Rest 60 seconds, and repeat two more times. This should convince just about anyone that you can torch a ton of energy with dumbbells. (For more than 600 body-sculpting exercises, check out The Men’s Health Big Book of Exercises.)

Full Story >>




A few months ago, I asked Alwyn Cosgrove, C.S.C.S. -- one of the world's top trainers -- to create a cutting-edge fat loss program for Men's Health. And, of course, he obliged. But a curious thing: One of the workouts in the plan featured just two exercises.

That's right: When asked to create a super-effective, calorie-torching routine, Cosgrove gave us a workout that had readers do only a kettlebell swing and a squat thrust. This confused some folks, who wondered, "How can you lose fat with just two exercises?"

Cosgrove's response: "Running is just one exercise, but no one questions that when it comes to burning fat."

(Another great way to lose fat: Avoid The Worst 20 Drinks in America.)

He makes a good point. And in fact, once you understand the philosophy behind Cosgrove's routine, you start to see why it works so well. But first, an explanation of the actual routine itself.

Here's how it works: You do 15 repetitions of the kettlebell swing (you can also use a dumbbell for this), followed immediately by 15 reps of the squat thrust. (See below for descriptions of both exercises.) Without resting, do 14 reps of the swing and then 14 reps of the squat thrust. Continue this pattern until you complete only one rep of each exercise. This is called a countdown workout.

Sure, that's just two exercises, but do the math: If you complete the entire routine -- from 15 down to 1 -- you'll do 120 repetitions of each exercise. That's 240 repetitions. And these aren't just any exercises: They're movements that challenge your entire body.

(Click here to see The Best New Exercises for Men.)

They're also done at a fast pace. On average, it'll only take you about three seconds per rep. So you'll do those 240 reps in just 12 minutes or so. That'll light your muscles on fire, and have you gasping for air (in a good way).

If you think that sounds too easy or too fast, I suggest you try it. You may find you can't even finish. But that's okay -- you can just start with a lower number, like 8, and work your way up as you improve your fitness. (In fact, I recommend this strategy.) What's more, if you want an even greater challenge, you can always take a breather and repeat the routine.

Full Story >>

They've been called the "the most controversial item in military running since the MP3 player" by the Army Times. Toe shoes, or "snocks," were banned by the Army last month. Officials decided they just didn’t look professional. But this evolution in footwear isn't just creating controversy in the military.

You could point to a 2009 bestseller by Christopher McDougall, "Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen." McDougall, an injured runner, goes on a quest to learn the mysterious ways of the Tarahumara Indian tribe in the Mexican Copper Canyons. Members of the tribe run up to 100 miles, completely barefoot, without acquiring the usual running injuries of Americans. McDougall concludes our Western obsession with cushiony athletic footwear is the culprit for our plantar fascitis, knee pain and more.

The book spread through the running community like "Twilight" at a girls’ boarding school. Shoe companies caught on, with Nike introducing the "Free Family" of shoes that encourage a "ball of the foot strike," or landing on the ball, rather than the heel.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to read them first!

"I see minimalist footwear as a philosophy, a way of approaching running," says Raul Garcia, a distance runner who sells shoes at Luke's Locker, an athletic boutique in Austin, Texas. "The idea is that running injuries can be caused by all this heel cushioning and height that doesn’t allow you to land on the ball of your foot. These shoes are meant to correct your motion."

Saucony and Asics have their own versions, but it’s the Vibrams FiveFingers getting the most attention. With a snug compartment for each toe, they look like space age socks. VFF’s, as they’re sometimes called, existed long before "Born to Run" became the barefoot runner’s manifesto, but mainly for rock climbers to help with gripping. Now, the company markets them as beneficial running shoes.

"Running in FiveFingers delivers sensory feedback that improves agility and equilibrium and allows immediate form correction," touts the company website. "In addition it stimulates and strengthens muscles in the feet and lower legs."

Some runners swear the "snocks" have changed their life.

Adam Odeh, a research scientist in Fort Worth, was getting sick of doing cardio at the gym. With a trail right by his house, he decided to give running a try. His knees began to throb and even buckle during most runs, and no braces, anti-inflammatory meds or straps made a difference. Like a good scientist, he hit the web and the books. After reading "Born to Run," Odeh bought a pair of Vibrams.

"I've been running in Vibrams for about a year and they completely eliminated the pain in my knees," Odeh says. "I couldn't make it past one mile in normal running shoes and now I run three or four miles a few times a week."

"While I do believe that minimalist shoes do make your feet and your calves stronger, I really think that runners must ease into them, rather than making a jump from high support to no support," says Gilbert Tuhabonye, a native of Burundi who once competed in barefoot running and now runs Gilbert’s Gazelles, a running group in Austin that trains athletes for the Boston Marathon. "I always tell the Gazelles to do a series of foot exercises following our runs to build up the strength in the foot and the lower calf. Power and efficiency in running comes from your feet, and they take the most impact."

Tuhabonye didn’t even own a pair of shoes until he was around 13 years old, which he says helped him develop strong feet and legs from the start. While he advocates for the "less is more" footwear philosophy, he stresses that you have to have a plan to get there.

Garcia also cautioned against wearing them as your full time running shoe.

"If you run 20 miles a week, maybe give them a shot first on the grass, treadmill or an indoor track for about three miles," says Garcia, who runs 80 miles a week and only wears his Vibrams 10 percent of the time.

Garcia pointed out other options from Nike and Asics that look more like traditional running shoes -- no separate toe homes to be found.

Walking around in a pair of VFF’s, you can feel all of the muscles in your feet working. They felt better than walking around barefoot, but it’s hard to imagine walking out the door to the nearby trail and taking a jog. Especially if your high arches have been coddled with cushion, or if your flat feet are used to specially designed soles.

"The trendiness is definitely a motivation for trying them out," says Garcia. "A lot of people walk in and say 'They look so different and my friend swears by them. I want to give them a try.'"

But the minimalist running trend has produced another beneficiary aside from shoe companies and retailers: podiatrists.

"Those toe shoes have certainly been good for my business," says Dr. Andrew Cassidy of Lone Star Podiatry in Austin. He sees about two patients a week with injuries and pain from barefoot or minimalist shoe running.

"The concept that we should go back to our natural roots with barefoot running is all kumbaya. It’s a misnomer," Cassidy adds.

He argues that training your feet to land with a "forefront strike" may take stress off your heels, but it could add it to your knees, hips and back.

"You’re borrowing from Peter to pay Paul," he says. "The Vibrams were not intended for running, they are for climbing. Maybe some people can get away with them without injury, but very few."

Cassidy tells his patients they should be wearing sturdy running shoes even just around the house -- advice that isn’t too popular with his female patients. The ideal shoe in Cassidy’s world has an enclosed heel with a "stiff heel counter," should only bend in the toe (not the arch) and have ample room in the toe box.

"If something seems gimmicky," Cassidy says, "it probably is."

Full Story >>

Tags:
Nike, Shoes

In the now-famous commercial, Ray Lewis says the animals want to talk so they can communicate with him. But a lot of animals might not be able to catch the future Hall of Famer the way he's pedaling his bike these days.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh says the All-Pro linebacker is in the best shape that he's ever seen him in, and Lewis says that's thanks to cycling.

"I credit a lot of my training to a lot of my cycling," Lewis told reporters, getting more excited by the word. "I did a lot of cycling. I became real big in it. First couple times I went out there I was like, 'Oh my gosh!' I mean, the fatigue that you go through..."

One reason Lewis brought out the bicycle is because it puts less stress on legs than pounding the pavement.

"It's really a mind thing on how you have to breathe and just let your legs keep going, going, going, going," Lewis said. "And then when you get on the field and you go back to running, running isn't the same because you can't take as many steps running as you can cycling. So that's one of the things that really, really helped me out a lot this off-season."

While you won't see Lewis in the Tour de France soon, cycling can be a great changeup to your cardio routine if you're sick of the treadmill or pavement every day.

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to read them first!

A stationary bike is great for steady state cardio and may be even better for interval training than the treadmill because of the lack of acceleration and deceleration lag that a treadmill belt undergoes when the speed changes.

If you're looking for sport-specific conditioning, however, cycling may not be your best bet. The best way to train is to replicate movements and the stress your body goes through in competition. While there's a lot of running involved in basketball, for instance, it's nearly useless for a basketball player to run five miles at a steady state to train for the season. When would that ever happen in a game?

Plus, look at it this way: If Lance Armstrong's cardiovascular endurance directly transferred over to running, he'd be a world-class marathoner.

But that's not to say Lewis wasted his time on the bike. Hardly. At 36, his body has been through a lot of wear and tear over 15 NFL seasons. And as we said before, interval training is easily adaptable on a bike. Relatively short bursts of power followed by longer recovery periods are normal in any cycling class.

Besides, one of the most important aspects to any fitness routine is rest. By subjecting himself to grueling, but lower-impact workouts, Lewis says he feels fresher.

At the very least, that means no letdown for fans coming to the stadium to see him dance this season.

Full Story >>