By Nick Nilsson
Author of Metabolic Surge - Rapid Fat Loss
I like to do things completely different from what most people do. If conventional wisdom says "train each bodypart once a week for best results," I immediately start thinking "I wonder what'll happen if I train each body part EVERY SINGLE DAY?"
And let me tell you, this mindset has allowed me to discover some pretty amazing things about how the body works...how it burns fat and how it builds muscle and strength.
But that being said, when you're training to make rapid changes to your body, you MUST start with the basics. There's no getting around it...not even with the stuff I'm about to show you. Without first having the basics in order (such as good nutrition and training technique), even the best "tricks" won't help.
So the purpose of this article is to help open up your mind and EXPAND upon the basics, NOT to replace them.
One thing I'm going to tell you right up front...these techniques are sometimes based on logic, sometimes based on scientific studies I've read and tried to find practical applications for, and sometimes they're just based on some wild idea I wanted to try out!
Feel free to try all of these - I've used them with varying degrees of success myself and I'm going to let you know how effective I thought they were.
The key here is to read these and not think "wow, that's stupid" and close your mind, but instead to read these and think "wow, I wonder if that might actually work" and "wow, I'm going to try and think of things I can do differently in my training."
THAT is what I want to accomplish here...
1. FAT LOSS - Cold Water Immersion
With this technique, the basic idea is this: submerge your body in cold water and let it bring your body temperature down enough to cause shivering. Shivering is almost completely fueled by fat, specifically the brown fat of the body (this is fat that is more metabolically active - the stuff that makes you look fat is known as white fat).
Also, the hormone release in response to the stress of cold water immersion may lead to an increase in metabolic rate.
I came across this cold water immersion idea in a past issue of Muscle & Fitness and the research they presented to back up the idea looked interesting so I decided to give it a try.
The exact study they quoted involved performing activity while in cold water but since I didn't have a big cold water tank, I decided to try it out with just the shivering in a tub.
Three times a week for a month, I filled a tub up with cold water and went in and started shivering. Now when I say cold water, there wasn't a hint of warmth in it - it wasn't ice water but was probably about 50 degrees F.
Let me tell you, you can really find out what you're made of when you're faced with a tub full of cold water that you have to get into! You step in, lie down up to your neck then just stay there for 20 minutes. You'll start shivering pretty quickly.
** Naturally, watch out for signs that you're getting TOO cold - we don't want hypothermia here! If you start breathing rapidly or you can't touch your index finger to your thumb, stand up out of the tub and turn on a warm shower to heat yourself back up.
I DID actually notice some results over and above what I've experienced with standard fat-loss programs. It wasn't a HUGE difference but I definitely did see a difference. If you want to burn fat while lying down, this is about the only way to do it.
The cold water also has an AMAZING diuretic effect on the body - it flushes subcutaneous (under the skin) water out of your body FAST. I think (and this is just my theory) this is another survival mechanism of the body - when your body starts losing heat rapidly (as it does in cold water), it immediately tries to flush out the best conductor of that heat (which is water). I noticed a major difference in muscle definition immediately after getting out of the cold water.
This MAY be a good technique if you have some stubborn fat you'd like to get rid of AND you're willing to sit in a cold tub 3 times a week for 20 to 30 minutes. The hormones released (specifically norepinephrine is one that has been mentioned in conjunction with cold water immersion) have the ability to unlock those stubborn fat cells.
You'll have to weigh these factors to decide if you want to try it.
One other bonus...you'll develop GREAT resistance to cold weather by doing this regularly. Your body will be better able to maintain core temperature because you're training it to adapt to cold.
2. FAT LOSS - Swishing the mouth with oil before doing cardio
This particular technique is a case of taking a scientific study and running with it in terms of practical applications. The specific study showed that the mere presence of fat in the mouth (not even swallowed) resulted in the liberation of fatty acids into the blood stream from fat cells.
It sounds strange but basically, this means when you have fat in the mouth (e.g. olive oil or vegetable oil is what I used), it signals the body to release fat from the fat cells and into the bloodstream. It doesn't have to be swallowed - the body senses the fats in the mouth and responds to it.
So here was my thought process...take a spoonful of olive oil and swish it around for about a minute or so, then spit it back out. Then immediately go do some cardio. The liberated fatty acids will be burned by the cardio. If you do this and don't do anything to burn the liberated fat, it'll most likely just get taken back up by the fat cells again.
I was on a low-carb diet at the time I tried this technique and noticed an IMMEDIATE increase in my energy levels. At this point, I was doing cardio first thing in the morning on an empty stomach and normally, I don't have a whole lot of energy in the morning. When I swished with the oil, I actually did feel more energetic and I believe the process was effective for increasing fatty acids in the bloodstream.
But here's the issue...what I DON'T know is how effective a long-term strategy this is. Does this cause a significant increase in fat-burning? Enough to be a useful technique? It's a definite maybe.
Signalling the body to begin opening up fat cells faster is a good thing as it helps you increase energy levels and access that stored bodyfat more easily.
3. FAT LOSS - Doing ALL training (my Metabolic Surge fat-loss program to be precise) wearing an 85 lb weight vest
This technique resulted in one of THE toughest training programs I've ever done. Basically, I took an 85 lb weight vest (the X-Vest, if you're familiar with it) and wore it for each and every workout on my Metabolic Surge fat-loss program (including cardio...non-impact training like incline treadmill walking, elliptical and stair machine).
The idea here was to dramatically increase caloric expenditure by increasing my bodyweight with the vest.
Studies have shown the weighted vest to be a very effective way to increase metabolism and calorie-burning so this one wasn't "out there" in terms of theory. It's already been well-proven. What it WAS far out in was how HARD it was to do!
And let me tell you, it was VERY brutal.
This was a VERY effective technique for increasing the rate of fat loss. The increase in bodyweight (adding 85 lbs to myself) dramatically increased my metabolism each and every workout, even beyond the high levels I normally noticed on the Metabolic Surge program.
But I would NEVER do it again (at least as I did it this time). Wearing the vest combined with this challenging of a training program was VERY tough on the body, especially while eating low-calorie. By the time I finished, I was TRASHED. In fact, I was unable to even perform the last 2 sessions of the program.
If I were to do it again, here's what I would change: eat more while on the program to help with recovery, wear the vest every other workout instead of every workout, and reduce the number of sets done in those vest workouts. I'd keep the heavy weight on because I actually enjoyed that part of it. But even a more modest weight load in the vest would yield good results.
Overall, it's an excellent technique and definitely worth trying out if you have access to a weight vest.
If you're interested in checking out the "Metabolic Surge - Rapid Fat Loss" program I used while doing the vest training, you can find it here - it's effective whether you're wearing the vest or not.
4. MUSCLE AND STRENGTH - Total body workouts, 6 days a week, two times a day.
You may have heard me mention this program before...when it comes to unconventional training for muscle growth, this about as good as it gets! Basically, for 3 weeks, I performed total-body workouts twice a day, 6 days a week.
But here's the catch...I was on vacation from work at the time and was pretty much doing nothing but eating, sleeping and training. I was actually able to recover enough to make it work and make AMAZING progress. Also, I only did this type of training for 3 weeks before backing off.
I realize this goes TOTALLY contrary to what the vast majority of trainers and authorities in the field recommend, but let me tell you, your body has TREMEMDOUS adaptive potential when you give it the proper stimulus AND the proper tools for optimum recovery.
I gained a tremendous amount of muscle and strength from this program that, according to conventional wisdom, should have left me smaller and weaker and totally overtrained.
The key with how I did it was in accounting for recovery. I wasn't doing anything strenuous outside of training, I was getting plenty of sleep and quality food AND I was varying the TYPE of training I was doing for the muscles between partials, negatives and full-range, normal training.
Also, each total body workout was done with an eye on training volume - not too many sets each time. The high frequency of the workouts was what kept the momentum going.
After 3 weeks of this, I backed off somewhat on the workouts for the next 3 weeks (only working each bodypart ONCE per day). In total, after 6 weeks, I had gained about 20 lbs of bodyweight, much of it lean mass.
5. MUSCLE AND STRENGTH - Hybrid Training - combining cables, bands and free weights to adapt to the strength curves of exercises.
Adapting to the strength curve of an exercise is not a new concept - some do it through machines designed for the job...some do it by working on partial movements.
But literally COMBINING two different forms of resistance into one exercise? THIS is not something you see every day. And, strictly speaking, even the concept of combining two different forms of resistance itself isn't new - band training is a TREMENDOUSLY effective way to increase bench press, squats and deadlifts. Powerflifters do this all the time.
This is my recommended source for training bands. (Note: Use Coupon Code "rbtfitstep" to get 10% off your purchase of a band package)
The idea I had was to not only ADD another form of resistance but also change the DIRECTION that secondary form of resistance was coming from.
This idea first occurred to me when I was doing dumbbell presses. I thought to myself, "hmmm...I'm getting great tension at the bottom of the exercise...I wonder if there's a way that I can increase the tension at the top, too?"
So I went over to the cable cross-over machine and set the two handles on the low pulleys. I set the bench in the very center then reached over and grabbed the one pulley handle, then reached over and grabbed the other. After sitting back up on the bench, I then leaned forward and picked up the dumbbells.
What followed was one of THE most eye-opening sets of bench press I had EVER done...
Picture this...when you're doing a dumbbell bench press, you get maximum tension at the bottom of the exercise. But as you press up to the top, the leverage changes and you lose most of that tension. By the time you're at the top of the exercise, you've lost pretty much all of it unless you're actively squeezing the muscles.
Now picture this...when you're doing a flat bench cable flye exercise (which is same as dumbbell flyes but with cables), you get practically NO tension at the bottom, but, as you bring your hands together above, you get MAXIMUM tension at the top, with the cables pulling directly out to the sides.
Got those two exercises visualized in your head? Good. Now mash them together...
Imagine the cable handles AND dumbbells in your hands AT THE SAME TIME.
This time, when you do the press, you're going to get maximum tension from the dumbbells at the bottom and almost no tension from the cables.
But, as you press up and lose tension in the dumbbell press, the CABLE tension starts kicking in. By the time you've hit the top, the cables are at MAXIMUM tension.
The result? A dumbbell bench press where your pecs get NO BREAK WHATSOEVER. The tension is just INCREDIBLE. I would say that one of these sets is worth THREE normal sets.
Then I went even FURTHER and added some chains to also add compensatory resistance vertically as well (the chains get heavier as more and more links come off the ground).
When I did this exercise for the very first time (and naturally, because it felt so good, I did too many sets), I couldn't bring my arms across my body without them starting to shake.
And, of course, I couldn't stop there. I went ahead and came up with exercises like this for the ENTIRE body.
A definite winner. This training technique has tremendous potential for increasing strength and muscle mass fast. I train with this technique regularly and, let me tell you, I KNOW there's a difference in how these exercises affect muscle growth and strength compared to standard exercises.
If you're interested in checking out a bicep exercise using this technique, check out this article:
And if you're interested in learning more about the rest of these "Hybrid" exercises I mentioned, check out my book "Hybrid Training."
It has ALL the exercises I've come up with using this technique, covering the ENTIRE body. This is POWERFUL stuff.
These five things I mentioned are only scratching the surface of ALL the unconventional things I've done in the past 28 years.
If nothing else, I hope you take away from this information a whole new appreciation for learning and experimentation. Besides the physical results you get from pushing your body to the limits, it turns loose the creativity within you and makes training fun.
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