Tuesday, July 06, 2010


This week it was time to take things up to the next level. When people start training in Biggest Loser, they start with Level I activities. These are basic movements like walking, biking, using the elliptical machines and simple weight lifting exercises on the machines.

By month two, they’ve built some strength and endurance and are ready to advance to Level II activities like light jogging and basic free weight movements. Changing it up will keep their body guessing, and keep them losing weight.

By month three, they’re ready to start high intensity interval training with their cardio, and also start learning more advanced ways to lift weights. For details about these programs, see the previous articles for the last few weeks on the blog.

Before we finish the twelve weeks, I always like to introduce them to Level IV training, which is the most dynamic (and grueling), and perhaps, the most fun. This type of training was initially developed to help people achieve their athletic potential, which I use with young athletes all the time.

It turns out that regular folks like to train that way too. Originally, I was just doing the workouts with my son in the morning. I was doing it to get in shape for grappling tournaments. Several years ago, some people saw us and wanted to join in, so we started a morning group.

Then, some others asked if we could do it at noon. So we had two groups doing the Level IV boot camp style workouts twice a day on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Finally, at the end of an earlier Biggest Loser—I think it was BL 4, some of them asked me if we could do an afternoon group, so we started a 5:30 group too. That turned into the biggest group of all, and it’s been going ever since.

I think that people like having someone push them. I think they also like a challenge. They never know what they’re going to do in the workout, because they’re different every time. It’s also nice to know that they’re not the only one suffering through the workout!

So this time, at the end of week eleven, the Biggest Loser workout was an introduction to Level IV. I had four stations set up (usually I do five or more). The objective is to work for about a minute at station one, and then move to station two, and so on.

The first exercise was Wall Ball, where you squat down while holding a 10-20 lb soft ball on your shoulders. As you push back to a standing position, you toss the ball overhead up on the wall, and then catch it before doing another squat, and so on. You do this the entire minute.

It sounds easy, but quickly gets very difficult. The reason is that you’re using your entire body, and performing several different movements at the same time. This is called a compound exercise (squat and shoulder press).

Compound exercises use more muscles so they significantly increase the oxygen demands placed on your body. This makes the strength training workout a cardio workout too. It also burns a ton of calories!

The second exercise for the group was standing alternating Bicep Curls with dumbbells. This is a single joint exercise, and was used to give them a slight break for a minute, but still keep them moving. It also hit their pulling muscles (previously they used lower body and pushing muscles).

Movement three was Kettle-Ball swings. This is a great full-body movement where you hold a kettle-ball (basically an iron ball with a handle) and squat down swinging it between your legs and then back overhead until your arms are straight. Then you let the weight swing back down and repeat the movement. It’s tough!

The final exercise was our basic Abs Routine #1-5. For the first round they did crunches with their knees bent and feet on the floor. In the second round, they did crunches with their legs up in the air. In the third round, they did crunches with one leg crossed, and the other side in round four. For the fifth round, they did leg lifts. Each exercise hits the abs in a different area, and it also gave them a little break for a minute.

So they had four minute-long exercises and five rounds, for a total of twenty minutes. It sounds easy, and even feels easy for the first round or two. But by the third and fourth round, you know you’re in for something, and in round five, you’re just trying to hold.

If you’re new to this type of training, you can modify the intensity by using lighter weights, and stopping after just 30 or 45 seconds. This will give you a longer break between exercises. After awhile, though, you won’t need the break. Don’t forget to take a little drink of water between rounds. Good luck!

This week’s winner was Cheryl Clark, who lost 1.8 lbs and has lost 19.8 lbs overall so far. Michelle Clark placed second, losing 1.9 lbs. She’s lost 21.0 lbs to date. Janice Johnson was third, losing 1.4 lbs this week, and 17.4 lbs overall so far.

Nicole Clodfelter placed fourth, losing 1.0 lb and has lost 24.0 lbs overall in the past 11 weeks. She’s also an interesting story. To date, she’s lost 98.6 lbs and is just 1.4 lbs away from her initial goal of losing 100 lbs. She’d lost 14 lbs before coming in, and has lost the other 84.6 lbs in just 7 months here at the gym.

She says her biggest challenge is sticking with it, because some days she doesn’t feel like coming in and working out. She says she needs to “just do it.” Her biggest surprise so far is being able to run. At 36, that’s pretty cool because she hasn’t been able to run since high school.

After 7 months and two Biggest Losers, Nicole says she’s ready to try it on her own. She thinks the Level IV classes will help keep her motivated. She’d like to lose 50 more pounds, and I’m sure she’ll be successful. Way to go Nicole!

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