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The Science of Fitness: Power, Performance, and Endurance

Excerpts from the book, Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Greg LeMond Alpe D'Huez hires

Excerpt from Chapter 1: Becoming a Beast

The general fitness plan in our book is condensed into the BEAST system, an acronym for the five key aspects needed to optimize fitness and health. Our concept of overall health cannot be reduced further, nor are more components required.

"Diet and exercise" have been the mantra of preventative health for decades, perhaps to the point of becoming cliché and disregarded. This well-intentioned advice to eat better and exercise more is not nearly specific enough to be useful. Furthermore, we think people should know why such recommendations are given, in order to take the advice to heart and as motivation for putting the plan into action.

In the book we will go into much greater detail with the facts athletes need to know, such as much more specific advice about healthy eating and the best exercise methods to optimize fitness.

The BEAST System is composed of the following:
  • Bicycling (or other aerobic exercise)
  • Eating a balanced diet that supports cell function
  • Avoiding toxins that impair our cells and mitochondria
  • Stopping self-destructive and addictive behavior
  • Training with resistance (weights)
The name BEAST is to remind us that we are animals that require frequent physical exercise to maintain health. Although the modern mind can be satisfied with the virtual world of the Internet and Facebook, the body is ancient and evolved in a physical realm of sweating, grunting, and panting. When we take care of our bodies we acknowledge the beast within us. When you become a beast you will become stronger and healthier.

Excerpt from Chapter 11: BEAST Fitness Training

Training with Resistance:

Resistance training has multiple benefits including: adding muscle mass, stimulating bone growth, improving basal metabolism, improving physical appearance and self-esteem, improving function for everyday activities, maintaining fitness during the off season, fighting against age-related muscle loss, and increasing independence as we get older.

Although you should exercise at least every other day, inclement weather does not always permit outdoor training. There is plenty you can do indoors to maintain or build your strength. When it comes to resistance training most people think about using machines or free weights at the local gym; however, there are some resistance exercises you can perform conveniently at home using minimal or inexpensive equipment.

Super-set count-down high-volume training uses your own body weight to build strength and to increase fatigue resistance. Super-sets are exercises that use opposing muscle groups which allow you to work the different muscles immediate after each other which gives some cardiovascular benefit and also keeps the opposite muscles groups well-balanced. Counting down the number of repetitions (reps) per set accounts for normal muscle fatigue. Fewer and fewer reps are performed as the workout progresses. High volume means that the total number of reps is high, to improve both fast twitch and slow twitch muscles. It literally means that your muscles are doing more "work."

One example of this method is a workout combining pull-ups and push-ups. Pull-ups (and chin-ups) strengthen the biceps, latissimus dorsi, and back muscles. Push-ups strengthen the triceps, pectoralis, and deltoid muscles. If you can do 12 pull-ups maximum in one set, start at a lower number such as 10 pull-ups, followed by 20 push-ups with no rest in between. Then count down and do 8 pull-ups and 16 push-ups. Then count down and do 6 pull-ups and 12 push-ups, etc.
Your reps counts will look like this:
10 pull-ups 20 push-ups
8 pull-ups 16 push-ups
6 pull-ups 12 push-ups
4 pull-ups 8 push-ups
2 pull-ups 4 push-ups
For a total of:
30 pull-ups 60 push-ups

By counting down you can still perform the exercises as your muscles naturally fatigue, yet you will achieve a high total number of reps, much higher than your one set maximum and a lot more work. At the end of this workout your heart will be beating fast and your upper body will be pumped. It is a deceivingly good workout.

A Few Tips:
  • Always perform the movements with smooth control and good form to prevent jerky motions that can cause injury.
  • Stop immediately if you feel any tendon or joint pain as the high volume could aggravate tendonitis.
  • Do not try to lift your chin above the bar at full strain as this could injure your neck. Lifting yourself so your eyes are even with the bar is sufficient.
  • Once you have done this workout every other day for 2 weeks, increase the starting sets to 12 pull-ups and 24 push-ups for 42 and 84 total reps respectively.
This ramping of the challenge to your muscles can increase indefinitely and your muscles will respond by growing stronger and by developing increased resistance to muscle fatigue. You may not become huge and muscle-bound, but it will give you practical strength that will allow you to shovel the entire driveway or rake the entire yard without exhaustion. Author Mark Hom who is 52 years old used this method to build his upper body strength and endurance to the point where he can currently do 35 pull-ups in a row (one hang). Most men his age can only do a few. If you can’t do enough pull-ups to begin this method, you can use an inclined pull-up machine such as the Total Gym that uses just a fraction of your body weight with the same beneficial range of motion.

A simple toning exercise for your lower extremities can be done nearly anywhere, such as a hotel room, dormitory, or office:
  1. Stand with the ball of one foot on a short platform (a thick book will do) and grab the back of a chair for balance. Allow your heel to drop. This is the starting point of a single heel press. But also bend your knee about 20 degrees.
  2. Then press your body up vertically, lifting your heel and straightening your knee simultaneously. This engages the calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus), thigh muscles (quadriceps), and hip extensors.
  3. Repeat until you feel mild muscle burn, then do 10 more, then switch to the other leg, then count down and do 10 fewer reps, and repeat.
If you can build up your strength and endurance to do 80 reps on each foot, the next set is 70 on each foot, then 60 on each foot, etc. The countdown decrementing reps allow for a high total volume of exercise but take into account normal muscle fatigue.

Although the move seems simple, it engages major muscle groups in your legs and also requires core and hip muscles to prevent the offside hip from sagging. If you do this move on a leg press machine with your back pressed against the seat, you won’t get the same core benefit. This is another way to take advantage of gravity and normal muscle fatigue to build strength and fatigue resistance. Soon you could be starting at 100 reps. Take care not to go too far and aggravate foot problems or tendonitis.

In general this method is less injurious than powerlifting or running because it encourages high rep counts at low strain with no landing impact. It strengthens both fast and slow twitch muscles, increases resistance to fatigue, improves calf muscle tone to prevent deep vein thrombosis, and causes the muscle exhaustion that triggers mitochondrial biogenesis.
Senior RKC Beth Andrews Double Kettlebell Overhead Half Kneeling

Kettlebell training is an ancient strength building system that is currently undergoing a resurgence in popularity. The kettlebell is a round weight with a handle carved or molded on top. At the Archaeological Museum of Olympia in Athens Greece, there is a huge 143 kg stone kettlebell (a boulder with a handle and an inscription that claims that it could be lifted overhead with one hand). Cast-iron and steel kettlebells made their way to Russia were they were used as farm implements (called "girya") to weigh harvested crops, when it was noticed that the farmers who handled them became physically stronger.

About 300 years ago, Russians created kettlebell strength demonstrations, challenges, and competitions. With typical gym weight training, the focus is on muscle isolation, symmetric movements, and restricting momentum (no swinging of the weights). Kettlebell training is quite the opposite. With most kettlebell maneuvers, the weight is lifted asymmetrically with one hand. This engages the stabilizing muscles (the large deep core muscles that connect your lower limbs to your pelvis, your pelvis to your back, and your back to your upper body). With kettlebell training it is less about isolating one group of arm muscles and more about using your entire body to lift the weight.

Many kettlebell movements employ swinging and momentum to lift the kettlebell, which is strongly discouraged as "cheating" with free weights. With kettlebell training, swinging the weight is encouraged because this dynamic motion improves your timing, balance, and coordination. There is a practical benefit since you will become more adept at using one arm to lift your child or a heavy suitcase (most daily chores require asymmetric strength). Because this method of training requires learning new skills, it is essential that you receive training from a certified kettlebell instructor to make sure you are practicing proper technique in order to get the most benefit and to avoid injury.

Greg Lemond and Dr Mark Hom The Science of Fitness: Power, Performance, and Endurance by legendary cyclist Greg LeMond and Dr. Mark Hom explains the other components of the BEAST system.
Where to purchase the book: Elsevier Store