What’s the 4 Legs Fitness concept?
Our idea behind 4 Legs Fitness is to present a comprehensive lifestyle concept, which is one ingredient to wellbeing, health and satisfaction. We call it 4 Legs Fitness because four areas are essential for fitness. The more legs that get neglected or removed, the more unstable a chair gets.
The four legs are:
We are currently working out a guide describing our philosophy. Feel free to get in touch, if you want to know more. In this guide we will cover the four legs and related best practices in more detail. Everything is science based and we cite the corresponding research. The guide is written to provide practical recommendations that you can integrate into your busy life next to a full time job to improve fitness and wellbeing. It helps especially those who don’t have a fitness or sport related occupation. Nevertheless, if you are a fitness professional, athlete or fitness model you will benefit from the guide too.
Our mission is to provide no-fluff fitness stuff.
Below we present a short taster summarising the forthcoming 4 Legs Fitness guide.
4 Legs Fitness -- An Intro
The four areas of the 4 Legs Fitness concept are designed to help increase your fitness and wellbeing by providing practical advice that works -- based on science. All four legs are important and related. Depending on your goals, the activities for each leg need to be aligned in order to succeed. We will help you decide for the right goals for you and then integrate the corresponding activities into your life. Again, we want to stress that you must cover all four legs. Like a chair becomes unstable if a leg is missing or if the legs are of unequal length or strength, also your fitness program and lifestyle becomes unbalanced and you won’t achieve your goals.
Before we discuss the four legs, a quick general note: Do what works for you and what you enjoy. There are many theories and programs but it will only work if you follow through consistently. That’s why it is important that you like what you do -- otherwise you will stop too soon. If you don’t like something, change it. Another effective tip is to work together with a friend, partner or even a group. It is amazing how much further some group pressure can push you. Also, it’s just practical to have a spotter who can encourage you to crank out one more rep and can also correct your form. And then -- for the real fine-tuning -- training is even more effective if you establish the muscle-mind connection. Research showed that strength and gain can be increased more by fully concentrating on the muscle that you currently train (source). And also Arnold approved -- so it must be right.
First Leg: Resistance Training
Resistance training, which is also known as weight or strength training, by definition is the physical activity designed to improve muscular fitness by exercising a specific muscle or muscle group against external resistance. That can include free-weights, machines, or your own body weight (source). Apart from the obvious one of getting stronger and fitter, resistance training:
- Counteracts bone and muscle loss when we get older (source)
- Increases the resting metabolism which means you burn more calories while not exercising (source)
- Improves your balance, coordination, and posture (if you lift correctly), all of which are based on strength and composition of your muscles (source)
- Helps to produce more endorphins, which makes you feel good, improves your mood and increases your energy levels (source)
- Increases testosterone and all its related benefits, especially when lifting via heavy compound movements (source).
Whatever your goal is, to see results you must follow a couple of important principles which we summarise here. Creating a resistance training regime or program is referred to as “programming.” The type and structure of the program depends on whether you want to train for hypertrophy (muscle mass increase), strength or power. Based on that you need to set three aspects:
- Volume is defined as the number of repetitions times the number of sets (reps x sets) that you execute per training session.
- Intensity is a certain percentage of your 1RM. 1RM stands for 1 rep max and represents the maximum weight you can theoretically lift for one time. There are ways to calculate and also practically test your 1RM.
- Frequency is how often you train a certain muscle group within a certain time period. It also includes recovery times and the quality of your rest between training sessions.
Especially this last point about having proper rest between training is crucial. We cover this in its own leg “Recovery” of the 4 Legs Fitness concept.
Another key principle to succeed with your program is “progressive overload.” In every training session you should add a new stimulus for your muscle. Otherwise they adapt and you won’t progress. This overload can happen by increasing volume, intensity, frequency, or shortening rest times or a combination of these.
When it comes to equipment, you don’t need much but the more experienced you get and the heavier you lift, some tools (like a Powerlifting belt) are effective and recommended.
In the forthcoming guide we cover all these topics in much greater detail, which should help you create a resistance program that is right for you and your goals. We also provide a simple tool (spreadsheet) with a good standard program that can follow along or adapt.
Second Leg: Cardio
Cardiovascular training (short "cardio") are aerobic exercises that mainly aim at increasing endurance such as running, cycling, swimming or walking. There are a lot of theories and opinions around cardio training and especially the effect on strength or muscle growth, many of which are contradicting. We recommend to find out what’s best for you and what your body reacts to best.
We do offer some ideas which you can incorporate into your training. In our 4 Legs Fitness concept we leverage cardio exercises mainly for general fitness and to stimulate more effective fat loss with as little as possible impact on muscle gains.
For that purpose we recommend two types of cardio:
- High intensity interval training (HIIT), or
- Very low intensity cardio (=brisk walking).
The latter, low intensity cardio is great because it does not add additional training stress on your body. You should generally try to walk as much as possible (take the stairs instead of the lift). There is also a lot of research around fasted cardio, which is not yet conclusive regarding the real effect on fat loss. However, a recent study suggests that fasted exercise alters gene expression of certain enzymes and may stimulate your body to burn fat more effectively (source). Anyway, we like to do a fasted, brisk walk first thing in the morning one to three times a week.
High intensity interval training is very effective with respect to burning fat with less time investment (source). One of the reasons why HIIT is so effective is that it increases the post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) (source). There are many HIIT programs like Tabata but generally you should have several alternating work and rest periods. For example, after your resistance training session incorporate eight sets of 40 seconds fast spinning with 20 seconds rest (slow spinning) in between. In your work periods you should go all in and give everything you have. Some types of exercises which we like for HIIT are rowing, spinning, sprinting, rope jumping, Kettlebell swings, boxing or especially thai boxing.
Third Leg: Nutrition
Your nutrition must be aligned with your fitness goals. No matter if your goal is getting stronger, gaining mass or losing fat, you need to plan your diet accordingly otherwise you won’t reach your goal. Eating right is at least as important as physical exercise.
The first thing you need to set is the right calorie consumption per day. In order to know what’s the right amount we recommend to use one of the many online Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) calculators. A good one can be found at iifym.com. So, TDEE basically tells you based on your characteristics how much calories you burn per day on average. If you consume more than this, you gain weight. If you consume less, you lose weight. As a general rule of thumb you probably want to be in a slight caloric deficit -- unless you aim to compete in a Strongman competition.
After you have set the right calorie amount you aim to consume every day, you should define what foods to eat to achieve this amount. This is where macronutrients come in -- or short macros. There are also micronutrients like vitamins and minerals, which we over in more detail in the guide. There are three types of macros that are responsible for your calories: proteins, carbohydrates and fats. You will set the ratio between these depending on your goals. If you want to achieve strength or mass gain then the protein part will be fairly high (30% to up to 40% of your macro split).
We know that counting calories is boring and tedious but necessary. The good news is you don’t have to do it forever. We recommend to get an accurate kitchen scale and a tool to track your macros like the MyFitnessPal or YAZIO apps, which makes it a lot easier (eg, via the bar code scanning feature). We recommend doing it for at least three weeks very diligently. After that you get a very good intuitive feel about the macro split and calorie count of the food that you are consuming.
Supplementation is of course an important topic related to nutrition, too. Some supplementation is necessary. It may be hard to consume high levels of protein only via a normal diet without supplements. Some, however, are a total waste of money. We believe the most effective supplements are (source): caffeine (we love drinking coffee, black of course), vitamins (esp. D), magnesium, omega-3, protein, branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), creatine, and glucosamine (to reduce joint pain, source). There is some controversy around the usefulness of BCAAs, which we discuss in the guide. But there is always the Placebo, and if we believe it works, then it probably does.
Generally a great source of scientifically backed articles and analysis of nutritional substances can be found at Examine.com.
Fourth Leg: Recovery
Muscles are repaired and built during recovery. We already mentioned in the description of the first leg (Resistance Training) how important recovery and the quality of rest is for your fitness gains. There are many forms of recovery such as massages, stretching, sauna, meditation, cold showers, foam rolling, breathing exercises (we especially like the Wim Hof method) or flossing. The latter is especially helpful against tightness or even injury (check this for example).
But the king of all recovery method is -- sleep. Easy and cheap but so effective. Apart from the fact that training is just not fun when we are grumpy, good quality sleep brings Cortisol levels down. Cortisol is a hormone (also known as the stress hormone) that reduces protein synthesis and prevents tissue growth (more or less the opposite of what testosterone does) (source). Also lack of sleep increases the levels of Ghrelin which typically raises appetite and makes you eat more, which makes it harder to stick to your planned calorie intake from the third leg (source). In our guide we cover a range of practical tips and tricks to improve your quality and also duration of sleep. Resistance training BTW, also contributes to getting better sleep (source).
Another aspect that for us falls into the category of recovery is mobility and flexibility improvement. Both will improve your performance. In order to execute a deep squat perfectly you need a lot of mobility. Generally, good programs are based on concepts from the field of gymnastics or locomotion (animal movements).
To recover from injuries, flossing can be useful. Other than that, one of the most effective (also painful) methods is dry needling. It’s similar to acupuncture but the needles are larger, go deeper and stimulate a trigger point directly until the muscle “resets” and relaxes its tension.
Finally a quick word on compression clothes and tapes: Their effectiveness is still not fully proven. However, they do make sense during recovery. In training your muscles experienced micro tears that lead to inflammation. Compression restricts blood vessels and can reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
Before we conclude our 4 Legs Fitness guide taster, one final thing: If you are interested in the scientific works and studies analysing all sorts of fitness aspects, we would like to refer to the excellent publication called Monthly Applications in Strength Sport (MASS).
Stay tuned for the guide describing our philosophy in more detail. If you have feedback or want to know more, get in touch.
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