Keep Your Conditioning Inefficient for Paleo Fitness

For Paleo fitness, you can link conditioning to anything related to the strengthening of the heart muscle, and more thrillingly, fat loss. As with anything else, a heap of semantics surrounds the word conditioning. People argue that conditioning means a great many things, and they’re right. Conditioning is a word with many definitions.

Conditioning for strength or fat loss

Strength is efficiency. It’s a finely tuned nervous system, if you will. For example, a more efficient person can produce more force with the same amount of muscle than a less-efficient person; in other words, he uses his brawny resources more resourcefully.

The fewer moving parts, the more efficient a machine becomes. Although you’re not a machine, this analogy still serves a useful purpose. Your movement, from the standpoint of strength, shouldn’t consume any more than the bare minimum effort required. This, of course, takes practice.

But, for conditioning — moreover, fat loss — you don’t want to strive for efficiency. Quite the opposite really. Because the more efficient you become, the less energy you expend, and the more difficult it is to drop pounds, which is another reason long, trudging runs are comparatively futile for fat loss.

They may produce measly returns upfront, but those returns are quickly and severely diminished when you become an efficient jogger. And even if you’re not an efficient jogger yet, jogging by itself is a more efficient means of travel than, say, sprinting is — you expend considerably more energy sprinting 50 yards than you do jogging that same distance.

So if you want to fight fat effectively, you need to fight it with inefficiency. You need to select movements and exercise protocols that are wasteful in terms of energy expenditure, such as sprinting and various metabolic conditioning routines.

Comparing efficiency and effectiveness

Naturally, to do something efficiently is to do something economically. Efficiency is easily measured by the ratio of input to output (how much you get for what you give). In the example of jogging versus sprinting, jogging is more efficient because you give less (energy) to get the same result (distance traveled).

Efficiency is also easily measured qualitatively by your perceived level of exertion. To wit: The more challenging or difficult an exercise or exercise regimen feels, the less efficient it probably is.

Effectiveness, on the other hand, has little to do with economy but more to do with ability — that is, the ability to produce a desired result. Effectiveness, unlike efficiency, isn’t so easily quantified. In other words, effectiveness is doing the right things, whereas efficiency is doing things right. A chief distinction between the two is that just because something is efficient doesn’t mean it’s effective (and vice versa).

One example is step aerobics; another is Zumba. These exercises are efficient — as made clear by the relatively low level of exertion — but relatively useless weaponry for the battle against body fat.

Low-intensity aerobics, such as walking or hiking, are tremendously beneficial for overall health, and you should do them often. By themselves, however, they are ineffective for rapid changes in body composition.

So if your aim is to combat fat, effectively and unapologetically, then you need to downgrade to a more primitive arsenal. Do it in the way of the cave man, and really exert yourself. Sprint hard, lift heavy, and play often.

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