T Nation

Ordered Chaos

Two years ago, I realized that beer and pizza would be a permanent part of my nutritional regimen. I enjoy these two pleasures immensely. Having realized this, I had to develop some method for keeping the extra pounds away from my waistline. I put this plan on the back burner for a while and, lo and behold, the inches started to accumulate. I had done HIIT before and knew it to be a very effective protocol for losing the fat. The only issue was that the indoor track I had access to was very short and banked excessively in the corners. The shape of the track would not allow me to sprint at a high intensity and NOT slam into the wall at each corner. Also, I could never really get my HR up high enough on a stationary bike so that was out as well. Since it was the worst winter in decades, and it was not feasible for me to share the road with some of the worst winter drivers in the world, I sat down and brainstormed. It was amazing to me that the answer actually came from the place where I least expected it: My high school wrestling coach.

I do not believe that he actually had any method to his madness back then, but he always made us tough and in prime condition. As we climbed the stairs nearly 100 times a day, we cursed him and, on occasion, took a little breather at the top while he was not looking. I hated those stairs back then so I knew that they were probably the answer to my current dilemma, all I had to do was add some order to his chaos.

I would love to tell you that I spent hours on end trying to figure out the right combinations of steps to make this workout effective, but all I did was use a little logic and, bam, it was complete. The first thing you do is grab a medicine ball and find a long flight of steps, I use a 6kg med ball and a flight of 18 steps. Holding the medicine ball directly over your head, fly up the steps hitting each step as if you were walking up them (Left foot step 1, right foot step 2, etc.). Do this 3 times before you drop the ball and start your rest interval. During the rest interval, you can jog in place until you reach your target low heart rate and then pick up the ball for the second interval. The second interval consists of ascending the steps by skipping every other one (Left foot step 1, right foot step 3). After attaining the target lower heart rate during the second rest interval, you grab the ball again and ascend the steps by skipping two steps (Left foot Step 1, right foot step 4). I call this progression singles/doubles/triples. After the last rest interval , you reverse it and do triples/doubles/singles and then start back up with singles/doubles/triples once you finish that (See Table 1 below). Some vertically challenged individuals may need to eliminate the triples for safety purposes. Continue this method for 30 minutes. It is important to note that you should descend the steps as quickly as safely possible and in a single step fashion only. Some taller folk can descend the steps slowly and in a double step fashion early on for an extra quad burn, but I am not recommending this, although I have tried it. During the initial trial of this program, my target low heart rate corresponded to 70% of my max heart rate and I generally got a high of 90-95% of max heart rate. As I progressed through it several times, I found that I could actually tolerate a higher lower target HR of about 80-85% max HR.

Steps Reps End Interval HR
Singles 3-5 70%Max
Doubles 3-5 70%Max
Triples 3-5 70%Max
Triples 3-5 70%Max
Doubles 3-5 70%Max
Singles 3-5 70%Max
Table 1 Sample Progression

So, what were my findings? Well, by the second round of singles/doubles/triples on the first day, my shoulders and legs were on fire, I wanted to puke, and I contemplated giving up beer and pizza for life. I pushed through it for a couple of weeks and saw the remnants of my old six pack in the mirror. After four weeks, I was extremely happy with my fat loss results and my shoulder and leg strength actually increased. An added bonus came when I could run significantly faster following the program. I believe this is a result of improving stride length through the triples and stride frequency through the singles. Give this ordered chaos a try, I bet you will be extremely happy with your results. I recommend that this program be done 3-4 times a week either on your off days or following your strength training program. Also, if you have a history of knee problems or are morbidly obese you should try a different approach.