Are you fit? No, stop! we don't want to see your massive biceps and that chiselled six-pack. What we mean by our question is: do you think you could last through any of the routines described on the next six pages for more than a few minutes?
Because we’ve got together the trainers of three revolutionary and intense workouts – Crossfit, TRX and Muay Thai – to show you exactly how to get fit – inside out. At least two of these routines are used by pros, enthusiasts and people whose livelihoods depend on their fitness levels – military men, firefighters, sportspeople and the like.
"A consistent gymming routine will only shape and tone your body. It does nothing for overall cardiovascular fitness," says Crossfit trainer Piyush Pandey. "And people who do yoga and pilates can claim to be healthy but not fit."
Adds TRX pro Abdul Qadir: "What makes TRX unique is the systematic collection of best practices, both old and new, that have been assembled, modified and formalised into a single coherent body with a cutting-edge training methodology."
And Muay Thai, a form of Thai kickboxing, will not only give you the best cardio workout ever, it will also teach you how to break a few bones along the way. (Note: this isn’t mandatory but it might be a handy skill to have.) It will also burn about twice as many calories as a standard, slow and steady gym session – about 1,000 to 1,400.
Hang on, though. Since when did normal people need to get into fitness regimes meant for army men and firefighters?
"Getting into these routines because you’re bored with your gym isn’t a good enough excuse for a normal person," advises Dr SKS Marya, chairman, Orthopaedics and Institute of Joint Replacement at Max Healthcare, New Delhi. "You should find your own level before getting into any hardcore fitness regime, even if it is something as basic as jogging."
But what if you want to ramp up your fitness to a whole other level? Well then, unless your idea of exercise has always been winding your watch, head right in. TRX
A few months ago, a bodybuilder signed up for TRX sessions with trainer Abdul Qadir at Gurgaon’s Fitness First gym. "This man had, like, a flawless body," says Qadir. "He had about seven per cent body fat (the average male has between 13 to 17 per cent) so he was like, seriously ripped."
Five minutes of TRX. That was all the muscleman could take before collapsing. "The guy had great musculature but almost no flexibility, no stability, no balance, no stamina and no core strength. All essential components of a TRX workout," says Qadir.
Say hello to TRX, a loose acronym for Total Body Resistance Training Exercise and a hot new form of resistance training. TRX workouts are done with the body suspended off the ground – either the legs or the upper body are kept off the floor. You put your feet in stirrups suspended from 12-foot nylon straps attached to anything that will hold your weight, and use your own bodyweight to burn calories. Working out while suspended bat-like, you involve more muscle in your workout and burn more calories.
"You don’t need any cardio if you do TRX," says Qadir who trains about 20 people each month on the TRX Suspension Training System at Fitness First.
Unlike running on a treadmill or lifting weights at a gym, TRX, says Qadir, is about working on your core strength and stamina. You’re not working muscles in isolation. Instead, TRX turns any movement into a total body workout because of its demands on the core. It exposes the weak links in your body and ensures that no muscle is left uninvolved. Gym rats take note: bulging biceps and washboard abs are useless if you break a sweat after a 10-minute jog on the treadmill.
So what’s a typical TRX routine like? There is no such thing as a ‘typical’ routine, says Qadir. There’s no schedule and the intensity varies from person to person. That said, there are over 300 exercises possible on the TRX system. "It’s difficult because you need to balance yourself as you’re exercising," says Qadir. "That itself takes a few weeks to get the hang of."
On the official website, TRX creator Randy Hetrick, a former US Navy Seal, says: "Regardless of who you are, if you want to perform and look your best, TRX is the perfect tool for you."
But of course it’s not that simple. "TRX is intense and I wouldn’t recommend it to beginners," says Qadir. "You need to build some sort of a foundation before diving into it. I recommend at least six months of a regular gym workout – the routine cardio and weight training should be fine – before you even think of attempting it. TRX is kind of like going to the next level."
Indeed, critics warn that the instability of the suspension straps can harm people without adequate core strength or joint integrity.
Once you do sign up, you can combine TRX with your regular gym weight training or do it exclusively three times a week (and no more). "The best thing about TRX is how short the sessions are!" laughs Qadir. "If you can last 30 minutes, you’re really good. Anything over 45, and I’ll take a bow."
Where did it originate? United States Navy SEALS.
What to eat TRX workouts demand very high levels of energy. “So you need to have large quantities of complex carbs such as white oats, in your diet,” says Qadir. “If you’re experienced, even having a protein shake an hour before the workout would be good.”
Your basic rule of thumb for a TRX-friendly diet: High protein and moderate carbs – that’s the best way to go.
What to wear Gym shorts and a T-shirt will do. Whatever you work out in, really. “We’re not too fussy about it,” says Qadir. “Just make sure whatever you wear allows you to stretch freely.”
Celebs who do TRX Brad Pitt.Muay Thai
Six months of Muay Thai with Edgar Noordamus at his Bodyforce gym in New Delhi will turn you into a lean, mean fighting machine, able to break bones. No, violence is not the goal of Muay Thai. Thailand’s national sport combines flexibility, stamina, balance and strength in one powerful package. A 90-minute session can work wonders for your agility, speed and cardiovascular endurance. It can even help you concentrate and lower your stress levels.
"It’s a brutal sport, one that you try not to use in real life," laughs Edgar who started Muay Thai training sessions in Delhi last August. "Imagine having a knee or an elbow in your face! But you don’t have to fight if you don’t want to," he adds. "You can just train and that would still be more intense than your regular gym workout."
I go to Edgar’s gym to witness a Muay Thai session. Nine muscular men kick, punch and grapple on a rubber mat around a mid-sized boxing ring. In their midst is a girl scarcely over five feet tall, sparring for all she is worth. A fist comes dangerously close to the girl’s head. She flinches and blocks it just in time. Suddenly, a buzzer sounds. "Pushups!" hollers Edgar. Everyone falls to the ground and starts heaving their bodies in a frenzied motion. A minute later, they’re back on their feet, arms and legs flailing. "Just a regular day at the gym," Edgar smiles.
Muay Thai uses eight points of contact on the body – the fists and elbows (used to strike) and the shins and knees (used to strike and block). Here’s how a 90-minute session goes: a 3 km run (uphill and downhill) to warm up, followed by skipping with a heavy rope for 10 minutes and stretching. The routine of the actual training varies – one day, you work on your kicking technique, another day, you work on sparring and, if you’re up for it, one-on-ones in the boxing ring. "Also, we do a minute of pushups every 15 minutes or so," says Edgar. "After seven or eight rounds, you really start to feel it!"
Consistent Muay Thai workouts will give you a lean, toned body with musculature to kill for. "A lot of people tell me they’d like to sign up for a class but first, they’ll join a regular gym to build muscle," says Edgar. "But that’s a contradiction because anyone can do Muay Thai. You don’t have to be a bodybuilder or a fitness freak."
Once you sign up, Edgar will assess your fitness levels and scale your sessions accordingly. So if you’re a chip-eating teddy bear, you won’t be paired with a muscleman from day one. "I start you off slow, let you kick and punch wildly till you start to get the hang of it," says Edgar. "As you go along, you’ll find yourself punching better, kicking harder and lasting longer. Then you’ll beg for more."
Edgar’s clients range from 16-year-olds to 58-year-olds. Some do it for fitness, some to get a one-up in an occasional brawl. "Also, it’s the fastest way to lose weight," says Edgar. "We can drop three kilos a week if we want."
Muay Thai Facts
Where did it originate? Thailand – it’s the national sport of the country.
What to eat Is this the best part of Muay Thai or what? “You can have… everything you want!” laughs Edgar. “Sometimes, we take off for a few beers after our sessions and occasionally we also pig out on junk food. The workout itself is so intense that everything melts away in the blink of an eye.”
What to wear Cotton shorts and a singlet are best. Or, if you
prefer, just the shorts will do!
Celebs who do Muay Thai Phil Collen of the British rock band Def Leppard.Crossfit
There are no workout machines at Piyush Pandey’s CrossFit Himalaya gym in Delhi. No treadmills, no bikes, no rowing machines and no leg presses. The large room has a few exercise balls, large wooden blocks, weights, dumbbells and kettle bells. A pair of gymnastic rings hangs from a frame in a corner next to a basic pull-up bar affixed to a beam. A musty smell hangs in the air.
"We just completed a CrossFit session," says Piyush. "Nothing makes people sweat so much."
Piyush’s CrossFit Himalaya, started last August, is one of the 2,000-plus CrossFit affiliated gyms across the world and one of only two in India (the other one, CrossFit Om, is based in Mumbai). "It’s kickass to be part of a global community of people dedicated to keeping their bodies fit," says Piyush. "For me, it’s not just a business. It’s a lifestyle."
CrossFit is a licenced workout routine developed in California in the 1980s by trainer Greg Glassman. Glassman’s idea of an effective training regime is simple: short, high-octane workouts that combine weight training, sprints and gymnastics. The routine stresses intensity and little rest. Fitness, the CrossFit way, is proficiency in each of these ten domains – cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, power, speed, stamina, strength, agility, accuracy, coordination and balance.
"It’s very high intensity functional training," explains Piyush. "Which means that we focus on natural body movements like pushing, pulling, running, climbing, lifting weights and squatting. There are no artificial movements in CrossFit like what you would do at a regular gym, such as bench presses, bicep curls or crunches."
The resulting workout is nothing like anything you would get anywhere else. To work on agility, for instance, you would be required to jump on and off a large wooden block. Feeling stiff? Work on your flexibility by climbing a thick rope hanging from the ceiling. For accuracy, hit a target with a 5-kg rubber ball multiple times. And good-old weights are here too (warning: this is CrossFit so they’re Olympic-sized).
A typical session lasts for an hour, but the core workout lasts only for about 20 minutes. "The rest of the time is for warm up and stretching," says Piyush. "It’s as intense as it can get because you really get a full-body workout."
CrossFit doesn’t like routines. "Every day is different," says Piyush. "I draw up a custom WOD (Workout of the Day) for everyone to follow daily. It is never repeated."
Neha Gambhir, who claims she is the first girl CrossFitter in Delhi, says it was tough in the beginning. "But today, men ask me to stop lifting so much weight in front of them – I can lift about 70 kg – because they are embarrassed!" she laughs. "CrossFit has pushed me to a level where nothing seems impossible!"
Where did it originate? Santa Cruz, California, USA
What to eat Go caveman! Piyush recommends a ‘Paleo Diet’ which is essentially a nutritional plan based on the presumed diet of wild plants and animals that humans consumed during the Paleolithic era 2.5 million years ago.
This means no grains and no cereals – the Paleolithic people existed way before agriculture was discovered! “It’s the best diet on the planet,” says Piyush. “It consists largely of fresh vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, cabbage, salads and lean chicken – plenty of proteins and carbs!”
This doesn’t mean you can’t indulge once in a while, though. “I did go to KFC once,” says Piyush. When? He wrinkles his brow. “You know, it was quite some time back, so I can’t really remember!”
What to wear
Soft, cotton shirt, shorts and lightweight running shoes.
Celebs who do CrossFit Matt Damon for his movie Invictus.
This story is from the latest issue of the Brunch Quarterly.
From HT Brunch, October 23
Follow us on twitter.com/HTBrunch
Connect with us on facebook.com/hindustantimesbrunch