Posts Tagged ‘HeavyHands’

Nordic Walking Source: Wikimedia Commons

Nordic Walking Source: Wikimedia Commons

As big fans of HeavyHands know, one of Dr. Schwartz’ early inspirations (besides a torn hamstring from running) was CROSS COUNTRY SKIING.  The “Panaerobic” action of all limbs moving simultaneously against resistance gave cross country skiiers HUGE abilities to process oxygen … far more than other athletes.

Nordic Walking is the “cousin” of cross country skiing and uses similar poles to approximate the action of skiing when it’s not winter. It too is “Panaerobic”.

That raises the question… Wouldn’t then Nordic WALKING be as useful as HeavyHands?

Good question…

Here’s how I answered the question yesterday when it came to deciding… do I grab my Nordic Walking NSticks or take a pair of hand weights to workout?

First, it’s not necessarily an “either/or”, “all or nothing” decision. I use and like them both. But how to decide?

Workout Objectives

Nordic walking sticks are light… much lighter than even one “heavyhand” weight usually. Mine had a TOTAL SHIPPING WEIGHT of 1.7 pounds including the packaging! That’s lighter than two of the lightest hand weights! Lifting the sticks between steps may tire you out after hundreds or thousands of steps, that’s not where the aerobic benefit of Nordic Walking comes from.

The ability of Nordic Walking to increase aerobic workloads by 20 to 40% or more while activating so much upper and lower body muscle comes from the downward/backward stroke that – with the legs – thrusts the body forward. Though the poles are very light, the energy used to push the body forward can be quite extensive.

While the trapezius, pectorals, biceps, and frontal deltoids work to pull the pole into proper position for the next step, the real muscle exertion in the upper body comes from the backward/downward push. In that case the triceps, rear deltoids and upper back and latissimus muscle groups get the bulk of the work.

With the basic HeavyHands “Walk and Pump” movement, the exertion pattern is almost exactly OPPOSITE… the muscles lifting the weight forward get most of the exercise, though a strong backswing emphasis of the HeavyHands can indeed work the upper back and triceps quite well.

Part of the “Panaerobic Equation” that determines the effectiveness of the HeavyHands movement is the RANGE OF MOTION. Raising the arms and weights above the shoulder to overhead  (“Level III”) significantly enhances the workload during exercise.

When it comes to Nordic Walking there are limitations in the range of motion because the sticks are fitted to one’s height and their benefit is derived from gripping the ground and pushing off, not being raised over head.  While experienced walkers will learn ways to adjust the range of motion slightly as walking speed is increased or decreased, users may not be able to get as much aerobic benefit as  they might from Level III work. Trying to artificially lift the sticks higher to mimic it or go too fast can cause the user to trip themselves over the sticks with disastrous consequences!

One of Dr. Schwartz’ interests as a psychiatrist was exercise variety. He himself wanted exercise to be constantly challenging, new and sustainable. As any reader of the HeavyHands books will notice his curiosity prompted him to invent and promote numerous variations in exercise movement to not only work as much muscle as possible, but to avoid boredom!

As the body and mind tire from the basic “pump and walk movement”, the weights, for example, can be used in some completely different way like swings across the chest to work “fresh” muscle groups while continuing to walk.

Nordic Walking definitely DOES NOT offer this variety of exercise. The same predominant exercise pathway is used throughout the effort without variation for the most part. Boredom may be avoided by the scenic nature of the walking path, but not by exercise variation for the most part!

With both Nordic Walking and HeavyHands, some “quadriceps” and “lower back” activation can be done by walking in a “duck walk “or “Groucho Marx walk” though more variety may be obtained with HeavyHands probably. It’s worth testing, but this author hasn’t done much.

Practical Issues

There are  VERY REAL practical issues related to one’s choice of sticks or weights. Yesterday we were going to a state park we’d never visited before…

Would the trail be hilly? Would the path be flat? In other words, would I benefit from ADDITIONAL SUPPORT to keep my balance on a rough trail?

In the case of unknown terrain, it’s best to use Nordic walking sticks if there’s any concern about unsure footing.

As it turned out the trails were hardly flat except for brief stretches. The trails were up and down and twisting… at times the Nordic Sticks seemed a bit more like “Trekking Poles” but they did their job of not only providing upper body exercise, but also making the hike safer.  In the event of a poisonous snake nearby, I’d rather have a Nordic stick handy if needed than a hand weight! Sorry Dr. Schwartz!

Try Both

That’s what I ended up doing….

Not sure about the terrain, both sticks and weights went in the car. The ranger said one trail was “level” and the other was “rugged”.

We took the “rugged” trail first using Nordic Walking sticks.

Later we took the “level” trail using HeavyHands.

(We found out they were both equally rugged and probably would have done best with the Nordic sticks on both of them, but “oh well”! )

For the ULTIMATE VARIETY, one can’t go wrong doing BOTH Nordic Walking and HeavyHands…

For maximum potential strength and activating as much muscle as possible while operating on safe terrain, HeavyHands with increasing weights and a variety of movements activating as many muscles as possible will likely be superior.

As always the exercise you will actually do provides the best results!


SandowSchwartz (1)

Eugene Sandow Leonard Schwartz

Sometimes, HeavyHands users get stuck in a rut…the standard “pump and walk” exercise is usually the first one we learn and becomes the one we “default” to.

Though Dr. Schwartz wrote two books highlighting many different techniques for obtaining the variety needed to keep HeavyHands interesting mentally while providing a full body workout, sometimes other variations may be desirable.

As I was out on an hour and a half walk recently, I remembered some exercises I’d read about in David Bolton’s The Lost Secret To A Great Body.

Walking along I found myself going through the parts of this workout that I could remember and it kept my heart rate up nicely while being a bit of “active recovery” during this lengthy walk. It enabled me to exercise using muscles relatively untouched by the standard “pump and walk” and which, by that time, were getting fatigued.

As I was reflecting on it later, though Dr. Schwartz wasn’t interested in being as well muscled as Eugene Sandow who was arguably the first “bodybuilder”, Schwartz’ physique was along Sandow’s “classic” lines. Though as a physician Schwartz didn’t care about “bodybuilding” for its own sake,  the type of “useful” muscle and proportion Schwartz considered the ideal was something he shared with Sandow in many ways.

“Pump and Walk” Courtesy

So what is Bolton’s book about?

Sandow’s Dumbbell

David Bolton in his research into the use of light dumbbells (3 to 5 pounds) found that Sandow, his instructor, and most of the old time advocates of dumbbell training suggested virtually the same routine and considered that routine fundamental to overall fitness. Even the ones not selling body building courses by mail (Bobby Pandour) ascribed to the same system of training basically.

Men at their peak like Sandow reportedly used 7 pound dumbbells (Pandour used 10 pound bells), but so that students would understand the mental focus required, Sandow produced a special dumbbell/gripper that demanded constant tension!

HeavyHands users will find it interesting that Dr. Schwartz – while using heavier weights for some specific exercises like Double Ski Poling – tended to max out with walking weights in the 8 pound range and often used lighter weights for faster movements and more “work”. He too derived long term benefits from weights easily dismissed as “too light” by many. His understanding of exercise was much different than Bolton’s, but those differences aside, this article mention’s Bolton’s exercises for the variety they can add to a HeavyHands routine.

As our understanding of “progressive resistance” increased, these claims to benefit from insanely light weights seemed preposterous, and things like Sandow’s strength and muscularity were attributed exclusively to “secret” training he never talked about.

As Bolton studied the matter, he concluded people had missed something… the mental action and tension that attends the exercise and gets effects that are not dependent solely on the weight. That seemed to jibe with a McMaster’s University study mentioned toward the end of Bolton’s book.

I understood this better after I’d been swinging the HeavyHands already and was warmed up first. I could “feel” the movements better than simply doing them “cold”.

One thing that modern fitness folks are starting to comprehend as they revisit some of the “old ways” is the impact of muscle control and focus in the use of light weights (or simply tensing muscles alone) and how that relates to strength and endurance performance… ask Pavel sometime as he lectures on Maxick, a famous muscle control artist and strongman.

Of course Sandow and others used the qualities developed through their dumbbell work to attend to their strength feats later… in Sandow’s case literally later in the evening during his performances! The dumbbells were the base workout.

So what are some of the exercises in Bolton’s book?

  • Alternating Dumbbell Curls
  • Alternating Reverse Dumbbell Curls
  • Alternating Crucifix Dumbbell Curls
  • Simultaneous Crucifix Dumbbell Curls
  • Standing Dumbbell Pectoral Fly’s
  • Alternating Dumbbell Presses
  • Alternating Dumbbell Front Raises
  • Simultaneous Arm Circles Dumbbell Wrist Circles 1 (Clockwise)
  • Dumbbell Wrist Circles 2 (Anti-clockwise)
  • Dumbbell Punching Movement
  • Dumbbell Good Morning Deadlift
  • Dumbbell Shrugs
  • Dumbbell Crossovers
  • Dumbbell Side Bends
  • Simultaneous Dumbbell Back Extensions
  • Calf Raises
  • Toe Raises
  • Deep Knee Bend On Toes
  • One Legged Squat
  • Straight Legged Sit-Ups
  • Leg Raises
  • Hyperextensions
  • Push-Ups

Of course not all these exercises are things you’re going to do on a HeavyHands outing… and they’re not “panaerobic” unless you’re moving at the same time… and some – like shoulder shrugs – were always mentioned by Dr. Schwartz.

Still Bolton’s book is an interesting read, provides thoughts on variations for HeavyHands training at the very least, and reminds us that while many people may underestimate the value of training with light weights (a common criticism of HeavyHands), they may not have the last word on the subject if the weights are being used correctly!

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Hang around the world of kettlebells for very long and you’ll start to hear about the “What the Heck Effect”…

That’s when someone starts training faithfully with kettlebells only to find that their ability to do something almost completely different happens! “What the heck?” Nobody’s complaining, and nobody saw that actually happening as a result of kettlebell training… but that was the only thing that changed.

Why do such things happen? Because kettlebell exercises focus on general strength and conditioning instead of “sports specific” conditioning, or so the reasoning goes.

This post (and the next one about HeavyHands training) hopes to catalog some “What the Heck Effect” sightings with kettlebells (this post) and HeavyHands (a future planned post).

Of course, it’s impossible to track down all of them to produce such an article… so readers are encouraged to use the comments section to PLEASE ADD YOUR OWN “What the Heck” experiences as a result of kettlebell or HeavyHands training!

(From this point “What the Heck” will just be noted as “WTH”…)

Even this author has experienced the WTH effect…

  1. HeavyHand Surprise. Due to the oppressively hot summer heat down South, kettlebells in the air conditioning became a very attractive workout option! Following the Kettlebell: Simple and Sinister Routine for several months SEEMED to be good “cardio” but no actual use of a recumbent bike or treadmill happened. The only “cardio” was 10 sets of Kettlebell Swings done “on the minute” seemed to do a great job! Finally after a couple months of this routine, the weather got cool enough to do some HeavyHands. Ten minutes a day (never more than 30 minutes one time) made it possible to swing 3 lb HeavyHands for an hour and a half without a problem the first day the weather allowed!
  2.  Handstand Pushup. A while back a friend started doing only kettlebell snatches and military presses. That went on for several months until he got a crazy idea in his head. He wondered if he could do a handstand pushup… even though he’d never done one before! To make a long story short, he tried and for the first time in his life he could do a handstand pushup. He’d never done them before and the only change he was aware of was working with kettlebells.
  3. SEAL Gets Truly “Operational”, Part 1. Despite the renowned SEAL training, this operator never felt “fit enough” for the challenges confronting him till he discovered the kettlebell and began doing the “Rite of Passage” program instead of simply training to pass the SEAL fitness test. “The kettlebell got me in great shape, and better operational shape. It took less time, was more fun, and didn’t interfere with my ability to operate…And I maintained — and even improved — some of the things I measured. I could not believe it. Later, I would go on to use the kettlebell to prepare myself for other ‘adventures.’ I loved the simplicity and the ‘max results with minimum effort’ aspect.” Read it all here…
  4. SEAL Part 2: According to this interview, the SEAL didn’t mention everything… The same SEAL mentioned above is, Eric Frohardt CEO of StrongFrist. He spent several months doing presses, swings, and snatches with a 53- and a 70-pound kettlebell. He did not touch the barbell or the pull-up bar. When he decided to test himself, it turned out that his 360-pound deadlift went up to 450 and he suddenly could do a strict pullup with over 100 pounds.
  5. Runs Faster. In one of the comments to the above article, a reader says: “I was a decent track athlete in college, running mid to low 22s 200m dash and around 50 flat in the 400. Definitely faster than your average person. I was the same as you, great endurance, could do around 23 pull ups at my best, but completely fell apart under load. My body didn’t feel strong when I was loaded up! Eventually I had a 3rd degree hamstring tear running the 200, and I had to learn how to move all over again…[but now] I feel faster and more explosive now than ever before.”
  6. Street Combat. The fairly well known “Secret Service Test” with the kettlebell is to do 200 one hand snatches (change hands once) in 10 minutes with a 24 kg kettlebell. How did that become the “gold standard”? Anyone who can keep that pace for 10 minutes has an awesome advantage when it comes to the hand to hand combat. Some say that this move is “as close to combat as possible without trading punches.” Those able to accomplish this feat have plenty of strength and stamina when it comes to movements like risking blocks, breaking holds, upper cuts, breaking an opponent’s balance, and delivering a fight ending front kick. The fact that the snatch requires a burst of energy and then relaxation before “reloading” makes it ideal for training strike type actions.
  7. Deadlift Power. Per Pavel “Powerlifter Donnie Thompson stopped deadlifting altogether, started kettlebelling and took his deadlift from 766 to 832 in less than a year.”
  8. Grappling Prowess. “Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt kettlebell students of Senior SFG instructor Doug Nepodal have seen superior results on the mat once they have switched from a fancy periodized “sport-specific” conditioning regimen to kettlebell swings and get-ups.”
  9. Outperform Fitness Instructors. “I decided to do something different today and chose a workout dvd that usually gets my heart rate way up and was a great workout for me. I have not done this workout in 4 weeks (I have been doing kettlebell workouts and joint mobility exercises exclusively for 4 weeks). Today the dvd got me sweaty, but didn’t get my heart rate up. The instructor on the video was sucking air and I’m thinking, “you really need a kettlebell”. Read more testimonies here…
  10. Pullups from Nowhere. TPROONEY3 said: “I have not been able to do pull ups for about 22 years. I have been working with kettlebells for about 18 months. I started doing some hanging leg raises on a pull-up bar at the gym to strengthen my core, but nothing resembling a pull-up. About three weeks ago, I looked at the pull-up bar and was curious. I jumped up and knocked out 8 consecutive pull-ups. What the hell!? I can’t DO pull-ups.
  11. Half-Marathon. Please don’t try to go from 100 kettlebell swings a day to running the marathon because of this heading but here’s what  StrongFirst writer Emily Bearden  had to say. Please note the lady is a former track athlete, retired professional Muay Thai fighter, etc., etc. She writes “When I signed up to do the Brooklyn Half, my body felt great. But the moment I started training runs, my hip started giving me trouble. So I stopped running, but continued my strength training: a 6-day-a-week barbell and kettlebell training program starting 2 months out from the Brooklyn Half. I never missed a workout….It wasn’t my intention to run the half marathon without training runs. But this experience proved to me how important strength training is.” Her article is definitely worth reading for her routine, though no half-marathon is on this writer’s horizon any time soon!

Know any other good links to “What the Heck” effect stories in the Kettlebell world? Please leave a comment. The same goes for any experiences you’ve had with the “What the Heck” effect of doing HeavyHands!

Note: Updated 9/15/2015


Dr. Leonard Schwartz in his prime…

People who come to “HeavyHands” from a background of using barbells or machines for building muscle love the fact that walking with weighted hands offers the chance to “do everything” at once… build muscle, burn fat, and build endurance. Dr. Schwartz talked about muscular development for the purpose of efficiency, not bulk. His feats of strength and endurance while weighing under 150 pounds and just getting really started after age 54 amaze people today. Just one look at Dr. Len Schwartz’ physique with its under 5% body fat and obvious muscularity, and it’s obvious his training program offers the benefits most gym rats aspire to achieve.

There are a few hitches however.

When folks are used to training in the gym on machines, they are taught to think in terms of exercises for every body part so that development is proportionate everywhere.

Start walking with HeavyHands or other hand weights and it becomes apparent that some key muscle sectors can be overlooked. Walking with HeavyHands can quite obviously develop the anterior (frontal) deltoids and biceps. If moved rearward forcefully on the back swing, they can most certainly reach the rear deltoid, upper back, and tricep. The muscles of the leg used to propel the body forward while walking or jogging tend to receive a better workout than walking alone because of the way the weights affects one’s foot movement… the longer the arm movement, the longer the stride….the more forceful the back swing, the more forceful the step forward.

What’s left out of the mix for the folks whose HeavyHands exercise is confined to the walking movement is improved development of the quadriceps and the muscles that lift the arms overhead (lateral deltoids and trapezius) and pectoral muscles. Abdominal, lower back, and other supportive muscle groups can be left out of the equation as well.

Of course, Dr. Schwartz’ books show a variety of movements aimed at addressing these problems. “Duck Waddles” (aka “Duck Walk”) and “Jack Knifing” tried to address the quads and lower back respectively. The first is a “walking squat” with a deep knee bend. Here’s a video of the movement with weighted hands:

The second movement for the lower back, the Jack Knife”, is pretty similar to a “walking” form of “double ski poling” shown in this image:

Double Ski Poling

Double Ski Poling

Those moves certainly work well. The “Duck Walk” is a type of “walking lunge”. Some folks (like this author) have problems with lunges done “on the fly” because of existing knee problems. The “Jack Knife” admittedly looks “strange” and puts off some people from using it… though keep reading and see how to get the benefits of the “Jack Knife” by adapting another strategy of Dr. Schwartz that will be explored below thanks to Marty Gallagher’s recollection!

What about other options? Stairclimbing with HeavyHands certainly activates the quads, but not necessarily the overhead component.

Recently HeavyHands and Leonard Schwartz Fan Marty Gallagher reminded fans of Dr. Schwartz of another solution for quad activation and a simple “hack” makes it address several deficiencies that exist in walking while swinging weights alone.

While recounting the benefits of this “new tool for an old protocol”, Gallagher’s first article in the series reminds us of a Heavy Hands combination that folks familiar with the Dr. Schwartz’ books don’t seem to remember (or at least this author did not remember!)…

[Leonard Schwartz’] cardio/strength feats were incredible. At age 70, he could pump a pair of ten-pound hand weights to forehead height (on every rep) for a solid hour—while power walking and squatting every ten paces.

Walking and Squatting every ten paces?

Why not do an overhead press after that squat?

Tired of squatting and pressing after a while, but want to work the lower back? Why not exchange the squat and press with a double ski pole every ten steps?

After a hiatus from HeavyHands to work with Kettlebells, this author had to get out in the field and give that option a try!

As mentioned before, due to a knee injury, it’s potentially dangerous to do lunges “on the fly” (i.e. the “Duck Walk”). It’s simply wiser to plant the feet first before bending the knee to be sure the knee doesn’t twist or go ahead of the toes. Stopping momentarily and doing a proper squat presents less of a problem.

Here’s what the reader will probably find:

  1. Using 10 pound weights just for walking and swinging to forehead height is an amazing achievement for any length of time let alone ONE HOUR…one of many Dr. Schwartz was known for! Unless you’re going for a very short walk, use your normal HeavyHands weight or even go lighter or you may experience the downside of being too tired to swing the weights when you’re about done. The extra squatting and overhead pressing will bite into your strength and endurance on a very long walk!
  2. Likewise, to avoid extreme soreness, it may be wise to devote only a portion of your planned weighted hands walk to the squat and press protocol. Start out doing a squat and press after every ten steps for 15 minutes. In the author’s case, this was the perfect way to start and gave the extra quad stimulation needed for a good workout without overworking things.
  3. Squatting every ten paces provided a good overall leg workout and, because it was done consistently instead of haphazardly, provided a better overall workout than simply stopping every so often to do a whole set of squats.
  4. Overhead pressing every ten paces (in addition to the normal hand movements) provided a better tricep workout than would ordinarily happen while also allowing the front, side, and rear deltoid to get their share of work!

Next time, this author plans to try the “squat and press protocol” first, but, at some point, incorporate a “double ski pole” every ten paces to test that.

Incorporating the squat and press every ten steps was a manageable way to increase the overall benefit of walking with weighted hands by increasing the overall number of muscles worked (more “panaerobic”) and, as a result, increasing the intensity of the workout.

Note: If the readers get to test either the “squat and press” or “double ski pole” protocols every ten paces or have other experience doing things like that, a comment is appreciated!


Nausea. Seeing stars. Sucking wind. This is how you know you’re doing a Tabata [high intensity] workout correctly.

And most would agree… you can’t be working out at “high intensity” unless you are on the verge of tears, right?. Anything less and it’s just some more of that “low intensity cardio” right?

Well perhaps yes, perhaps no.

In practice – that is in the gym and in the fitness tabloids – a “Tabata” has been reduced to a short workout with 20 second bursts of activity that may or may not reach the intensity levels found in the research Dr. Tabata performed (linked to above).

There, intensity was determined by athletes in question performing at a level of 170% of VO2Max. Check the article at the link and you’ll realize that VO2Max isn’t measured subjectively (by whether someone is nauseous, for instance). Instead:

Measuring VO2 max accurately requires an all-out effort (usually on a treadmill or bicycle) performed under a strict protocol in a sports performance lab. These protocols involve specific increases in the speed and intensity of the exercise and collection and measurement of the volume and oxygen concentration of inhaled and exhaled air. This determines how much oxygen the athlete is using.

Not being able to workout like athletes in a lab, people try to mirror the effects of a “Tabata” workout by simply trying to exert an “all out effort” for 8 – 20 second sets with 10 seconds rest in between.

Is true Tabata intensity reached in most instances? It’s hard to tell without working out in a lab. It’s roughly possible to compare a given heart rate to VO2Max to find an equivalent using online calculators (but be warned, they probably don’t go over 100%!).

The linked calculator says that at whatever age… “100% of VO2max corresponds to 102% of maximum heart”. How did the Tabata subjects reach 170% of VO2Max for these experiments? They must have been well conditioned in advance! Most of the overweight, middle aged readers being encouraged these days to try “Tabata’s” likely should NOT try to jump into this form of exercise without extensive preconditioning at much lower levels of exertion until a significant base of fitness has been achieved it seems prudent to observe.

Dr. Leonard Schwartz work on HeavyHands started coming out long before the Tabata research was published of course. As a psychiatrist he recognized most people aren’t (at least at first) going to be able to use or stick with (or survive?) a regimen that tries to get them to approach 100%  of their heart rate and which, in practice, is equated with severe discomfort! As a medical doctor fascinated with fitness, Schwartz was intent on achieving the type of VO2Max of cross country skiers in a way that could be approached by virtually anyone, anywhere while starting from “scratch”.

His findings create something of a conundrum in the current fitness environment. He found consistently that 4 limb “panaerobic” exercise that seeks to workout using as much muscle as possible INCREASED VO2Max thereby increasing the “intensity” of ordinary walking or jogging as measured by VO2Max, while DECREASING the perceived intensity!

That finding is counter-intuitive… It describes a situation where there is MORE GAIN but LESS RELATIVE PAIN, let alone the discomfort used to describe if so-called “Tabata’s” are being properly done.

In other words, “panaerobic” exercise makes it easier for the person working out to improve their fitness without the sensations equated with “intensity” in the popular fitness press because the work done is diffused by using the whole body to drive aerobic activity.

You can use HeavyHands or other Panaerobic strategies to do 20 second “all out sets” in training. Don’t be surprised if they’re not quite as agonizing as expected for the reasons stated. Choose a maximum training heart rate with your physician’s guidance, and then use a heart monitor or other objective tool to determine if your training is effective in increasing VO2Max, not simply subjective “guesstimates” based on relative discomfort other methods may cause!

Is Body Pump “basically the same as” HeavyHands or Panaerobics? (more information can be found here:

Some say that there is a similarity because both seem to use relatively light weights and high reps.

Is that true? Is the defining aspect of Dr. Schwartz’ exercise systems “high reps”? Or even the use of weights necessarily?

In reality, HeavyHands isn’t JUST about light weights and high reps. It’s about much more. But it’s easier to identify the differences between BodyPump and HeavyHands or Panaerobics after spending some time understanding what’s involved in the process of the BodyPump workout.

In case you haven’t heard about BodyPump before, here’s how Wikipedia describes the fitness method…

For BodyPump, the full class consists of 10 tracks, each (except for tracks 1 and 10) targeting a specific muscle group. The full class (including time between tracks for weight changes) runs for 60 minutes.

For the 60-minute format, the class is arranged to the 8 tracks on a CD produced by the company, timed to allow for around 60 minutes of exercise and 2 minutes of weight changes between tracks.

  • Track 1: Provides a warm-up with the lowest weight of the class. During the warm-up, most muscle groups are trained in short succession, and stance and barbell grip is often changed when cycling through all different exercises.
  • Track 2: Squats. This track targets the legs, notably the quadriceps and glutes and participants are advised to use the highest weight of the entire class. A typical weight for squats ranges between three and four times the warm-up weight. The weight is placed on the traps of the participant.
  • Track 3: Chest. In this track, participants are invited to lie on their backs on a step, and perform chest presses with the barbell. Sometimes, depending on the choreography of the release, these are combines with chest push-ups. A typical weight will be around two times the warm-up weight.
  • Track 4: Back. In this track, participants stand up and train the muscles of their back. Exercises performed vary from release to release, but mostly contain dead lifts, dead rows and sometimes clean-and-presses. A typical weight selection will be the same as chest, or slightly more.
  • Track 5: Triceps. As the first of the smaller muscle groups, participants will select a lower weight, usually slightly above warm-up weight and perform triceps exercises. These change per release, but mostly consist of triceps extensions with a barbell, triceps pushups, kickbacks with a single free weight and dips on a step.
  • Track 6: Biceps. After the triceps, participants stand up again and use the barbell to do bicep curls and sometimes bicep dead rows. The weight will remain the same as for triceps, or slightly less.
  • Track 7: Lunges. Participants take on a heavier weight, usually the same as the chest track. In this track, squats can be included but most of the time will be spent doing lunges to train the legs and glutes. Lunges can be performed with the barbell on the traps or holding plates. Sometimes plyometric jumping will be included at the end of the track.
  • Track 8: Shoulders. The participants select a weight similar to the tricep track on the barbell, and two free weights. The track traditionally starts with pushups, after which the participants use free weights for shoulder raises, either to the side or to the front. At the end, the bar is used for upright rows and overhead presses. Sometimes the choreography adds another set of pushups at the end.
  • Track 9: Abdominals and core. Usually no weights are used, and participants perform abdominal crunches or planks to strengthen the core.
  • Track 10: Cool down and stretching.

A new BodyPump release, consisting of new music and choreography, is developed and released to health clubs and instructors every three months. Muscle groups are always worked in the same order as stated in the Les Mills Instructor Resources, allowing for consistency across releases. Instructors can choose to work with one release, or mix tracks from multiple releases, to target strength endurance gains for their particular class. Instructors and trainers are provided with guidance from Les Mills International regarding the mixing of tracks for classes. The pre-choreographed class meets the Les Mills methodology that students will find a more consistent experience when attending a BodyPump class in any location around the world.

Now that we have an overview of how BodyPump operates, let’s consider how this method of working out is significantly different than HeavyHands or Panaerobics!

First, it IS true that HeavyHands, in general, uses high repetitions and relatively low weights in the 1lb to 5 lb range depending on the individual, though Dr. Schwartz reportedly could use up to 23% of his bodyweight for ‘Double Ski Poling” for very long periods of time! Even when weights are not involved (in “Longstrength Bodyweight” moves and “IsoTonoMetrics”) the range of resistance can go from “heavy” to “light” but in general is on the lower side of the spectrum to allow exercise to be performed long enough to produce a cardio-respiratory response.

Here’s how HeavyHands and Panaerobics of every variety DIFFER from the BodyPump approach in crucial ways.

BodyPump is many things that HeavyHands are not… choreographed for a group instead of individually designed by the user according to their own interests and needs, lasts a predetermined time instead of a time determined by the user, and requires a professional instructor instead of a book or video and a hand weight. It’s probably safe to say that while BodyPump has done its best to explain the scientific validity of it’s choices, HeavyHands developed out of laboratory studies regarding oxygen use during exercise and was validated every step of the way through the same testing. That leads to the crucial distinction between the two.

BodyPump is a “Circuit” training system that works the body parts in sectors instead of simultaneously. To quote Mark Twain, that’s the difference between “lightning” and a “lightning bug”.

There was a scientific reason that HeavyHand and Panaerobics are not “circuit training” as Dr. Schwartz explains in his “Strength Endurance Fitness Method” patent:

Efforts to increase the number of repetitions and to make weight training methods more continuous, etc., by having the exerciser move swiftly from one “station” to the next with only short pauses, have also failed to produce significant benefits with respect to endurance (aerobic) capacity. Thus subjects trained by the so-called “circuit” method, while achieving relatively high heart rates during the exercise, have not, generally speaking, increased their oxygen uptake capacity (work capacity) significantly over extended training periods.

These facts provoke the question as to whether or not strength oriented physical training methods can work toward the improvement of the cardiovascular system. This improvement would include such elements as slowing of the heart rate both at rest and at any greater workloads, usually lowering of the systemic blood pressure, along with various enzymatic and other metabolic changes that are readily measurable.

The crucial flaw in methods that attempt to couple strength and aerobic capacity may be their general failure to employ sufficient muscle mass during given exercises. Thus strength training methods typically work one or a few muscle groups at a time. The high heart rates achieved under those conditions do not represent the same physiologic events that general high heart rates during continuous (aerobic) exercise (jogging, brisk walking, swimming, rowing, bicycling) that employ a relatively large percentage of the body’s muscle simultaneously provide.

In other words, Dr. Schwartz believed he had scientific reasons for avoiding “circuit training” regardless of the name because while it raised the heart rate, it’s focus on isolated muscle sectors and their focus on activating minimal muscle mass during most exercise sessions kept “circuits” from increasing aerobic capacity.

The “trademark” of HeavyHands or Panaerobics which BodyPump does not aspire to is the use of as much muscle as possible at the same time. By isolating body sectors as it does, BodyPump makes having a workout in the “HeavyHands” sense impossible.

In reality, most HeavyHanders or folks doing panaerobics don’t seek a “pump” or even to exhaust isolated muscle groups one at a time. The idea of using all four limbs at the same time is supposed to DECREASE the overall sensation of stress by spreading the work out over as many body parts as possible. HeavyHanders build the muscle necessary for continuous work against the highest resistance they can manage, but not by adapting Bodybuilding’s muscle isolation exercise techniques.

This is not a criticism of either BodyPump or those who enjoy it. People should be encouraged to exercise however they feel inclined and in the way that helps them stay with it. The point of this article is that, contrary to what some may think, BodyPump and HeavyHands are built around fundamentally different approaches and are not “basically the same”.

HeavyHands DuckWalk

HeavyHands DuckWalk

What speed should you use with Panaerobics – whether HeavyHands, Longstrength, or IsoTonoMetrics? The books of Dr. Schwartz are helpful in this regard – to a point.

He describes working at various rates – all which seem rather fast paced. It could even seem like this suggested speed of motion could not be done while maintaining strict control of the handweights. Dr. Schwartz would have argued against using the weights without full control. It’s worth noting that the highest speeds were done using weights in the one to three pound range,  not the heavier weights normally shown when Dr. Schwartz posed for exercise pictures… some estimate them as about 8 pounds.

His videos – both of “HeavyHands” and “Wholebody Fitness for Seniors” may give a better feel for the range of speeds at which Panaerobics might be pursued.

In those videos as arm motions are counted, the number of repetitions is about 1 per second and, of course, a whole body motion is involved, not just arm motions.

Of course, Dr. Schwartz spoke about “slowaerobics”… movements as few as 10 per minute which could be included in a routine as part of a strength building phase within the larger workout.

Exercise fans coming to Panaerobics from a background of weight training, calisthenics, or “dynamic tension” who see the “120 reps per minute” as strange or unrealistic based on their past experience may unconsciously find themselves gravitating towards slower movements that may not be able to produce the desired cardio response.

Some general advice for people in transition may be to take the following steps to insure a genuine “panaerobic” response while protecting oneself from going too fast:

1) Never use a weight that cannot be fully controlled… when in doubt reduce the weight.

2) When in doubt think in terms of a hand weight, panaerobic bodyweight move, or ISO handclasp that can be done at the rate of 60 repetitions per minute for either an extended period of time or using intervals

3) If at all possible, workout to one of Dr. Schwartz’ exercise videos and attempt to mirror his pace and actions if it can be done comfortably.

All three suggestions can be helpful, but perhaps the last one is best. By modeling Dr. Schwartz directly, ideas about proper pace are perhaps most easily answered.  Pace learned through one form of Panaerobics will likely carry over well to other forms of exercise advocated by Dr. S.