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WHAT ARE THE BEST WEIGHT ROOM EXERCISES FOR INCREASING ENERGY EXPENDITURE?

Yoke, Mary M. M.A., M.M.

ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal: May/June 2016 - Volume 20 - Issue 3 - p 28–30
doi: 10.1249/FIT.0000000000000203
Columns: Research Bites

Mary M. Yoke, M.A., M.M., is pursuing her doctorate in health behavior at the Indiana University School of Public Health, where she was previously a fulltime faculty member in the Department of Kinesiology. Before her position in Indiana, she was an adjunct professor at Adelphi University for 22 years, where she authored or coauthored numerous group exercise research studies. She is the author of 4 texts on fitness; she has presented in 11 countries and throughout the United States on a wide variety of health/fitness topics, and has obtained 23 certifications. Her research interests include behavior change, positive psychology, motivation, group fitness, and personal training efficacy.

Disclosure: The author declares no conflict of interest and does not have any financial disclosures.

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Would you like to know how to maximize calorie burning as a result of your weight room workout? A recent study by Ratamess et al. (3) measured metabolic responses to several common weight room exercises as well as burpees and three different moves involving battling ropes. Ten trained men (age, 20.6 ± 1.3 years) were assessed during the performance of 13 different exercises. Heart rate, ventilation, respiratory exchange ratio, and oxygen consumption were measured during the three sets of each exercise, and only one exercise was performed and assessed per day to avoid the influence of one exercise on another.

Results showed that oxygen consumption and calorie burning were highest when using the battling ropes, with a peak V˙O2 of 38.6 ± 4.7 mL/kg per minute and a mean heart rate of 153.5 ± 13.9 beats/min. The participants performed a battling ropes protocol as follows: three sets of 30-second bouts with a 2-minute rest interval interspersed between sets; each set consisted of 10 seconds of single-arm alternating waves, 10 seconds of double-arm waves with a half squat, and 10 seconds of double-arm rope slams with a half squat. Energy expenditure averaged 10.3 ± 1.4 kcal/min.

Burpees (a fast-paced, multimuscle, body weight exercise that typically combines squats, planks, push-ups, and a vertical jump) were found to have the second largest energy expenditure, with a peak V˙O2 of 35.9 ± 4.1 mL/kg per minute, a mean heart rate of 136.3 ± 14.0 beats/min, and an average of 9.6 ± 1.3 kcal/min burned. The burpee protocol consisted of three sets of 10 repetitions with 2-minute rest intervals in between the sets.

Back squats, performed with a barbell across the rear shoulders, used the third highest level of caloric expenditure, followed by the deadlift and the front lunge with alternating legs (all were performed with a barbell weighing 60% to 80% of the participant's 1RM for three sets of 10 repetitions). This finding is consistent with other literature, which shows that there is a relationship between the amount of lower-body muscle mass used and the amount of calories burned.

Three types of push-ups were included in the study: a standard full push-up, a push-up on a BOSU ball (flat side up), and a push-up with a rapid lateral crawl (three steps to alternating sides between push-ups). No difference in energy expenditure was found between standard push-ups and push-ups on a BOSU ball. However, performing a push-up with a lateral crawl resulted in the greatest calorie burning of all the upper body exercises at 8.1 ± 1.1 kcal/min (other upper body exercises tested were the bench press, biceps curl, bent-over barbell row, and high pull). The lowest energy expenditure was found when performing a plank.

The take-home message? If your goal is to expend a large amount of calories and have the greatest metabolic response from your muscle conditioning workout, consider doing battling rope exercises and performing burpees, squats, deadlifts, front lunges, and push-ups with a lateral crawl. An optimal protocol, according to this study, uses three sets of 10 repetitions with a 2-minute rest interval between sets, and free weight exercises such as squats, deadlifts, and lunges are performed with a weight that is 75% of your 1RM. This study did not specifically address issues of safety or muscle balance, so be sure to incorporate these principles into your workout as well.

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If your goal is to expend a large amount of calories and have the greatest metabolic response from your muscle conditioning workout, consider doing battling rope exercises and performing burpees, squats, deadlifts, front lunges, and push-ups with a lateral crawl.

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THE IMPORTANCE OF A PLAN

Everyone knows that physical activity is important for health and well-being. Why then, doesn't everyone do it? And how can health/fitness professionals help clients start and maintain this important health behavior? A fair amount of research shows that simply making a plan is a key strategy for success, with two main types of plans being identified. An action plan specifically lays out the details of when, what, where, and how. For example, ask your client to make a concrete plan for tomorrow or for the next 4 to 7 days. When will they make time to move, with whom, and what, precisely, will they do? Encourage your client to make this plan in the evening for the next day or while showering in the morning. The other type of plan is called a coping plan. What will your client do if an obstacle, such as bad weather, an urgent meeting, or a feeling of lethargy interferes? A plan B is always warranted. Advance planning has been shown repeatedly to be a valuable way to translate the intention to do something into action.

In 2013, a meta-analysis of the literature on planning for physical activity was performed by Carraro and Gaudreau (1). Three subgroups of studies were created in the meta-analysis: those that focused on pure action planning, those that focused on pure coping planning, and those that emphasized both action and coping planning. In all, 19 correlational studies and 21 experimental studies were included in the meta-analysis. Not surprisingly, both action and coping planning had a large effect on the initiation of regular physical activity and seem to be equally important at different stages in goal setting and in the pursuit of a new behavior. Regarding action planning, the more detailed the plan, the better. According to the authors, a four-component action plan (where, when, with whom, and how) was more effective than a two-component plan. And coping planning is critical to protect goals from temptations and distractions. Some controversy in the literature exists over whether the action plan precedes the coping plan or whether they must be considered simultaneously to facilitate physical activity behaviors.

Notably, it was found that the effect of action and coping planning was greatest on those participants who were sedentary (as opposed to those who were active), underscoring the fact that planning seems to be especially important for people struggling to start a new behavior. This was true whether participants used paper and pencil to write down their self-identified plans or had the assistance of an interviewer.

When working with clients, and especially clients struggling to become more active, use the knowledge gained from research on the effectiveness of planning. If possible, end every session with a plan. Have clients write down immediate and daily goals that are specific and doable. Remind them to do short-term goal setting every evening or every morning and to think about their action plan and their coping plan for physical activity in advance of each day. In this way, clients will be more likely to make their intentions a reality.

When working with clients, and especially clients struggling to become more active, use the knowledge gained from research on the effectiveness of planning. If possible, end every session with a plan. Have clients write down immediate and daily goals that are specific and doable. Remind them to do short-term goal setting every evening or every morning and to think about their action plan and their coping plan for physical activity in advance of each day. In this way, clients will be more likely to make their intentions a reality.

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NONELLIPTICAL CROSS-TRAINER PARTICULARS

Do you or your clients work out on a cross-training machine such as an elliptical? Have you ever wondered about the contribution of upper body movements to the workload? A study by Sullivan et al. (4) evaluated the metabolic effects of using the arms and shifting the posture while using a Cybex Arc cross-trainer. The Arc trainer is somewhat different from an elliptical in that the feet do not actually move in an elliptical pattern. Instead, they move in a fixed-length arcuate path while the moving handles travel in the same direction as the footplates. The machine may be used while holding onto and pulling on the moving handles, which presumably cause more upper body muscle mass to be involved in the activity. It also may be used without upper body involvement; the hands and arms can be stabilized while holding onto the console. This option results in a change in posture caused by increased hip and/or spinal flexion. Third, the cross-trainer can be used in an upright position with the arms swinging freely at the sides. Is there a metabolic difference between these three upper body options?

Fifteen male and female participants (age, 38 ± 12 years) were recruited to find out what, if any, changes occurred as a result of differing upper body activity while exercising at a constant work output on the Arc cross-trainer. Work on the Arc trainer is a combination of speed, resistance, and incline and was determined for each participant as a percentage (65% to 75%) of age-predicted maximal heart rate.

Results showed that the upright and unsupported (hands-free) position yielded the lowest heart rate, oxygen uptake, and caloric expenditure. The difference in the findings between the unsupported position and the other two experimental conditions was statistically significant, whereas no statistically significant difference was found between the mobile arms pulling condition and the stable arms/forward lean condition. These two conditions resulted in a 6.0% and 7.7% increase in energy expenditure, respectively. The authors suggest that the reason the forward-leaning fixed arms and hands condition resulted in a higher caloric expenditure may be caused by the increased use of the hip extensor muscles—most notably the gluteus maximus. Similar results have been shown in stationary cycling studies: the greater the hip flexion, the more the large gluteus maximus muscle fibers are recruited, which in turn affects calorie burning (2). The rate of perceived exertion was not measured in this study, and the findings may not be applicable to other types of cross-trainers or elliptical machines. In summary, those wishing to increase caloric expenditure on an Arc trainer would do well to either hold the moving handles and pull (maintaining an upright position) or grasp the console, hinge from the hips, and focus on greater involvement of the gluteus maximus muscles.

1. Carraro N, Gaudreau P. Spontaneous and experimentally induced action planning and coping planning for physical activity: a meta-analysis. Psychol Sport Exerc. 2013; 14: 228–48.
2. Moreside JM, McGill SM. How do elliptical machines differ from walking: a study of torso motion and muscle activity. Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2012; 27: 738–43.
3. Ratamess NA, Rosenberg JG, Klei S, Dougherty BM, Kang J, Smith CR, Ross RE, Faigenbaum AD. Comparison of the acute metabolic responses to traditional resistance, body-weight, and battling rope exercises. J Strength Cond Res. 2015; 29(1): 47–57.
4. Sullivan EM, Hofmann CL, Fox MK, Juris PM. Arm use and posture alter metabolic cost during non-impact cardiovascular cross training at a constant machine workload. J Exerc Physiol. 2013; 16(5): 107–15.
© 2016 American College of Sports Medicine.