Yep, that’s right: my dear friends from Finland – Dr. Olli Sovijärvi, MD and a pioneer of holistic medicine in Finland, human technology and self-quantification specialist Teemu Arina and superfood hunter and nutritionist Jaakko Halmetoja – have launched the third title in their best-selling Biohacker’s Handbook series, one of the most web-researched treatises on exercise, workouts and physical performance that I’ve ever laid eyes on.
Instead of ho-hum, cookie-cutter advice, the Biohacker’s Handbook delivers well-researched information in a well-designed format from guys who walk the walk and talk the talk. For example, Jaako (the same guy who taught me how to dual-extract chaga mushroom extract the last time I was in Finland) trained as a paratrooper in the Finnish Defense Forces and has previously won the Finnish championship in submission wrestling. Olli is a complete nerd-beast-physician who wrote one of the most popular testosterone-boosting articles ever published on my site. And Teemu? This dude not only one of the smartest fellows I know, but he is also the front man of the Quantified Self movement in Finland as well as the founder and curator of the Biohacker Summit event, one of my favorite events in the world for discovering the latest in biohacking, ancestral living and beyond (it’s October 13-14, 2017 in Helsinki, Finland and you can use code BEN to save 10% at BiohackerSummit.com)
So when I got news last week that the finishing touches had been placed on the exercise chapter of the Biohacker’s Handbook, I dove right in. As usual, it delivered a host of new information I’d never before seen (and I have a freakin’ Master’s degree in exercise physiology!). Without further ado, here are 11 indispensable lessons I learned from the brand new Biohacker’s Handbook of Exercise.
Lesson 1 : Never Stop Playing
In the Biohacker’s Exercise Manifesto section of the book, the tenth rule is, in my opinion, one of the most important…
In the book, 72-year-old Stephen Jepson is described. He has taken the concept of playfulness in exercise and created a philosophy called Never Leave the Playground. Jepson rides a unicycle, balances, juggles, and walks a tightrope. His philosophy is constant movement regardless of the surroundings. Check this guy out:
So how can you play more? Think about it.
Lesson 2: How To Create The Ultimate “Biohacker’s Gym”
In just one of the many entertaining and helpful diagrams in the book, the authors show what an ultimate biohacker’s gym could look like. In my opinion, the only missing component of their gym is a good squat rack, hex bar, barbell, or other means via which one could do heavy deadlifts or squats, but aside from that, the list is pretty complete, and actually very similar to my own small-space home gym setup.
Here’s a full list of each of the items above to get you started:
- Pull-up bar
- Infrared sauna
- Gymnastic rings
- Activity tracker
- Weighted vest
- Muscle stimulator
- Foam roller
- Heart rate monitor
- Massage ball
- Resistance band
- Vibration plate
- Yoga mat
- Dietary supplements
Lesson 3: Keep Exercise Simple With 3 Basic Energy Systems
When you’re figuring out how to appropriately tackle each different physiological component of fitness, it can be convenient to simplify. For example, here’s a perfect diagram from the book that shows you how to target the three basic energy systems:
Want this laid out in a done-for-you format? You can easily hit each of the energy systems above by following the type of training routine I highlight in my article on “How To Look Good Naked & Live A Long Time”.
Lesson 4: There Are 10 Basic Aspects Of Physical Performance
Check out the diagram below. It’s a beautiful representation of everything you need to target for true full-body fitness:
Let’s take endurance (#1) for example. From the book, here is a basic example of recommendations for endurance:
The main goal of endurance training is to increase the body’s ability to perform prolonged exercises ranging in duration from a few minutes to several hours. Typical sports include walking, running, cycling, cross-country skiing, swimming and hiking.
Developing endurance usually requires training at least three times per week, for 30 to 60 minutes at a time. Utilizing heart rate zones and training with a heart rate monitor can be useful. However, this is not strictly necessary – the method helps you recognize various heart rate zones and their physiological impact on endurance training.
Key factors in endurance exercise:
• The majority of endurance training takes place in the basic endurance zone (approx. 70–80 % of the training session). This develops basic endurance in general and cardiac output in particular (see section “Heart – Cardiac output”).
• Focus on technique training
• Training should be progressive in nature and there should be sufficient time reserved for recovery
• High intensity interval training (HIIT) is particularly effective for increasing the number of mitochondria and the maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max)
• Perform various interval exercises in the tempo and maximal endurance zones
– Short intervals (HIIT); 15–45 second exercise intervals,
rest for 15 seconds to 3 minutes
– Long intervals; 3–8 minute exercise intervals, rest for 1
minute to 4 minutes
– Incremental intervals; 8–20 minute exercise intervals, varying rest intervals. The intensity is even lower than in the long interval training
• Strength training increases the effectiveness of endurance exercise and improves performance
• Perform restorative exercises and avoid overtraining
The book then goes on to rinse, wash and repeat with targeted recommendations for variables #2-#10 – making it easy to wrap your head around how to string together a workout program for true full-body fitness.
Lesson 5: Time Under Tension Is More Important Than Sets & Reps
As I’ve written about before, you can build muscle or maintain muscle with both high-rep, low-weight training and high-weight, low-rep training. What truly matters is the time under tension that the muscle is subjected to, as the Biohacker’s Handbook points out with the following helpful description:
One example given in the book as a way to increase time under tension is the concept of “eccentric quasi-isometric training” or EQI. EQI is a special technique that may prevent muscle injuries (stretching elastic components and strengthening tendons). The EQI technique can also be used to increase force generation at all joint angles. Eccentric refers to the lengthening of muscles as they contract; quasi-isometric means movement that is extremely slow, almost static. A sample exercise for EQI is a static pushup in the lower position with hands on blocks. As the muscles become fatigued, the position gradually becomes lower until the chest touches the floor. This combines the isometric exercise and the eccentric muscle contraction and lengthening.
Other sample exercises for EQI training:
• EQI – Push-up with hands on blocks
• EQI – Dip with parallel bars
• EQI – Lunge (feet on blocks)
• EQI – Single-leg squat (hind leg on block)
• EQI – Pull-up
After reading this section, I tried my own EQI session and found it to be incredibly challenging. Give it a try!
Lesson 6: Save Time With The “Gibala Method”
I’d never heard of the Gibala Method before discovering it within the pages of the Biohacker’s Handbook. Here’s how it works. The Gibala method is based on a study published by Martin Gibala, a doctor of physiology. The goal of the study was to determine the effect of high intensity (100 % VO2max) interval training on general performance using a method that is safer and of slightly lower intensity than the traditional Tabata method.
The study continued for two weeks during which six stationary bike workouts were completed. Each workout included a 3-minute warm-up phase followed by the interval phase: 60 seconds of action followed by 75 seconds of rest, repeated 8–12 times. There was no control group involved in the study. Gibala found out that this method achieved the same oxygen uptake benefits as 5 hours of constant pace endurance training per week. The method also significantly increased the force generation capability of muscle cells and improved sugar metabolism.
So let’s review: 60 on, 75 off, for 8-12 times.
Easy enough, eh? Considering the huge benefits, this is definitely one to add to your workout arsenal!
Lesson 7: Kettlebells Can Be Simple
Kettelbell training can seem complex, but in the Biohacker’s Handbook, the authors lay out a very simple but very effective kettlebell training program. Here’s how it works:
• Program duration 2–3 months
• Duration of each training session is 30 to 40 minutes
• The same exercise is repeated 3 times per week
• Increase the weight of the kettlebell as training progresses (example starting weights 4–8 kg or 8–18 lbs for women, 12–16 kg or 26–35 lbs for men)
• Training is completed in circuit format, i.e. moving from one exercise to the next taking a 30–60-second break
Sample Kettlebell workout:
- Warm-up for 5–10 min (slingshot and halo,
also light jogging, indoor rowing or burpees)
- Actual training:
-Russian swing 3 x 20-30 repetitions
-Bent-over row 3 x 15 repetitions on each side
-Goblet squat 3 x 15 repetitions
-Abdominal crunch 3 x 15 repetitions
-Shoulder press 3 x 10 repetitions on each side
-Deadlift 3 x 10–15 repetitions (2 kettlebells)
-Around the world 3 x 20 repetitions
I’ve given this kettlebell workout a try and it works like gangbusters. Better yet, it’s easy enough to learn in a single day. Try it out next time you want to do an entire workout with just a single training tool: the mighty kettlebell.
Lesson 8: Try Crocodile Breathing
If you listened to my latest podcast with the author of “The Oxygen Advantage”, I’m a big fan of breathing tactics, but I must admit that this is the first time I’d heard of crocodile breathing as a way to trigger the “rest and digest” parasympathetic nervous system. Here is how it works, straight from the pages of the handbook:
Lesson 9: You Can Biohack Your Cold Thermogenesis
Cold thermogenesis is one of my most potent and oft-used methods for everything from wakefulness to fat loss to nitric oxide production and beyond. But you can make it even more effective with a few simple tips revealed in the book:
• Thermogenic plants that promote heat generation (such as green tea, coffee, ginger or chili) may help if consumed before cold thermogenesis.
• Adaptogens (such as rhodiola rosea, ginseng, cordyceps or ashwagandha) may increase the ability to tolerate the stress caused by the cold shock.
• In studies conducted by the United States army, tyrosine (found, for example, in spirulina, fish, turkey and egg whites) was found to increase the ability to act during cold exposure.
So next time you do a cold shower, cold soak or cold water swimming, try a bit of green tea, a serving of adaptogenic herbs such as TianChi, a few grams of tyrosine.
Lesson 10: You Can Also Biohack Your Sauna Protocol
I’ve talked about my own infrared sauna and niacin protocol before in this comprehensive post on how I “biohacked” my sauna. Turns out the authors of the handbook have done a bit of studying up on this themselves, and here’s what they have to say…
“This guide is adapted from the detoxification program used in the removal of toxins contributing to the Gulf War syndrome. The protocol has also been used in firefighter detoxification programs. Most toxins (including DDT, PCB and many pesticides and heavy metals) are stored in the adipose tissue. An individual’s toxin load is proportional to their body weight which forms one of the risk factors associated with excess weight.
According to a study published in 1990, the adipose tissues of Yugoslavian electronics factory workers contained toxin levels 140 times greater than those found in their blood. After a detoxification program, the toxin levels in the adipose tissues decreased on average by 30 %. A key factor in the program is niacin (vitamin B3) whose effect is based on rebound lipolysis.This means that the niacin releases a large volume of fatty acids and toxins from fat cells in a delayed manner, approximately 2–3 hours after consumption. Initially niacin inhibits lipolysis. In liver cells, niacin promotes fat beta-oxidation and inhibits the synthesis of fatty acids (lipogenesis). This may affect the treatment of fatty liver disease.
Combining the protocol with exercise boosts circulation and by extension, the detoxification process. Conversely,infrared sauna improves microcirculation which in turn, boosts the circulation of toxins in blood and their removal from the body through sweating. In its common form (nicotinic acid), niacin causes a flush reaction caused by severe dilation of blood vessels. This can be avoided by using a slowly absorbed form of niacin (inositol hexanicotinate).”
Here’s exactly what they go on to explain in the handbook as a strategy to do take advantage of the study above for fat loss, detoxification and more:
• Start with a 500 mg dose of slowly absorbed niacin (note from Ben – as I write about here, I prefer “Niasafe” as a safer alternative to niacin) and wait 20 minutes before doing any exercise. You may increase the dose by 500–1000 mg per week (maximum dose is 5000 mg)
• Move briskly for 20–30 minutes (the objective is to raise the body temperature and to increase lymphatic and blood circulation)
• After exercise, enter a preheated infrared sauna (minimum 40 degrees Celsius or 104 Fahrenheit) for 15–60 minutes (the longer the better)
• While in the sauna, you may consume coconut water or other mineral-rich fluids to prevent dehydration and to replace the minerals lost through sweating
• At the end of the sauna session, take 2–5 activated charcoal capsules that bind the toxins secreted in the intestine – they will exit the body with feces
• Start the protocol with caution and moderation if you are aware that your body has accumulated a great deal of toxins or if your body fat percentage is high
• The process of the toxins exiting your body may cause detox symptoms which will pass
• Have your liver function values checked 2 weeks after starting the protocol and again 2 weeks after that
• The maximum duration of the protocol is 30 days during which it is recommended to consume plenty of minerals and healthy fats (see my review of the Biohacker’s Handbook section on “Nutrition” for more)
• Complete the protocol 2–3 times per week. If you want fast results, you may complete the protocol daily after testing it a few times
• If you suffer from any chronic illnesses, discuss the treatment protocol with your doctor
Lesson 11: Overtraining Can Be Multifactorial
It’s no longer a secret that adrenal fatigue is a myth, and so I was happy to see that the authors of the handbook point out the fact that overtraining is also a bit of a “catch-all” term, and can instead be very multifactorial. Here’s what they have to say about it.
Whew! That’s just a small sample of the topics covered in the new Biohacker’s Handbook of Exercise, which also includes comprehensive, practical tips and tricks for the following:
- Health and exercise
- Individual and social aspects of exercise
- Key anatomy and biology considering biohacking
- Energy systems and reserves
- Improving endurance, strength, speed and mobility
- Top technologies for exercise
- Example training programs
- Measuring and improving fitness
- Exercise and genetics
… and much, much more – all contained in a quick and concise 188 pages based on 439 references, hundreds of illustrations and 4 years of writing from a team of 3 experts. They wrote the Biohacker’s Handbook because there is nothing out there that would meet the quality standards they were looking for when it came to well-researched yet practical ways to get the most out of your workouts and to get maximal results with minimal time and suffering.
You have the option to purchase the book either as an individual chapter or as part of the complete Biohacker’s Handbook series – (meaning you can download all the chapters as they come out (including updates) and receive the full, beautiful multi-hundred page printed or digital book in the end). They offer a 30-day 100 % money back guarantee and the entire book is an instantly downloadable PDF (compatible with most electronic readers including but not limited to Mac, PC, Kindle, iPad, Galaxy Tab, iPhone etc.). You can click here to grab it now, and get the instant 25% discount they are offering my readers.
Finally, if you dug these takeaways, you may also enjoy my article “21 Unfamiliar Nutrition Tricks I Discovered In The Biohackers’ Handbook.”…
…as well as the upcoming October 13-14, 2017 Biohacker Summit in Helsinki, Finland entitled “Better Living Through Science, Technology & Nature”. Use code BEN to save 10% www.biohackersummit.com…
…and leave your questions, comments and feedback about the Biohackers Handbook of Exercise below!