Surprising Benefits of Speed and Reactivity

I said in my last article that science can be used or mis-used to prove almost anything. I have learned through experience that the only science that makes a difference in your life is the science you experience. Meaning, someone can say eat 1.8 g/kg of protein per day, but if I haven’t tried it and confirmed the benefits, it means nothing to me. So I won’t say this is science, because it isn’t, but I will share my results of a study with a single subject. Me!

In this article, I will talk about my experience with introducing speed, agility, reactivity, and quickness (SARQ) into my training. We all know that the foundation of fitness is cardiovascular health and muscle strength. I would like to posit that powerful fitness and health benefits (albeit optional) can come as a result of including SARQ training.

How I Stumbled into SARQ

I have been working out fairly consistently for the better part of five years. First, I did mostly strength training, then mostly cardio, and I have settled in a happy medium. My workout routine over time morphed into the Physical Activity Guidelines (hey, scientists might know what they’re talking about?!?! haha).

I will confess that maybe 80% of fitness will come from routine cardio (3x per week) and weightlifting (2x per week). But I took a slight diversion from my incline walking, elliptical, and weightlifting routine and tried something different a few months ago. LA Fitness has a dance studio with some punching bags in the back. I decided to go over and do a couple of rounds on the bag. I noticed that in the days after the workout, I began to feel more energetic and sharp. I was better at thinking on my feet and felt an energy level slightly above what I am used to. Seeing as how the only change in my program was the boxing session, I began to look up the benefits of boxing.

Why SARQ Falls through the Cracks

Now, this isn’t science yet, but think about it. Kids have built in SARQ. It’s called playing. Very few adults have a grown-up equivalent. Think of a game of tag. It’s fast paced, you have to run, change directions, dodge opponents, and think on your feet. Many adults never do the physical equivalent. What I was learning was that boxing was activating parts of my nervous system that were under-active. Even with my lifting and cardio, I wasn’t challenging myself to move quickly, be agile, or be reactive.

Even just a short heavy bag session forces you to move your arms and fists faster than you have in maybe years, and you have to be reactive to get your stance and blocks back as fast as possible. Bonus points if you can spar with a partner!

Now obviously boxing isn’t the only way to increase SARQ fitness levels. You could play a game of pickup basketball (or volleyball, soccer, etc), join a kickball league, play catch with your son or daughter, or do Brazilian Jiujitsu. The main goal is to make sure that the activity activates your speed, agility, reactivity, and quickness. Try it out and let me know how it goes!

My Workout Today 4/23/19

I try to change up my workouts intermittently. I have been focusing less on strength and more on my conditioning. This means higher rep circuit-like training. I have seen some pretty good success with it! My resting heart rate has dropped about 8 bpm (and my hrv has improved similarly) since starting this training block about a month ago. I also have been trying to find ways to incorporate a variety of fitness parameters into my workouts.

For the next month, I will be breaking my workouts into a strength component (20 mins), followed by an SARQ component (5-10 min), and then an endurance component (10 min). I’ll break down the specifics of each.

  • The strength component for me can include anything weight-bearing. I will likely keep my reps between 6 and 20 for any exercises I do. Depending on the day and how I am feeling, I might do heavier compound movements (squat, deadlift, bench), or I may do lighter, high-rep isolation work (leg press, leg extensions, lat pulldown, etc.)
  • The SARQ component is a new addition to my training program. I have done SARQ exercise with good results every time I decide to do it, but I have been very inconsistent. SARQ stands for Speed, Agility, Reactivity, and Quickness. For me this looks like agility ladder or cone drills, boxing on a heavy bag, using a reaction ball, or even playing some basketball. These types of movements encourage your body to maintain and build your ability to move multi-laterally quickly. And I think they are the most fun!
  • The endurance component consists of any cardio movement (treadmill, elliptical, etc.) done at my Maffetone (180 – age) HR for at least ten minutes. This type of training will ensure that you keep your endurance up.

So, today I did a workout consisting of these movements. I didn’t aim for any specific reps, just gently challenged myself.

  • Squats. I used 225 lbs and did 6 reps, 5 reps, and then 3 reps. It has been a while since I have squatted so I expected it to be a little more challenging.
  • Bench. I used 185 lbs for a set of 8, and then a pause-rep set of 4.
  • Heavy Bag. Didn’t take any specific measurements, but I would estimate I did about 3 rounds for a total time of around 5 minutes.
  • Incline Walking. After all of that intense work, you can guess that my heart rate was high. So today, walking at a 3.0 incline at a speed of about 2.0-3.0 mph kept me slightly below my target heart rate. I walked for 10 minutes.

Well, that was my workout today. Hopefully you found something interesting that you might be able to use! Until next time…

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