122 – Dr James Fisher – How to Reunite the HIT Community, Workout Routines, and Sun-bedding

Dr James Fisher
Dr James Fisher

Dr James Fisher is a Course Leader and Senior Lecturer in Sports Conditioning and Fitness at the Southampton Solent University in the UK. In addition to a huge body of work in exercise science, James is the lead author of 2 of the most important papers published in resistance training in the last 10 years:

Listen to my other episodes with James here: Part 1Part 2Part 3, and Part 4

Contact James:

  • Email: james.fisher [at] solent.ac.uk
  • Facebook

In this episode, we discuss:

  • The problems within the HIT community – how we can get along a little better, reconcile our differences and become more productive
  • Why HIT can sometimes be a problematic label
  • James’s current workout routine, volume and frequency
  • James’s favourite life hacks
  • … and much more

Listen below:

Listen to the Corporate Warrior Podcast on iTunesListen to the Corporate Warrior Podcast on Stitcher

Would you like to learn more from Dr James Fisher and Dr James Steele? Listen to this episode where we workout nihilism vs workout optimisation, motivating loved ones to exercise, the role of effort in resistance training, and much more. Listen to it here (stream below or right-click to download):

This episode is brought to you by Health IQA life insurance company that helps health conscious people like runners, cyclists, weight lifters, HIT participants and more, get a lower rate on their life insurance.

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Selected Links from the Episode

People Mentioned

Comments 24

  • There’s no shame in hitting the tanning salon … below is my n-1 report on tanning beds that I originally posted on Rogue Health and Fitness last year

    “I have a data point. Since last October (2016) I’ve indoor tanned weekly for 10-15 minutes resulting in a vitamin D, 25-Hydroxy result of 37.7 measured last week. I’ve taken no supplements and live at too high a latitude to generate vitamin D from the winter sun.

    I used the tanning bed with the highest UVB rays, which is actually the cheapest. The tanning salon markets the high-UVA beds as “bronzing” while marketing the high-UVB beds as “burning”. With a military discount it only cost $5/session and was a nice, relaxing experience … kind of like getting a massage.

    I began taking vitamin D supplements about 8 years ago as a way to cure the neck and back pain I would get each winter starting in November. While it worked to ease those muscular pains and gave me somewhat increased energy, I would also get really bad itching in different areas of my skin with the supplements.

    With the tanning bed this winter I’ve had no pains, high energy, and none of the itching that the supplements gave me.

    I’m a 5’11”, fairly muscular 205 lb 44-yo male. I’m a Caucasian who tends to tan pretty well without burning easily.

    I stopped indoor tanning in May and started intentionally laying out in the sun once a week. About 15 minutes per side.

    After a couple months of natural tanning my Vit D is about the same, 35.5. I guess I expected it would be higher from natural sun (I’ve heard of lifeguards with 60-70) but this level seems fine and in well above deficiency levels.”

    This winter I’m continuing the indoor tanning but only every two weeks. I’m doing a carnivore diet ala Shawn Baker and will see if that reduces my Vitamin D requirement.”

  • I don’t think the kind of infighting you see within the HIT community is unique. I also spend some time following blogs and websites devoted to more conventional barbell training and strength training. You see the same thing in those communities. One classic example is the often contentious debate over “Low Bar” vs “High Bar” squats. Similar clashes appear within communities devoted to various diet and nutrition philosophies.

    Part of the problem is that for some guru’s, being the guy with all answers, being the guy who knows more than the conventional wisdom, is part of the marketing pitch for their services….

    • Greg – well said. You’re totally right. This problem occurs across all exercise and diet niches and dove tails with capitalism lol. Hadn’t thought too much about this till now. It’s so easy to get stuck in a bubble.

    • Yes you’re absolutely correct in what you say as I’ve observed this for years . Another debate you hear a lot is squats vs leg presses but what i realized a long time ago is that a leg press is a squat ! The action of the legs is the same in both cases , bending and extending at the hip and knee and the obvious difference being the location of the resistance . It’s amazing the type of nonsense that’s argued back and forth and this has been going on for years , it’s astounding !

  • The answer to the branding problem is in episode 113 … somebody should rebrand HIT as “CEO Training”, or “The CEO Workout”. (It also works well with the Corporate Warrior theme.)

    I’ve been listening to the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing audiobook lately. A big theme in the book is that in branding, people have a strong tendency to pick common nouns that directly describe the product or service, when in fact, the overwhelming majority of successful brands are simple, proper nouns.

    In that light, “evidence-based resistance training” is a disaster. First off, it’s a mouthful. Secondly, the average person considering signing up with a trainer for “evidence-based resistance training” will be turned off by the thought of some nerd lecturing him with research papers.

    If that same person hears “CEO Training”, he thinks and wonders:
    1) “I’d like to be as wealthy as a CEO”
    2) What about this workout makes it appropriate for a CEO?

    Number 2) provides the perfect launching point for a discussion with the potential client. I.e. it’s a tough, but time-efficient and effective workout.

    Further, you can’t dilute the term “CEO”. Even if there are more CEO Training gyms than there are Starbucks, the term CEO will always mean “the powerful person who runs a corporation.” Whereas Orange Theory is quickly becoming the term for “where out-of-shape women who can’t afford Crossfit go”.

    • CEO training? lol, what a load of elitist claptrap. It works just fine as a marketing tool, targeting a very specific niche in society but as a replacement for HIT? …Not so much.

    • Good point Nathan. “CEO Training”, as elitist as it may sound, could be very effective in communication the benefits and, most importantly, getting more people to just fucking do it. Agree that evidence-based resistance training isn’t going to work for marketing but more for the exercise geek discussions. Personally, when I talk about my exercise with anyone, I just call it Strength Training. Done. No ambiguity 😉

  • Great podcast guys! As I recently commented on the Fisher & Steele podcast: I totally agree with your point that a lot of the disagreements we get between you guys and the Brad/ James Krieger volume crowd is down to pure semantics. And your 10 minute snippet with Drew last week got to the crux of the matter: it comes down to tempo and whether the set is taken to MMF or not. One of Brad’s sets performed at a relatively quick tempo, not to MMF is in no way equivalent to one of Drew’s sets with a slow, smooth cadence taken each time to MMF. But, if we could get a common language so that Brad’s crowd and the HIT crowd could agree on how we define a set: ie a defined time under tension, taken to failure, only then will we start to get some clear conclusions with regard to volume, frequency etc. Even better if it was possible to agree on a defined cadence and hence number of reps per set too in order to equalise time under tension that way (otherwise it is possible that the absolute number of reps may have some influence, despite the same time under tension…) In my mind that would be the most scientific approach, since it leaves just one variable – ie the load – everything else would be standardised in the context of a ‘set’. And finally we could then have direct comparisons between researcher in terms of ‘sets’ and ‘volume’…

    And on another note, I also do all of James’s lifehacks: Omega 3, intemittent fasting (well 3 days per week anyway) and Vitamin D3 supplements. I am tempted to try the sunbed: but as Nathan says below, it is only the UV-B that is beneficial in that it produces Vitamin D in the skin. It tends to be self-limiting too, since if you overdo it then you get immediate feedback (burning). I don’t think there are any benefits at all to UV-A other than it produces a pretty tan. It will age your skin though and since it penetrates deeper in the skin can lead to skin cancer years later… In terms of setting your circadian bodyclock though: just get out in daylight for 20 minutes before 10am. even on cloudy days the blue light will be sufficient to re-synchronise your master body clock. Personally I like the 6 in 1 benefits of going for a 30-45 minute brisk walk in nature each morning: low intensity aerobic exercise, blue light to reset circadian clock, fresh air, UV-B (in summer) for Vitamin D, Nitric Oxide production stimulated by sunlight (helps circulation) and Dave Asprey had another one: something about UV and infra-red light in the eyes producing EZ water in your cells which makes your mitochondria more efficient (see his book Headstrong for more on that). Multi-tasking in action eh?

    • Great contribution Rob. I completely agree with the first part on agreeing semantics across research. I think the James’s have both published papers recently on definitions in resistance training research since they are all to familiar with this issue.

      Thanks for the sun exposure hacks! Not read Headstrong. I worry it will make me spend loads of money I don’t have on “biohacks” that may or may not be that worthwhile! Getting a dog soon though, and looking to implement your morning outdoor strategy with a dog walk :D, albeit in not-so-sunny Ireland (though today was the exception: beautiful day).

  • From James Fisher’s own study:

    “Untrained persons appear able to make hypertrophic increases in around 3 weeks of resistance training.Trained persons performing regular resistance training are encouraged to allow adequate rest between training sessions without fear of atrophy. Brief (~3 weeks) absences from training appear not to cause significant atrophy and potentially promote greater hypertrophy upon return to training”

    This is why HIT “lost the war.” There is talk of brief, hard, infrequent workout. Proof? Where is the “James Gang” on this 3 weeks absences for training? Please…..no more….. “meta-analysis” studies of cherry-picked studies. At least Dr. Darden has real/live/measured/photographs of actual people.

    Furthermore, not a single word on the value of cardio-vascular training…..but……supposedly there is no such thing as cardiovascular exercise!

    In one of the listed studies ( # 92)

    Lundberg TR, Fernandez-Gonzalo R, Gustafsson T, et al. Aerobic exercise does not compromise muscle hypertrophy response to short-term resistance training. J Appl Physiol 2013; 114: 81-9 …..

    This was stated:

    “In conclusion, the concurrent 5-wk AE (aerobic exercise) + RE (resistance exercise) paradigm resulted in robust increased in vivo muscle strength and power. Although this effect appeared to be evoked by the RE stimulus alone, the combined approach was accompanied by more substantial muscle hypertrophy, which was not carried over to greater improvement in muscle function. It remains that intense AE can be executed prior to RE without compromising performance outcome.”

    Please read your posted studies. Looks like aerobic exercise is alive and doing well…..even though it does not exist.

    Lastly, Dr. Steele has a visual aid on his “aerobics does not exist” video that is inaccurate. He commits the same mistake as Dr. McGuff does in BBS, as the visual aid groups all muscular contractions the same. Muscular contractions are not the same….not even close. This shows his utter lack of experience in this critical area of healthcare/exercise/CV conditioning. Resistance training contractions can impede blood flow to and from the heart…..and not so with proper CV muscular contractions. Do a hard 20 minutes on an Assault bike, and then do a Big 5 HIT routine….the difference in muscular contractions are huge….enough so that even a novice could notice.

    HIT lost B-I-G!

    • As for losing the so called war of HIT vs the field of exercise as a whole there never was any war in the first place . Abbreviated training in terms of a handful of exercises performed twice or so per week is nothing new and has been around for quite some time . When Arthur Jones came unto the scene with Nautilus HIT became more widely known to the public which was a great thing . Arthur may have come across as a bit abrasive and turned some people off as far as HIT training goes but he at least exposed sensible training to the public . The field of exercise as a whole is never going to change as far as i see it because there are too may vested interests involved and far too much money
      at stake and people are going to circle the wagons against anyone who challenges them .

      Gary Knight mentioned on the podcast he did with Lawrence that it’s simply a waste of time and energy trying to debate with people about what the best way to carry out exercise is because everyone is to wrapped up in they’re dogma to listen to reason on the subject objectively . As far as aerobics goes it simply means with oxygen so any activity can be defined as aerobic and the most aerobic thing you can do is sleep because that ‘s when you’re utilizing the most oxygen !

      • I think some of the Nautilus old-timers from the 1970’s would agree there was some type of a war. I agree with what you say as far as “vested interests.”
        As such, I’m not interested in changing any hearts and minds….just pointing out foolishness as I see it. I’m not concerned about “aerobics” either, but rather cardiovascular conditioning. Interestingly, many die in their sleep, so maybe sleep aerobics may not be such a good idea.

        • Sleep aerobics ? That’s funny . Many people die many ways and lets not forget that conditioning is specific , it all depends on what you want to do . If you want to run in a marathon then you’re going to have to train for that . As for the regular Joe and Jane that wants to get in better shape i would say that strength training carried out in a productive and safe manner would be the ticket , perhaps supplemented with brisk walking or something of the sort .

          • I had a good laugh after I wrote that too!

            Arthur Jones stated:

            “Specificity in Strength Training, The Facts and Fables”

            “Strength is general, and contributes to any activity… but the applied demonstration of strength is specific. Learning to apply your strength properly in any activity requires skill training… not strength training, but skill training can come from only one possible source, the practice of the sport itself.”

            Cardio-vascular conditioning is general in much the same way….
            Conditioned lungs, heart and blood vessels……can contribute to any activity. Unfortunately, HIT does not properly condition these vessels.
            I too think a minimal amount of strength training….along the lines of John Little…….plus concurrent “brisk walking” or,”Heavy Hands” would do quite nicely….. and economical. Add some beer, my Dobro….and some Come & Go Blues

            • Strength is general and will aid you in performing whatever specific task your doing e.g. biking . Strength Training will condition your body and practice of a specific skill such as bike riding will improve your proficiency at the specific task . I absolutely enjoyed Arthur Jones articles that used to appear in Ironman Magazine in the 90’s . While i may not agree with everything Arthur said the vast majority of what he said with regard to exercise was spot on . What you posted here is one of my favorites and totally blows to smithereens the notion of functional and sport specific training ! Great stuff !

  • I don’t think that any type of exercise is necessarily a good thing or of benefit because in the process of becoming more fit you may in fact be damaging yourself . For example if one were performing crossfit or something of that nature even if there was some benefit gained in terms of muscle gain and fat loss the damage that one could ( and very probably will ) accrue in the process wouldn’t be worth it . Carrying out your exercise in a safe and sensible manner would and should be the preferred way of going about it . Great podcast guys really enjoyed it !

    • Thanks Enlite. I would say that both James and I agree with your comment. We’d be talking all day attempting to caveat everything that was said ;-). James did say Crossfit was a sport 😀 and he didn’t elaborate on the risk reward equation on this occasion.

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