Every elite health and performance program includes movement.
Training, exercise, and fitness form a pillar of optimal health.
It can be all-encompassing…
Back in my college rugby days, I spent three hours per day training. Split between practice and gym sessions. I got decent results.
You don’t have to take that route.
The fitness industry evolves rapidly. New technologies, systems, machines, and principles get athletes and everyday folks transformational results.
In this post, we’ll explore everything you need to know to maximize your results in the shortest possible time. How to transform your body in record time using modern science. All the resources, the foundational principles, and the best gear available to biohack your fitness.
Fancy Technology & Gear
If you have a larger fitness budget, these are among the most powerful tools on Earth.
KAATSU is the ultimate system using blood flow modulation technology (more on that later in this post). Basically, KAATSU causes blood to temporarily pool in the muscles and safely simulates lifting heavy weights. It’s used in advanced clinics, by Olympians and elite athletes, and by businesspeople that demand the very best.
KAATSU is the result of decades of clinical research and application by Dr. Sato. Precisely engineered to help hospital-ridden patients actually pack on muscle and strength. One of the primary problems with BFR training is that it requires a bit of guesswork and practice to get the band pressure right. Too much, and the safety decreases. Too little, and you won’t get the effects.
KAATSU is by far the safest and most feature-rich occlusion training system available.
One feature, in particular, puts it in a league of its own.
Newer KAATSU devices can automatically inflate and deflate the cuffs to simulate the endothelial effects of performing aerobic activities. Giving you some of the cardiovascular benefits of endurance exercise while you go about your day. You can sit in front of your computer and simultaneously keep your body healthy.
Or, you can use KAATSU cycles as a warm-up or cooldown while commuting to and from the gym. Supplying the muscles with nutrients and helping clear metabolic waste products. Increasing overall performance.
Or while sitting in the car and traveling.
The brand new KAATSU B1 device is just releasing, which lets you track everything from your phone. Check it out here.
Use the exclusive KAATSU code URBAN for 5% off
When I moved to Austin, Texas, I didn’t have a car. I walked several miles to my nearest gym.
I already had a pair of adjustable dumbbells, but I wanted a more robust “home gym”. To build muscle and strength, I need something capable of providing hundreds of pounds of resistance.
I’d heard a lot about a concept called variable resistance training. But the predominant system didn’t impress me. So I looked into the best X3 Bar alternatives and came across Harambe.
This is one powerful system. It came with five resistance bands (totaling over 1,000 pounds of resistance), an aerospace-engineered footplate rated up to 1,000+ pounds, a heavy-duty stainless steel bar, and a special sling system to evenly distribute the weight.
From the comfort of my home, I could deadlift with ~405 pounds, squat 315+ pounds, bench 225 pounds, and get a gym-grade workout.
At the same time, the entire system is small enough to easily tuck under my bed or toss in my car while traveling. With enough resistance and a warranty that will progress with me.
You’ll find my full Harambe System review here.
Use the exclusive Harambe code URBAN for 15% off
This one is among the coolest fitness systems I’ve used.
As they describe, “ARX is a resistance exercise technology that uses computer-controlled, motorized resistance in place of weights.” This machine tailors your workout exactly to your body’s needs using controlled, safe, and optimal resistance.
Using isometric-style training provides the perfect resistance, and without the danger of heavy weights. ARX workouts are quick — often just 12-minutes, and infrequent. Just one or two full-body sessions per week.
Despite the minimal time investment, several studies have found ARX superior to traditional free weight training. And also 94% more time efficient.
ARX systems are feature-rich and some models allow you to perform just about any exercise.
One thing I found especially cool is that it gives you real-time feedback on each rep. While lifting, you see a live force output comparison to your previous workout. Tracking your progress for you, and even gamifying your strength.
Make no mistake, to reap the full benefits, you’ll feel a new (good) kind of pain during ARX workouts. Especially as your nervous system adapts.
These units are not cheap, however, so you can use their website to find local gyms outfitted with ARX.
CAR.OL is a “smart” stationary bike designed for low-impact but high-intensity exercise.
Traditional aerobics spinning classes keep stress hormones elevated for prolonged periods and result in little anabolic growth. CAR.OL flips that, instead guiding you through adaptive-resistance powered bike sprints.
The entire workout consists of just a few sprints, and takes mere minutes. According to their Science Team, your CAR.OL workout produces the equivalent benefits of 45-minutes of cardiovascular training.
I found the CAR.OL bike system to be considerably easier than ARX. Personally, I prefer to hop on my actual bike and do bike sprints in fresh, sunny air.
But if you’re crunched for time, don’t want to get sweaty before work, or live somewhere with terrible weather, CAR.OL is an interesting technology to test.
Vasper is what it looks like: a sci-fi recumbent bike that surrounds the user with cords, cuffs, and performance technologies.
Three advanced features make it a unique way to optimize blood and nutrient delivery.
First, they use KAATSU-like occlusion technology to help build metabolite levels in the muscles.
Then, Vasper chills the body to further boost blood flow. Thanks to researchers like Dr. Andy Galpin and the Huberman Lab podcast, peri-workout cooling has taken the fitness world by storm.
Finally, users perform anaerobic training.
What sets it apart is the safety, low stress, and time savings compared to conventional exercise.
As their website summarizes,
“Vasper is a revolutionary health and fitness technology that combines compression, cooling, and interval training to help the body restore, harmonize and reach peak vitality.”
You can use it either as a standalone modality, or to compliment an existing exercise program.
Again, these systems are quite pricey. Use their provider locator to find one near you.
LiveO2 simulates training at altitude, but more.
It’s a style of oxygen contrast training that flips between an oxygen-rich and oxygen-reduced air environment.
Basically, you ride a bike and the machine cycles between the two states.
LiveO2 encourages maximum blood flow and oxygenation.
Contrasting oxygen like this flushes the body, conditions you for altitude, increases oxygenation of the brain, improves immune health, helps the respiratory system, builds stress resilience, and provides a fantastic workout in less time.
It’s a unique system, and LiveO2 customers swear by it.
The LiveO2 team regularly speaks at biohacking health and wellness events.
Check out their website to find a provider near you.
Electro Muscle Stimulation (EMS) Technology
Muscle contraction is largely governed by electrical impulses. Given the electrification of today’s world, shouldn’t we have tools to effectively biomimic the body’s natural process?
Rehab clinics and high-end personal trainers have used Full-body Electro Muscle Stimulation (EMS) for decades. You attach electrodes to major muscle groups, perform functional movements, and these systems amplify your workouts. Or you can strategically place them on smaller muscles that are harder to target with traditional exercises.
Proponents claim that EMS can efficiently activate muscles better than other styles of working out, safer, and faster. All without the wear and tear of traditional training methods.
The newest shining example is a system called Katalyst.
I’m skeptical that EMS can really replace tried-and-true training approaches. Augment, yes. The tremendous value I see, however, is in accelerating injury rehab and post-workout recovery.
Core Training Modalities
Certain forms of training aren’t as high-tech but have passed the test of time. They’re often considerably cheaper (even free), but either take longer or lack efficacy.
Cross training matters.
Whether you’re training for a specific sport, to handle any obstacle life throws at you, or just to exemplify optimal wellness, human physiology requires diverse movement.
Resistance training, jogging, or yoga all provide unique benefits. But limiting yourself to just a single modality eventually leads to problems. Problems cause injury, and injury removes you from your chosen activity.
Unfortunately, you usually most need your least favorite styles of training to rebalance the body.
I, for example, love all kinds of resistance training and loathe slowness. So I commit and calendar in weekly yoga classes. I do more gentle twisting, bending, and “working in” movements.
Your ideal program will likely include multiple modalities listed below.
Isometric training is a form of resistance where you maximally exert yourself against an immovable object.
For example, pushing against a massive boulder. It doesn’t budge, but your muscles quickly (and powerfully) fatigue.
Research on isometric training continues mounting and it compares favorably to classic forms of weight lifting.
What makes it special, is that these workouts are quick — you’ll complete a full-body workout in under 10 minutes. Many of the high-end devices here use isometric style resistance.
But you can perform these movements anywhere and without gear.
Super Slow Strength Training
Popularized by Dr. Doug McGuff in his book Body by Science, super slow strength (SST) is the ultimate free resistance training time hack.
One primary training variable is the time your muscle spends under load. Another is how much load.
With super slow strength training, you use very low resistance or even body weight. The trick lies in manipulating the other part of that equation.
Traditional strength training looks something like three sets of five reps, at a tempo of about two seconds down, two seconds up. Equally 60-seconds of total “time under tension” for an exercise.
Here, we do just one set per muscle group. But instead, consisting of 90-seconds of reps, each at a tempo of 5-10 seconds up, 5-10 seconds down. Sending a powerful tissue-building anabolic signal throughout the body.
Great for building lactate tolerance, strength endurance, and even a bit of pure strength. SST is especially powerful among the elderly, when time-crunched, while traveling, or paired with KAATSU.
Functional (stability) training is a style of training that injects instability somewhere into the movement. That can be moving an uneven object (like a kettlebell). Or standing on an unstable surface (like a Bosu Ball). Or both.
The upshot of this is severalfold.
Primarily, it’s neurologically far more taxing than training with machines, variable resistance bands, or even normal free weights. Muscle itself doesn’t grow quickly. Ability to recruit motor units does. Much of the benefit and challenge of resistance training is actually neurological. As the brain rewires to support the new habit of lifting, beginners experience rapid “noob” strength gains. In essence, they simply unlock greater strength by activating relevant neural pathways. This rewiring slows with practice, which is why experienced lifters plateau and struggle to progress.
Second, common movements simply don’t carry over to everyday life. For example, how often do you lie on a flat bench, with an evenly loaded bar ahead of you, tasked with pressing it away from you? Only to lower it again and repeat the process. Even if you can bench press 300 pounds, you may struggle to push an unevenly weighted 200-pound boulder off your chest. Functional training introduces more sport (or life) relevance by training the body and mind to handle more variables.
Third, this style of training builds stability and underdeveloped secondary support muscles. Neither of these receives as much stimulus during typical training, and therefore commonly lag behind. Weakness in these smaller muscles leads to injury. Functional training strengthens secondary muscles, increasing overall strength.
Some ways I’ll add instability into my routine include:
- Bosu balls
- Swiss balls
- Using two different weights for each side of the body
- Holding kettlebells upside down (“bottoms up”)
- One-legged/armed movements
Anything that forces your body to balance while generating force increases stability.
My favorite is the weighted squat while standing on top of a Swiss Ball.
Note that this is an advanced technique. First, ensure you have adequate mobility and good form.
We’ve all heard of working out, but that’s only half of the equation.
Working out is about expending energy. Breaking down the body before recovery and sleep rebuild it stronger.
An optimally balanced nervous system can handle big, crushing workouts. Today, however, most of us walk around chronically stressed, in full sympathetic “fight-or-flight” mode. Our bodies already lack adequate nutrition, and grueling workouts further deplete reserves.
Our antidote is an entirely different form of movement, what one of my teachers named Paul Chek calls “working in”.
It’s quite simple, leaves you energetic, feeling great, digesting optimally, and in an anabolic, tissue-building state.
Popular work in practices include:
- Tai Chi
- Qi Gong
- Yin Yoga
Any movement can become a work-in, as long as you experience the following:
- No elevation in heart rate
- Tongue remains wet
- Breath rate stays normal (can easily maintain conversations)
Everything should flow easily, and it should not feel strenuous. If it’s difficult, you’re doing it wrong.
Working in is an ideal form of active recovery that compliments all programs and can be used for a quick vitality boost at any point throughout the day.
Rucking (Super Walking)
Walking is among the most important human movements.
We do it all the time, without a second thought.
Humans are unparalleled in our ability to walk and slowly cover large distances. Not running. Walking.
Yet the conveniences of modernity can make hitting a measly 10,000 steps difficult.
I first discovered what I called “super walking” while using my backpack to transport 50-pounds of groceries from store to home. By foot, and walking over four miles.
I’m strong, and I still felt wrecked the next day.
Later, I discovered that soldiers often walk with weighted packs over long distances and that they call it “rucking”.
While researching for my guide to rucking, I heard it described as…
“Cardio for those that hate running, and the strength training for those that hate the gym.”
It’s low impact, doesn’t require much gear, and allows for multitasking.
Plus, it gets you outside, sightseeing, soaking up natural sunlight, and breathing (hopefully) fresh air.
I like to do a 1-2 hour rucking hike at least once per week to build endurance capacity.
I came across blood flow restriction training at a state-of-the-art training facility back in high school.
Actually, it was the higher-end KAATSU system listed previously.
I loved the technology since my very first session.
It works by temporarily reducing blood flow from the muscles back to the heart. This causes an accumulation of lactate, growth factors, and a host of powerful metabolic byproducts. When you remove the bands, they surge throughout the body and even the brain.
Mimicking the benefits you get of heavy strength training, but with only 20-40 percent of the load. Making it among the safest training modalities. BFR sessions are quick, require less recovery, and when used appropriately, dramatically speed up injury rehabilitation.
You can use them during dedicated training sessions, or while on a walk.
Best of all, BFR bands are small and lightweight, making them an ultimate travel companion.
Check out this article for more information on the science of blood flow restriction training.
At just $30-50 for a set, they’re the best value fitness hack I’ve come across.
Dumbbells and barbells have become icons of fitness.
No other training modality has helped people pack on as much muscle and strength.
They’re relatively cheap, widely accessible, and effective.
Strength training programs rely heavily on free weights.
Especially popular compound lifts like squats, bench, rows, press, deadlift, cleans, etc. Each of these hits large muscle groups and efficiently works out the body.
You can easily and incrementally increase resistance, leading to progressive overload.
Free weights can build:
- Strength endurance
- Lactate tolerance
If I could only train using one style, I’d pick free weights.
Kettlebells are among the most mysterious fitness gear.
Originally used as general everyday counterweights in 18th-century Russia.
Today, they’re either completely avoided, or used in beautiful and sophisticated kettlebell “flow” type routines.
Unstable by design, kettlebells require practice to wield properly. When you do, they become potent muscle, power, and athleticism-building tools.
Popular kettlebell exercises work most of the body, including the core. Most dumbbell exercises are more challenging when replaced with kettlebells.
They’re also great for warm-ups, cooldowns, and circuit training.
The biggest drawback is that kettlebells take more practice to master, and poor form can lead to injury.
Kettlebells are ideal to incorporate unstable training into your routine.
Perhaps the most obvious and ubiquitous style of training thanks to sensational titles like “six-minute abs” and various push-up challenges, bodyweight exercise can quickly transform your body (although it takes more than six minutes).
You can perform bodyweight workouts anywhere, without any gear, and at the same time, build cardiovascular fitness.
The rule-of-thumb for optimal results is that the lighter the load, the closer to failure you must go. Those grueling last reps matter most with bodyweight training.
It’s not completely risk-free.
While lack of external load makes it generally safer, form gets less attention. Among advanced bodyweight exercisers, overuse injuries are more common. That’s because the body isn’t designed to perform such high-volume exercises (say 500 push-ups or squats) in one session.
Whenever I do bodyweight training, I prefer to stack it either with super slow strength, BFR, or KAATSU for the best results and in less time.
TRX is the original suspension training system that unlocks all kinds of additional bodyweight exercises that you otherwise cannot easily perform.
You can only do so many different bodyweight exercises. Shoulders, for example, are notoriously difficult to train solely through body weight.
Suspension systems inject much-needed variety into fitness programs. Letting you perform different movements, at different angles. You modulate resistance with your body weight.
This increases the neural complexity of the exercise and can help break plateaus.
Plus, these systems are travel-friendly and set up quickly.
It’s a beginner-friendly choice for building:
- Strength endurance
- Lactate tolerance
Although not great to increase true strength.
Overall, suspension training doesn’t work all that well standalone.
For the same price (or less), I’d rather have a setup including BFR Bands, resistance bands, and a jump rope. Then I’d do super slow strength bodyweight training.
Biohacking Your Ideal Fitness Routine
The world’s best fitness program is the one you’ll follow.
The “consistency is king” cliche holds true.
You can get into phenomenal shape on a simple and free program.
This often comes at the cost of time, convenience, or slower progress.
Futuristic fitness technologies, however, make achieving and maintaining peak shape easier.
I’m sure that I’m missing training techniques, gear, equipment, and modalities.
What are your favorite fitness, movement, and exercise biohacks? Let’s make this a conversation in the comments below.