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Maximize Your ZEN Project 8® Workouts with 3 Powerful Exercise Strategies

Mar 8, 2017 | ZEN Bodi

By Mark Macdonald, ZEN Brand Ambassador & New York Times Best Selling Author

As you started and continue to live your ZEN Project 8® program, you no doubt formed a vision of the toned body you want — maybe it’s defined arms, lean stomach, tight glutes, more muscle and shaped legs. Sculpting your body means getting that look you want, whatever it may be.

Eating PFC Every 3 triggers your body to release stored fat. That fat then gets burned up in your muscle.

To optimize your fat burning and truly sculpt your body, it’s all about working out smarter and more efficiently.

Too often, people hit a plateau they can’t break through, and it’s due to their lack of exercise diversity. We fall into a rut of doing the same types of workouts that originally got us results.

The problem is your body is an ever-adapting machine, and within weeks it can adapt to an exercise routine. Once it adapts, that workout shifts away from sculpting your body and toward simply maintaining your results.

The way to prevent an exercise rut is to correctly diversify your workouts with the three types of exercise.

3 Types of Exercise

Fat-burning cardio: This includes any moderate exercise like walking, stair-climbing, cycling, jogging or swimming — basically when you have a steady heart rate and you’re not winded. Fat-burning cardio activates your body’s red muscle, which is about 50 percent of your skeletal muscle, meaning the muscles you voluntarily control. If you can move it — lifting your arm, scratching your back or walking upstairs — you are using skeletal muscle.

High-intensity cardio: This is better known as interval training, which is characterized by bursts of speed (high heart rate) followed by recovery periods (lower heart rate). Some examples are sprinting, jumping rope, spinning, running stairs, boxing or most ball sports (like singles tennis, racquetball, basketball and soccer). High-intensity cardio activates your body’s white muscle, which is approximately the other 50 percent of your skeletal muscle.

Strength training: This is any type of exercise that overloads your muscles and causes them to become stronger. A few examples are weight training, Pilates, yoga, kettlebells, CrossFit, and exercises like push-ups, pull-ups and squats. Always remember, more muscle equals a faster metabolism, so strength training is great for men and women, and it has been shown to help improve bone density as well.

Now that we’ve covered the three types of exercise, let’s dive into how to maximize every workout. Simply follow these three powerful strategies when creating your workout plan:

Strategy 1 — Know Your Oxygen Line

Your oxygen line is an imaginary line that, when crossed, takes you into high-intensity cardio or back into fat-burning cardio. This line is established once you become familiar with both your fat-burning and high-intensity heart rates. It allows you to always be clear on which type of cardio (fat-burning or high-intensity) and what type of muscle (red or white) you are working. This knowledge will enable you to perform cardio smarter than before.

Strategy 2
— Choose the Best Cardio Movements and Use Proper Technique

There are two factors that determine the quality of a cardio movement:

The Amount of Muscle the Exercise Recruits
You would think that if you were walking on a treadmill on a 15 percent incline for the same time and at the same heart rate as you would while riding a stationary bike, you would burn the same number of calories. The truth is that walking on a treadmill on a 15 percent incline (not holding the handrails) recruits approximately twice as much muscle as riding a stationary bike. This means that in the same exercise time, by doing a high-quality exercise, you are actually burning twice the amount of fat!

The Level of Impact the Exercise Has on the Body
Because your body reacts to stressors, the level of impact an exercise has on your body affects your results. The level of impact you choose depends on your health and goals. Jogging or sprinting is considered a high-impact exercise, due to the force of your foot hitting the ground.

High-impact exercises are the best choice for high-intensity cardio (only if your body can handle the impact).

Stair-climbing and walking are considered low impact because your foot makes contact with much lower force. These exercises are best for fat-burning cardio, because they provide enough stimuli to drop weight and strengthen bones, but not so much impact as to create negative stress on your body. Swimming and cycling are considered non-impact, since your foot does not make impact with the ground.

Walking up hills or on an inclined treadmill, or climbing stairs, are your best fat-burning cardio exercise options.

You can also cycle, row or swim at a sport level (some form of competition training). Even though cycling, rowing and swimming are non-impact, they will recruit a large amount of muscle fibers, due to the level of intensity.

Sprinting and running stairs are your best high-intensity cardio exercise options.

Cycling, rowing, and swimming at a sport level can be done for both fat-burning and high-intensity cardio exercises. Remember, high-intensity cardio uses the same overall movements as fat-burning, just at a higher level of intensity, and with a burst of speed followed by a recovery period.

Strategy 3 — Optimize Your Strength Training

Cardio increases your endurance and burns fat, and strength training improves your strength, muscle tone and size.

There are two types of strength training: core training and weight training:

Core Training Strengthens Your Entire Body

In the most general terms, your core can be defined as your body minus your legs and arms. Core muscles are involved in every movement you make.

Core training will increase flexibility, improve strength, lengthen the body, and develop muscle tone and definition without adding muscle size.
Initially, everyone should do core training. Once you learn how to activate your core, you can move on to the second type of strength training: weights.

Learning how to train your core requires the ability to connect your mind with your body. Here are three ways to best activate your core:

Pilates: Core training that focuses more on strength.
Yoga: Core training that focuses more on flexibility.
Core Specialists: Health professionals who focus on core training.

Pilates, yoga or working with a core specialist can be done through one-on-one instruction or group classes at a gym or studio. You can also purchase videos of each method.

Weight Training Increases Muscle Size and Bone Density

Weight training is strength training that focuses on lifting weight to increase muscle size. In weight training, you continually increase the amount of weight you lift over a period. Weight training causes minor damage to the muscle, causing it to repair itself and increase in size each time (that’s the soreness you feel the next day!).

If your goal is to gain muscle, then you should weight train. Once you achieve your goal, you can adjust your training by shifting back to core training or lifting lighter weights to maintain — not gain — muscle mass.

Weight training is a learned skill that, when done incorrectly, can lead to injury or muscle imbalances.
For that reason, it’s critical to start with one of the following three methods:

  • Work with a qualified personal trainer
  • Take a weightlifting class
  • Get a video

once you have the complete 411 on smarter and more efficient workouts, here’s an illustration of how to structure your ZEN Project 8 workouts to get in all three types of exercise, recruit both your red and white muscles, maximize your fat burning and increase your lean body mass (muscle).

Simply adjust the recommended days to match your schedule.


If your goal is to burn fat, make sure to get at least 4–5 days of fat-burning cardio and 2–3 days of high-intensity cardio per week, as well as 2–3 days of strength training.

If your goal is to maintain/gain weight and primarily build muscle, ONLY do 3–4 days of fat-burning cardio, 30 minutes at a time, and no high-intensity cardio. Focus primarily on 4–5 days of strength training.

Now you have the knowledge to take your ZP8 workouts to the next level! And if you want even more info on how to optimize your exercise, check out this coaching video:

Ready to unlock your body’s full potential and experience ZEN Project 8? Connect with the person who shared this blog with you, or check out www.ZenProject8.com