If you’ve been to a standard big-box gym, you’ve seen this before: some jerk lifts a 25 pound dumbbell a couple times before setting it down to chat with his buddies for the next 5-10 minutes. While this is annoying as crap (especially if you want to use that space/weight for some real lifting), this guy is actually doing something right! He’s talking DURING his workout.
“Blasphemy!” You may be screaming. “If you’re really working out, you shouldn’t be able to talk! REAL workouts take focus and tons of effort. You should be so concerned with breathing patterns, movement perfection, and mental concentration that talking is impossible!” This is true too, however, if you are looking to enhance your ability to talk in active environments or increase your lung capacity, talking during your next high intensity routine could actually help.
How the Blah Blah Protocol Came About
While shooting a series of workout dvds and online videos, I found a common occurrence from each trainer (including myself): talking to the camera while exercising drastically changed the dynamic of the workout. Specifically, it made it much harder to breathe and concentrate on form while talking. Worse yet, each trainer had to make it seem like they weren’t short of breath while they were doing difficult movements and sets (who wants to train with some wuss who can’t handle their own routine?).
Now, I’m not saying that you should talk during every workout, but if you’re looking to increase the difficulty of your standard routine and avoid stuffing your sweaty face into a rubber mask (that has been used by a lot of different people) in order to restrict your oxygen intake, then trying to talk is a great option. Let’s break down some of the benefits.
The Practical Benefits of the Blah Blah Protocol
A lot of people throw around the term “functional training.” For me, it’s actually pretty simple: functional training gives you performance gains for life applications. Life applications are basically anything you do outside of training, meaning sports, day-to-day chores, playing with your kids, battle, and getting out of bed in the morning all apply.
In that sense, talking during your workouts will enhance your ability to communicate during strenuous situations. In water polo or soccer, you’re not just sprinting from one end of the playing field to the other, you’re communicating and coordinating at the same time. For these athletes, you’re not just chatting, you’re screaming at each other. While it would be great for them to fully focus on the sprint with perfect form, that’s not realistic. Talking while you workout is a small way to simulate the field environment.
Soldiers have the same issue (except even worse because their lives may be on the line). While you may be exhausted after hiking a distance with plenty of extra weight, you still need to be ready to communicate when the shit hits the fan. Just because you’re out of breath that doesn’t mean you can’t communicate essential information that could save you and your buddies’ lives.
Increasing Lung Capacity through Blah Blah Protocol
It’s a common (and hotly debated) topic in fitness: oxygen deprivation (also known as hypoxia) can improve a number of performance aspects, including improved oxygen diffusement, lactic acid regulation, and red blood cell production. You’ve seen endurance athletes training at high altitudes, pilots and astronauts working to improve their performance in low oxygen environments, and a number of companies producing oxygen-deprivation devices for high intensity training. Whether it “works” or not, a ton of money and effort is being used on it.
As far as I’m concerned, any time you can make a workout harder in an easily adjustable way (like talking), it will make doing it without that challenge even easier. Simply said, talking during a workout is harder than not talking during a workout. When you speak, you aren’t taking a breath in, nor are you breathing out as efficiently as you would without words. The hit on your oxygen intake is therefore twofold: less time to breathe in and less efficient breathing altogether.
The best comparison for this is competitive swimming (I would just say “swimming,” but the doggy-paddle doesn’t apply to this line of thinking). During the freestyle stroke, the act of breathing takes away from proper, streamlined form, slowing you down; in a 50 meter freestyle swimming race, you may see a good swimmer breathe only once! When he or she finally does, it will be an extremely fast, short turn of the head (hardly the nice deep breath that trainers always recommend). Talking during your workout is a less intense, more practical way to recreate this situation. Minimal oxygen in while you exert your body through exercise, AND you get to talk about last night’s episode of Shark Tank! I love that show.
How to Apply Blah Blah Protocol
Like any good workout protocol, applying Blah Blah Training is simple, but can be amped up progressively as you improve. It does require a workout partner or group. I would say that talking on a hands-free cell phone device might work, but any cords and the risk of dropping your phone makes it extremely impractical. Also, what kind of jerk does a workout while talking on the phone? Not you!
Step 1: Blah Blah Protocol Exercise Selection
Pick an exercise that is not too technical. Sticking with calisthenic movements or high rep ballistics (assuming you are very experienced with the implement you’re using) is best. For calisthenics, try it with Push Ups, Burpees, Deck Squats, or Mountain Climbers. For high rep ballistics, try it with Kettlebell Swings, Sandbag Shouldering, or Kettlebell Figure 8s. Don’t attempt anything that requires your full concentration in order to be performed correctly; stick to safe movements that you are extremely familiar with.
Step 2: Blah Blah Protocol Set Scheme Selection
Next, pick a set scheme that isn’t too complicated. I recommend the Tabata Protocol starting out. This is 8 sets of 20 seconds work followed by 10 seconds of rest. It’s simple, and if you’ve been involved in functional training for any amount of time, you’ve probably done it a lot. You could also do other interval sets like 30/30s or 15/15s if you want, they will work just as well.
Step 3: Blah Blah Protocol Conversation Topic Selection
After you select your workout set, simply choose a topic that everyone is well-versed in or passionate about. Yes, you could do something like call out a color or number or some other innocuous piece of information, but that will take away from your practical application benefit. I like to chat about recent events in the news. Even if you don’t know much about the situation, everyone will probably have some kind of view of it.
Once you have your topic, take turns talking, but don’t get too long-winded (horrible pun fun, I know). Simply say a sentence or two and let the next person go. Try to keep your form and pace in check throughout.
Give just one set a try and see how it goes! It’s actually a lot of fun directly observing how exercise impacts your ability to concentrate and think. If you’re really brave, take a video of your first session and send it to us!