Strength. Cardio. Balance.
It’s well known that training in all three of these fitness categories is essential for optimal health and well-being, especially as we age. And yet most workouts tend to fall into one, maybe two, of these areas — strength or cardio or balance — with time-strapped exercisers struggling to do it all.
But Bahram Akradi, Life Time’s founder and CEO, had a vision: to integrate the three training categories in an effective, efficient, balanced way.
“How can I get a very robust, comprehensive workout that gives me all the benefits of good cardiovascular training, all the benefits of good musculoskeletal training, all the benefits of great balance and neurological training, all in 45 or 50 minutes?” Akradi says of his original idea. “Ultra Fit was created in my mind as a crossroads, a convergence of these approaches.”
A small-group format that combines sprint training, functional strength training, and balance training, Ultra Fit offers the added benefit of improving hormonal profiles across gender.
A typical Ultra Fit workout template includes the following elements:
- Treadmill sprints: These are performed intermittently throughout the workout, between functional (strength and balance) exercises. Akradi describes the progression of sprint efforts as a crescendo, with speed increasing gradually throughout the workout as duration decreases, ending with max-effort sprints of no longer than 15 seconds.
- Resistance training: Functional-strength movements, using tools like dumbbells and resistance bands, are performed at lower loads for higher repetitions to elicit “light muscle failure,” explains Akradi. “The body’s response is to give you stronger, firmer muscles in all of your major and minor muscle groups,” helping to protect and support vulnerable joints, such as the knees, hips, and shoulders.
- Balance, coordination, and agility training: “The system that most people ignore, unfortunately, is one of the most important systems: our neurological system,” says Akradi. That’s a huge problem, he stresses, because engaging our brains through movement can help improve cognitive function in the short and long term and has been shown to mitigate the development of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Ultra Fit improves balance through unilateral training and agility training, using tools like the BOSU balance trainer and stability balls.
- Heart-zone training: For folks who track their heart rate with a monitor, Ultra Fit is designed to maintain cardio output levels across zones 2, 3, and 4.
“The objective of Ultra Fit is to pull all of this together and give you the most efficient, effective workout,” Akradi says.
These workouts can appear intimidating at first: Peek into a class and it’s not uncommon to see participants doing all-out sprints and performing single-leg dumbbell curls while standing on a BOSU ball. As the name suggests, this format is designed for high-intermediate to advanced exercisers.
Though it’s challenging, Ultra Fit is within reach for anyone who wants to give it a try and reap its rewards, says Akradi.
“There is always a progression. The beauty of functional training and neurological response is it’s the fastest adaptation. In as little as a few days or weeks, you can do things that you never thought you could. Everyone — super-athletes and beginners — should engage in functional training.”
Want to give Ultra Fit a go? Try the following sample workout, modifying as needed. Make sure to support your efforts with ample recovery, including sufficient sleep, nutrition, and stress management.
Before You Begin
Ultra Fit is designed for advanced exercisers, or intermediate exercisers with at least two months of functional-training experience. To get started, seek out a certified personal trainer or follow a functional-fitness program (like Life Time’s GTX program).
Do this workout up to three times per week, progressing the exercises as your functional fitness improves.
- A treadmill
- BOSU balance trainer
- Two stability balls
- A light or medium resistance band
- Two sets of dumbbells: light (5 to 8 pounds) and medium (10 to 15 pounds)
- A ViPR tube