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October 2017

People often ask me, how I remain motivated to teach the same things over and over again. Honestly, I respect the basics so much. I am never bored of teaching or practicing squats, pushups, jabs and front kicks.  I feel empowered by good technique and know that the exercise sciences will continue to provide me with intellectual stimulus to view these fundamentals in a different way. It is the application of science to exercise that provides insight into the minutiae of amazing movements like squats, punches and kicks.   I will always remain relevant and refreshed, because I will continue to apply the advancements made in the sports and exercise sciences to the movements I do over and over.  One of my favorite movements (or forms of training) is striking. I love boxing and the combat sports. As the Owner of POW! Gym Chicago, I strive to provide an authentic boxing program that is progressive. Although there are many ‘old-school’ drills that can’t be replaced by over-designed equipment, boxing should reap the benefits available in the exercise sciences. Although the  cross or hook  will not change, the exercise sciences has a lot to offer in helping to design programming for boxers and combat sport athletes. Conditioning, recovery and metabolic improvement are relevant topics that will enhance a boxer’s abilities and translate into the time spent in the ring.

Exercise Science Meets Boxing  

Metabolic fingerprinting is a perfect example of science meets exercise. The Method Difference, a Denver-based company offers simple technology that reveals a person’s individual metabolic fingerprint through a non-invasive test called the Method CRA-Test®. This testing process looks at your metabolism on a cellular level during exercise.   Nicholas J. Edwards isis also the Founder of Method® and the Individual Metabolic Fingerprint™ called CRA Test® (cellular respirations and analytics).

The CRA Test® reveals when your body uses the maximum amount of fat as a fuel source, carbohydrates and at what point it taps into muscles (protein – or a catabolic state).   In other words, you are given the exact heart rate where your metabolism (your body) will burn the most fat, when it uses primarily the food you previously ate, and the point when your body becomes metabolically counter-productive : AKA – using muscle.

What does your Metabolism consist of?

It is the chemical process that your body follows to keep you alive. Your metabolism is the totality of how your body utilizes food, stores fat, produces energy, burn calories… It impacts how you produce and break down energy to keep your body going, including your heart pumping and even your brain thinking.

Is having a heart rate monitor enough?

Heart rate training is a popular method for guiding your workout intensity. Although it is a great variable to influence how you train, unless you know how to interpret your heart rate, the heart rate monitor only offers a guesstimate.  In fact, rate of perceived exertion tests could possibly provide more accuracy (scale of 1 to 10- how hard are you working?) then a random number on your heart rate monitor.

The CRA Test® Now Offering Metabolic Fingerprinting for Boxing

The exercise sciences have produced a wide range of tests to help athletes essentially create their exercise prescription. Program design for athletes should not include arbitrarily choosing the most fun classes from a schedule. Although classes can be used to help with conditioning, it is important to apply a big- picture view on enhancing the metabolism, as well as strength, speed, endurance, skills, etc…

The CRA Test® has been used on every type of athlete. The Method DIfference has been using exercise-testing protocols that include: treadmill runs, dead lift and even the concept 2 rower. POW! Gym hosted Nicholas J. Edwards and Jacy Hibbard from The Method recently. We created a testing protocol using boxing (video is above), which can be used by any combat sports athlete or die-hard boxer.

The key to creating a testing protocol for the metabolic fingerprint CRA Test® is to have a way to control the intensity of the exercise and the cadence/rhythm of the movement. Blood samples are taken from the finger or ear lobe throughout the test using a basic lance. The sample is collected using a lactate meter. Therefore, we are taking samples throughout the entire exercise spectrum (from the warm up to your highest level of output).

Boxing Test Protocol for the CRA Test®

The outcome of our meet-up at POW! Gym Chicago was a boxing protocol for the CRA Test®.   We took samples every 1-minute and changed the level of intensity of striking by 20 beats per minute (bpm). The increase in bpm occurred after the blood sample was successfully recorded.  The striker throws punches on the beat, at a consist level of intensity. It is fairly easy to control, because the sound generated from the impact provides an auditory guide for both the administrator and the athlete (which was me in this case). The sound of the metronome provided another critical guide that set the speed of movement (refer to the video).

You will see throughout the video; which I edited down from 14 minutes (the full test is on our youtube channel)  to about 3 minutes; my punching rhythm matches the sound. The intensity increased by 20 bpm until my lactate reading revealed that I reached my peak output. Towards the end, I was punching at 180 bpm.  You will need to be able to punch non-stop without breaking the prescribed cadence.

Despite the fact that there are so many progressions in all areas of fitness, science will always require you to circle back to the movement patterns and biomechanics of fundamentals.  Throughout this test, it was best to keep my punches basic. It was super challenging to punch on every beat without breaking stride.

Now that I have this information, I can use the results of my CRA Test® to guide my intensity while achieving the maximum metabolic results.  According to my results, I should box at 150-155 if I want to burn fat, promote oxidation, build my aerobic base and produce the most amount of ATP.  This phase of training is referred to as prime (see my detailed story on for more about the science). If I want to experience an interval workout and gain the maximum benefits, I will box and drill from 150 to 176 bpm. By having these precise numbers, I can train smarter, not harder. The additional value will be the enhancements made to my metabolism overall and my body’s ability to recover more efficiently.

5 Reasons Why Everyone Should Know Their

Metabolic Fingerprint

For this conversation, we are looking at how a person’s metabolism specifically uses fuel sources which include fat, food (carbs that get broken down into ATP) and muscle when exercising. I am going to side-step the scientific lingo and physiological process for now (click here to read about the science behind the test) and jump to 5 examples why this is test will improve training for everyone.  Although none of these are ever used exclusively by the body as fuel; fat, carbs and muscle are used differently at various heart rates throughout the exercise spectrum.

  1. It proves that even people at the same age, with the same body weight and so-called same ‘fitness-level’ have completely different metabolisms. In fact, there are studies that show how twin athletes do not have the same metabolic fingerprint.
  2. Each person’s metabolism burns fat at a different heart rate. For example, I burn the most amount of fat at 150 and my husband is at 137, yet we are both the same age. If I use any of the my-zone type charts as my guide, it estimates this point to be 114-118. This is a huge margin of error (approximately 30% for me).
  3. For those that train hard all the time like many Boxers, MMA fighters, Cross-Fitters, Professional Athletes or other high-intensity athletes – it will give your top heart rate or peak. This is highly valuable because when you train over your peak, your body is simply using muscle as a fuel source, which is detrimental to recovery and any gain you seek to achieve. This is referred to as being catabolic.   Once you have this peak number you would then be able to use a heart rate monitor to properly train to a precise heart rate (or intensity level).
  4. If you are a weight loss client- especially with a body fat mass of 25% or more – it is better for your body to exercise at a precise heart rate where you will burn the most amount of fat in the least amount of time. This can also help avoid onset muscle soreness (which often becomes discouraging).
  5. If you are undergoing an orthopedic surgery (i.e. knee or hip replacement), having your metabolic fingerprint – or the exact heart rate you should exercise at during various stages of your rehabilitation; will promote your healing.  This is why all of the Illinois Bone and Joint Clinics (there are 17 clinics) are now integrating this test into their ortho-onboarding process.