1/2/08 Log: 1-Year of Turbulence Training – An Unbiased Review

I’m going to officially start my Turbulence Training 12-week transformation challenge again on Monday. This week will be my program reboot week where I get back in the habit of bulk meal prep and ramp up my workouts again. I’ve been pretty lazy for the past two weeks, and I need a few days to get my mindset back in the right place and my sleep schedule normalized. And call it vanity, but I really don’t feel like taking “before” photos whilst retaining 5 extra pounds of water from TTOM and too many salty carbs over winter break, even if it would make my 12-week transformation look ever so much more dramatic.

So let’s talk about Turbulence Training a bit today. In the interest of full public disclosure, I must tell you that Turbulence Training creator Craig Ballantyne is running a contest with prizes for his affiliates that ends today. That is why you have seen so many email newsletters, blog posts, and “articles” pushing the program over the past three days or so. If you click through my TT links in this post or on the site, you will indeed be crediting me with an affiliate sale, so be warned!

Turbulence Training is actually a pretty decent plan, especially if you are time-crunched. The weight lifting portions of the workouts are very fast but intense since they incorporate full-body, non-competing supersets with around 3 sets of 8 reps on average to squeeze in 6 different compound exercises in each workout. The first non-competing superset tends to work the largest muscle groups (squats supersetted with pull ups for instance). Lifting usually takes me 35-40 minutes, and is followed by 3-8 sets of intervals on your choice of cardio equipment or outdoors at 3/10 and 8/10 intensity.

The lifting/intervals are performed three times per week with a day of recovery between TT workouts, and thirty optional additional minutes of activity (this is where you can squeeze in some recreational sports, walking, yoga, etc.) are recommended on an additional 3 days per week on the recovery days.

A typical 4-week TT workout program has 2 different workout routines (let’s call them Workout A and Workout B) that are alternated throughout the week. After 4 weeks, you are told to take a week off, then switch to another TT program.

A sample TT workout week would look like this:

Monday: Workout A (Weights and intervals) (~45-60 minutes)
Tuesday: Rest or 30 minutes of light activity
Wednesday: Workout B (Weights and intervals) (~45-60 minutes)
Thursday: Rest or 30 minutes of light activity
Friday: Workout A (Weights and intervals) (~45-60 minutes)
Saturday: Rest or 30 minutes of light activity
Sunday: Rest

Now let’s address the really important questions: Does Turbulence Training deliver on all the hype? Can you gain muscle and lose fat working out just 3 hours a week? Is it really better than a program like Body-for-Life?

Well, the answer is, “It depends on your individual starting point.” This fat loss program was primarily designed for adults working out at home who are either deconditioned and/or short on time. Someone who has been sedentary for a while, is out of shape, has never trained with weights, or has more fat to lose will get very good fat loss results on just the baseline plan alone, but this is true of any resistance training + interval plan, including Body-for-Life, which also espouses three days of weights and at least three sessions of intense interval cardio.

But what about the client who is NOT out of shape and only wants to lean out a little bit more? Is TT equally effective for fat loss in a more advanced trainee?

I have been using the TT workouts since October 2006, and in my experience as an already fit female with a 75% mesomorph/25% endomorph body type going into the program, the baseline workouts as described above without the optional recovery day activity time are not enough to burn those last 5-10 pounds of fat off of me while eating 1600-2000 calories per day. My body has already adapted too well to that volume and intensity of activity after almost 4 years of bodybuilding style nutrition and consistent training with weights and cardio intervals. I would have to reduce calories lower than that or raise activity minutes to lose at the TT-diet plan recommended 1700-1750 cals/day. I did find that I increased actual strength while following the TT for Women plan and diet as written, particularly in tougher compound lifts like squats and pull-ups.

While I have found the 3-day/week TT baseline program and diet to be a good maintenance program for someone with my body type and fitness level with just 5-10 pounds to shave off, from personal observation I think that the additional 30 minutes of physical activity on the off days (preferably at medium to medium-high intensity) and some additional dietary tweaking are definitely required to get below 20% body fat on this program. Basically, if you are starting out already fit, within a few pounds and percentage points of a pretty lean goal (this means getting into the teens in body fat percentage for the ladies), and you don’t happen to be an ectomorph like Skwigg who needs to eat 2400+ calories/day just to keep weight ON, you will need to do a little extra exercise and really watch your nutrition to get ripped using TT.

That said, TT is a lot less boring than BFL style workouts if you’ve been stuck in a BFL rut for a while, and there are a LOT of TT program manuals available. The base TT for Fat Loss package includes over 6 months’ worth of workouts in just the main manual. There are also a lot more included as “bonuses” to the main ebook which should take you through an entire year of training. TT’s emphasis on compound lifts and full-body workouts instead of the more segmented, isolation exercises and lower body/upper body splits in BFL is also a welcome change.

I do like the TT program and find the workouts challenging, and yes, I’d recommend them to anyone whose main goal is fat loss with the caveat that more advanced trainees who don’t have the metabolisms of race hounds keep in mind that some extra calorie burn on your off days and stricter nutrition might be required for optimum results.

For further evidence, I will be logging my exact calorie burn according to my Polar F6 heart rate monitor and tracking all food intake during my 12-week Turbulence Training challenge starting Monday in order to provide a precise record of how effective the TT for Fat Loss program really is when I am truly tight on my nutrition and more diligent about tracking calories.

So there you have it, my unpaid, unbiased review of Turbulence Training based on over a year of actual program use instead of yet another copy-and-paste affiliate press release or article from the author.

For a sample of a TT workout using only bodyweight exercises, check out my previous post:
Fitness on a Budget Part 2: DIY, Nearly Free, No Gym Required Workout Plans

There are also some additional links to free workout programs near the bottom of the same post. Another good option is to pick up Lou Schuler’s and Alwyn Cosgrove’s New Rules of Lifting at the bookstore or library. It’s only $17 or so on Amazon.com, and includes LOTS of different training plans that I believe are similar to Cosgrove’s pricey $50+ Afterburn program.

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This Week’s Workout Plan
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Mon) Rest
Tue) Rest
Wed) YF Cardio (30 min) + TT Weights (35 min); Yoga (30 min)
Thu) Rollerblading (30 min) + Interval Run (30 min); Yoga (30 min)
Fri) TT Weights + Interval Bike (60 min); Yoga (30 min)
Sat) Forza (60 min); Yoga (30 min)
Sun) TT Weights + Interval Skate (60 min)

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Meal Plan
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M1) 30g raisins, 30g oatmeal, 3 egg whites, 1/2 c. spinach
M2) 15g cashews, 20g tropical trail mix
M3) 3/4 c. curry rice noodles with veggies, 3 oz. lean beef or chicken
M4) 1/2 c. 1% cottage cheese, 3/4 c. berries, 15g cashews
M5) 3/4 c. curry rice noodles with veggies, 3 oz. lean beef or chicken
M6) 2 chocolate protein pops or spinach omelette with 1 whole egg/3 whites

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