Why Almost Everyone Should Be Doing High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Let’s face it, your biggest barrier to exercise is time, right? I get it. It’s hard to find an hour or two on a regular basis to workout. Things get in the way after all. Work, home, phone calls, games. It all takes time away from your health.

But, by taking care of ourselves we at least stand a chance of being the kind of person we strive to be on the job, at home with our loved ones, and in our communities. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. But it does mean that we may be ignoring the single most precious thing to our health: our physical strength.

Many do not realize it, but as we reach our mid to late 20’s we begin to slowly lose muscle.

That rate of loss is about 7 pounds of muscle per decade of life. So by the time you reach your late 60’s we will have (without strength training) suffered a significant strength deficit. That makes it difficult to get up from bed, difficult to walk up a flight of stairs, difficult to function in the real world.

You’ve seen it before. Just look around you. The average older person struggles to function. Yet they do nothing about it. They do not realize that strength training slows that age-related muscle loss (called sarcopenia) significantly.

Not only will strength training help you to maintain your muscle mass as you age, it also enhances anti-inflammatory cells and pain lowering hormones.

Strength makes everything you do in life easier. From climbing a flight of stairs to lowering yourself into bed and then getting up in the morning, strength is the key to staying independent as you age. Strength is what lets you join the family on a hike or run around and play with the grand kids.

But you still don’t have time right?

Did you know that short bursts of intense exercise can deliver many of the health and fitness benefits you get from doing hours of conventional exercise? Yep, it includes both cardiovascular and strength training too.

In fact, you may benefit more from this technique than in conventional training programs.

How would you like to condense an hour of exercise into just 30 minutes, three times a week?

That’s a fraction of the time most people spend in the gym with twice the results!

The training technique I am going to tell you about is not new. It found its roots in Sweden in 1937 when a Swedish coach by the name of Gosta Holmer created what he called speed play (in Swedish it was Fartlek) in order to train athletes at a pace faster than they competed.

This technique was utilized in the 1970’s by Arthur Jones inventor of the Nautilus circuit training concept that changed the strength-fitness industry and provided the concept of exercise equipment used in health clubs still today.

Jones took the concept utilized by runners and converted it into strength training. A good move.

In the 1990’s it was further developed simultaneously. First by a Japanese professor Dr. Izumi Tabata to include 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest, a technique that is now called Tabata. Tabata used body weight-based exercise that combined both cardiovascular and strength together.

At the same time Phil Campbell developed his Sprint 8 (Peak 8) technique that involved a cardiovascular sprint for 30 seconds with a 90 second recovery period.

You might best recognize these techniques as HIIT, or high intensity interval training.

The principle of HIIT is to overload the muscle, creating a greater demand than your muscle is used to accommodating.

Arthur Jones called this momentary muscular failure or MMF.

The idea is that the greater the demand, or intensity of the exercise, the greater overload is created and the more effective the exercise becomes.

Essentially it is the concept of one set strength training. The idea being; if you overload a muscle to the point of MMF it now requires 48 hours of rest to recover and strengthen. Essentially no additional sets are needed.

Research does in fact prove this to be the case, most strength is accomplished in the first set, additional sets provide less than a 2 or 3 percent increase; statistically not a significant change.

There are a number of ways to accomplish these results.

You can slow your speed of lifting to half pace. In this manner (called super-slow), the overload is created by increasing the time it takes to lift a resistance rather than the load or weight lifted. This can spare the joints wear and tear while still providing significant resistance and fatigue to the muscle.

While inducing fatigue by removing momentum is effective, it is not as effective as combining it with vibration training. This combination becomes a superior method of training that delivers dividends in outcomes.

So why does whole body vibration (WBV) increases the results so much?

Good Question!

Whole body vibration training increases the intensity of your exercise by providing a G-force as you lift.

The G-force, created by a platform that provides a drop, increases the resistance through the muscles while unloading the joint, something no other resistance training can offer.

Here’s how it works; whole body vibration (WBV) training has a platform that vibrates in three planes. North/south, east/west, up/down. This combination is the only type of vibration which both increases the G-force and recruits about 30 percent more muscle with each movement.

Obviously WBV does far more than this such as releasing muscle knots, improving circulation, lymphatic draining, joint and muscle lubrication etc. But we are talking about strength in this blog.

The greater the intensity of any exercise performed equates to less time needed to accomplish any tangible results. It’s an inverse relationship.

With this inverse relationship between intensity and duration, obviously a mechanism that increases muscular involvement by 30% means less time needed to achieve those results.

The idea behind HIIT is to work the muscles at a higher intensity for a shorter period of time in order to both stimulate testosterone (for growth and repair) and to eliminate fluff in your workout (which wastes time).

WBV exercise done at a super slow rate produces less stress on the joint while maximizing muscle strength. The idea is to reach MMF by the end of the set, which in the case of WBV is 60 seconds.

To emphasize a point, it does not matter how many repetitions you do in a set. What matters is the time that the muscle spends under tension.

Since your anaerobic system is mostly capped after 60 seconds, it would stand to reason that each set should experience MMF within that time period for maximum affect.

Remember, if the resistance feels too light, you can slow down the speed of the movement, which increases the intensity. This demand also increases the workload on the heart and cardiovascular system, which ultimately influences the cardiovascular response.

For the record, I am aware that the aerobic and anaerobic systems are two different systems sharing a common thread. But the human body is fully capable of deriving energy from either, or both systems simultaneously. We are fully complicated physiological systems that we are still yet to fully understand.

The calories burned are not compromised by working out for shorter time periods either. Generally speaking, if you walk a mile or run a mile you burn about the same amount of calories. The running is higher intensity and lower duration while the walking is lower intensity and higher duration. As you can see the inverse relationship exists in either scenario.

Essentially HIIT allows you to burn just as many calories as an hour long exercise program in half the time; as long as the intensity is higher and the rest periods shorter.

The benefits you will get from this method of training are wide and varied. As mentioned you will increase the number of calories burned. That equates to a faster fat loss while exercising less.

Research reported in the journal of Translational Medicine in 2012 determined that participation in high intensity resistance training increased resting energy expenditure more than traditional resistance training programs.

This data suggests that shorter, higher intensity programs would actually be more beneficial than traditional resistance training programs.

There are down sides to HIIT, of course. Your body takes longer to recover from it, so it’s not actually necessary to do every workout in a Tabata form, or cross-fit facility. In fact, that kind of excessive output is unnecessary. There is, like everything, a balance between rest and exercise which needs to be met.

The idea of HIIT is to burn the same calories in half the time. To do that you have to increase the intensity and shorten the duration. Tabata research shows us that in the long run changes in V02 Max are approximately the same. In other words, whether you choose Peak 8, Tempo Interval Method, Cardiac Output Method, Cross-Fit, Tabata, interval training, or anything else, your V02 Max still improves. Across the board.

But certain programs, such as Cross-Fit and Tabata have a higher risk of injury because they are less supervised, all out and, well higher risk activities.

At ReVibe we tend to mix HIIT activities with appropriate rest and appropriate balance.

We choose methods such as work-rest methods, which do not dramatically fatigue the muscles and the joints leading to long recover periods or fatigue-based high injury risk. This dramatically decreases risk of injury while maximizing results. We also fully screen our clients and never create a greater challenge than they or their joints are able or willing to achieve.

The defining principle, although complex, is to evaluate weakness, then set up a program addressing that weakness. Initially, most people have a core that is weaker than their extremity strength. This imbalance leads to overstressing the core and the eventuality of injury.

The important part of any exercise plan is to consider start-up and frequency of exercise.

Most people do too much too soon, get burned out or too sore and quit.

Don’t do that.

If you are a beginner, start slower. First, consider your age. If you are under 50, then perform resistance training three days a week, every other day. If you are over 50 do two days a week with two days recovery between sessions.

As you become more advanced the over 50 market can increase to three days a week and the under 50 should either stay at that frequency of consider working upper lower only.

This work-rest balance does not apply to cardio exercise unless you Peak 8.

Ultimately, you can determine your own ideal workout frequency by monitoring your body and symptoms. Telltale signs you haven't recovered well are similar to those of overtraining syndrome. They include:

  • An elevation in resting heart rate (taken first thing in the morning before rising).

  • More colds, infections, injuries.

  • Insomnia, trouble sleeping.

  • Depression, irritability, lack of focus or motivation.

  • Persistent soreness in the joints and muscles.

  • Reduced performance. You'll find you reach muscle fatigue faster.

  • Fatigue on the days after your workout. You may experience flu-like symptoms including overall muscle ache, exhaustion, headache and a general feeling of malaise that may extend for days after your workout.

You are aiming for a schedule where you don't feel tired after 24 hours, you feel invigorated and healthy, and your next workout is not more difficult than your last.

This method produces great results over and over again.

Someone once told me this wasn’t rocket science. But since the WBV technology we use at ReVibe was originated to increase bone mineral density for cosmonauts in Russia. It really is rocket science.

Go figure!

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