Getting Ripped With High Intensity Training

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Less fat and more muscle is the goal of the majority of gym goers around the world. Everyone is searching for the ultimate training program to get these results as quickly as possible. The good news is that there is an answer: high intensity training. This type of workout is superior to traditional cardio for fat loss and can be performed in less time. In addition, some methods of high intensity training can even increase muscle mass to truly get that ripped physique you are looking for.

ripped maleThe “magic” of high intensity training for fat loss comes down to three attributes. The most important is that the stimulus of high intensity workouts is sufficient to maintain muscle mass, and some forms can even increase it. This has a direct effect on the body’s resting metabolism. Those with greater percentages of lean tissue will have a significantly higher resting metabolism, which accounts for approximately seventy percent of daily energy expenditure, than those with lower percentages who weigh the same. This is in direct contrast to using steady-state aerobic training for weight loss, as this method is accompanied by decreased muscle mass (approximately twenty-five percent of lost weight). A decrease in resting metabolic rate is always associated with weight loss; using high intensity training will minimize this reduction.

The next attribute is also associated with our metabolism via a phenomenon known as EPOC. This stands for excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, which is an increased use of oxygen (and therefore energy) to return the body to it’s resting state. The amount of EPOC is directly related to the intensity of exercise performed as the more stress we place on the body, the greater the energy will be needed to return back to homeostasis. Thus, by it’s definition and name, high intensity training will cause a large disruption of our body’s systems and require more energy to restore them to normal.

Finally, and least substantial, high intensity training is a more efficient method of training because of the amount of energy needed to perform it. This form of workouts utilizes twenty-five to fifty percent more energy than traditional steady-state exercise. While this number may seem significant when comparing training methods, the affect of caloric expenditure during exercise actually only makes up five to ten percent of daily energy expenditure. The effect of physical activity on our metabolism the other twenty-two to twenty-three hours of the day is much more momentous and is why high intensity training is so valuable. Research by Tremblay et al (1994) showed high intensity interval training is NINE times more effective in decreasing subcutaneous fat than steady state exercise due to it’s effect on resting metabolism among other factors that are still being researched such as the effect on the hormonal system.

High intensity training is performed through intervals of maximum effort that typically last from ten seconds up to a full minute intermittent with rest periods. An individual’s fitness level is the main determinant of the rest interval length and utilizing the incorrect break time can affect the short and long-term effectiveness of this type of workout. The best method for beginners is to use a heart rate monitor to determine rest length, or barring availability a rest period four or five times longer than the activity length. Intermediate fitness fanatics should use a one to two or three work to rest ratio and experts can perform equal or even negative break periods.

A sample workout could look like the following:

Beginner                                 Intermediate                           Expert

-20 seconds max effort           -20 seconds max effort           -20 seconds max effort
-rest to HR<130 bpm              -40 seconds rest                      -10 seconds rest
-20 seconds max effort           -20 seconds max effort           -20 seconds max effort
-rest to HR<130 bpm              -40 seconds rest                      -10 seconds rest
-20 seconds max effort           -20 seconds max effort           -20 seconds max effort
-rest to HR<130 bpm              -40 seconds rest                      -10 seconds rest
-20 seconds max effort           -20 seconds max effort           -20 seconds max effort
-rest to HR<130 bpm              -40 seconds rest                      -10 seconds rest
-20 seconds max effort           -20 seconds max effort           -20 seconds max effort
-rest to HR<130 bpm              -40 seconds rest                      -10 seconds rest
-20 seconds max effort           -20 seconds max effort           -20 seconds max effort
-rest to HR<130 bpm              -40 seconds rest                      -10 seconds rest
-20 seconds max effort           -20 seconds max effort           -20 seconds max effort
-rest to HR<130 bpm              -40 seconds rest                      -10 seconds rest
-20 seconds max effort           -20 seconds max effort           -20 seconds max effort

One aspect to take notice of is the total length of the workouts above. High intensity training is short (the expert method is only four minutes long), but should leave one significantly fatigued. Sessions that last over twenty minutes are not true high intensity sessions and indicate that the working bouts are not sufficiently demanding.

The methods of performing these workouts are nearly endless. Traditional modes such as sprints, jump ropes or cardiovascular equipment such as stationary bikes, rowers, and stair steppers are appropriate for high intensity training. However, when methods that provide resistance and thus, promote gains in muscle, are utilized, high intensity training really becomes a gold standard for fat loss. Sled pushes; bodyweight exercises such as burpees, push-ups, lunges, chin-ups; and weight-training movements such as squats, presses, deadlifts and rows will burn an inordinate amount of calories both during and after exercise and lead to an increase in lean tissue.

Like many aspects of our health, when it comes to high intensity training, more does not equate to better. Due to the stress experienced by the body both before and after training, these workouts are best used in moderation. Too much high intensity training can prevent the body from fully recovering, leading to a decrease in workout performance and increase in the amount of stress hormones circulating through the body. These stress hormones, such as cortisol, can affect sleep patterns, decrease carbohydrate metabolism, muscle tissue and immune function, increase belly fat and cause cravings of high carbohydrate and fat foods. These consequences are obviously not positive for those wanting to lose fat.

In addition, high intensity training is not the panacea for fat loss. A bad diet cannot be out-trained and traditional resistance training is recommended as well to optimize muscle mass and therefore, resting metabolism. For maximum results, a diet high in lean protein, fruits and vegetables and regular physical activity that is equal parts resistance training and high intensity training, up a weekly total of four to six hours, is recommended.

Dan Blumenstock

Dan Blumenstock is a Personal Trainer and Blogger from NJ. He specializes in helping people build extremely lean & muscular physiques. You can check out his blog at www.BodyTransformationSolutions.com.

Reference:
Tremblay, A., Sioneay, J.A. and C. Bouchard. Impact of exercise intensity on bodyfatness and skeletal muscle metabolism. Metabolism. 1994. July, 43 (7), 814-818.