High Intensity Interval Training – Most Effective Exercise – Part I

Such Training Has Repeatedly Been Shown to be the Most Effective, Yet Take the Least Amount of Timeexercise-biopower-kettlebell

It’s also known as Interval Training, High Intensity Intervals, or other permutations. We’ll save the forests and abbreviate all these by HIT.

Beginning with the 1960’s, Aerobic exercise has been the recommended “in” physical activity. There have been endless books written, and most gyms are filled with machines that exercise you aerobically: cross trainers, treadmills, stationary bikes, steppers, etc. (Thank you, Dr. Kenneth Cooper, for inventing the word and introducing exercise to the medical profession. He didn’t get it quite right but he got everyone started. A true pioneer.)

Aerobic – the “in” exercise

The “aerobic” part means simply that you can keep up with the oxygen and nutrient demands your muscles are making, the idea being that you can do the exercises for half an hour, an hour, or more. And indeed this is the case. In order to sustain an activity for these indefinite times, it is necessary to limit you exercise to around 60% of your maximum ability, so that number is normally taken as the definition or aerobic exercise.

If a sedentary person begins such exercises, his or her body will respond, build out the muscle, grow new capillaries, increase metabolic efficiency, and increase lung capacity—all very desirable and healthy things. So far a nice picture, but there are four problems that arise in aerobic exercise that tend to limit the health benefits.exercise-for-health-hamster-wheel-2

Time consuming. It takes a long time to build up to the aerobic level. Although the body is being challenged, and is responding to that challenge, it is not being pushed enough. If a sedentary person takes up jogging, it may be a year before they can comfortably jog for an hour. Further, the exercises themselves are time consuming. Most medical authorities recommend four hours a week of aerobics.

Improvement plateaus. The body is parsimonious. Once it has done the modifications and health improvements needed to achieve that one-hour jog, it goes no farther. It will keep just enough muscle, lung activity, metabolic efficiency, and so on to get you through that one-hour jog (or 10 hours; the metabolic changes are similar). There is no preparation or building to go beyond this.

Overtraining. Some hate it and some get hooked. Too much aerobic work can be detrimental. Time is needed to heal. Exercise in a sense injures muscles, joint, or bone. However, they then repair them selves to an even better state. Renew might be a better word for this activity. This takes time, though, at least a day, maybe two or three. If that time is unavailable, due to excess exercise, the muscles, joints, bones, and circulatory system, can actually get worse.

Anabolic. Wired deeply into our subconscious self, our hypothalamus to be exact, is a metabolic control center. Here it is decided whether or not you should build new bone and muscle, and how much. This part of our subconscious sees all activity from a very ancient point of view. Exercise, in its calculations, is either done for hunting, or done for purposes of migration. It can tell the two apart, and if it “detects” migration, it will tend to conserve, and be stingy with the bodily renewal and repair processes. Unfortunately, almost all aerobic exercise looks like migration to this ancient brain.

High-intensity Interval Training


This Would Certainly Be a HIT Exercise

HIT exercise, on the other hand, is quite the opposite in all four categories. Most aerobic exercise can be changed into HIT exercise. Instead of pedaling your bike for an hour at 10 mph, pedal it as fast as you can for one minute. Then coast for one minute. Repeat this four more times.. So now we are talking about nine minutes, and you were goofing off four of those. So it’s five minute of HIT exercise versus an hour of aerobic. But when you pedal, though, you give it all you’ve got. That is very important. You will not likely be able to put out full power for more than half of the first minute. The second time, you will still have some power, but noticeably less. The next three repetitions are going to feel pretty wimpy. Now don’t save yourself. The health benefits accrue from the all-out-at-the-start pattern. Get into a primordial mindset. Imagine you are chasing a gazelle, or running away from a pack of wolves. You wouldn’t hold back in those scenarios.

So far less time to actually do the exercise, but how about the amount of time for this sort of exercise to become effective? It turns out that this is dramatically shortened too. If you push beyond your current ability, your body starts adapting to that higher level. In one test, they compared two elite athlete group. One worked slowly up to peak performance. This is the traditional way, and it took years of training to get there. The other group undertook HIT training. They achieved the same goal in about 90 days. This is a huge difference.

Overtraining seems to be less of a problem. By exercising at you maximum intensity level, your metabolic stores are quickly exhausted, and your muscles simply don’t have the fuel to do much more.

Finally, the explosive nature of the HIT exercises looks very much like hunting, and this unleashes the powerful internal repair and renewal processes. These processes are as key to overall good health as they are to physical fitness. Unlike aerobic exercise, which can be catabolic, HIT exercise in anabolic.

Bones and Joints

Most of the scientific literature looks at the effect of exercise on cardio-vascular performance. The common measure is called VO2max: your maximum rate of oxygen consumption. This is an important measure, and the higher the better. Further, nothing beats HIT exercise for improving it. But what about joints and bones? As it turn out, HIT can also be the most beneficial exercise for these as well. However, some thought needs to go into which specific exercises, and how they should be done. This will be the topic of Part II.

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