Sunday, November 13, 2011

H.I.I.T. me til it hurts.

What is H.I.I.T, and why would I want you to do it til it hurts anyway?  H.I.I.T or high intensity interval training (also often called tabatas in the BJJ community), are very high intensity workouts consisting of extreme workloads paired with rest periods.  Many studies have shown these workouts while taking less time than a moderate paced workout, can drastically improve cardiovascular capacity very rapidly.  These workouts consist of a warm up period followed by a short high output exercise, followed by short moderate output rest period then this is repeated between 6-8 times and followed by a short cool down.  These workouts generally last no more than 20 minutes much shorter than the standard 30 minute moderate pace workout that is often promoted for building endurance.  There are several different types of this training and the exercise can be anything you can perform at a very high intensity for a short time including but not limited to: running, swimming, biking, rowing, and stair climbing.

Tabata Method
The tabata method is based off of a popular study from 1996.  The participants engaged in workouts consisting of 20 seconds of very high intensity exercise (at max effort), followed by 10 seconds of rest, then repeated for 4 minutes or 8 cycles total.  The study paired the results of this group who exercised 4 days per week with the tabata method, with a group who did steady pace training four days per week.  At the end of the study the results were astounding, not only were the results similar but the group who did tabatas had a slightly higher increase in V02 max, and they also gained anaerobic benefits from their training including increased lactic acid threshold.

Doing tabatas only 3 days per week for 2 weeks in some studies have shown up to a 10% increase in endurance and cardiovascular capacity.  The basic premise of this method of training is high intensity workload, paired with rest periods.  I have performed the tabata method with a lot success in my own training.   I have done variations of H.I.I.T.  including, 15 seconds of work at max effort and 45 seconds of light jogging about 45% effort for 6-8 repetitions, and 30 seconds of work at max effort and 1.5 minutes of light jogging about 45% effort for 6-8 repetitions.  I have experienced similar results from all forms of HIIT.

HIIT has been shown to be superior to moderate intensity exercise in may ways including that it: burns more body fat, raises testosterone levels, decreases muscle breakdown and cortisol levels, raises metabolism for up to 24 hours after exercise, is shorter in duration, raises lactic threshold, and is more effective at increasing endurance for athletes or people who are already highly trained.  HIIT is extremely intense and I only use it when I am preparing for a competition as it puts tremendous strain on your body.  It is recommended to perform hit 3 days per week for at least two weeks, and then it can be reduced to 2 days per week for maintenance.  Continous use of HIIT or tabatas without adequate rest in between sessions may increase the risk of injury and overtraining.  Whether you are looking to lose weight, build muscle, look better, or increase performance I highly recommend trying tabatas, you will be amazed at the immediate effects of this type of training on your performance or goals.


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