How to Avoid Weight Gain with HIT

The human body is at its peak, physiologically speaking, between the ages of about 18-29 years old. Bodily changes occur thereafter, like losses in strength and aerobic capacity coupled with changes in bodyweight and body composition. There is a significant, yet preventable, downward shift with each of those variables after the third decade of life. How to avoid weight gain becomes a central focus for the majority of our population after about the third decade.

5 Ways to Avoid Weight Gain: Focus on Lifestyle Changes

The following suggestions need to be done consistently each week in order to change the way you look and feel. It’s not some type of quick fix!

Physical Activity Related

  • Never Stop Strength Training. This one is a must for each one of us, especially as we age. The key is building a strong base during the early years (teenage through 20’s) and then maintain that strength with a few weekly strength training sessions. Yes, for the rest of your life. Look at all the older people you know who don’t exercise and lead an un-active lifestyle. How are they doing with that?
  • Increase Activity. I’m not talking about long, slow, aerobic exercise here. The goal is to turn off and put down all screens each day. Then, work a little harder and find creative ways to increase your activity level each day. A good definition of physical activity is “all activities, at any intensity, performed during any time of day or night. It includes exercise and incidental activity integrated into daily activity.” For me, its about making sure I walk and move enough to move 5-7 miles a day (about 10-14,000/steps) on top of exercise.
  • HIT It Hard. HIT refers to high-intensity interval training. It can have a positive effect on fat-loss, prevent weight gain, and improve VO2 max. There is also a great deal of research on the benefits on cardiometabolic health (blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and cholesterol level). Try a minimum of 1-2 HIT sessions a week with multiple days of rest between bouts to take advantage of these benefits. This could be the key to how you avoid weight gain.

Nutrition Related

  • Watch What You Put into Your Mouth. It can all come down to being that simple. Begin to think of food as fuel for your body. Don’t eat it unless it’s high octane fuel that can help your body. We all know fad diets don’t work, long-term. Eating real, unprocessed food, like in the Mediterranean Diet, is the goal.
  • AVOID Added Sugar. We know it’s in everything. So a little is not a big deal. But try to eat less than 38 grams/added sugar/day/men and 25 grams/add sugar/day/women. Doing this will add years to your life and keep unwanted weight off, especially around the abdominal and hip area.

How HIT Improves Overall Health

One of the leading researchers on the benefits of HIT is Martin Gibala, PhD from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. One of his many research studies (2014) looked at the effects of short-term interval training using a 10-minute protocol with only 1-minute of hard exercise. The results were various health improvements in overweight adults. In summary, the study showed 3-minutes of all out exercise performed within a 30-minute routine (includes warm-up & cool-down), 3x/week, improved cardiometabolic health factors. This study included 18 supervised training sessions over a 6-week period. As a result, improvements in the oxidative capacity of skeletal muscle, blood pressure and VO2 max were some of the outcomes.

How HIT Improves Body Composition

A second study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (2019), compared the effects moderate-intensity (MOD) exercise with HIT. The research groups looked at 786 studies before choosing 36 that met their meta-analysis study criteria. Interval training and MOD both reduce body fat percentage. Interval training, however, provided a 28.5% greater reduction in total absolute fat mass compared to MOD. Other research has shown that HIT is superior to MOD in many other areas. HIT promotes greater increases in VO2max, ventricular function, improvements in insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, lower ratings of perceived exertion, higher levels of enjoyment and higher adherence than MOD.

Jefit Compliments HIT

Adding weekly HIT sessions with Jefit strength training is suggested if weight-loss and other cardiometabolic health benefits are the goal. Many of the Jefit home circuit-based training programs pair nicely with HIT sessions. The first is Advanced Bodyweight Circuit and a second option is a program I’m doing right now, Total Body Circuit. Enjoy and Stay Strong!

Suggested Reading

The One-Minute Workout, Martin Gibala, PhD, 2017.

You Can Get Stronger Doing Bodyweight Home Workouts

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Special times call for more creative home workouts. Even though we are all stuck at home because of CV19, life hasn’t stopped and neither should our workout. With local gyms still closed, the only option is working out in and around the home. The question is, can we keep our bodies strong with body weight home workouts?

Some people are more fortunate and have a home gym or some piece of home exercise equipment. The majority of people however don’t have either. The next best option is bodyweight home workouts. The Jefit app, has been helping on that front, by publishing strength-based and bodyweight home workouts to their 10 million members.

Exercise Progression is Key for Home Bodyweight Workouts

You may see improvements in strength initially with bodyweight only as a resistance. The key to a home bodyweight workout is figuring out how to safely progress your workouts over time. The body typically adapts to a new training routine within a few months depending on several factors. After this point it’s important to add exercise progression into the mix. This is done in one of three ways, either changing the sets, repetitions, or resistance. Generally speaking, the goal is in the 2-5 set range and 5-15 repetition range. This could change depending on the individual goals. The resistance needs to be challenging enough to enable you to reach and stay within those ranges. If someone is able to perform more than 12-15 repetitions, then the load is too light and weight should be increased. If bodyweight is the main resistance than you have to get more creative.

Changing the angle of how an exercise is performed (i.e. progress from kneeling push-up to a push-up to an elevated push-up) will also help. A second option is slow down the speed of each repetition in order to increase the time under tension. A third option would be to add an external weight source, like a weighted vest, chains, medicine ball or sandbag when performing the exercise. Finally, a fourth option is to add an incline (hill) or platform (plyobox) to challenge the body even more when doing specific exercises.

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Some of the Better Bodyweight Exercises

The human body cannot differentiate between various types of resistance. It only knows that a load is being placed on the muscles. Free weights typically work best for building strength because you can increase that resistance as the body adapts and gets stronger over time. It becomes more challenging to do that with a person’s body weight only. But if you are creative, you can in fact build strength with just your body weight. This may be challenging to do over a long-period of time though.

There are many great bodyweight exercises to choose from when putting together your bodyweight home workouts. Exercises that are multi-joint are considered best. These are exercise that engage more than one muscle group to perform the movement. These types of exercises are more beneficial than isolation exercises. Multi-joint exercises are also best for building strength and muscle size. Here are some of the best exercises, in no particular order, to add to your bodyweight home workouts. The majority of the exercises listed below are multi-joint exercises.

Bodyweight Exercises

  1. SQUAT
  2. LUNGE
  3. STEP-UP
  4. PULL-UP
  5. CHIN-UP
  6. PUSH-UP (and variations like T-PUSH-UPS)
  7. INVERTED ROW
  8. DIPS
  9. PLANK
  10. SINGLE-LEG GLUTE BRIDGE
  11. PISTOL SQUAT
  12. BULGARIAN SPLIT SQUAT
  13. SINGLE-LEG ROMANIAN DEADLIFT

To answer the original question, can you get stronger doing bodyweight home workouts? The answer is yes. Research published in Physiology & Behavior showed that body weight exercise can be beneficial because muscle growth “can occur independent of an external load.” Additional research in the European Journal of Applied Physiology also showed gains in strength with a “no load” exercise protocol. Let us know if you have a favorite exercise that you’ve been using from home, that’s not listed here. Stay Strong!

ADDITIONAL READING

How to Grow Stronger Without Lifting Weights, Scientific American, Clayton Mosher, 2014.

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