Is Strength Training and HIIT an Ideal Combo?

It’s a constant exploration, trying to find the ideal combination of weekly workouts to help you lose weight, get stronger, feel better, and so on! So, regardless of what your stance is on strength training, or the use of slow reps to make you stronger, or just cardio, cardio, cardio, here is the case for high-intensity interval training or HIIT and strength training as the ideal training combo.

The HIIT Revolution

High-intensity interval training has made a lot of headlines in recent years, and there have been countless fitness routines and regimes designed to take advantage of this high-intensity aspect. But why does high-intensity training work so well? It all goes back to that age-old approach to building muscle by putting your body under a lot of duress. In doing such an intense amount of exercise, you aren’t just going for a basic run; you are pushing your body to the limit. Many say that cardio is only effective if you do it for a long period of time. With respect to HIIT, it’s all about utilizing the right intensity. Similarly to what felt at the end of a road race, but in the space of 10-20 minutes. One of the great things about HIIT is the more intense the effort the shorter the workout needs to be.

“HIIT is the closest thing we have to an exercise pill.”

Martin Gibala, PhD, Researcher and Author, The One-Minute Workout

The HIIT Basics

For those that are unaware of HIIT, the basic premise is that you mix short bouts of intense exercise with longer periods of recovery. This is repeated for a specific duration. An example would be a period of time where you are working at 60 to 70 percent intensity, for a few minutes. And then, the next 30-60 seconds you would go “all-out,” at 100%! After that intense interval, your’e back at a moderate intensity, and continue using this undulating format for a specific duration. A few examples of this type of training include Insanity (bodyweight) workouts and P90X (using dumbbells) to offer a better picture.

There are many benefits to this type of training. One such benefit is that it’s a perfect choice for those who don’t have a lot of time to exercise. This is why it is such a useful component in modern exercise because many people can’t dedicate 5 or 6 sessions a week to commit to workout. But as an entryway into intense exercise, it is a perfect method for you to build up your resilience to strenuous exercise. Keep your HIIT to initially to 1-2 sessions a week. This leads us nicely to adding-in the next component, making this an ideal combination each week.

Strength Training

Strength training has become the most vital component of a workout routine. Now, as people are more obsessed with the aesthetics of exercise, flat abs, toned arms, etc., strength training is a fundamental component of getting this right. There are lots of workouts that focus heavily on strength training where are you perform compound exercises like, squat, bench press, barbell row, overhead press and deadlift. This type of protocol with these specific strength training exercises are usually done three times a week, meaning you’ve got time to live your life! But, it also gives you the opportunity to recover.

The main idea with this particular strength training format is that you start off light, but every time you complete the amount of repetitions required, you add 2.5 kg (5.5 lbs) to the weight. So, there’s going to be a point where you will definitely plateau. As a result, this is one of the best ways to improve strength and other facets of your workout. And everybody can benefit from strength training. Many people, however, skip compound movements and focus on various isolation exercises instead.

The benefit of this type of strength training is that it forces the body to adapt and as a result, muscle and connective tissue become stronger. And because you are lifting so heavy, it places your body under the required amount of stress you need to build more muscle. And this is why it’s such a beneficial workout. Those who have been exercising for years may not feel the benefits as much, but for those who are looking for a perfect starting point to build muscle and strength, this is it. And when this gets combined with HIIT, you’ve got the perfect training package.

Combining HIIT and Strength

Going back to Insanity and P90X, these are good examples of strength training and HIIT working in tandem. Although Insanity is all about using your bodyweight, if you were to swap in free weights, as with P90X, and do HIIT in between those workout days, you’ll end up with a fat torching combo! The intensity of lifting heavy forces your body to recruit more muscle fiber, and it also helps with weight loss, because you increase your overall caloric expenditure. When you add high-intensity interval training, as in the form of Tabata sprints, it becomes a powerful combination. But be warned. Trying to implement both is a fantastic way for you to lose weight if you need it. Doing both together, though, is a very difficult thing indeed, and if you are trying something new like Insanity, it can be really challenging on your body.

The results will speak for themselves, although you should try it out, and build up a resilience to it, before implementing the other workout. The thing about both of these is that once your endurance improves, you will be able to push yourself even further in a workout. Naturally, there will be points when you plateau, but as a way to build strength and work capacity, you are going to be unstoppable if you do it right!

Use Jefit App to Plan & Track Workouts

Jefit is a workout log app that helps you meet your fitness goals. By providing an extensive exercise library, you can pick and choose your workouts according to your goals. You can also join our members-only Facebook group where you can connect and interact with your fellow Jefit members. Share your successes, stories, advice, and tips so you learn and grow together. Stay Strong!

HIIT Burns More Calories In Half The Time

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“High-intensity interval training (HIIT) describes physical exercise that is characterized by brief, intermittent bursts of vigorous activity, interspersed by periods of rest or low-intensity exercise.”

Martin Gibala, PhD

High-intensity interval training, or HIIT burns more calories than other types traditional cardio exercise. For those who can’t even think about doing cardio, remember, high intensity interval training has many benefits. The big one being HIIT burns more calories in half the amount of time as traditional steady state exercise.

I’m sure you have your strength training routine down, especially if you’re using the Jefit workout app. The award-winning app has helped literally millions of members get stronger and in turn transform lives. The question, though, is what are you doing on the cardiovascular side of things? Staying strong is a must but so is maintaining aerobic fitness especially as you age. As this happens, you typically build work capacity, and subsequently can handle a higher volume in future strength workouts.

There are probably more research studies currently in progress, involving various forms of HIIT, than any other exercise-related research being conducted. A great deal of the HIIT research that has been published over the past decade by researchers like Martin Gibala, PhD, from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, continue to show amazing results when compared to traditional cardio exercise. Gibala and colleagues offer their definition of HIIT above.

HIIT RESEARCH

In a study by Matsuo and colleagues (2014), a group of sedentary men performed 13-minutes of high intensity interval training five times a week for 8-weeks. The  (HIIT) group burned more calories per minutes on average than men who performed 40-minutes of traditional steady state cardio. During the study the HIIT group saw a 12.5 percent gain in maximal oxygen consumption (VO2 max) using 27 less minutes of exercise. Tomoaki Matsuo, Ph.D, co-author of the study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, suggest doing three-minute HIIT stages with two-minute active recovery stages repeated for three rounds.

A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology (1990) by Makrides et al., showed that 12-weeks of high-intensity training produced greater increases in total work accomplished in 30-seconds in old (60-70 year old, 12.5 percent) than young (20-30 year old, 8 percent) test subjects.

One study in the journal Metabolism compared 20-weeks of aerobic training with only 15-weeks of high intensity interval training (HIIT) in which participants did 15 sprints for 30-seconds and lost nine times more body fat than the aerobic and control groups. They also lost 12 percent more visceral belly fat than the aerobic group.

ADDITIONAL BENEFITS OF HIIT

A study in the International Journal of Obesity compared the effect of 15-weeks of HIIT with aerobic exercise. The HIIT group resulted in significant decreases in overall fat mass (3.3 pounds) while the aerobic exercise group had a fat gain of 1 pound on average. The HIIT group also had a significant 9.5 percent decrease in belly fat, while the aerobic group increased their belly fat by 10.5 percent by the end of the study. A 2012 study at Colorado State University found that test subjects who worked out on a stationary bike for less than 25-minutes, with just a few sprints mixed in, expended an additional 200 calories a day, due to excess-post oxygen consumption (EPOC) or commonly known as the after-burn effect.

A 2015 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research by Falcone and colleagues, compared the energy expenditure of single exercise sessions using resistance, aerobic, and combined exercise involving the same duration. The test subjects were young, active men. All sessions were 30-minutes. The resistance training session used 75 percent of their 1-RM, the aerobic session, on a treadmill, used 70 percent maximum heart rate while a high-intensity interval session (HIIT) session was done on a hydraulic resistance system (HRS). The HRS workout used intervals of 20-seconds of maximum effort followed by 40-seconds of rest. The HIIT session using the HRS had the highest caloric expenditure of the three workouts. The data suggest that individuals can burn more calories performing HIIT with HRS than spending the same amount of time performing steady-state exercise.

MORE RESEARCH

A 2007 study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology looked at moderately active women who in their early twenties. The subjects were tested for power output on a stationary bike to determine what their VO2max was and then made to ride for 60-minutes at 60 percent of VO2max intensity. These tests were then repeated again at the end of the study to gauge the effectiveness of HIIT for this particular subject group. This particular training protocol showed some of the following results: a lower heart rate in the last 30-minutes of the 60-minute session, whole body fat oxidation increased significantly by 36 percent in only two-weeks using just 7 workout sessions.

A final study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism (2012), observed healthy but inactive people who exercised intensely. The research concluded even if the exercise is brief, it can produce an immediate change in DNA. “While the underlying genetic code in the muscle remains unchanged, exercise causes important structural and chemical changes to the DNA molecules within the muscles.”

HIIT EXAMPLE

There are many different HIIT formats available that an individual can choose from. A few examples of HIIT include, Tabata protocol, 30-20-10 protocol, 1 x 4 or the Go-To Workout. This last one is a favorite of many, including Martin Gibala, PhD, himself. It is performed often because it develops strength and cardiovascular fitness. The workout duration is only 10-minutes. Following a brief warm-up, alternate a bodyweight exercise, one for the upper and lower body, with some type of cardio exercise, like jumping rope. Each interval is 30-seconds long. Each set of exercise should be difficult to finish. You can decrease the intensity when it comes to the bouts of cardio. Repeat this sequence for 10-minutes. Here is an example of the Go-To Workout.

Warm-up for 3-5 minutes

  • Split Jumps (30-seconds)
  • Push-ups (30-seconds)
  • Jump Rope (30-seconds)
  • Step-ups
  • Inverted Row
  • Stationary bike
  • Jump Squats
  • Bicycle Abs
  • Jog

Repeat x 2 rounds for 10-minutes. Instead of using 30-second intervals you could also use a specific number of repetitions for each set. Still not sure? HIIT burns more calories than traditional steady state cardio exercise.

As the HIIT research continues to prove, it is advantageous to supplement your current exercise routine with at least one HIIT session each week to maximize your training results. HIIT continues to show significant results when looking at total caloric expenditure, gains in VO2max, and elevated post oxygen consumption (EPOC). All this gained for just a few minutes of intense exercise!

USE THE JEFIT APP

Millions of members have had great success transforming their bodies using the Jefit app. The app is a customizable workout planner, training log, can track data and share workouts with friends. Take advantage of Jefit’s huge exercise database for your strength workouts. Visit our members-only Facebook group. Connect with like-minded people, share tips, and advice to help get closer to reaching your fitness goals. Stay strong with Jefit.

REFERENCES

Matsuo T, Saotome K, Seino S, Shimojo N, Matsushita A, Iemitsu M, Ohshima H, Tanaka K, Mukai C. (2014). Effects of a low-volume aerobic-type interval exercise on VO2max and cardiac mass. Sports Exerc. 46(1):42-50. doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e3182a38da8

Falcone PH, Tai CY, Carson LR, Joy JM, Mosman MM, McCann TR, Crona KP, Kim MP, Moon JR (2015). Caloric expenditure of aerobic, resistance, or combined high-intensity interval training using a hydraulic resistance system in healthy men. Strength Cond Res. 29(3):779-85. doi: 10.1519/JSC.000000000000066

Makrides L. Heigenhauser GJ. Jones NL (1990). High-intensity endurance training in 20- to 30- and 60- to 70-yr-old healthy men. Journal of Applied Physiology. 69(5):1792-8.

Gibala, M., The One-Minute Workout. Avery: New York, 2017.

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How to Avoid Weight Gain with HIT

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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.

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