Brief and Intense Exercise Offers Superior Benefits

by Pete Sisco

in Research, Training

I like to browse through the fitness studies that make it to the general population. It’s a barometer of where most people’s fitness minds will be heading soon. What I mean is, if you read the highly scientific journals that publish the muscle fiber response to a zero-gravity environment in the left legs of fleas you know it’s not going to be on the front page of the New York Times any time soon. But the strength training stuff that filters down to Yahoo’s home page or onto ScienceDaily.com gets read by millions and has an effect on how people think about their future workouts.

The good news is – ever so gradually – people are seeing studies that validate:

a) the enormous health benefits of strength training, and

b) that brief workouts with heavier weights is a better method

Here are a few examples from Science Daily:

A study conducted by Ohio University, tested whether low velocity resistance training is a more effective than conventional routines, as some experts maintain. One group lifted a heavier weights with fewer repetitions, the ‘endurance’ group lifted lighter weights with more repetitions, and the ‘low velocity’ group lifted lighter weights but performed the reps much slower. The conclusion? The endurance group and the low velocity group both improved strength, but to a much lesser degree than the group lifting heavier weights for fewer reps.

They also measured improvements in cardiovascular fitness and there was no significant improvement in any of the groups. Here’s a quote from the article in Science Daily; “We tested cardiovascular endurance because a lot of the lay literature, the articles you might read in magazines, said it would improve. But no one has proven that.” How many times have you heard a personal trainer tell you a 30-40 min weight lifting routine will also ‘give you a cardio benefit’? It’s never been proven, friends. It’s wasted time, so please don’t listen to the trainers who tell you to do a long weightlifting workout to get the “cardio” benefit.

Researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine measured the benefits of endurance muscles (type I) and resistance training muscles (type II). They concluded an increase in type II muscle mass can reduce body fat which in turn reduces overall body mass and improves metabolic parameters such as insulin resistance. “We’ve shown that type II muscle does more than allow you to pick up heavy objects. It is also important in controlling whole-body metabolism.” So if you’re obese and want to lose fat and lower your total bodyweight, lift heavy weights.

Even in the realm of aerobic conditioning, the world is waking up to the benefits of short and intense workouts. A study published in The Journal of Physiology measured eight subjects who performed between four and six 30-second bursts of “all out” cycling separated by 4 minutes of recovery during each training session. Another eight subjects performed 90-120 minutes of continuous moderate-intensity cycling each day. Total training time commitment including recovery was 2.5 hours in the sprint group, whereas the endurance group performed 10.5 hours of total exercise over two weeks. Despite the marked difference in training volume, both groups showed similar improvements in exercise performance and muscle parameters associated with fatigue resistance.

According to Martin Gibala, an associate professor of kinesiology at McMaster University, “The most striking finding from our study was the remarkably similar improvements in muscle health and performance induced by two such diverse training strategies.”

Eventually everyone will wake up to the time and health benefits of lifting the heaviest weight possible, reducing the duration of the exercise and spacing the workouts farther apart.

But you already know that! Right?

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