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High Intensity More Effective than Endurance Training

by Editor


Crossfit, SEALTeam, an other forms of high-intensity training (HIT) are fairly common these days. We've heard all about it in moto. In fact, a few trainers do nothing but HIT type training. But is it more effective than conventional long term endurance training? And is it more effective for the weekend warrior motocross rider who has a full time job and very little time to train? The following research article suggests that not only is HIT training more beneficial but also that HIT training does not have to be performed at a puke or die intensity level. This is good news/bad news for the Weekend warrior. Good news that short, intense workouts are very effective. Bad news that you can no longer use the excuse that you don't have enough time to train!- Virtual Trainer

Original article

The excuse that there is not enough time to exercise effectively is beginning to wear thin according to evidence from a study by scientists in Canada who found that short term high-intensity interval training (HIT) can deliver in significantly less time the same health benefits as moderate long term "endurance" training. The scientists who did the study are based at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario. A paper on it is about to come out in print in the The Journal of Physiology, although an online issue has been available to view since January.

Scientists have known for years that doing regular moderate long term exercise like cycling or running for several hours a week improves oxygen delivery to muscles and elimination of waste products: it also improves the efficiency of fuel burning in the tiny power houses inside cells, the mitochondria. Such a regime also widens the blood vessels to the muscle cells and boosts the number of mitochondria they contain. The result is an ability to do every day things more effectively, without strain, and with lower risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes.

But there is one drawback that puts many people off: the amount of time such an approach consumes. Corresponding author Professor Martin Gibala and colleagues took it upon themselves to show that you can get the same results in less time with short spurts of "HIT".

In this new study they used a standard stationary bike and a workout that was still beyond the comfort zone of most people, but was only half of what might be regarded as an "all out" sprint.

As Gibala explained to the press: "We have shown that interval training does not have to be 'all out' in order to be effective."

"Doing 10 one-minute sprints on a standard stationary bike with about one minute of rest in between, three times a week, works as well in improving muscle as many hours of conventional long-term biking less strenuously," he added.

HIT is where you do a number of shorts bursts of highly intense exercise with short recovery breaks in between. In previous research involving college students, Gibala and colleagues discovered that HIT delivers the same physical benefits as traditional endurance training, even though it takes considerably less time, and surprisingly, involves doing less exercise.

But in their previous research they used an extreme set-up where the participants had to pedal "all out" on a specially adapted lab exercise bike. In this new study they used a standard stationary bike and a workout that was still beyond the comfort zone of most people (about 95 per cent of maximal heart rate), but was only half of what might be regarded as an "all out" sprint. This less extreme form of HIT should work well for people whose doctors might be a little worried about them taking up the "all out" form: that is people who are older, less fit and likely to be overweight. For the study, they set out to show that unlike most HIT research that employs an "all out" approach (such as repeated Wingate Tests) that may not be safe or practical for many people, it was possible to achieve similar results with a more practical model of low-volume HIT.

They recruited seven men of average age 21 years and got them to perform 6 training session over 2 weeks. Each session comprised between 8 and 12 one-minute intervals at around 100 per cent of peak power output (they monitored their performance using a measure of their peak VO2). Each interval was separated by 75 seconds of rest. The results showed that the training significantly increased exercise capacity in two cycling time trials (one for 50kJ and the other for 750kJ). The researchers also compared biopsy samples of vastus lateralis muscle (the largest part of the quadriceps) taken before the 2 weeks of training with samples taken after, and found that the later samples showed increased maximal activity of mitochondrial capacity and other relevant chemical processes.

The researchers concluded that:

"This study demonstrates that a practical model of low volume HIT is a potent stimulus for increasing skeletal muscle mitochondrial capacity and improving exercise performance." Gibala said that to achieve the same results by endurance training over the same period (two weeks) you would have to do over 10 hours of continuous moderate cycling exercise. Although the study does not explain why HIT is so effective, it suggests that HIT stimulates many of the same signaling pathways as those stimulated by endurance training.

Gibala said "no time to exercise" is now no longer a valid excuse as HIT can be tailored for the average adult.

"While still a demanding form of training," he explained, "the exercise protocol we used should be possible to do by the general public and you don't need more than an average exercise bike."

He and his colleagues are now working on developing HIT to help people who are overweight or who have metabolic disorders like diabetes.

"A practical model of low-volume high-intensity interval training induces mitochondrial biogenesis in human skeletal muscle: potential mechanisms."
Jonathan P Little, Adeel S Safdar, Geoffrey P Wilkin, Mark A Tarnopolsky, and Martin J Gibala.
J Physiol, jphysiol.2009.181743; published ahead of print January 25, 2010

Source: Wiley-Blackwell.

Written by: Catharine Paddock, PhD
Copyright: Medical News Today

After thought: I want to stress that this article does NOT say that all training should be HIT to be effective. It mearly states that HIT training can be more effective than endurance training for the general population. So if you are a rider who does not have a solid program consisting of periodized training, then HIT training will be more beneficial than longer endurance type workouts. So for those of you who say you do not have the time to train, enough with the excuses and pick up a weight!

That's it for now, until next time, good luck with your training and remember, if you have a question, log on to the Virtual Trainer Expert Forum and have your question answered by a panel of experts. In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section. Your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness. VT Signature

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  1. Gravatar
    Greg Marino May 16, 2013 at 8:07 am

    (In my most HUMBLEST yet knowledgeable opinion of course)

    Your OWN afterthought leads one to DIRECTLY've little knowledge of what you're talking about pal!!!

    Move on to more reliable training advice fellow off-roaders! This article speaks volumes of one can't believe all you read on the internet!

  2. Gravatar
    Joel Younkins May 16, 2013 at 8:08 am

    These study's are great and all but I haven't seen one done that goes past more than a couple months...What happens after that?? I get the idea of saving time to get your workout in but most people will harm themselves doing this type of aerobic work too soon too often if their aerobic system hasn't been properly developed..

  3. Gravatar
    Samuel Pearce May 16, 2013 at 9:20 am

    The Journal of Physiology is a highly reputable source for peer reviewed journal articles. Keep in mind when these journal articles are posted on here they are not BS studies someone did in their garage. It is extremely difficult to get a publication in a peer reviewed journal and these studies are legit.

  4. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer May 16, 2013 at 9:32 am

    Greg - You are welcome to your opinion although I don't agree with it. The article is directly targeted at people who do not exercise and simply says that a little exercise is better than nothing at all. And if you are only going to a do a little exercise then research suggests that HIT training is more effective. And the little disclaimer at the end was just so people don't think that by posting this article I mean that HIT training is all they should be doing.

    Joel - I know you have an axe to grind with Crossfit but this article is not suggesting HIT workouts all the time. As a matter of fact it points out that moderate intensity HIT workouts are beneficial (of which Crossfit does not do). Don't read too much into the research and think that it applies to seasoned athletes with years of training under their belt. And as for long term, the research supports periodized training. Again, my purpose for posting this article was to eliminate the "I don't have time to exercise" excuse. I'd rather see a guy get his ass off the couch and get injured trying to do too much than to continue to sit on the couch and do nothing.

  5. Gravatar
    Joel Younkins May 16, 2013 at 10:44 am

    Tim wasn't trying to blast you or Crossfit at all...I was just trying to state that so many of these research articles are popping up and it makes it seem like you can get a quick fix and not put the time in for actual real results...High intensity intervals would be better off suited for higher level athletes than sedentary people anyways...I wasn't trying to look to deep into the article, but you can't ignore the adaption process of aerobic work. If you take a sedentary person and throw them into HIT than they are more likely to decrease the size of their left ventricle because there is no enough blood volume to stretch the fibers of the heart (actually decrease stroke volume)...To me, I see it as skipping a step, like bench pressing before you know how to do a proper push up. The spectrum of training gets ignored when articles gets posted to the mass media because it's a catchy headline when in fact all types of conditioning are good when properly used (and you know this). Again it was nothing against you (I know you try your best to help all individuals which is awesome) or Crossfit (which I don't really care what they do). It's just funny because people will read articles about HIT training and think this is the easy quick fix and abandon all lower intensity work when in fact this is what 95% of sedentary people actually need first..

  6. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer May 16, 2013 at 11:51 am

    Joel - I agree and we are on the same page.

  7. Gravatar
    Randy Olson May 16, 2013 at 11:58 am

    A research study of only seven (7) people is preliminary at best. And the two week testing window is relatively small. How many people use an exercise program that lasts only two weeks. Done my exercise, now back to the couch. Exercise should be a regular part of life. HIT can certainly be part of that, but as a long-term diet? Probably not.

  8. Gravatar
    Samuel Pearce May 16, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    Joel - when you say that HIT training could actually decrease the size of the left ventricle in a sedentary person due to having a lower stroke volume (incurring less preload), do you mean that this would occur during the exercise or as an overall change in the myocardium as a function of HIT training? This does not make sense IMO. The exercise will still challenge the myocardium (causing hypertrophy) even if there is a reduction in SV which occurs as HR increases anyways.

  9. Gravatar
    Samuel Pearce May 16, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    I think that something people tend to miss is that to increase aerobic ability you must train the heart to a hypoxic state. Often times people sit on a bicycle for 30 minutes or a hour or whatever and never get their HR high enough to really tax the myocardium. Hypoxia of the myocardium stimulates angiogenesis resulting in increased ability to deliver oxygen to the heart. I feel that HIT training achieves this and more quickly than traditional aerobic training regardless of your current state of conditioning.

  10. Gravatar
    Joel Younkins May 16, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    Samuel-What I mean is if your heart is pumping faster than the blood that is returning to the heart, your heart will hypertrophy, but it will hypertrophy inwards towards the left ventricle (making it smaller)..This is especially true for youth athletes when performing high loads at glycolytic work....If you do longer slower work first to develop the heart muscles, you can fill the heart up with blood to make it hypertrophy outwards (making it bigger) which will create a larger stroke volume when you perform high intensity efforts later on when ready. This is why training is a long term process..

  11. Gravatar
    Samuel Pearce May 16, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    It sounds like your speaking of heart failure caused by left ventricular hypertrophy which is what happens when the myocardium becomes so enlarged that the ventricle is unable to fill with blood. Do you really believe that working out with an increased heart rate and decreased stroke volume for an hour a day is going to lead to a decrease in chamber size of the left ventricle. This takes years of the heart pumping with a decreased end diastolic volume to occur. What your saying only makes since if the individual is working out 23 hours a day and has a crap ejection fraction the entire time which would be impossible. The rest of the day when an individual is not working out and end diastolic volume is normal, will cause any effects of the myocardium attempting to hypertrophy inward to be completely negligible and any hypertrophy should cause a increase in size of the chamber and myocardium.

  12. Gravatar
    Joel Younkins May 16, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    I am saying you can if your give someone whose heart has not been properly developed like a youth athlete if it is frequent enough because there is not enough blood... But look that is not the only issue with abandoned low intensity conditioning work, there are many more positives in why it has its place...I train my guys at higher aerobic intensities when need be but we do both at the proper times. If you are somebody who thinks high intensity training is end all be all, then you might as well say to get strong you need to perform max effort work on your lifts all the time when that certainly isn't true. Ppl who train with HIT only tend to make the sessions very lactic in nature...which is a whole other story. The reality is, is that there is a whole spectrum of training and conditioning that gets over looked when developing athletes and things get swung to far to one side.

  13. Gravatar
    Texas Racer May 16, 2013 at 6:50 pm

    I will say this... I race local & have STRUGGLED to get pass the "hump" of mid-pack b-class. I finally started working out, doing HIT intervals & what do you know im now turning better lap times then some of the A riders. I feel great on the bike & feel better overall in general.

    30 min. work out = easy... no matter how hard, its only 30 mins!

  14. Gravatar
    KB May 17, 2013 at 10:50 am

    Certainly in recent studies has hit been shown to be more effective than endurance in terms of fat loss and keeping your hormones in check, maintaining muscle mass

    @ Joel there are templates where they max out every week on their lifts
    every week has a max effort day for bench and squat and deadlift and a speed day for the same lifts
    Westside barbell conjugate method

  15. Gravatar
    Racer X Virtual Trainer May 17, 2013 at 11:32 am

    Again, I think you all are reading way WAY too much into this study. In no way is it advocating that the only exercise that should be done is HIT. It just states that it is a bit more effective in the short term and if you do not have time to train, then anythng is better than nothing. And everything I have ever written or stated on this website points to the fact that periodized training is the answer.

    The other thing that I have learned after watching the Crossfit movement for a few years is that not all of their workouts are go until you puke. If you are in the right box with the right coach their workouts are actually fairly periodized. Plus, most individuals will moderate the exercise when they feel tired thus making it anything but a HIT workout.

    Great discussion BTW!

  16. Gravatar
    Joel Younkins May 17, 2013 at 11:53 am

    I am very familiar with Westiside Barbell and the Conjugate Method...Yes they have max effort days, but their speed days are sub-max...Point is, that's not all they do, accessory work is "sub-max work" and any successful strength program has both or just sub-max (depending) in them...This will be my last comment about this article, because this is simply Conditioning 101...If your someone who believes in HIIT as the only source of conditioning, knock yourself out and see where it takes your conditioning 2-3 months from now...Tim, I am not only referring to just this article or site what soever. This is just how people take on this topic..

  17. Gravatar
    kb May 17, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    @ Joel
    In the words Louie Simmons himself Singles build reps, reps don't build singles
    the whole program from westside is built around that you go for a new pr, a 1 rep max every single week , dynamic days are to make sure you don't become slow, because you can't lift a heavy weight slow. force = mass times acceleration
    The force development on dynamic days is actually the same as on max effort days !!! not sub max, accessory work is for hypertrophy

    I think this article has some merit
    Doing hours and hours off steady state cardio you may be setting yourself up for disaster, if you crunch the numbers you should be losing pounds of weight, but after a while weight loss is very slow or doesn't happen at all
    because your body will lower it's metabolic rate
    recent studies have shown that while steady state lowers metabolic rate, hiit increases metabolic rate

    Tjonna, A.E., et al. Superior cardiovascular effect of interval training vs. moderate exercise in patients with metabolic syndrome. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 39(5 suppl):S112, 2007.

  18. Gravatar
    lc4moto June 20, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    This article is very good, and the research is valid. There are numerous university studies on sprints, wind sprints, HIT workouts, and all agree that it boosts endurance and spares muscle mass. Just look at Olympic sprinters , ripped and muscular, and also have great endurance. I think a lot of people on here are hating because they bought some $1000 road bike and have it in there mind that they have to cycle 10 hours a week.

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