By Danielle Dunn, Hilton Head Health Fitness Director, MBA, B.A, ACE
Even though it can get rather sticky, always remember, “Sweat is the perfume of success!” With that in mind, I want to share with you how to get your sweat on and burn those calories! This workout will consist of cardio and resistance training, while infusing intervals and endurance segments. Why do intervals give us the best sweat? Why is it best to combine cardio and resistance (or strength) training? Check this out!
High-intensity interval training, otherwise known as HIIT, describes brief, recurrent bursts of vigorous activity, interspersed by periods of rest or low-intensity exercise. An example of this would be continuously sprinting for a minute and then jogging for a minute; another example would be doing jacks for a minute and then bicep curls for a minute. On top of a healthy diet, the best way to achieve weight loss is through using a program that consists of both strength and cardio training. A healthy combination of strength and cardio training lets the two systems complement each other rather than compete and allow your body to perform at its best, burning the maximum number of calories (short-term burn [cardio] and long-term burn [strength]).
Understanding that cardio and strength training don’t cancel each other out and balancing the two properly will give you the best way to break a sweat. One fear is that cardio burns muscle. Put simply, cardio will only burn muscle when you give it no other choice. Balance, in your training and in your diet, will prevent muscle loss. Another fear is that people are afraid weight training will make them too bulky. Proper weight training will increase the strength and endurance of your muscles, which will improve your cardiovascular efficiency and burn more calories and fat in the process.
Interval training has aerobic and anaerobic advantages. Anaerobic refers to the high-intensity point in your exercise, or when you are lacking oxygen. This is when stored glucose and fat are burned, while your heart is working at 85 percent maximum effort. At this intensity level, your muscles are being forced to not rely on oxygen to fuel muscle contraction, and during this period, lactic acid ([which] causes your muscles to break down and fatigue) is formed. You know lactic acid is forming when the burning sensation takes over your muscles. Aerobic, on the other hand, refers to the recovery point in your cardio session, and it is when your body refuels on oxygen. This is the point in your exercise where your heart and lungs have to work extra hard to pay back that oxygen deficiency and work to break down the lactic acid that was accumulated during the high-intensity portion. During the aerobic stage of your workout, you are building stamina so your body is able to exercise longer, leading to a gradual cardio improvement. Recovery time also improves, which is critical for post workout, reducing the amount of time needed to recover after exercise.
A growing quantity of evidence demonstrates that HIIT can serve as an effective alternative to traditional endurance-based training, providing similar or superior physiological adaptations in healthy individuals and diseased populations (Gibala et al. 2012). HIIT is intriguing however, because according to current research, it can yield a broad range of physiological gains, often in less time than high-volume continuous exercise (Daussin et al. 2008). HIIT, which pairs quick bouts of high-energy exercise with low-effort rest intervals, is not exactly a new idea. As early as 1912, the Finnish Olympic long-distance runner Hannes Kolehmainen was using interval training in his workouts (Billat 2001).
During aerobic exercise, it is important to know how the body’s cardiovascular system adapts to a workout. Heart performance is based on heart rate, stroke volume (the amount of blood pumped per beat), and heart contractility (the forcefulness of each heart contraction). These three variables increase blood flow and oxygen supply to meet the demands of exercising muscles. Contraction of the skeletal muscle also boosts the flow of venous blood returning to the heart, which increases ventricle blood volume (called the preload). This elevated preload contributes to the heart’s enhanced stroke volume during exercise, and this in turn is a major determinant of aerobic performance (Joyner & Coyle 2008). Progressive increases in endurance training activate adaptations in the heart muscle structure. The heart muscle thickens, causing the left ventricle to expand, thus improving heart function during exercise.
For one, interval training works to improve your cardiovascular system. Interval training creates changes to your routine, preventing the adaption process to occur, therefore not allowing your body to get used to an exercise. Eventually over time your body does not have to think or work as hard to complete the same exact exercise, causing the workload to not be there anymore (and thus hinders fitness improvement). Interval training mixes up your workout enough to keep your body thinking about what it is doing. Research shows a 10 percent greater improvement in stroke volume than long-distance training (Helgerud et al. 2007; Wisløff, Ellingsen & Kemi 2009), increased left-ventricle heart mass by 12 percent and cardiac contractility by 13 percent (Slørdahl et al. 2004), and increased VO2max response (VO2max is considered the body’s upper limit for consuming, distributing, and utilizing oxygen for energy production) (Daussin et al. 2008).
Interval training also has skeletal-muscle and metabolic adaptations as well. The size and number of mitochondria (energy factory of a cell) increases with interval training (Gibala 2009). Mitochondria use oxygen to manufacture high levels of ATP through the breakdown of carbohydrates and fat. An increase in mitochondrial oxidative enzymes leads to more effective fat and carbohydrate breakdown for fuel. Metabolically, fat oxidation, or fat burning, was significantly higher and carbohydrate oxidation (burning) was significantly lower after six weeks of interval training (Perry et al. 2008). In as little as two weeks (Talanian et al. 2007), a significant shift to fatty acid oxidation resulted (Horowitz and Klein 2000).
Another metabolic benefit of HIIT is excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. After an exercise session, oxygen consumption (and thus caloric expenditure) remains elevated as the working muscle cells restore physiological and metabolic factors in the cell to pre-exercise levels. This translates into higher and longer calorie burn after exercise has stopped.
Now you ask, what is the workout that does all of this? Here it is: Choose eight cardio moves and eight resistance exercises. For example, choose any eight of these for cardio—jumping jack, ski’s, Heisman or three-step Heisman, burpie, fast feet (football shuffle), mountain climbers, jumping rope, switching lunges, twisting squats (touch the floor in squat), shuffle to the right and left while in a squat position—and then choose any eight of these for resistance exercises—push-up, plank, chest fly, bicep curl, Arnold shoulder press, tricep kickback, back row, upright row, bicycles, or overhead tricep extension. Alternate each exercise (first cardio exercise then first strength, then the second cardio and the second strength, and so on) for 15 seconds (this is considered the warm up), then alternate each exercise for 30 seconds, then each exercise for one minute (endurance round—remember, maintain movement for all 60 seconds), then back to 30 seconds, and end with 15 seconds (this is the cool down). Of course finishing your workout with a stretch of every muscle group that you used is a great idea, which will help improve flexibility and reduce the amount of soreness you feel the next day. This workout will give you the cardiovascular, strength, and endurance training you need to get your best sweat all in one workout!
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Billat, L.V. 2001. Interval training for performance: A scientific and empirical practice. Special recommendations for middle- and long-distance running. Part I: aerobic interval training. Sports Medicine, 31 (1), 13-31.
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Helgerud, J., et al. 2007. Aerobic high-intensity intervals improve VO2max more than moderate training. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 39 (4), 665-71.
Slørdahl, S.A., et al. 2004. Atrioventricular plane displacement in untrained and trained females.Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 36 (11), 1871-75.
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Horowitz, J.F., & Klein, S. 2000. Lipid metabolism during endurance exercise. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 72 (2 Suppl.), 558S-63S.