I wrote an article over a decade ago for Bodybuilding.com simply titled, “Never Do Aerobics Again”. It was a time in fitness where ALL the talk, in regards to fat loss, revolved around fat burning zones, low intensity/steady state “cardio”. Basically, aerobics largely dominated the fitness landscape. Without giving a long drawn out history lesson, the reason aerobics became so dominant in our fitness culture had more to do with politics and publicity than actual science.
Now, before I get flooded with emails saying aerobic training is good for you, I’m not claiming it can’t be. In fact, I use aerobic training every day when I go for a nice 30-60 minute walk with my dogs. My thought in general though is that we really don’t need to be programming our aerobic activity, we should just try to be more active.
Having said that (soap box moment over), more and more people have found that high intensity training has great fat loss and health benefits. I’m not going to really go into this because we have seen the pendulum swing so far that EVERYTHING is now high intensity training! Like most things this overreaction has caused a good thing to have some problems on delivering the results that many of us were trying to tout.
Like what? Well, today’s DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training post is going to break down three BIG things that many people do to miss the boat on true high intensity training.
#1: High intensity is typically really high intensity interval training
Most times when we are referring to high intensity training for fat loss and conditioning we are really talking about high intensity interval training (HIIT). The importance of this distinction is the fact that the interval part is important and often missed in most training programs.
There aren’t too many people better to discuss HIIT than Strength Coach, Robert Dos Remedios, who basically wrote an incredible book on the topic (you can check it out HERE). Here are some important points Coach Dos makes….
“I am pretty excited to see many folks getting the idea to incorporate high intensity interval-style (HIIT) exercise into their workouts. This can come in many forms…from weight training circuits, to calisthenics, to ropes-KB’s-TRX you get the picture. We can even get great high intensity intervals (let’s just start calling this ANAEROBIC now OK?) via things like agility training, sprints etc. While these methods and modes seem to be pretty widespread these days I still don’t think many folks out there truly understand what anaerobic training is.
I often see people posting workouts where they will perform multi-movement circuits using timed intervals like 30 sec. of work followed by 15 sec. of rest….or maybe 45 sec. of work followed by 15 sec. of rest. First off we need to understand the concept of NEGATIVE rest (where you rest for shorter periods than you work). 99.9% of the population is not ready nor is it prudent to use negative rest periods…..the deterioration will be quick and significant thus compromising your training goals from the very beginning. Sure we can ‘survive’ these types of bouts but minutes after you start your “HIIT” session you will merely be doing ‘aerobics’ and will no longer reap the great benefits of anaerobic style training.
Keep in mind that the higher the intensity, the shorter the work period AND the greater the work:rest ratio. When I perform sprints of say 10-20 yards it may only take 2-3 seconds but the intensity is so high that in order for me to continue to match (or at least stay close) to my peak performance I will need adequate rest. In these short, high intensity types of bouts I will use at least a 1:5-6 (work:rest), meaning I will work for 3 seconds then rest for 15-18 sec. if I perform longer bouts say 100 yard 1/2 gassers (50 yards out and 50 yards back) it may take me 18 sec. but since the intensity is not as high as the shorter sprint and the rest period will also be relatively longer (as per ratio) i will not need such a high work:rest…in these cases I may use a 1:2-3 (work:rest) depending on the fitness of the person. This will result in 18 sec. of work followed by 32-54 sec. of rest.
We can see how rest is NOT a bad thing, in fact, with this type of training is is MANDATORY if you want to get the results you set out for. Also, remember that our bodies ARE working during these ‘rest’ periods….we shouldn’t obsess with jogging around and sprinting from station to station during circuits etc. All this does is drop the intensity of our next bout. One of my pet peeves is when people tell me “oh, yeah I do HITT on the treadmill all the time…I jog for 30 sec. then I sprint for 30 sec. and I do this for 30 minutes“. Uh…..no you don’t. You’re doing aerobics and anyone who has ever ‘sprinted’ for 30 sec. (I would like to see that BTW) knows the only thing that you do AFTER this bout is to STOP and TRY to get your SH*T together for the next bout.”
As Coach Dos mentions, rest is NOT your enemy. However, we can manipulate how we structure our programs so that we don’t have really long HIIT workouts as well. One key is to understand that fatigue can be muscle, area, even kinda movement specific. So, putting together a thoughtful workout plan that keeps this in consideration we can move somewhat quickly from drill to drill without causing the aerobic effect or lowering the intensity of our training. Repeating the same exercise, movement pattern, or muscles can be hard to do well otherwise!
#2: You always have to go fast!
We all get it right? Sprinting as hard as possible is WAY more intense than a casual jog. Does that mean though everything we do in lifting has to be really fast? There is no arguing that power movements are high intensity, but it doesn’t mean that if we create a lot and longer time under tension we also can’t get awesome high intensity benefits.
In fact, a study (HERE) showed that, “Differences in EPOC and total energy expenditure with submaximal lifting were based not on the amount of work performed or with a particular eccentric-concentric cadence, but on the time to completion of the weight lifting exercise – time-under-tension; longer submaximal lifting times had greater energy expenditure.”
Most people still go WAY too fast on crawls and our Ultimate Sandbag Training dragging series!
We can create some really challenging high intensity drills if we add the right tension and time under that tension. Examples? Some of my favorite DVRT Ultimate Sandbag Training examples include…
-1 1/4 Exercises
-Bear Hug Paused Squats
This is to just name a few. The reason to do this isn’t just to get more high intensity in though. Many of these exercises teach us how to build better core stability, identify weaknesses in key joint stabilizers, and will also improve our mobility. So, high intensity doesn’t have to be about just beating you up, but can be A LOT about making you better!
#3: EVERY workout should be high intensity
It is just the world we live in right? If X is good, then 2X must be twice as good! Unfortunately, that isn’t true many times, especially when it comes to high intensity training.
Exercise in general is a stress. The benefit doesn’t come necessarily from just stressing our body, but how we recover from such a stress. Since high intensity training is applying a higher stress you might find yourself able to do high intensity training much less frequently than social media may have you believe.
Recovery training (like in our Resiliency program is a good example HERE), is key in facilitating your ability to train again. How do you know that you are ready to train again? Well, if you are waking with higher resting heart rate than normal, if you feel like you are dragging most of the day, if you aren’t sleeping well, or even finding that your grip strength seems like it is decreasing, these are all signs you may NOT be recovered yet.
Aim for no more than two high intensity workouts if you are just starting out and you might find that is plenty. Remember more isn’t better, better is better!
Hopefully this has opened your eyes to what high intensity training is REALLY about and we are excited to announce some really cool news in high intensity programming very soon!
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