"This is a blog that I have created to share valid and researched fitness information. It is a mix of what I know, have learned, and what I find will work for most people that are looking to improve their strength, endurance, weight and overall health." - Jeff Horgan, MS, ATC, PES, NASE
Sunday, May 1, 2011
Decrease Fat Mass by Adding High Intensity Exercise to Your Resistance Workouts
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Decrease Fat Mass by Adding High Intensity Exercise to Your Resistance Workouts
Jeff Horgan ATC, PES
Have you ever been to the gym and found yourself admiring that person with the perfect physique? How about slightly jealous that their body was not yours? This is all too common for most people. We live in a society that is gradually getting more and more obese every year. Current statistics place over 250 million (7% of the planet’s population) persons worldwide as obese (Trapp, Cisholm, Freund, & Boutcher, 2008). Obesity carries with it several health risks such as coronary artery disease, increase risk for stroke, diabetes type II and increase risk for myocardial infarction (heart attacks) among several others (Jeret, 2007). The focus on reducing the obesity numbers has resulted in large numbers of new gym memberships, products touting quick results and people giving up because they are not seeing the results that they want fast enough. The sad thing is this; there is no miracle quick fix for decreasing fat mass, diet alone will not give you the results you most likely are looking for and you cannot reach maximum fitness without lifting a weight. There is no over-night pill or special cream that you can rub on yourself that will allow you to decrease your fat mass. To put it simply; you must change your life by changing your diet and adding resistance and dynamic exercises into your workout routine.
In order to decrease fat mass one should try to accomplish two goals: increase lean mass and aerobic capacity therefore increasing fat oxidation after exercise or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). Resistance (weight) training and high intensity intermittent exercises (HIIE) are both great ways to add lean mass and increase your resting energy expenditure (the amount of calories you burn at rest) (Westcott, 2009; Laforgia, Withers, & Gore, 2006). Resistance or weight training helps to increase mitochondria (the motor unit of the muscle) density in muscles which allows for an increase in adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP) production. Many studies throughout the last decade have demonstrated that resistance training can increase the resting metabolic rate (RMR) (Scott, 2005). Studies performed at Tufts University, the University of Maryland, University of Alabama, and Colorado State University have shown that moderate to heavy weight training performed 2-3 times per week can increase RMR by 7-10% with higher increases found from exercise bouts that were performed with either higher volumes or intensities (Wilcott, 2009). These studies did not look HIIE; however, these studies prove that mitochondrial growth caused by resistance training in fast twitch muscles can increase RMR which will lead to a decrease in fat mass and an increase in lean muscle tissue.
This process is increased even more when there is an increase in recruitment of fast-twitch muscle fibers during high intensity anaerobic exercise; i.e., sprints, cycle wind sprints or even plyometrics (Fernstrom, Tonkonogi, & Sahlin, 2003). Southeastern Louisiana University found that untrained men who engaged in circuit training with only 20 seconds of a rest period had an elevated EPOC when compared to a group that rested for 60 sec in between set intervals (Westcott, 2009). Laforgia et al, define EPOC as an elevated post-exercise metabolic contribution to the energy cost of exercise thus increasing the bodies temperature after exercise and increasing or prolonging the thermal effect of exercise (TEE) (Laforgia et al, 2006). This increase in EPOC or TEE is the goal behind including HIIE into your resistance program. When at rest the body utilizes fat as an energy source more regularly than carbohydrates, so it stands to reason that fat catabolism would increase during a heightened EPOC period. It also stands to reason that high burst of activity followed by moments of low activity that does not allow the heart to get to a resting state would increase one’s own EPOC thus increasing fat oxidation and promoting fat loss after exercise (Gibala, 2009; Fernstrom et al, 2003).
Gibala, 2009, states that HIIE should therefore be defined as a relatively short and brief intermittent exercise that is performed with an all out effort that should allow the subject to reach peak oxygen uptake whereas the subject is out of breath (Gibala, 2009).A study conducted at the University of Tasmania found that 1 minute wind sprints performed at maximum effort on a cycle-ergometer elevated fat oxidation (fat metabolism) by 104% compared to low intensity bouts of exercise. They also found that only the intensity of the activity lead to an increase in fat metabolism (Warren, Howden, Williams, Fell, & Johnson, 2009). Other research states that as little as 10 minutes 2 times a week of combined high intensity training performed at 70% or more of VO2max presented the individual with an increase in EPOC. However, it has also been shown that only exercise intensity was a determinant of EPOC improvements; therefore, the exercise bout must be high enough to raise the heart rate to 70% or more of max (LaForgia, 2006). Intermittent training has been proven effective at increasing fat metabolism and decreasing fat mass, but it is not going to be a safe choice for everyone. Those that have previous injuries which have not healed or have been diagnosed with muscle imbalances that have not been fixed should refrain from participating in interval training. Also, persons that are at risk of stroke, heart attack or have irregularities with their heart should also refrain from activity without the clearance of a physician (Jaret, 2007).
I am sure that by now you want to know how you can include HIIE into your routine and what exercises you would include. First, there is no real magic duration or rep/set period that can be prescribed but that the exercise should take your breath away, perhaps lasting no more than 30 – 40 secs and performed 10 – 20 times (of course not all at once) no more than twice a week. If you noticed it was stated that your goal should be to not allow your heart rate to get too low. This can either be done by decreasing the rest period or by increasing the amount of activity during that rest period. Perhaps you are doing a regular weight training session. In between your sets you might want to include some sprints, jump roping, cycle wind sprints or even plyometrics to get your heart rate up. One more resistance training alternative is that you simply reduce the resting rate in between sets so your heart rate remains elevated (this is not a preferred method, but has been shown to be effective). Another suggestion is that when you perform cardiovascular exercise you change up your speed; i.e., jog → run → jog, or jog → sprint → jog, or walk → run → walk (switching from 3-4 min of one into 1-2 minutes of the other). I hope you get the idea now. OK, now that you have an idea about time and exercise duration let’s go over a bit of exercise selection.
Jump rope at an intensity that is high enough for you to tolerate, but intense enough that you can get your heart rate up. Perform this for approximately 30-60 secs. This is a great exercise to perform in between sets or exercises.
Pick a distance that you wish to run; i.e, 20 yards, 40 yards, or 100 yards. The distance doesn’t matter too much. Beginners will probably tire quicker than those that have been performing run sprints for a while, so those just starting out may have to sprint shorter distances before beginning to increase the distance. This is perfect for those looking to fill time in between sets or exercises.
Interval Run Sprints
Similar to run sprints, but the total distance is most likely increased. Pick a distance that you will sprint and a distance you will either jog or walk. Perform this exercise a couple of times. This is perfect for in between weight sets or grouped sets. Example: jog 40 yards, sprint 20 yards, jog 40 yards, sprint 20 yards, repeat 2Xs.
Cycle Wind Sprints
Similar to run sprints, this exercise is great to perform in between sets while doing circuit training (a form of training that involves cardio in between weight training). During your cardiovascular bout, cycle as fast as you can during the 25-35 sec bout of cardiovascular exercise.
Intermittent Cycle Wind Sprints
Similar to intermittent run sprints, but this exercise is more time based rather than distance. Determine first the amount of time that you wish to ride at a moderate/light pace (this time should be longer than your sprint time). Next, you should set a sprint time period (this should be short, but long enough to make you winded). Repeat the cycle of going from slow to fast for a period of 15-30 minutes. This exercise is most likely going to be your cardiovascular exercise due to the time that this unique exercise bout will require.
Have a great time experimenting with different intensities, timed durations, distance durations and exercises. Keep a log of your progress to keep yourself from getting stale and also keep a log of your fat mass or percentage. The benefits of HIIE have been demonstrated to be seen as soon as 3-6 weeks after the start of a HIIE program (Jaret, 2007; Trapp et al, 2007). The most important concept is to not give up on yourself, and you might have to try many different pathways before you find something that will work for you. Most importantly, keep it fun and exciting. You exercise plan should be something that you enjoy enough to keep you coming back for more.
Ferstrom, M., Tonkonogi, M., & Sahlin, K. (2003). Effects of acute and chronic endurance
exercise on mitochondrial uncoupling in human skeletal muscle. Journal of Physiology,
Gibala, M. (2009). Molecular responses to high-intensity interval exercise. Applied Physiology
Nutrition and Metabolism, 34, 428-432.
Jaret, P. (2007). A healthy mix of rest and motion. New York Times. Retrieved from