If you’ve read just about any fitness blog, magazine or website in recent years, then you’ll likely have come across High Intensity Interval Training – HIIT. This is a training format that challenges you to divide your time spent in the gym between high intensity bursts of sprinting or otherwise exerting yourself within your fat burning heart rate zone and periods of active recovery. This type of training is all the rage because it is known to burn more calories in less time when compared with steady state cardio.
When you engage in HIIT, you start out by pushing hard and going at or near to your maximum heart rate. This is what makes all the difference, as now you are depleting your body of all of its readily available energy in order to drive those fast twitch muscle fibers. This is anaerobic training and it relies on ATP stored in the muscles, as well as glycogen.
After this, you then switch to your regular exercise at around 70% of your maximum heart rate. This is a steady pace that you can maintain, that burns fat using the aerobic system and that allows you to recover and reduce the lactate and other metabolites that build up in your blood during intensive exercise.
Steady state cardio is normally something you can maintain for a long time before you start to tire out and this is why a lot of people will exercise by running at a steady pace for 40-60 minutes.
If you do this after having done high intensity training however, you will be running at a point when you have very little available energy in your muscles and in your blood. All the glycogen has been used up and thus you have to rely even more on fat in order to keep going. Your body becomes more efficient at burning fat and you see greater benefits from the short amount of training that comes after.
But this isn’t even the best bit. What’s so good about HIIT is that this after burn effect continues for hours after you finish training. You’re now going about your usual activities with less glycogen, which means you’ll burn more fat even to do regular things like picking up a fork, or walking across the room!
HIIT is also great for numerous other reasons. For starters, the explosive nature of the training means that you’re involving your fast twitch muscle fibers. This means that you’ll release more anabolic hormones like growth hormone and like testosterone, leading to more growth.
Another benefit of HIIT is that it improves your energy efficiency. Because you’re pushing your cells to make energy more quickly, they become better at doing just that – improving your health, fitness, and athletic performance across the board!
The answer is to use concurrent training…
Simply, concurrent training is a form of training that combines cardio and resistance into one exercise. This is why it can also sometimes be referred to as ‘resistance cardio’. The idea is then that you are going to perform some kind of rapid movement but while doing it, you will be pushing or pulling against some kind of weight or resistance.
An obvious example of this would be to ride a stationary bike but to increase the resistance setting to ten so that you have to use more strength in your muscles to turn the pedals.
Other examples of concurrent training include certain forms of calisthenics – like clapping push ups or push ups – as well as boxing, swimming, rowing on a heavy setting or the kettlebell swing. The kettlebell swing is of particular interest here because it allows you to lift quiet a heavy weight in a manner that is conducive to long sequences of exertion.
There are a couple of things that make this such a great tool. The first is that by combining resistance and cardio in one routine, you are actually significantly increasing the challenge. You’ll find it harder to move your limbs due to the resistance and thus you’ll need more fast twitch muscle fiber. This requires more energy and so you’ll burn more calories than performing the same movements without the resistance.
Better yet though, when you perform concurrent training, you’ll be protecting your muscle from breakdown. HIIT does this to an extent already but when you include resistance work, you effectively send a strong signal to the body that you need the muscle and it’s not just deadweight slowing you down.
In biological terms, you will be breaking down muscles and flooding them with metabolites, both of which are signals that encourage growth. You’ll produce more growth hormone and more testosterone and these both trigger growth and fat loss.
Better yet, building muscle is great for weight loss goals. That’s because muscle makes you look more toned and honed and is often the quicker way to get the physique you want. Moreover, muscle is metabolically active meaning that you burn more calories by simply having muscle. If you add muscle work into your routine, you’ll burn more fat even when you’re asleep!