Brief Exercise Found to Be Much More Effective for “Fit” People

July 26, 2010

Back in June, USA Today released a story that confirmed what I have suspected for a few years: The more fit someone is, the more fat they will burn after a workout session. Fit people produce much more glycerol after a workout than someone who is not in as good of shape. Glycerol levels are an indicator of fat breakdown. Fit people burn much more fat after a brief workout than people who are not as fit (even when doing an identical workout).

Brief Exercise

[Perhaps all that it will take to break through your fat burning plateau is to reach a higher level of fitness. I will examine how that is done in this post. ]

What Is the Article Measuring as Being “Fit”

The definition of fit they are using is VO2 max. Here is the simplest description of VO2 max that I have found online: “The highest rate of oxygen consumption attainable during a maximal or exhaustive exercise.” The number is the maximum amount of oxygen in milliliters some can use in 1 minute, per kilogram of body weight. Simply put, it is how much oxygen can you use per minute. Fit people can use more oxygen per minute than people who are out of shape. Here is a visual representation of VO2 Max…

VO2 Max

[The graph is from this VO2 Max article on “Sports Fitness Advisor”. If you want to go into detail about VO2 max it is a great read.]

“The Rich Get Richer, the Fit Get Fitter”

(The word “fitter” sound like bad English, but I’m using it). It gets easier and easier to get lean the fitter you become. What I have noticed is that it takes most people a while before they begin to drop weight quickly…then they develop fat loss momentum…until they are about 5-10 pounds out from being really lean. I believe the VO2 Max and body fat connection is what causes “fat loss momentum”. Once people begin to increase their VO2 Max they are able to get more fat burning out of every aspect of their workout routine.

How to Increase Your VO2 Max

Okay, I have spent the past couple hours researching various ways to increase your VO2 Max. A lot of these articles come from running sites, marathon sites, etc. The problem is that marathon training also burns muscle. So what we want to do is walk the edge between increasing VO2 Max without burning muscle. I’ll put some of the tips I found online below with my comments…

How to Improve Your VO2 Max – by Ed Eyestone

“Consistent aerobic conditioning will increase your max, but only by so much. French exercise physiologist Veronique Billat found that the fastest way to reach your potential is to run intervals at a speed that elicits your VO2 max, a pace known in lab circles as velocity. This pace is equivalent to 3,000-meter pace or the fastest effort you can maintain for about eight minutes. To reap a training benefit, however, you only need to sustain that pace for two to five minutes, which is what I did every Tuesday for 20 years. It kept me competitive, and it’ll help you do the same.”

My Comments: So this is basically a long interval. Running at a decent pace for 2-5 minutes. This does work well. I have never attempted a 5 minute interval, but I have done 2 minute intervals with a 2 minute walk in between. He just did this once per week, which makes sense because these long intervals are draining. So perhaps once per week do you HIIT a little differently with longer intervals to increase VO2 Max.

How to Increase Your VO2 Max in 14 Days – by Jesper Bondo

“In the VO2 Max Booster program we decrease the duration of each ride which means your body needs less recovery time before the next hard training session. When we do frequent intervals (but not too many of them) it is possible to train high intensity intervals every single day. Actually you could train twice every day if you did some proper planning. It’s clear that the risk of over training gets bigger if you train that often, but this example is also just to show you that the classic 2 interval days and 1 race day per week is common but definitely not the only way to achieve great results.”

My Comments: This little snippet of text doesn’t do this article justice. The author has put together a detailed way for cyclists to improve their VO2 Max in just 14 days. He does so by making the intervals harder, but shorter, each consecutive day. One way to implement his principles into your routine is to possibly do the longer intervals earlier in the week and shorter more intense ones before the weekend.

Aerobic High-Intensity Intervals Improve VO2 Max More Than Moderate Training – Norwegian University of Science and Technology 2007

“High-aerobic intensity endurance interval training is significantly more effective than performing the same total work at either lactate threshold or at 70% HRmax, in improving VO2max.”

My Comments: I’ve referenced this study before. One interesting note about this study is the fact that 4 minute intervals alternated with 3 minutes of walking improved VO2 Max more than 15 seconds alternated with 15 seconds of walking (shorter intervals are better however for lactic acid training, which creates a good “afterburn effect”). So again…a mix of longer intervals to train VO2 Max along with shorter HIIT workouts looks like a good idea.

Running Stairs

[Running Stairs is best for the shorter intervals…just be careful. I’ve come close to taking a fall more than once doing this at a football stadium.]

The Takeaway from all of this “VO2 Max” Talk

The thing you can take away from all of this technical jargon is to simply do some longer intervals mixed in with your shorter intense HIIT workouts. I would recommend possibly doing the longer intervals early in the week and shorten the duration but increase the intensity as you get closer to the weekend. This way you can get be sure to improve your VO2 Max with the longer intervals and get the HGH boosting effects of shorter more intense intervals. Both types of intervals will burn calories, so you really can’t lose using this strategy.

Here’s One Way of Setting that Up

Monday: 4 minutes of running alternated with 3 minutes of walking (do this 4-5 times…around 30 minutes)
Tuesday: 2 minutes of running followed by 2 minutes of walking (do this 7-8 times…around 30 minutes)
Wednesday: off
Thursday: 1 minute of running followed by 1 minute of walking (done for 15 minutes followed by 15 minutes of steady state cardio)
Friday: 30 seconds of running followed by 30 seconds of walking (done for 10 minutes followed by 20 minutes of steady state cardio)
Saturday: off
Sunday: off

Note: The term “running” is used loosely. You can do the equivalent on a bicycle, elliptical, stepmill, jump rope, body weight circuit, etc.

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{ 73 comments… read them below or add one }

Craig - Hollywood Body Fitness July 26, 2010 at 9:32 pm

I have discovered that I can maintain my fitness level at a very high level by doing much less work now… It’s as if I trained my body to be in top shape, and now it’s tuned to do so and won’t have it any other way.

Getting to the desired level and holding that level of fitness for a period of time is important I believe, to attain this physicality. It seems like a habitual thing.. and I’m sure if I changed to a sedentary crap eating lifestyle, it would eventually train my body to look bad in the same regard.

It’s kind of a cool concept and I’m still playing with it, but I can maintain 8% BF and below very easily now, but staying active and keeping my body in fit shape is very important in doing so.

Thanks for a great post Rusty!

Craig @ HollywoodBodyFitness.com

FitXcel July 26, 2010 at 9:38 pm

Rusty, this is exactly how I structure my HIIT sprint intervals.

Great post!

-Drew

Dean - Home Gym Junkie July 26, 2010 at 9:44 pm

I have always been a big fan of the HIIT principles.

For me the only reason to do any endurance or long stretches of cardio say over 20 minutes is for general fitness and improving VO2 Max. I don’t want to spend all my energy when doing a mixture of HIIT cardio and high intensity weight lifting will build a better body

For weight loss and a general athletic look, weight training is still #1

Manboobs July 26, 2010 at 9:46 pm

One of the ways that you can increase your fitness is a trick that many boxers utilize. It’s called high altitude training.

However, this article is really good because it gives you a different perspective on conditioning — when you are ready fit.

Many individuals, that are carrying excess body weight — especially in males — tend to carry it in the chest area. This can be a great technique for getting rid of Manboobs.

Charlie Junco July 26, 2010 at 10:13 pm

hi Rusty

this is my first comment in your blog and first of all i want to thank you or all your fitness tips thay have all helped me a lot men.

i am following your visual impact course an i`ve had some amazing results. Im now at phase 2, and im already pretty lean like at 10% bodyfat `cause i`ve been doing serious HIIT 5 days per week but i have been struggling to get ripped.

so my question is: should i follow this new approach with HIIT?
and will i burn the last bit of fat by doing this?

thanks men i hope you can answer

again thanks a lot for everything you have totally changed the way i see fitness thanks to you now a lot of people say i am the healthiest and the most exercise enthusiastic person they have met

Clint @ Crude Fitness July 26, 2010 at 10:15 pm

Great variation on a tried and true technique Rusty.
Tmuscle did a post on short, short intervals aswell last week which I’ve taken with a grain of salt. (like everything on there).

Can’t beat this method though 😉

C.

Alejandro "The Fittest Vegan" July 26, 2010 at 10:16 pm

Got it, I’m going to try that this week.

I enjoy the long intervals, 4-5 minute sprints all out and 5 minute walk, I know that I lose some muscle but I enjoy the challenge.

Pete - The Healthy Minute July 26, 2010 at 10:17 pm

Hey Rusty,

It’s great to read the science behind a concept I already knew to be true!

It’s always seemed the better shape I was in, the less exercise I had to do to maintain my physique. Now I understand why!

I love the idea of “fat loss momentum” and I think you could dedicate an entire book just on that subject alone. The hardest part of any fitness program is to just get started. It seems the same is true for fat loss on a cellular level.

Thanks for sharing the sample training cycle. I’m planning to print off a copy and give it a try. If it works well for me, I’ll be sure to share it with my readers!

Wishing you health and happiness,

~ Pete

Denmark July 26, 2010 at 10:17 pm

I agree with Craig, I am not at my goal, but around 8% BF and have no problem staying here.. I have been here for a few months now, even with drinking during weekends and junk food here and there.. I guess that has to do with a healthy lifestyle, I just don’t think about it anymore.. I just do it, it is all I know.. sounds weird, but true..

And to your post, very interessting.. I’ve heard and know a little bit about this (friend in the amry was explaing this to me once, how different lengths of intervals have different advantages). Now I will have to read up more about it 😉
Changing up your workouts is good to do, why not for your cardio to? Long intervals today, short tomorrow and why not a long distance run once a week or every other, swim, biking, indoor soccer?? Mixing it up is good!

I enjoyed the post and it really brought up some ideas… Thank you for the good reading…

Joe July 26, 2010 at 10:24 pm

Once again proof that doing short burst interval training is much more effective. But you still see people minlessly running mile after mile and spending hour after hour on a treadmill.
Time wasted for half the results.

Joe – Fat Burning Diets And Workouts

Clint @ Crude Fitness July 26, 2010 at 10:25 pm

I forgot to add, the sprints which are found to be even more effective (according to them, not me), are those which are 8 second sprints, followed by 12 seconds of rest and repeat x 60.

Im sure most of us would find difficulty in performing those ;).

C.

Sherah July 26, 2010 at 10:36 pm

This is quite a fascinating concept, that the fit get fitter. I have wondered that for some time now too. I was just commenting to my husband last night that I have been slacking in the exercise department the past 10 days (maybe 5 workouts as opposed to my normal 8-9) and also eating ALOT of sugar and just overall junk. Like 3 donuts at a time…yeah, NOT good but it was a funk I was in.

I’m doing better now but when I weighed the other day I was a pound LESS than before! I am at my goal weight currently and like my physique except my abs need to be more defined.

So strange, though. I have found it fascinating that my body is so forgiving, currently. I could have never gotten away with this before, it is EASY (or was!) for me to gain 5-8 lbs just in 10 days from eating solid junk like I have been. I’m not proud of it but I am proud of the way my metabolism has seemed to kick in, in a big way.

Also wanted to say I bought TacFit and am enjoying it, although I really miss my normal 15m HIIT running, then wait 5 min, then 20 min. walking afterwards that I’ve been doing a long time, as per your suggestion. But I want to give TacFit a good honest try – and clean up my eating for sure.

Andy July 26, 2010 at 10:46 pm

I come from a running background and I’ve often wondered why more of the training techniques that runners use haven’t transferred into this area (not sure what you’d call this site – it’s not bodybuilding, it’s not strength training,…). Runners tend to focus their training around improving things like VO2max and lactate threshold, and it’s great to see some discussion of this here. It’s easy to forget that “fit” means different things to different people – strength, speed, endurance, size, …

Doing lots of HIIT type training is often recommended around here, but many distance runners (10k and longer) would say that doing very fast intervals more than once a week will end in injury. The 10k is my favourite race and I do three types of intervals through the week – very fast (200m intervals, the closest I get to HIIT), mainly to improve running efficiency/technique; fast (600m to 1000m intervals) – these are the VO2max intervals; and fairly fast (up to 1 mile) – so called “tempo runs” which are supposed to raise your lactate threshold. Add to that one “long run” (1 to 1.5 hours) and a couple of weight sessions and that’s my weekly training plan.

This guy gives a bit more info on a typical 10k runners training regime if you’re interested: endurancetraining.com.au/Articles/4%20Day%20Week.pdf

Andy

Sue July 26, 2010 at 10:50 pm

So fit people release more fat from their fat stores than un-fit people. The released fat is split into 3 fatty acids and 1 glycerol.

David - Get Fit Get Lean July 26, 2010 at 10:51 pm

Rusty,

After switching to HIIT training I haven’t “ran” for a long distance at a steady pace for over a year. I get more done in less time and get a better workout. And I am in much better shape than I have ever been. Great post.

David

Kelly - Fitness Overhaul July 26, 2010 at 11:11 pm

Rusty,
I actually did very little cardio because it was so boring, until I learned about HIIT from you. Know I really enjoy doing it this way and do more than I ever have.

I think being fit and losing more fat may also explain why as people get older and more out of shape, they have a harder time losing or even maintaining their weight. I think this kind of starts a vicious cycle for most people. What do you think?

John Cortese - Cortese Training Systems July 26, 2010 at 11:30 pm

Nice! Intervals are great, just gotta know when to mix them in, when to change, etc.. As a former sprinter myself, I can attest that sprint training kicks the sh*t out of long distance running any day!! Just sayin’… 🙂

Tim - The Lean Look July 26, 2010 at 11:34 pm

Great post Rusty! I love the way you sum it up at the end and lay out a plan for how to implement it. When I mix up my interval times (stepmill 1 minute on 1 off, treadmill 45 sec. on 1:15 off, bodyweight curcuit 3 min on 1 min off, kettlebell curcuits 1:30 on 1 min off) I get my best results. I also do 15 minutes of steady state cardio 2-3 times per week after any curcuit except bodyweight curcuits which are exhausting.

– Tim

Alykhan - Fitness Breakout July 26, 2010 at 11:39 pm

Rusty,

Great tips on how to alternate long and short intervals. I’m glad you pointed out that once you get fit, it’s easier to burn fat. This is why it’s important to keep at it and never give up, because it takes some time to get there in the first place. The longer you maintain a fitness lifestyle, the better you will look over time.

Alykhan

Darrin July 27, 2010 at 12:01 am

I’m fortunate to be about where I want to be in terms of health and fitness, which makes it easier for me to cut loose and enjoy the summer to the fullest!

Great analysis on the importance of varying up your HIIT. I’m going to give this strategy a try when I jump rope.

Bryan July 27, 2010 at 12:02 am

Rusty I am going to add this link to my website for Workouts Without Weights.
This will be an excellent reference showing my readers a good variation to the typical cardio endurance workout.

Wazzup July 27, 2010 at 1:21 am

I don’t think I could survive 4 interval sessions a week (that and strength training and my steady state runs (one short, one long) and double especially when on a diet). I can squeeze in 1 interval session… but even that helps me tremendously.

Bryan - Karmony July 27, 2010 at 1:29 am

Love your work Rusty, brilliant article – keep up the great work.

-Bryan

David Gowing July 27, 2010 at 3:27 am

This is very similar to what I have been doing with my workouts for the last couple of months. I have definitely increased my level of fitness and like Craig, I have been able to maintain this higher level of fitness with a lot less work.

Plus being able to workout outdoors this time of year means you are getting a lot more fresh air, which I think is a real bonus for both physical and mental health.

Raymond-ZenMyFitness July 27, 2010 at 4:36 am

Excellent topic! Now that you mention this it starts to make sense.
I have only started to change my traditional hiit workouts with some long distant running to 3km sprints and I do feel like my body fat has started to drop again.
I have also started training for the Beep test which is a method to calculate VO2 max and it’s probably helped with the style of training you mention… Thanks for the guide on helping to increase my fitness
Raymond

Clement July 27, 2010 at 5:46 am

Hi rusty and guys, I just want to share some experience about this. As college soccer players, we always used to do these kinds of intervals. [email protected] x 4-6 (depending on the coach’s mood) with 3min rest in between. I agree that it’s taxing on your nervous system and so we only do this once a week (on Tuesdays). The other exclusive cardio session will be sprints or suicide shuttle sprints.

Mon/Wed/Fri will be something that looks like stronglifts followed by some possession football. Great times…

Anyway, this kind of intervals are called aerobic intervals. They are supposed to train your ability to operate and concentrate at high intensities for long periods. But bottom line: our group did more of these as we were already very quick. Variety is recommended for the general fitness population.

Also, I may not agree with your prescription of such a high volume of cardio. The steady state work post-intervals should be cut out unless you’re brisk-walking or doing some light cool-down sessions. Even so, these should be capped at 15min as you still have heavy sessions of weighted work if you’re resistance-training your lower body heavily on your strength sessions.

Rusty, I’d like to get your opinion on something: what would your advice be for someone who wants to build lean muscle from a training, dietary and recovery perspective, if he’s skinny fat
And wants to build a Taylor Lautner physique?

Anna July 27, 2010 at 6:51 am

Thanks for this article Rusty, in particular the suggested weekly plan which is extremely useful.

I would just like to ask a question about this – in previous posts you have recommended following HIIT with some steady state cardio – do you recommend the same after each interval session outlined above?

Howard - Energia Fitness July 27, 2010 at 7:24 am

Hi Rusty

Great post. I used to do these longer intervals when I was trying to improve my 5k time, which they certainly did. I have tried both long distance running and HIIT to get me lean and I have to say HIIT has been far more effective for me. Those days of doing 10k are definitely gone for me.
For anyone who would like a quick test to measure their Vo2 Max here are a couple of treadmill examples.

1.Set a program for 12 minutes on incline 1% and just run as far as you can.
Take your distance covered and put it into this equation

VO2max = (Distance covered in metres – 504.9) / 44.73

eg if you did 3400 m

VO2max = (3400 – 504.9) / 44.73
= 64.72 ml/kg/min.

2. Start on a treadmill with a speed of 11.3kph (7.02mph) and 0% incline then every minute increase the incline by 2% and continue doing this till you are exhausted

Time speed incline
1 11.3 0%
2 11.3 2%
3 11.3 4%
4 11.3 6%
5 11.3 8%
etc

Take you time and put in this equation.

VO2max = 42 + (Time x 2)

“Time” is the total time of the test expressed in minutes and fractions of a minute

eg if you did 13.15 secs (and well done if you did)

(13.25 minutes) – worked out as a fraction

VO2max = 42 + (13.25 x 2)
VO2max = 68.5 mls/kg/min

If anybody can do over 15 minutes doing this I want to hear from you!

Here is the ideal VO2max scores for various sports

Vo2 Max Sport
>75 ml/kg/min Endurance Runners and Cyclists
65 ml/kg/min Squash
60-65 ml/kg/min Football (male)
55 ml/kg/min Rugby
50 ml/kg/min Volleyball (female)
50 ml/kg/min Baseball (male)

All the best

Howard

Dave - Not Your Average Fitness Tips July 27, 2010 at 7:48 am

Rusty,
I remember reading this study when it was first released. Definitely highlights the importance of increasing VO2 Max. I’ve always tried to cycle different ways of performing HIIT, sometimes long interval, sometimes short interval with some steady state cardio thrown in here and there. However, I usually do that within one workout (short interval HIIT followed by steady state followed by long interval HIIT). The approach you outlined performing long interval HIIT earlier in the week and short interval HIIT later in the week might be a good change of pace for me.
Dave

Alex Allmert - Hardcore Natural Bodybuilding Tips July 27, 2010 at 7:58 am

This may be just a coincidence but just yesterday I performed a variation of this exercise, I ran in my neighborhood, unfortunately I did not measure the time.

So basically what I did was run at top speed with all the strength that I had to one corner of the neighborhood.
Did 20 push-ups.
Than ran towards another corner closer to my house and did that mountain climbers exercise, I should have done burpees.

After that I went into my house, had a drink and after a minute or two did the same thing over again…it was tiring but is a good exercise.

I’ve based it roughly on the exercise mentioned in this article:
http://www.rosstraining.com/articles/qualityoverquantity.html

I don’t think that I am certified to talk about fat loss because I’m not fat…I had a pot belly once but I don’t think that I have the right to talk about fat loss as I’ve never really been fat.

Kevin - Dharma Fitness Path July 27, 2010 at 8:25 am

Interesting post as always Rusty. “The fit get fitter”…….I’ll have to use that sometime.

Hazman July 27, 2010 at 9:44 am

Yes I believe that brief exercise is what most people like to do, the body is mysterious and works in many different ways, if theres enough intensity and volume, in a short workout, you will definitely see results happen, obviously with proper nutrition too, other then that, great article once again Rusty.

Tom July 27, 2010 at 10:21 am

Rusty, Nice article. I enjoy the variety of topics that you cover. It’s nice to read technical and scientific posts. I’m guilty of using vague generalities in most of my posts, so I appreciate how you back up your data with studies and evidence.

[email protected] July 27, 2010 at 10:25 am

Great post Rusty,

I’m a big believer in this type of threshold training to increase VO2 max. A trick I use is to do these types of intervals as part of my cross training.

When I want to increase my ability to gulp in, and use more oxygen for running, I do swimming intervals on my cross training days. It’s amazing how much faster I can increase my oxygen intake by doing the intervals in the pool instead of on the road.

[email protected]

Mike @ Papa Star Health July 27, 2010 at 11:12 am

Very interesting article Rusty. The momentum piece seems to be true. Whenever people get moving in a direction it snowballs itself. It’s true in any area of life. Success, chronic failure or lackadaisical behavior, weight loss and weight gain, money gain or loss are all affected by momentum. Taking the first steps in getting going is the hard part because progress is slow at first. But once you get moving in the right or wrong direction it’s very hard to stop the momentum even if you wanted to. This is a great reminder to not only get in great shape and stay there but to get on the right track in all areas of life to achieve goals.

Janos - Bodyweight Exercise Tips July 27, 2010 at 11:21 am

Hey Rusty,

Again another great and informative post. The United States Air Force used the ergo-cycle V02 Max yearly fit tests before they changed to a more standardized military style fit test on Jan 1 2004. There were a lot of concerns with the accuracy of the test hence the reason they when to the more typical military style test (aerobic (running), push-ups, body composition, and sit-ups). The Air Force has again changed the fit test standards on 1 Jan 2010 which now requires airman to take the fitness test twice a year as opposed to once a year.

I believe V02 max to be a good benchmark test for fitness if it is tested correctly. There is a lot of sound science studies in which an athlete uses oxygen vs the average person. Lots more to be learned there. I also agree with a lot of people who have posted in that interval training is great. Personally I find that I have less of a chance of getting bored with the same old routine when incorporating and interval type program. I also use this methodology with my body weight exercise programs.

Luke M-Davies July 27, 2010 at 11:47 am

I’ts so great that you are still pushing the interval training message. It was when I first discovered your site years ago that I made the best change to my CV training – incorporating HIIT, and I have never looked back since. It has proven to be a highly effective fat burning device for me! Equally, ever since I shed my (puppy) fat as a teenager I have maintained a lean physique which supports the latest findings re: VO2 max and fit people.

I recently achieved a 5k PB of 16 minutes 40 seconds and I put some of this down to effective HIIT training!

Anna - Path to Fat Loss July 27, 2010 at 11:52 am

Wow Rusty, you’ve done it again! You always find new ways to burn more fat and I love that! I will test this new schedule this week. I plan to do them on the step mill as I probably would get way too exhausted doing intervals on the treadmill for that long. This ensures that I don’t fall on my face 🙂

Yet another reason to stay fit ~ burn more calories.

Anna

TLP July 27, 2010 at 1:17 pm

The theory seems interesting…I’ll have to tweak my routine a bit, but I think it is worth trying…it’ll be fun trying to keep track of what to do on each day…..

Travis-freefitnessebook.com July 27, 2010 at 2:57 pm

I’ve always known that obviously fit people can put out more than out of shape people, but you explained it very well and now I know the exact reason why. VO2. Thanks for the post, I learned a thing or two 🙂

Darren July 27, 2010 at 3:12 pm

This makes sense. I dealt with calculating vo2 in my fitness classes and it makes total sense. It just gets a bit to scientific for the average person trying to lose fat but I guess if you really want to get lean, you’ll do the research on it.

Ian @ home workout and fitness July 27, 2010 at 3:20 pm

Darren-

I am curious about what sort of swimming intervals you use to increase VO2 Max. How long/intense were the periods of activity and how long were the rest periods? Pretty to similar to Rusty’s article above?

I really love to surf, but the waves can be pretty crappy for a few months at a time, and my surfing/paddling fitness suffers as a result. I have attempted to create a little interval circuit that actually works quite well to maintain my paddling fitness (check out this Surfing Fitness Workout).

But, I would like to see how longer band paddling intervals could possibly help to increase my VO2 max and general paddling fitness in general, since I I don’t currently have access to a pool.

Rusty, thanks again for another easy to use, de-mystified fitness article.

Ray Harris - Six Pack Abs Diet July 27, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Excellent article Rusty! I’ve always found intervals more effective for getting me leaner than doing solid state cardio. This is excellent motivation to stay in shape and improve your level of fitness.

Keep up the good work!

Thomas - WaistHips&Thighs July 27, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Great post Rusty!

I have actually tried this for a few weeks but man is it exhausting. I did a stretch where I sprinted for 90 seconds and walked for 60 for 15 minutes twice a week. But it doesn’t leave much left for the rest of the week and you really don’t need to do anything. With your tips and vacation body blueprint not to mention some eat stop eat here and there I’m in my best shape ever.

I have to admitt the getting from 226 to 195 was the easiest part but going from 195 to 186 seems to be the hardest.

-Thomas

Anita July 28, 2010 at 3:47 am

Great post Rusty. I have tried and tested many different variations of workout intensities and combinations. I find that for me HIIT workouts are best. But it means varying the intensity of my intervals as well as the type of intervals I do.

One paper that really made an impact (going with the spirit of you referencing papers 🙂 is the CrossFit Journals definition of “What is Fitness?” It goes on to say that fitness is achieved by exposing your body to as much variety of as possible in terms of exercises.

I like that concept as I get bored easily – haha. Thanks for the great data.

Yara July 29, 2010 at 12:24 pm

Thank youu! especially for your comments which simplify and point out the important details!
and most of all for your schedule 😀
Love it!

RN July 29, 2010 at 3:46 pm

“The more fit someone is, the more fat they will burn after a workout session.”

I’d really like to believe this, but why is it that the fitter and leaner a person is, the more difficult it is to lose fat or those last few pounds?

Paulo Amorim July 29, 2010 at 5:47 pm

This article is very interesting. It highlights the importance of increasing VO2 Max. But i think different bodies require different approaches.

Daveconditioning July 29, 2010 at 6:51 pm

The best way to increase vo2 max is through tabata training

Seth July 29, 2010 at 10:41 pm

hey Rusty,
A concern I have is it sounds great but wow that seems like a lot of sprinting in a week. I don’t see how to do it with my physically demanding job, weight training 4x a week, I would be over-trained by the end of the week putting in 4x a week sprinting. Maybe I am just weak, but I can’t recover fast enough to do it 4x a week unless I just stop doing the weight training all together. My strength and diet are really good, I don’t do much cardio really, but I do know that my conditioning is bad. I would like to try out the longer sprints and shorter ones and try 2x maybe 3x a week to start.

admin July 30, 2010 at 9:22 pm

Alright…let me see how many comments I can respond to before the weekend begins.

@ Craig,

Yea…There are certainly many routes to staying lean. I just like the idea of yet another fat loss tool.

@ Dean,

Lifting is a great way to look good along with solid diet…but it does feel good to know you can run for x number of miles if the situation demanded it.

@ Manboobs,

I haven’t tried high altitude training. It sounds interesting.

@ Charlie,

It isn’t completely necessary to change up your HIIT. The routine your are following now works extremely well. If you do want to mix things up, simply try to routine I outlined at the end of this article. I’m mixing in a few longer than normal intervals just to keep my cardio fresh.

@ Clint,

Tmuscle has some good info, mixed in with crazy amounts of supplement sales…but the whole site has a sleazy feel to it…the “go big or go home”, skull caps, etc…I can’t stand that stuff.

@ Alejandro,

I have a nephew who is in junior high and is running a mile in the 4:30 range. I want to see how far I can get in 4-5 minutes…probably not close to a mile. It is weird how each generation improves athletically. The best kids on my track team in the early 80’s were in the 5:30 range for the mile (if memory serves me correctly).

@ Pete,

There really is something to be said for fat loss momentum. I never lose fat in a linear fashion. I will push and push for 4-6 weeks and at some point towards the end it drops off systematically until I’m ripped. It does get tougher if you only have 4-5 pounds to lose…but this is typically what I have seen.

@ Denmark,

I’m completely content at 8%, but I know some people like getting really lean. Every once in a while I do a 4-6 week push to get a bit leaner, but not as often as when I was younger. I have a Beta cardio book where I talk in depth about cardio interval length…but not as long as what I mention in this post.

@ Joe,

The really short explosive intervals are great for lactic acid HGH release…these longer ones are better for improving VO2 max. I am now doing 2 of each per week…and tracking my results.

@ Clint,

That Tabata study has some flaws. I may do a more detailed post at some point.

@ Sherah,

TACFIT will serve you well. I devote 3 months per year to this body weight only stuff…typically Oct-Dec. Last year I did Body Weight Blueprint for Fat Loss…which is a less intense version of TACFIT. I missed my normal HIIT, but looked great just by following Scott Sonnon’s principles. My joints felt way better and I was more limber than before I started. When I resumed my normal workout in January I didn’t skip a beat and actually had an easier time with a lot of my routine. Scott’s stuff increases your pain tolerance. Anyway…I am excited about TACFIT as well…will probably start it up in the Fall (already purchased it).

@ Andy,

Thanks for the info…and yes, the general fitness field could learn a ton from runners. I plan to incorporate more of this info into my site going forward. I have done HIIT for 20+ years and haven’t been injured yet, but it is mainly on a treadmill or cardio machine. I agree that someone would need to exercise more precaution if they were doing this on the pavement.

@ David,

I have to be honest, I haven’t ran a long distance in a long time as well. I do plan on adding in some 4 minute intervals, which will be as long as I go.

@ Kelly,

I completely agree that older people often aren’t as active…get in worse shape…burn less fat…gain weight, which makes them even less active…and the cycle continues. I have a feeling that won’t be an issue for you or me…it all comes down to a choice.

@ John Cortese,

Sprinting is way more fun no doubt. I was never a sprinter, but did the long jump when I was younger. I kind of miss that feeling of going all out. You push a little harder when results are measured (time for a sprinter or distance for a long jumper).

@ Tim,

That body weight stuff is rough. I swear…that simple “Crazy 8” circuit put out by Craig Ballantyne kicks my butt every single time. Some of Adam Steer, Ryan Murdock, and Scott Sonnon’s stuff is even worse.

@ Alykhan,

I think a lot of people expect results too quickly. Like you said, people need to “keep at it”. The longer someone is away from training the longer it will take for them to get into fat burning mode as well.

@ Darrin,

That reminds me, I need to mix in some jump rope. I haven’t done it for a couple of years now. It works like crazy, but also makes my calves sore as heck the first 4-5 times I get back into it.

@ Bryan,

Thanks for the link.

@ Wazzup,

It all depends upon what you are doing when you aren’t training. I spend the working part of my day at a computer in a comfortable chair. My work involves very little physical activity…sometimes I feel 4 times per week is too little. Someone who has a more physically demanding job wouldn’t want to do as much. Great point on tweaking it to fit your circumstances.

@ Bryan,

Thanks for the compliment.

@ David,

Great point on getting outside. I haven’t gone outside as much this year as in the past. That helps a bunch…plus that is what summer is all about. Thanks for the reminder…must get outdoors more.

@ Raymond,

If anyone is stuck at a certain body fat level and has been doing shorter intervals, it would serve them well to mix in some of these longer intervals. Cool that it is working for you.

@ Clement,

I am only recommending the steady state stuff after the brief HIIT shorter interval work…as they aren’t as taxing as these longer intervals. The steady state I recommend is of the lower intensity variety. I like the workouts you outlined for college soccer. Soccer players are in outstanding condition. I should get a guest post from a top soccer player conditioning coach at some point. As far as going from skinny fat to Taylor Launter? A period of time building muscle without putting on excess fat. I like a mix of higher reps for 2 months, medium for 2 months, and some really heavy low rep work. The diet needs to be at maintenance or just a hair above…to gain muscle without adding body fat. It doesn’t make sense to bulk and go from “skinny fat” to “really fat”.

@ Anna,

I would add steady state just after the short interval work. So short HIIT for 10-15 minutes followed by steady state 15-20 minutes. The longer intervals will most likely take close to 30-40 minutes to complete…so no need for anything extra after that.

@ Howard,

That is an awesome comment! Very cool…as good (or better) than my post. I will test my VO2 Max on the treadmill. I’m a treadmill ninja for about 60 seconds, but slowly loose those skills after a minute or two. This could be humbling!

@ Dave,

I have done the mixing them all into one workout as well. Works too.

@ Alex,

Simply staying lean is as tough as losing body fat. Either way you are burning body fat…so your fat loss tips are valid even though you have never had to lose a lot of weight.

@ Kevin,

Your site is looking good.

@ Hazman,

Your site is coming along well. I like the theme with the director’s chair.

@ Tom,

I use generalities as well…just like to mix in the studies this stuff is based upon from time to time.

@ Darren,

That is cool. I never thought of swimming as a way to increase lung capacity for other activities. It makes a lot of sense!

@ Mike,

You are right, it is funny how these “Get Fit” principles are similar to other success principles. Ideally people can get in shape and while experiencing success in other areas of life. Typically this involves a lot of hard work (fitness, money, relationships, etc) to reap the rewards down the road.

@ Janos,

Never knew that the Air Force was so on top of it. It is funny that behind the scenes sports, arm forces, martial arts, etc…are using principles that the fitness industry could benefit tremendously from. A lot of fitness people are too closed minded to consider some of this stuff. I say bring it on…I love learning and implementing principles from various disciplines.

@ Luke,

A 5k at 16 minutes and 40 seconds…you are much faster man than me!

@ Anna,

You think the Treadmill is easier than the StepMill? The stepmill kicks my butt…it is also my current favorite cardio machine.

@ TLP,

Won’t hurt to give it a shot. That is what all of these fitness tips are for…just things to consider implementing into the routine.

@ Darren,

Yes…I think it could get too complicated. My plan is to just keep it simple by adding in long intervals along with the shorter ones.

@ Ian,

You bet…hopefully Darren will answer your question. If not, hit him up on his blog http://moreprimetime.com . He is good at responding.

@ Ray,

Can’t go wrong with intervals as long as they are challenging.

@ Thomas,

HIIT, Steady State, and ESE….a winning combo for sure. Those last 10 pounds will be tough, but you will get there!

@ Anita,

I like a lot of the Crossfit principles, but like to train in a little more controlled manner. I know a lot of people who do really well with Crossfit, so props to those guys.

@ RN,

That is the one exception. Your body will fight you a bit to lose the last few pounds. I don’t have enough time to explain the details…but that is when fat loss slows for everyone.

@ Seth,

If someone has a physically demanding job they would have to scale back.

-Rusty

Sylvee July 31, 2010 at 3:18 am

Hey Rusty! Awesome website! One thing that’s irked me for a while now though is your usage of the word “insure.” In every instance I’ve seen, you should have used the word “ensure.” Thanks for all your hard work and research; I learn so much from your blog!

Chris July 31, 2010 at 1:16 pm

Yo Rusty,

Just a tip. Go ahead and start using the TACFIT warm-up and cool-down exercises, even if you don’t plan on starting the full program until later.

Works WONDERS for your joints and will help prevent injury during sprint intervals.

admin July 31, 2010 at 3:20 pm

@ Sylvee,

Yeah…my dad would be bummed out! He was an English major and studying at Standford the be an English professor before he got sidetracked. I was always more of a math guy…I was even on the math team in Jr. High (read: Geek).

Anyway, I know that I carve the English language at times. I’ll try and improve 🙂

Thanks,

-Rusty

Lasse Højbjerg August 2, 2010 at 4:11 am

I’m confused. When I do HIIT I usually jog at a steady pace for a minute, then I cram up the speed to almost sprint for 30 seconds, then jog for a minute and repeat the process etc. Is this a wrong approach??

gill August 2, 2010 at 6:34 am

great post as always

i have a theory with your aproach to cardio, i mean first hitt and after that steady cardio, making it a 30-40 min rutine ,
i know that there is no amunt of exercise to save you from a bad diet, but it can be some slight help.
as you already mentioned ones related with cardio , how come when the fashonable exercise were hours and hours of cardio, you saw lots of skinny people in the gym(in fact in the need of a little muscle, just a little) and now in the post-meathead era, you see lots of non-as-lean-as-they-think-they-are guys, (but dont tell them that, never!!)

anyway
my theory is that a well developed cardio rutine(such as yours) will cut your body fat a little extra, not enough to allow you to eat like a pig but making a difference of 1 or even 2 bodyfat% numbers.
for example, following intermitent fasting in a lets say free spirit(not obsesing on what you eat) can give you a 10% bodyfat by it self and then you only need some straight training to show some muscle, but if you add this kind of cardio you could get to a little lower level, like 9 or 8% and mantain it with a relatively confortable lifestyle

what do you think about my theory?
(by the way, love your idea of this workout, never the same hitt in the week, your body never gets used to it, genius)

CR August 6, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Rusty,

Excellent post as usual. I knew nothing about VO2 max. I find it very interesting that this level of performance is directly linked to Genetic Variation which I talk about all the time.

I also like the fact that once you reach optimal VO2 max, it may be maintained by one exercise of 8 minutes a week.

Really good quality information.

Jason August 13, 2010 at 6:42 pm

It is nice to have some science behind the claims people make about doing specific types of training.

When I use to run xcountry in university we often did interval training. We would not walk between intervals but do a slow jog. This was to help increase recovery and vo2 max.

lipo August 14, 2010 at 7:41 am

Interval training is fantastic for losing quick weight, reducing the need for liposuction. I tend to do 1 minute on 9.0 kph and then 1 minute on 14.0 kph, raising the kph by one after every minute. This workout elapses for 30 minutes, so by the end you are both sweating and pleased with what you have done.

Trisha August 15, 2010 at 10:16 am

First time commenter, long time reader! I have recently started my journey to weight loss and a healthier lifestyle via HIIT and the eat stop eat method. I’ve already lost 30lbs., but I’ve noticed that if I skip a day of working out at the gym I instantly gain .5-1lbs by the next morning. I’m assuming it’s probably “water weight”, but how do I keep this from happening? I feel so guilty if I have to skip a gym session, for the fear I may gain a little weight the next day. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

AC August 17, 2010 at 4:11 pm

I am currently doing research for a home-based training system using short but intense workout. After researching around I decided to try crossfit (www.crossfit.com) and signed up at a Crossfit gym near my house. My goal is to simply learn their methods. I have to tell you guys that this method of training is just brutal—underline “brutal”.

I am currently going thru the 101 class and every workout (6) has lasted less than 12 minutes. Yes, only 12 minutes but they have kicked my butt; I am always sore the next day. For nutrition they ask you to do the paleo diet. I like it since it is very simple to follow.

Let me give you a few sample workouts from our 101 class:

Workout.-
-200m run
-3 rounds (in order given) of
KB swing @45lbs [email protected] women
air squat
crunches (using lumbar support)
*exercises are performed using 21, 12, 9 rep series: KB swing, air squat, crunch (repeat).
-200m run

Workout.-
3 rounds (in order given) of
Standing press @45lbs [email protected] women
push-up
200m run
*press & push-up are performed using 21, 12, 9 rep series: press + push-up + run (repeat).

The above workouts are performed with no rest. You simply blast thru it. Both of these workouts are for time. The thing that makes it fun is that you compete against everybody in the room.

This one we did last night.-
6 rounds of
-KB sumo lift @35lbs [email protected] women
-burpee

This is how they made us do this one. You go for 30s performing sumo lifts, then you do burpees. Rest for 60s. The total reps per round is the sum of the sumo lifts and burpees.

What have I learned so far? Short and high intensity workouts can be effective and performed in less than 20 minutes. I was skeptical but my experience so far has made me a believer.

Take care,
/AC

Seth August 18, 2010 at 1:36 am

Thanks again Rusty for the good info! update!!

All I know is that I was stuck for awhile at the same 10% BF, so I added some long distance running (8 miles, long for me) once a week and added some sprints here and there and still was trying to do one or the other of squats and deads once a week,alternating every week, while staying on a good diet, and nothing really happened. But about 3 weeks ago I decided to do Hiit 3x a week, alternating sprinting, & body weight routine and bam! I started shedding fat like a sieve. I know I am down at least 8%bf to lower now, I only have a little, tiny, microscopic amount to go, right above my belly button to get rid of that last bit, I am so happy, I’m seeing my obliques cutting back up through my stomach in a pretty clear ridge, its so awesome. The only thing is that I am so tired and I am losing a little bit of strength, but I am backing off after this week and relaxing a bit and start it back over after a week or so of rest. I never knew I would have to be so light in weight to get down to this BF % 6’2″ 167lbs (seriously I have no strength in my small legs, my knee keeps me from lifting heavy on anything, oh well Hiit doesnt hurt it tho!)

Christina Moore August 23, 2010 at 12:55 pm

Great post Rusty! It is nice to see some hard cold evidence behind something I always believed in. HIIT training has not only kept me in shape, but has gotten me into better shape. Can’t go wrong with that! 🙂
http://tips.become.com/activity-shoes.html

April August 24, 2010 at 3:32 pm

Very true for me. workout I did yesterday-

6 min of running(2 min moderate speed/1 min sprinting)
then immediately followed by
10 pullups
5 one arm pushups(each arm) , 15 diamonds
20 barbell high pulls
3 sets with no rest!

hop back on treadmill

6 min of running(same intervals as above)
10 jump squats
10 bulgarian lunges each leg
15 one leg squats each leg

x2 with no rest between exercises or sets( I only do 2 sets of elgs because i put on muscle rather easily on my lower body)

back to treadmill for 6 min of running( same intervals as above)

Total time – 28 minutes.

Effective?

I have people at my gym ask me all the time how I can be in and out of the gym and look the way I do. I use this routine to help prepare me for a fitness competition which I placed 1st in.

All the time I go to the gym and see people working out when I get there…and by the time I am showered up and leaving – the same people are still working out and not looking near as good as I do(not being vain but it’s true!)

Maybe short workouts wouldn’t work out for me had I not pushed myself in the past. Also I am in my mid 30’s and never stopped working out since I left the Army. Although there were times i did take some time off….my body still seemed to remember and was able to come back. My workouts might be shorter but they are alot more intense than what I see at the gym- some girl lifting pink dumbells for an hour followed by waving her arms wildly on the elliptical or treadmill for another hour.

Azri Miskal September 18, 2010 at 10:26 am

Another reason why people stop before they see results – especially when they have not exercised for a long time. Many times, people don’t know that they need some time before their body becomes more capable at burning fat and helping them to lose weight. Dishearted after a week with no results, they go back to unhealthy habits and the cycle repeats and is never ending.

But I find the relationship between VO2 and fat loss really interesting. Shall find out more, thank you!

Bleep Test December 6, 2010 at 2:22 pm

That’s actually really interesting. I would have thought fit people would benefit more from a longer workout, but clearly not.

Bryan - Turbo Fitness Training January 7, 2011 at 12:02 am

This article is very interesting. It highlights the importance of increasing VO2 Max.

I also like how you put your point in with the interviewes responce.

Love to see more of these interviews

Phillip Hawkins April 15, 2011 at 11:53 pm

Thank you Dusty for the blog if anyone is interested i have recipes over at http://www.foodbodyfit.com to help u burn fat. once again thank you Dusty

Mitch Stucker January 12, 2012 at 5:17 pm

Thanks for your great site. It’s nice to see a site where info is shared and we “respondents” are treated as peers.

In reference to your comments about the order of long versus short intervals during a weekly training cycle, I would refer you to Tudor Bompa’s 1983 book, Theory and Mrthodology of Training: The Key to Athletic Training. He notes that high intensity intervals should preceded indurance (over two minutes) because endurance intervals will inadvertently tax your your high intensity systems which take several days to recover. If you start early in the week with high intensity intervals and proceed to less intense intervals, by the time you get to the endurance intervals later in the week, all that is not worn out is your endurance (oxygen) system.

Another very practical book of his is Periodization of Strength, last know publication date by me was May 1996. Professor Bompa’s is (was?) a training and coaching researcher AND Olympic level coach, writing at York University in Toronto, Canada and was published by Veritas Publishing in Toronto. I know that these works are dated, but I haven’t seen anything reputable that overturns these very readable and practical works. Another great source for interval training is the seminal and very readable text by Fox and Mathews. It is probably out of print and I only have notes taken from the 1980’s when I used it. Even then it was old.

Thanks again for your work and open approach.

Mitch in Albuquerque

Craig September 2, 2012 at 8:08 am

I recently bought Visual Impact Cardio and would like to start this program.

My concern is with the instruction on how to determine lactate threshold (LT)–set the cardio machine at a challenging level, work at that level for 20 minutes, and your heart rate should be 165-175 BPM if you are at LT, with no adjustments given for age, weight, fitness level.

I am a 64 year old man and using the crude rule of thumb that maximum heart rate = 220 minus age, my maximum heart rate is 156, well under your minimum of 165 for LT. I have also been told that it’s not a good idea for people in general to exercise above 90 percent of their maximum heart rate, which in my case would be 140.

Should I really aim for an LT that is HIGHER than my MAXIMUM heart rate?

.

Will Fitness February 11, 2013 at 5:28 pm

It makes sense because the fact that one is already fit puts you at an advantage and any small physical activity will benefit you more because the body is more receptive of it and can make the best of it.

how to study effectively March 20, 2013 at 4:35 pm

Thanks for finally talking about >Brief Exercise Found to Be Much More Effective for
“Fit” People – Fitness Black Book <Loved it!

Jason April 19, 2013 at 10:58 am

I am just beginning to re incorporate Hiit training in my workouts. My attempt at becoming lean began in january 2011. I started out 5′ 10″ 268lbs 30+ bf% and am currently at 165lbs ~13bf%. I think one of the best decisions I made along the lines of staying motivated was to limit weighing myself to a maximum of once per week, I feel that working towards a goal weight held me back more than just trying to like whats in the mirror a little more every day.

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