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

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.

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

  1. 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.

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

  3. 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.

  4. 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?


  5. 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

  6. Pingback: The 30-30 HIIT Cardio Workout. A Great "Go-to" HIIT Workout. | Fitness Black Book
  7. 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

  8. Pingback: Advanced HIIT Training: High Intensity Interval Training Workouts | Not Your Average Fitness Tips
  9. That’s actually really interesting. I would have thought fit people would benefit more from a longer workout, but clearly not.

  10. 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!

  11. 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.


    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.

  12. 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!)

  13. I am currently doing research for a home-based training system using short but intense workout. After researching around I decided to try crossfit ( 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:

    -200m run
    -3 rounds (in order given) of
    KB swing @45lbs men/@25lbs women
    air squat
    crunches (using lumbar support)
    *exercises are performed using 21, 12, 9 rep series: KB swing, air squat, crunch (repeat).
    -200m run

    3 rounds (in order given) of
    Standing press @45lbs men/@25lbs women
    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 men/@15lbs women

    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,

  14. 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!

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

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