I’ve been away from the blog due to academic obligations, and this is frustrating because I don’t like leaving things unattended. It has to be done though, so in order to appease your appetites for training bits and bytes, the least I could do is record a couple of my workouts this week (for the training must never end) and post them here.
My workout routine has changed yet again, and this is partly due to the need for less time in the gym over the next 2 weeks. This could apply to anyone who is a bit pressed for time, so cue High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)!
We’ve already discussed this form of training in other articles but here you’ll get to see a particular style of HIIT, based on the Tabata protocol. Izumi Tabata is an exercise physiologist, and was the first (as far as I can see) who investigated a particular style of interval training involving a very simple protocol: Short workouts involving continuous sets of 20 seconds duration at a high intensity, interrupted by 10 second intervals.
The earliest paper I can find in which he actually looks at this system and how it affects aerobic/anaerobic systems is this one in which the group compares the above protocol (for 4 minutes) to a group which does 60 minutes of moderate intensity exercise, over a period of 6 weeks.
“In conclusion, this study showed that moderate-intensity aerobic training that improves the maximal aerobic power does not change anaerobic capacity and that adequate high-intensity intermittent training may improve both anaerobic and aerobic energy supplying systems significantly, probably through imposing intensive stimuli on both systems.”
Since then, there have been a number of forays into the effects that this simple protocol has on metabolism and performance. There are a few papers listed at the end of this post for your perusal, but in a nutshell they reveal a few important aspects of HIIT (not just the Tabata protocol, but HIIT methods which vary in duration, exercises and intensity – the bottom line is the comparison of HIIT to traditional, extended duration, lower intensity modes of exercise):
- Increased fat and muscle glycogen oxidation (that’s burning for the non-science literate).
- Increased duration of elevated metabolism post-workout.
- Maintenance and even increase in levels of lean muscle tissue.
- Improvement in both aerobic and anaerobic energy production pathways.
What the papers omit:
- A supreme bad-ass feeling post-workout (after the nausea has subsided:P)
- A slight tendency to condescend on those who are too lazy to break into a sweat.
- The justification to look at muscle bound body-builder types and understand that they could never keep up with you in a workout (bragging rights).
So, without further ado, here are two workouts I did over two days (one day for upper body, one for lower, followed by one or two days of rest). Each workout last for 20 minutes, but if you include a good warm up, setting up your circuits, and a good stretch at the end – which should never be neglected – then you’ll push your total time to about 35 minutes! Still not half bad for a workout that technically supercharges your physique.
Notes: This is NOT the only, or the best way to perform this workout. You can use a huge variety of movements and you can tailor your workout for your level and also for your goals. HIIT will always be intense, and will always focus on overall physiological adaptation, including fat burning and muscle building, but you can tweak the output somewhat by mixing and matching exercises.
What I do in these workouts is select compound movements, which involve multiple muscle groups, and I try not to have two consecutive movements which share the same muscle groups. That way, I can keep my intensity as high as possible, blasting repetitions out at full throttle which keeps the furnace stoked at maximum, while the other muscle groups get a very brief chance to recover precious little energy stores for their next semi suicidal action sequence.
DAY 1 – Upper body Tabata
5 exercises x 8 circuits. 20 seconds work/10 seconds rest.
- Push up (what began as an atomic push up on the TRX, evolved into a simple push up because I didn’t plan out my circuits well. The best workouts involve as little moving around as possible from station to station – a lesson in planing not to be repeated!)
- Assisted chin ups
- Barbell clean and press
- TRX muscle ups
- Kettlebell abdominal extensions
The first two circuits………..
…..and 10 minutes later, the last two circuits:
Day 2 – Lower body Tabata
5 exercises x 8 circuits. 20 seconds work/10 seconds rest.
- Alternating barbell lunges
- Stiff leg barbell dead-lifts
- Box jumps
- Kettlebell swings
- Extended plank
Mid workout (circuits 3 and 4)…..
….and 15 minutes into the workout (last two sets):
Note how my breathing rate and exertion are significantly increased in the second parts of each workout (i’m fucking shattered!! ). Heart rate at the end of both workouts was about 160 BPM.
Seriously, by about circuit 3 or 4, my body is screaming for oxygen, and my muscles are on fire. Some nausea may kick in towards the end, even sooner if your fitness level is relatively low. I felt nauseous toward the end of day 1′s workout, but surprisingly not on day 2.
How intense is intense?
Intense is relative to your level of fitness. The idea is to actually make it through the workout, and any significant increase in physical output will get the job done. This means a fast uphill walk for 20 seconds would be ideal for a sofa surfer, as a single interval.
If you are going all out, balls to the wall in your workouts, then you needn’t workout like this more than 3-4 days a week. Rest is crucial, especially when using HIIT, as your body needs the rest days to recuperate fully from the intense demands these workouts place on your system. Also, it isn’t recommended that you continue this for more than about a month. Remember, periodise, change your routines up and allow particular physiological systems to recover while you exercise and improve others.
And, most importantly, don’t forget nutrition. This can make or break your routines/physique.
What are you waiting for? Grab your vomit bags and get to it, you reap what you sow!!
abdominals aerobic anaerobic Back Barbell Biceps burnout Cables Carbs cardio Chest compound core Dumbbell energy exercise fat Fat burn Fats fitness glucose glutes HIIT intensity Isolation Kettlebell lower body Lunge Nutrition Plank Proteins Quads resistance rest Shoulders Size squat strength Summer Thighs training Triceps TRX weight loss workout