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Updated on March 1, 2012

HIIT Me With Our Best Shot

I do not like aerobics. Never did. Never will! Now, with that said I feel better. However, in order to be physically fit and healthy, attention must be paid to strengthening the cardiovascular system. Some cardio benefit is gained by lifting weights and reducing the amount of rest time between sets. Ultimate cardio fitness requires a more concentrated exercise effort that forces deep breathing and an infusion of oxygen in the bloodstream.

Most bodybuilders do cardio work to lower their body fat. Care must be taken to spare muscle while at the same time burning fat. Take a look at long distance runners for an example of lowered body fat at the expense of not sparing muscle. Most marathon runners have mastered the cardio benefits but have neglected preserving muscle tissue. That is the trade off to compete in their chosen sport.

From a fitness perspective the balance between building muscle, improving heart function, and lowering body fat should be the goal. I know a few fitness enthusiasts who run, walk, or bike for miles and get pleasure from the experience. A walk in the park, a bike ride along the canal trail, or a run through the countryside on occasion can be enjoyable. For most of us it takes too long and requires a sustained effort to improve the cardio system to any measurable degree. Bodybuilders need an intense aerobic activity that does not take too long to complete but yields great cardio benefit. My preferred cardio activity is a research supported High Intensity Interval Training known as H.I.I.T.

Interval training is best defined as repetitions of high speed intense work alternated with periods of rest or low speed work. During the high speed work the body uses glycogen stored in the muscle thus engaging the anaerobic system. It is during this high intensity interval when lactic acid builds creating a burning sensation in the muscle. During the rest or low speed interval the heart and lungs recover from the oxygen deficit flushing the lactic acid out of the muscle. The low speed rest interval uses oxygen to convert stored carbohydrates into energy. This is the aerobic system at work. It is during this aerobic phase that the body builds new capillaries and is better able to deliver oxygen to the muscles. As the muscle develops a greater tolerance to the build up of lactic acid and the heart muscle strengthens improvement to the cardiovascular system is achieved.

In 1994, research conducted at the Physical Activities Science Laboratory University (Quebec, Canada) by Dr. Tremblay found that high intensity interval training stimulated the metabolism to burn calories longer after training than a low intensity aerobic workout. Subcutaneous fat loss was 9 times greater in the high intensity group than the traditional long endurance exercise group. This research was later duplicated by Izumi Tabata at National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo, Japan. Tabata's research consisted of 20 seconds of all out cycling followed by 10 seconds of moderate cycling for a total of 4 minutes (8 repeats). This protocol yielded as much aerobic benefit as a 45-minute endurance workout and an increase in anaerobic response. Armed with this research and a need to improve cardio function you are ready to HIIT your training.

First, choose your cardio activity. Running can be hard on the joints; a constant jarring that eventually can bring about some knee problems. A treadmill can cushion the pounding associated with running. A stationary bike is good. I use a Schwinn Airdyne which by adding the arm movement elevates the pulse rate rather quickly. A Nordic Trak cross country skier, an elliptical or a stair stepper could be used. It's your choice but your choice of cardio activity must be somewhat enjoyable or your interest will decline and eventually so will your training.

Once you've decided on the activity you need to determine which work-to-rest ratio you prefer.

Tabata Method: Sample Work-To-Rest Ratios
High Speed Intense Work / Low Speed Rest Interval
20 sec./ 10 sec.
30 sec./ 30 sec.
30 sec./ 60 sec.
20 sec./ 60 sec.
10 sec./ 30 sec.
30 sec./120 sec.

Start slowly and build up by adding one or two higher intensity intervals during the first few weeks. Begin with a 4-minute warm up and then the HIIT phase of the program. I've found six minutes of alternating the high speed and slow speed followed by a 2-minute cool down works for me. My total routine lasts 12-minutes and I'm gasping for air by the end. You must reach overload in order for the training to be effective. Deep breathing and all out effort is required to gain the benefit of this training method. Be sure you are healthy before starting the HIIT routine as it is demanding. If you experience the burn of lactic acid build up remember it is the rest interval that clears it out. If it doesn't try a different work ratio; one that allows a longer rest interval.

I still do not like aerobics. Never did. Never will. But I do like the benefits of High Intensity Interval Training!


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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      This is great Gary, It gives me inspiration to try to be the best I can be at my age, even after having a heart attack.

    • Gary Breen profile imageAUTHOR

      Gary Breen 

      6 years ago from Canton, Ohio

      Crewman, Thanks for the comment. I will be posting many articles that do relate to age-specific training. My general advice would be to keep the reps fairly high so the weight used will be lower and less chance of injury. I have found that recovery is slower as I grow older and joint pain dictates a more reasonable approach. 30 minutes a day can get alot done. Use a 3-way Split Routine.

    • Gary Breen profile imageAUTHOR

      Gary Breen 

      6 years ago from Canton, Ohio

      Jay, Thanks for reading my hub. This was the first of many articles I will be posting. I'm assuming you're a young fellow with many years of active training ahead. I've been at this "game" for over 40 years and was fortunate to be in my prime during bodybuilding's "golden age". By posting information I've gained over the years, I hope to help the younger lifter avoid wasted time and effort. If you have suggestions for my topics, please let me know. Again thanks for reading the article. Stay fit!

    • jaybird22 profile image


      6 years ago from New York

      Great information! I'm with you, never have enjoyed regular cardio but have also reaped the benefits of doing HIIT. Thanks for sharing.


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