By Dr. Mercola
A little over three years ago, I was introduced to high intensity interval training, commonly referred to as HIIT, when I met Phil Campbell at a fitness camp in Mexico. I refer to it as Peak Fitness Training.Since then, researchers have repeatedly confirmed the superior health benefits of HIIT compared to traditional and typically performed aerobic workouts.For example, high-intensity interval-type training gives a natural boost to human growth hormone (HGH) production—which is essential for optimal health, strength and vigor—and has been shown to significantly improve insulin sensitivity, boost fat loss, and increase muscle growth.Anaerobic HIIT can be performed on a recumbent bike or an elliptical machine, or by sprinting outside.While there are a large number of variations, the HIIT routine I recommend involves going all out for 30 seconds and then resting for 90 seconds between sprints. Total workout is typically 8 repetitions. In all, you’ll be done in about 20 minutes, and you only need to perform HIIT twice or three times a week.But researchers such as Dr. Izumi Tabata have shown that even shorterworkouts can work, as long as the intensity is high enough.1
My Personal Modifications
I personally modified the Peak 8 to a Peak 6 this year as it was simply too painful to me to do all 8 and I dreaded doing the workouts. I would push so hard that I would feel nauseous afterwards. So by cutting it back to 6 reps I can now easily tolerate the workout and go full out and I no longer dread doing them.Another tweak is to incorporate Butyenko breathing into the workout and do most of the workout by only breathing through my nose. This raises the challenge to another level. I will discuss more of the benefits of this in a future article but I do believe it has many benefits.I then finish my Peak 6 workout with Power Plate stretches, 10 pull ups, 10 dips and 20 inverted pushups, and call it a day. I personally have never tried the Tabata protocol as it seems too intimidating and I’m not sure I could do it, but it is yet another option that people can use.
Can You Get Fit in Just Four Minutes, Four Times a Week?
After monitoring the Japanese speed skating team in the early 90’s, Dr. Tabata noticed that extremely hard but intermittent exercise appeared to be at least as effective as standard workouts that require several hours a week. The training protocol he came up with as a result requires a mere four minutes, four times a week.The caveat? Extremeintensity.Dr. Tabata’s HIIT protocol calls for just 20 seconds of all-out drop-dead effort, followed by a mere 10 seconds of rest. This intense cycle is repeated eight times. According to Dr. Tabata:2“All-out effort at 170 percent of your VO2 max is the criterion of the protocol. If you feel OK afterwards you’ve not done it properly. The first three repetitions will feel easy but the last two will feel impossibly hard. In the original plan the aim was to get to eight, but some only lasted six or seven.”When performed four times per week for six weeks, participants in one experiment increased their anaerobic capacity by 28 percent, and their VO2 max (an indicator of cardiovascular health) and maximal aerobic power by 15 percent. This is in contrast to the control group, who performed an hour of steady cardiovascular exercise on a stationary bike five times a week. These participants improved their VO2 max by just 10 percent, and their regimen had no effect on their anaerobic capacity.Dr. Tabatha also has forthcoming research findings showing that his protocol reduces your risk of diabetes, which other HIIT studies have already suggested. And, according to the featured article:3“Another soon-to-be-published finding, which Tabata describes as ‘rather significant,’ shows that the Tabata protocol burns an extra 150 calories in the 12 hours after exercise, even at rest, due to the effect of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. So while it is used by most people to get fit – or by fit people to get even fitter – it also burns fat.”
As Little as Three Minutes of HIIT Per Week Can Improve Your Health, Previous Study Suggests
Dr. Tabata’s claims may sound crazy, but previous research has also found that performing high intensity exercises for just minutes per week can significantly improve important health indices. One such study found that just three minutes of HIIT per week for four weeks improved participants’ insulin sensitivity an average of 24 percent. This truly is amazing, and while aerobic fitness is indeed important, improving and maintaining good insulin sensitivity is perhaps one of the most important aspects of optimal health.
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