HIT Training (Part 1 of 2)

What is HIT training? This is simply a term used to describe workouts that actually provide you with a significant benefit in a reasonable period of time.


Have you ever watched friends or family members slave away on a treadmill or exercise bike for hours and hours? Ever notice how after a few weeks they stop doing it and after a few months they still have not improved their health and fitness level?


This is usually because they are not really doing enough to force their body to get stronger. Unless you are challenging your body with new stresses and placing demands on it that are above and beyond what it is used to, then it is not going to respond. It doesn’t need to.


Instead we want to increase the intensity of your program so that your body has a new stimulus to adapt to.


Assuming you have no injuries and already have a decent base level of conditioning you can begin HIT training. If you do not meet those criteria you should seek the assitance of a personal trainer or fitness coach to make sure that you initiate a fitness program that will keep you injury free and prepare you for a HIT program.


What is a HIT program?


Here is the simple answer: it is exercise that makes you sweat and breathe hard and forces you to limit your workout to 30 minutes or less.


Doesn’t sound too easy does it?


That is because it isn’t easy. Easy programs are lazy programs and lazy programs are ineffective programs.


A HIT program pushes the limits of what you can do. It forces your body to adapt by getting stronger and more efficient, which increases your metabolism and improve your cardiovascular health


Many people think that the best way to lose body fat is to exercise at 60% of their maximum effort for 45-60 minutes. Where does this come from? Those stupid stickers on the treadmills that show the ‘fat burning zone.’ That is some of the best marketing the fitness industry has ever conceived!


Sorry, but this is not the case! Read on and I will do a few math calculations for you.



We will use a 180 pound, male around 30 years of age as our example. If you are older, younger, heavier, lighter, or a different sex, than the base metabolic rates and calories used numbers will be a little bit different, but the principles will be the same.


So our case study wants to burn off body fat and keep muscle. So he decides to incorporate some cardio into his program. To preserve muscle he is going to stay at 60% of his max heart rate and do an hour long session on the treadmill.

            Treadmill, 60 minutes @ 4mph: Overall calories burned = 340

                                                             60% calories from BF = 204

                                                             40% calories from glycogen and muscle catabolism


Now let us say that our guy decides that he hates watching Oprah for an hour 5 times a week and wants to shorten his time on the treadmill. He ups his intensity to 80% of his max heart rate, which is not sustainable for a solid hour, so he is going to do a half hour session. This means that with commercials Oprah viewing is limited to a mere 20 minutes.

            Treadmill, 30 minutes @ 6.5mph: Overall calories burned = 450

                                                                 40% calories from BF = 180

                                                                 60% calories from glycogen and muscle catabolism


Well you might say at this point, more fat burned during the lower intensity session it is a better way to decrease body fat. This is the reason that many have decided to use the less effective system. There are other variables that we need to consider with this example.


1.      There was only a total of 24 calories less BF burned with the high intensity set, that’s only 3 dietary grams of fat.

2.      Don’t ignore the fact that the high intensity program is HALF AS LONG, only 30 min.

3.      While the amount of non-fat calories is higher, with the shorter duration, the majority of those calories will come from stored muscle and liver glycogen, not muscle catabolism. It is at high intensities longer then the 30 minute mark that the muscle catabolism becomes an issue, and then mostly if the right nutrition is not in place.

4.      The cardiovascular system would have to work at a much higher level during the shorter and higher intensity workout leading to more health benefits for the heart and lungs than the low intensity program provides. 

5.      He couldn’t even pay attention to Oprah because he was working too hard.



There are other important aspects that need to be recognized as well. Intense exercise has been shown to increase metabolic rate much longer then low intensity exercise and the positive hormone response from intense exercise.


We will use the conservative estimates for our purposes. Exercise 70% or higher of maximum intensity has been shown to increase metabolic rate from 5-19% for up to 38 hours after the cessation of exercise (‘Impact of energy intake and exercise on resting metabolic rate’, Mole et al, Sports Medicine, vol 10, pp 72-87). Exercise below 70% does not have the same effect.


If we use our example above and say he experiences a 10% increase in base metabolic rate for 12 hours he will create an additional calorie deficit of 157 calories, based on a BMR of 3140 calories. This is in addition to the calories utilized during the session. If the extra calories are just over 100 per session we could drop a full cardio session from the 5 times a week schedule and burn almost the same number of overall calories over the course of the entire week.


If all the stuff I just wrote bored or confused you, don’t worry, next post will be on sample HIT programs!!!

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