Interval Training: Fusing Fun With Efficiency by Dr Corey Mote
High-intensity interval training, also known as HIIT, is the new craze in physical fitness and has gained a global reputation rather quickly as a more exhilarating way to get fit — and to get there quickly. What’s more – there is now sufficient research being released in the sports science world to back up the claims on HIIT’s effectiveness. This type of training is a wonderful fit for so many
people today, particularly those with busy schedules, as HIIT’s greatest claim to fame is perhaps it’s time efficiency.
The concept of interval training is simple. Let’s give you an example of a typical interval training session. You workout for two minutes with strenuous activity and push your heart rate to about 85 or 90 percent of its maximum rate. You can roughly estimate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age in years from 220. For instance, a 40-year-old would have an estimated maximum heart rate of 180 beats per minute. After the two-minute period of this higher intensity activity is up, you slow down and recover for one minute. You then repeat this for seven times for a total of 21 minutes (this is 14 minutes of actual exercise).
You can use this type of training for running, cycling, swimming, or any number of cardiorespiratory modes of training. As for High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), the concept is the same, but taken a step further – with HIIT, the strenuous activity is meant to push your heart rate at or very close to 100 percent of its maximum rate, with recovery time between such strenuous bouts being the same as regular interval training, as mentioned previously. HIIT is also commonly referred to as sprint interval training. This is a quick and effective type of training that is over and done with in no time. You can see the attraction to this type of training from the total amount of time spent training.
Most of the principles of this type of training were derived from the work of a professor and researcher from the National Institute of Health and Nutrition in Tokyo, Japan, Dr. Izumi Tabata (hence the popular HIIT training classes in many fitness centers worldwide today, known as ‘Tabata’). Dr. Tabata headed a study in 1996 (published in the peer-reviewed journal, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, in the March 1997 issue. In the study, the researchers tested Olympic speed-skaters, who were to perform 20 seconds of ultra-intense exercise (at an intensity of about 170% of their VO2max), followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated continuously for 4 minutes, for a total of 8 cycles). The exercise was performed on a mechanically braked cycle ergometer. Dr. Tabata called this the IE1 protocol.
In the original study, athletes using this method trained 4 times per week, plus another day of steady-paced duration cardiorepiratory training, and obtained gains similar to a group of athletes who did steady-paced training (at 70% of their VO2max) 5 times per week. The steady-paced cardio training group had a higher VO2max at the end (from 52 to 57 mL/(kg•min), but the Tabata group had started lower and gained more overall (from 48 to 55 mL/(kg•min). Also, only the Tabata group had gained anaerobic capacity benefits.
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