From The Desk Of Clarence Bass
Interval Paradigm Works for Strength Training
Muscle & Health in Half the time
Recognizing the advantages of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), the American Council on Exercise (ACE) sponsored a study to assess the benefits of harder and shorter resistance exercise. HIIT has been shown to provide equal or better aerobic fitness and health in a fraction of the time of moderate-intensity traditional training. ACE enlisted researchers at Western State Colorado University to compare the muscular fitness and cardiometabolic outcomes of high-intensity resistance training and traditional moderate-intensity RE—and the time required for each types of RE.
Lance C. Dalleck, PhD, and his team recruited 48 men and women ranging in age from 21 to 59 years. All were healthy and reported doing no resistance training for at least six months.
After baseline testing, participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: a non-exercise control group, a high-intensity RE group, or a moderate-intensity RE group. The HIT-RE group performed one set of 5 repetitions on 10 basic exercises for the duration of the six week study program. The MI-RE group performed one set of 10 repetitions on the same exercises for the first three weeks of the program and then two sets of 12 repetitions for the second three weeks.
Both groups trained two days a week during the first three weeks and three days a week during the second three weeks.
The moderate intensity program was based on standard industry guidelines. The HIT group completed workouts based on their 5 repetition maximum for each exercise.
The biggest and perhaps most important difference was that HIT training sessions (including warm-up) averaged 20 minutes, compared to 45 minutes for the MI-RE group. That’s big when “lack of time” is a frequent excuse for people who don’t exercise.
Improvements in cardiometabolic health were basically the same, with two eye-catching differences. Systolic blood pressure and LDL cholesterol decreased significantly in the HIT group only.
In terms of muscular fitness, body fat percentage decreased significantly and 1-RM and 5-RM improved significantly for all exercises in both training groups. HIT-RE, however, elicited greater improvements in the seated row (1 and 5 reps), chest press (5 reps), leg press (1 and 5 reps), and lat pull-down (5 reps).
The researchers zeroed in on another difference: HIT 5-rep training improved muscular fitness for all exercises at three weeks, while the traditional protocol didn’t produce results for several exercises until 6 weeks. “The achievement of such rapid results is important to highlight,” the researchers wrote “as seeing these gains in only three weeks may improve the motivation levels of many clients during the early phase of a new workout, when they are typically most prone to frustration and dropout.”
You’ll find figures for all physical and physiological characteristics and all exercises online:
Arthur Jones would approve of this study. I find it important and credible.
“Train hard, train briefly, train infrequently,” Jones repeated over and over again. I have followed that advice with great success for many years. The end result has been short, one-set, whole-body weight workouts once or twice a week. Split routines, according to Jones, make no more sense than eating or sleeping for a particular part of your body.
I would drop the third workout in the last three weeks of the HIT protocol—and all single joint exercises. My introductory workout would look like this: Leg Press, Lat Pulldown, Seated Row, Chest Press, Shoulder Press, and Hanging Knee-up. People might want to add exercises later, but fewer exercises are better when you’re just getting started.
During the early years of my training, when Olympic lifting was my main interest, I almost never did over 5 reps. The below photos, taken when I was 27, show the kind of muscle five reps or less can build.
Photos by Wayne Gardner
As shown by the ACE Certified study, five-rep maximum sets keep workouts short and produce results almost immediately—motivating people to keep training. Varying exercises and rep range later will help maintain interest and keep gains coming. Progress keeps you motivated to keep training. Success brings more success.
February 1, 2019
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