Sunday, November 8, 2009

Another Interval Training Article

Some of my favorite workouts use the Tabata protocol. Tabata’s protocol is a type of interval training developed from the research of Izumi Tabata from the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo. Basically, the protocol encompasses doing an exercise for 20 seconds then resting ten. It is done for eight rounds, which comes out to four minutes. It is effortless and straightforward. Tabata states in his research that “The rate of increase in VO2 MAX is one of the highest reported.” High-intensity interval training such as Tabata’s protocol has also been touted as being better for fat loss than continuous exercises.

Tabatas can be ported to just about any exercise, and you can get a quality workout in a short amount of time. The most efficient way to use the protocol is to use some kind of full body exercise. Sub-maximal Olympic lifts, kettlebell lifts, or even burpees are practical exercises to use with the Tabata protocol. Complex lifts give the best “bang for the buck” with the protocol. The clean, squat jerk complex, for example, works many different body parts in the same exercise.

The key to the protocol is getting the weight right. To be effective, you need to use a weight that is less than your 20-repetition max (RM) but heavy enough to keep the intensity high. You are only doing the exercise for four minutes, so a weight close to 20 RM is what you are looking for. If you can barely do five pull-ups, you do not want to use the protocol for doing pull-ups. If you easily knock 100 pull-ups, on the other hand, you might want to do pull-ups with 10 or 20 extra pounds in a rucksack or on a belt.

Another way to increase intensity is to increase the pace. When the Tabata protocol is applied to running the pace should be a sprint pace. Other than increasing the intensity this way for running, cycling, or rowing, try using it with body weight exercises like body weight squats or even the good old-fashioned push-up. Body weight squats and push-ups do not give you the full body workout that burpees, eight count bodybuilders, or even dive-bomber push-ups give, but if you are looking to mix it up and you are in it for the cardio benefits they are good substitutes. Push-ups would be best if you have been doing a lot of legwork and you need a rest, but you want the cardio benefits of Tabatas also. Squats are good if you have been doing upper body and need a rest from that.

Upper body exercises actually increase VO2 MAX better than lower body exercises. This seemed counter-intuitive to me because they are smaller muscle groups, but because of their smaller size and relative strength, especially when you are doing using your body weight, they are moving weight closer to capacity. Most people can leg press a couple hundred pounds but only press somewhere just over 100. So the weight is closer to your 20 RM when you are doing upper body work.

There is one other caution. When you do upper body work because it is closer to your 20 RM be careful of overtraining. High repetitions can cause tendonitis and fatigue can lead to rotator cuff injuries and muscle tears. Some of the same cautions come with lower body work, but if the weight is between 35 and 40 RM, it is less of an issue because the lower body was built to withstand more stress. It can be an issue if you are working with a weight closer to the 20 RM mark. If it were a continuous exercise over 20 minutes, the same caution would apply. Do not increase more than 10% per week and if you want to do Tabatas everyday alternate upper body work with lower body only days.

Though upper body work may cause more increase in VO2 MAX, working larger muscle groups like the lumbar back, buttocks, quadriceps, and hamstrings give better fat burning potential. Males who do explosive lifts with a close to maximal weight release testosterone into their systems. Testosterone helps in the formation of new muscle increasing calories burned. Ladies do no worry about becoming mannish because of Tabatas, you do not have testosterone producers. You are safe.

EPOC is Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption. Most bodybuilding magazines say that EPOC can last as long as 24 hours. This is debatable and figures closer to one or two hours are a more conservative estimate. Either way calories burned because of EPOC do not make up for the difference between cardio work and low intensity training only accounting for 20 or 30 more calories burned over the initial work. This is where Tabatas shine. Continuous state exercise reduces testosterone in males and inhibits estrogen in females. It also causes a catabolic reaction reducing muscle mass. More muscle mass means the body will burn more calories at rest. The body adapts to and becomes more efficient quicker to continuous state exercise. Good news if you desire to live off of less than 1500 calories a day but bad news if you wish to eat normally. In contrast Tabatas have the best of both worlds. They do not reduce muscle mass, testosterone or estrogen, or have the low calorie values of pure low intensity weight training. Tabata’s protocol can in crease testosterone production in males if done correctly, have EPOC if done with enough weight, and the high initial calorie count of cardio work. Overall Tabatas are the best cardio work you can do.

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