Paleo Gym® | How To Design Successful High-Intensity Workouts So You Lose Body Fat AND Feel Amazing
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How To Design Successful High-Intensity Workouts So You Lose Body Fat AND Feel Amazing

Picture the perfect workout:

•    It would be truly fun and fast-paced.
•    You’d never be bored.
•    It would improve conditioning and build muscle at the same time.
•    You’d burn loads of calories quickly and experience a significant fat burning hormone response.
•    You’d finish feeling that you’d put in serious, focused effort, but you would not feel completely loopy or exhausted.
This workout is not just in your imagination. It can be found in successfully designed high-intensity training (HIT) workouts.
HIT, or metabolic resistance training as it’s also called, has become extremely popular because it’s so flipping effective for getting you in shape as fast as possible.
You can lose fat, build muscle, improve conditioning, and get stronger with HIT. It can improve cardiovascular health and blood lipid profiles, reduce blood pressure, boost bone strength, and give you lean legs and sexy abs.
Unfortunately, the concept of HIT has been diluted so that many people are designing ineffective workouts that leave them without results, injured, or over trained. They’re exhausting themselves with the “you have to suffer to get in shape” attitude. I can think of one fitness fad ruining peoples lives……..
This article will help you avoid these pitfalls and tell you how to design successful workouts to improve your body in the least time without sacrificing health.
Tip 1: Pick your training mode wisely. Use large muscle groups and multi-joint exercises that train the whole body.
The cool thing about HIT is that as long as you use large muscle groups and multi-joint movements, you can choose a wide range of different exercises and training modes so that you never get bored.
You can do track or hill sprints, push a weighted sled, push your car up a hill, do resisted bike intervals with an arm component, do circuit weight training, or do some combination of these exercises. And that’s not nearly a complete list of HIT options that are up for grabs.
However, choosing the best ones for YOU can make or break your program. It’s important that you learn proper technique for whatever exercises you choose because you’re going to be applying a lot of force quickly and moving at high speeds. PLEASE NOTE: You will NOT be doing Olympic lifts on day 1! Actually, I have been training for 35 years and only do 2-5 weeks of Oly lifting per YEAR!
For example, if you’re just heading out for your first sprint session of the year (or your life), don’t start with all-out sprints right away. To avoid injury, or at the least, extreme muscle soreness, you’ll want to start with strides in which you gradually accelerate over the duration of your sprint.
If you choose to do HIT with weights, but you haven’t squatted since high school, it’s a smart idea to start by learning the lifting movements with light weights or even just your body weight.
HIT taxes the nervous system in a way that moderate aerobic or even traditional weight training doesn’t. If you don’t allow yourself to progress gradually, you’ll wipe yourself out and won’t experience the benefits that HIT has to offer.
Tip 2: Choose your “best” exercises that allow you to maintain technique even when highly fatigued.
Let’s look a little closer at how to select HIT exercises because it’s such a key component to success. The appropriate exercises to train with HIT should be self-limiting, which means that you don’t put yourself at risk of injury or improper technique when you are highly fatigued. These will vary widely depending on your experience, background, and conditioning.
Total novices who are just off the couch could benefit from resisted cycling or run-walk intervals. If you want to do HIT with weights, it’s probably best to start with a traditional weight training program in order to learn exercise technique without the pressure of short rest and needing to push through fatigue.
More active novices will benefit from picking a training mode that is similar to what they had been doing before for exercise. For example, if you’ve been doing group exercise classes, you could start with moderate-intensity circuit training, keeping your focus on impeccable form. If you’re a runner, sled or hill sprints are a great place to start.
With experience, you can advance to HIT with heavier weights, but you need to be able to maintain technique even when fatigued. For example, you could progress to HIT with trap bar deadlifts and leg presses, while continuing to perfect technique on straight bar deadlifts and squats.
Advanced trainees have a much wider range of exercise options. All classic lifts and strongman exercises that require technique such as tire flips can be trained.
Generally, Olympic lifts aren’t going to be part of a HIT workout because they require peak activation of the central nervous system and are too complex to maintain great technique when the going gets tough.
For more complex exercises, be sure you fulfill the following conditions before using them in HIT workouts:
•    Experience training the exercise for many years with impeccable technique.
•    Extensive experience physically pushing yourself through high-intensity workouts. You need to have the ability to distinguish between general neuromuscular fatigue and complete exhaustion.
•    Have previously demonstrated the ability to perform advanced HIT training with other challenging lifts and know how to “fail” appropriately.
Tip 3: Use strenuous bursts of activity that are short enough to preserve peak effort.
Like anything in life that is worth doing, HIT challenges your capacities. Don’t get scared away by this. It’s not too hard, but it’s important that everyone understand that for HIT (or any training to change how your body looks or what it can do) to work, you have to be prepared to push.
The upside is that HIT is so varied that workouts are over before you know it. As self-confidence in your physical ability grows, it gives you a reassuring sense of your place in the world.
Here’s how to get the body to adapt:
1) Work at a high enough intensity so that the body uses the anaerobic energy system and doesn’t shift right into aerobic mode. In simple terms, if it doesn’t “burn” or feel challenging, you’re not working hard enough.
2) Most people should use work bouts that last between 30 and 60 seconds. However, because conditioning levels vary, people who are in better shape may benefit from shorter, more intense work bouts in the 10 to 30 second range, while novices or those with endurance goals may benefit from occasional work bouts up to 2 minutes long.3) Get away from trying to “pace yourself” by preserving your effort because this often leads to people having extra left in the tank once the workout is over. Think of each work interval as a separate, unique workout and give it your all.
Tip 4: Use short rest intervals that are long enough to allow for work intensity to be maintained.
Short rest intervals allow you to burn a lot of calories in a short period of time but they also elicit a large post-exercise oxygen consumption in which your body burns calories at an accelerated rate during the recovery period.
Short rest leads to a superior hormone response, elevating testosterone, IGF-1, and GH for an elevated metabolism. If programmed properly and cortisol is minimized post-workout, recovery may be accelerated.
First, rest intervals need to be timed with a watch. Second, rest intervals should be long enough to allow you to maintain technique and work intensity. Things can get tricky here depending on conditioning level and if you’re doing sprints versus HIT with weights:
•    Novices will benefit from a more equal work-to-rest ratio, with most rest periods lasting 30 to 60 seconds.
•    Rest periods that are less than a 1-to-1 ratio, such as super short 10-second rest intervals are appropriate for intermediate to advanced trainees, not novices, especially when doing HIT with weights.
•    Near maximal intensity training, such as all-out sprints on a track, will generally require a work-to-rest ratio of 1 to 4 at the beginning of the program. Then, over a period of weeks, taper to a 1-to-2 ratio, and then 1-to-1.5 ratio.
Third, rest intervals should generally be active such as slow walking rather than lying on the ground, because this will help remove lactate accumulation. Because lactate buildup is fatiguing, any procedure that speeds its removal is likely to boost subsequent performance.
Tip 5: Use sufficient work bouts so that you get the body to start producing lactic acid.
A primary goal of HIT is to get a lot of work done quickly. The number of sets or repeats you perform should be fairly high.
Workouts should always train the lower body, because these are the largest muscles in the body. Total body routines using classic lifts to engage the greatest amount of musculature are a good choice because they deplete muscle glycogen in both the upper and lower body.
This is important because muscle glycogen is the energy source for your muscles and it only gets used by the specific muscle you train. For example, if you do bicep curls and leg extensions, you only use glycogen in the arms and quads, leaving all that beautiful muscle in the glutes, hamstrings, calves, back, shoulders, and chest untrained.
Here are a few examples of how to apply these principles:
•    You can sequence squats and chin-ups (or pull-downs) followed by deadlifts and presses, and so on in a workout.
•    You could row, or cycle with an arm component against resistance.
•    You could do running sprints on a track or up a hill.
•    You could do strongman exercises like pushing a weighted sled or a heavy carry such as farmer’s walk.
There’s no specific number of sets, reps, or repeats that should be completed, but your total work time including rest should generally last between 20 and 45 minutes. For most people training to improve their bodies, 25 to 30 minutes total is ideal.
Tip 6: Take into consideration stress levels in order to optimize recovery.
A primary goal of HIT is to produce a large metabolic hormone response, notably growth hormone. GH is elevated during and immediately after intense workouts, but at night during deep slow wave sleep is an equally important opportunity for GH production.
If you’re not sleeping soundly, you won’t get the GH release. In addition, stress hormones such as cortisol will be elevated. The HPA axis that governs hormone levels will get agitated, adaptations will be compromised, and you won’t recover effectively.
In simple terms, if you’re under a lot of stress and/or you’re not sleeping well for 7 to 9 hours a night, super intense HIT is not for you. For example, a decreasing pyramid workout (10 sets starting with 10 reps and decreasing 1 rep each set) with a load of 75 percent of the 1RM with no rest between sets is not a smart move.
This program was actually tested in a 2012 study that found that subjects who completed the workout had very high cortisol and lactate responses to the protocol. The lactate buildup might be considered “good” for eliciting body composition adaptations, however, cortisol was much higher than values reported on all previous research that tested cortisol response after interval workouts.
This might not be a problem if you only did the workout once or twice a week and everything else in your life was all peace and calm. You could probably recover, especially if nutrition was spot on. But if you’re under stress or chasing sleep, the minimum effective dose of HIT would probably get you much better results.
For example, the classic German Body Composition model in which you work mostly in the 8 to 15-rep range with 30-second rest periods would make you much happier with your results and your recovery.
In addition, you need to consider what other training you are doing. HIT tends to exhaust the central nervous system (CNS) if done effectively, but heavy strength workouts also target the CNS.
So, if you’re training for strength 4 days a week and then doing HIT 2 or 3 times, you aren’t allowing for recovery. Instead, train HIT and strength workouts on separate days; doing 2 HIT workouts a week and 2 strength workouts a week, focusing on recovery (adequate sleep and nutrition) in between.
Final Words: Use these strategies to design successful HIT workouts that allow you to lean up, get strong, AND improve your health with as little struggle as possible.
Oh, and if you want to do HIT properly and feel like joining your local Cro**fit gym, see here 1st…
(c) poliquin