For most of us, work and family obligations leave little time for much else. But getting fit is probably something you want to do and is certainly something you should do. You may even be someone that trained your whole life, but like all aging athletes, you no longer have the time to dedicate or injuries have limited your exercise options. Regardless of your fitness experience, chances are you’re seeking a training program and diet that is based on the latest in fitness and nutrition science, that is easy to follow and gets real results in an efficient manner. In other words, which fitness regimen will take the least amount of time each day while producing the greatest health benefits that include improving cardiovascular health, building physical strength and dexterity, firing up fat metabolism, maintaining and enhancing functional longevity, and - something most people do not consider - improving the levels of key hormone. Current studies in exercise science have shown that High Intensity Circuit Training (HICT) produce the best results in the shortest period of time.
HICT is often overlooked for more popular steady state sustained effort exercises like running or biking and strength training and muscle building which require resistance training with weights that include long rest periods between sets and exercises. Both of these routines are time consuming and require high volume efforts. If your ambition is to get into the best shape of your life in a short period of time, with all the aforementioned health benefits, then HICT is the best fitness protocol for you. And, to add a level of practicality, HICT can be done with body weight only, allowing you to perform these workouts virtually anywhere. Done as a combination of aerobic and resistance training with little rest in between exercises, HICT workouts maximize fitness gains in a minimal amount of time.
One of the best ways to lose fat is to gain muscle. As we age, we naturally lose muscle mass and with that we lose a key metabolic engine. Muscle increases your metabolic rate, therefore when you pack muscle back on, more calories are burned to maintain the new muscle. By utilizing a HICT workout that includes resistance training exercises using multiple large muscle groups with little rest in between sets, you can improve aerobic and metabolic conditioning. Additionally, as you become stronger and improve your functional fitness, it allows you to be more active and burn even more calories. Couple this with your fired-up metabolism from HICT workouts, you literally become a fat burning machine.
When HICT workouts were compared to steady state regimens, HICT produced, in many cases, greater gains in V˙O2max, a well-established marker of cardiopulmonary health, despite significantly lower volumes of work (1, 2, 3). HICT can decrease insulin resistance as well – a major cause of diabetes. It has been demonstrated that improvements can be made in V˙O2max and insulin resistance with a HICT workout lasting just 4 minutes (3, 4). But to achieve this, an individual would have to workout at an intensity greater than 100% of V˙O2max (3). The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends the duration of high-intensity training be at least 20 minutes. Working out at an intensity of at least 80% of V˙O2max for as little as 20 minutes can elicit significant health benefits. (Intensity can be assessed by wearing a heart rate monitor during exercise.)
You no longer have to choose between long duration steady state exercises, like running for miles or spending hours at the gym weight lifting. HICT will activate both muscle hypertrophy and cardiopulmonary conditioning. HICT is a neatly packaged fitness routine that combines aerobic and anaerobic benefits in short duration workouts. It fires up your metabolism, improves important health markers and increases functional longevity. The ratio of health gains to volume of work is greater with a HICT workout compared to any other fitness regimen. The old excuse of not having enough time to get into shape can be put to rest. Trade volume for intensity and get into the best shape of your life.
1. Gibala MJ, Little JP, Essen MV, et al.. Short-term sprint interval versus traditional endurance training: similar initial adaptations in human skeletal muscle and exercise performance. J Physiol. 2006; 575 (3): 901–11.
2. Little JP, Safdar A, Wilkin GP, Ranopolsky MA, Gibala MJ. A practical model of low-volume high-intensity interval training induces mitochondrial biogenesis in human skeletal muscle: potential mechanisms. J Physiol. 2010;588:1011–22.
3. Tabata I, Nishimura K, Kouzaki M, et al. Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 996;28(10):1327–30.
4. Gibala MJ, Little JP. Just HIT it! A time-efficient exercise strategy to improve muscle insulin sensitivity. J Physiol. 2010; 588 (18): 3341–2.