Subjects: HST after one year, Beginnng HIIT.
From my Diary
Last week I finished the sixth week of weight-training, working out on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. This week, I lift no weights to allow strategic deconditioning (SD). Without strategic deconditioning, I would have to continue increasing the loads every week, exposing myself to risk of injury and overtraining. By not lifting weights this week, I reduce my level of adaptation to weight lifting. When I begin to lift weights again, the same loads will seem heavier than if I merely continued lifting every week. With strategic deconditioning, I can start the next HST cycle with almost the same loads as the previous cycle and continue to stimulate the muscles. Besides, I want to repeat the last cycle, because on the last day, the calculated loads for some exercises were about 10% heavier than I could lift.
How long do we need to decondition the body? Bryan Haycock mentions both one week and two weeks (9 days and 16 days, counting weekends). I used one week of SD for the first three HST cycles, two weeks for the fourth cycle, and will use one-week for the fifth cycle, which I complete this week. Why use one week SD instead of two? I confess that I like lifting weights. That's part of the reason. But the main reason is that this Friday completes my 52nd week, a full year working out with HST.
While Friday marks the end of my first year with HST, I actually began strength training 62 weeks ago. The first ten weeks, I now call pre-training. Sounds very systematic, except that I stumbled into everything, studying madly to try to make sense of what I was doing. When I started, I had never lifted weights and had no intention of starting, aiming only to reduce chronic back pain and increase mobility—I could hardly bend my back. I bought a book on Pilates (pronounced "pee-law-tays") and then my wife bought a Swiss ball, diameter 36 inches (90 cm). I started with Pilates and Swiss ball exercises. While browsing a used-book shop, I found a tattered old manual written for Gold's Gym showing how to lift dumbbells. I added some 2-kilogram (4.4-pound) dumbbells to my home workout. By the end of ten weeks, I had progressed far enough with this pre-training to buy an adjustable dumbbell set, the entire set weighing 20 kg (44 pounds). That's when I discovered Bryan Haycock and his HST approach, which appealed to me because Bryan is an exercise physiologist and HST is based on laboratory experiments in exercise science.
Home-based HST training is feasible. However, by the end of five months, I was lifting 10-kilogram (22-pound) dumbbells while balancing on an exercise ball, something that alarmed my wife. (I might fall off the ball, drop a dumbbell and crack a floor tile. Poor floor tile!) Reluctantly, seven months ago I joined Clark Hatch, the nearest fitness center. At US$5.00 per week and free parking, the total cost is less than parking alone at the other clubs in town. Besides, unless I invest a small fortune in home fitness equipment, I can progress faster with HST at a fitness center and more safely too.
Progress summary at the end on one year HST: How do we measure progress? If body fat is still declining rapidly, then intra-muscular fat may be declining faster than muscle is growing. So measuring the circumference of the biceps or quadriceps may not be accurate. While increased strength may result from purely neurological adaptation and have little to do with increase in muscle mass, strength is at least measurable and widely accepted as progress. I will compare the loads at the end of March 2005 with loads at the end of January 2006, both 5-repetition mini-cycles.
In March, my HST program included dumbbell squats with two 8.5-kg dumbbells, a total of 17 kg (37 pounds). The load lifted by the front thigh muscles (quadriceps) was 37 pounds plus about 90% of body weight (90% of 141=127), 164 pounds (74 kg). Ten months later, I was lifting 297 pounds (135 kg) in the leg press, including the weight of the sled and 10% of body weight, but ignoring friction. Since the angle of the sled is 45°, the effective vertical load was only 70% as much, 208 pounds (90 kg). This is an increase of 27% in 44 weeks, about half of one per cent per week. Not much progress, because I had already strengthened leg muscles by walking up and down hills six hours per week.
In March, I my HST program included dumbbell presses with 8.5-kg (18.7-pound) dumbbells. By January, I was lifting 17.5-kg (38.5-pound) dumbbells, an increase of 100%, about 2% per week.
In March, my HST program included dumbbell shrugs with two 8.5-kg (18.7-pound) dumbbells. By January, I was doing Smith-machine shrugs using 55-kg, counting the bar, an increase of 225%, about 5% per week.
This experiment with HST confirms that strength can be increased dramatically even after the age of 70. The weakest muscles progress the fastest. Arms and shoulders progress more than legs. Progress during the first year is mostly neurological, with limited gains in muscle mass. Upper arms and thighs may be no bigger at the end of one year, but the amount of intra-muscular fat may be less and the amount of muscle greater. I am hoping that the one-year point may a platform on which to build real gains in muscle mass during the second year using HST.
How Do I Determine the Correct Speeds for HIIT? The key to HIIT is to determine heart-rate targets first and then note the speeds needed to achieve the heart-rate targets. I know that I can stress my heart safely up to 85% for short periods, because a stress electro-cardiogram showed a regular pattern up to that level. I calculate 220 minus my age to get 146 and take 85% of that to get 125 beats per minute. I reach that upper target by momentarily hitting 20 km/h (12 mph). The lower limit is arbitrary, somewhere around 70%, 100 beats per minute (70% of 146). I reach the lower target by dropping to 5 km/h momentarily and then gradually increase to 8 km/h, which sustains me at 100 beats per minute.
Why HIIT? First, high intensity training improves fitness, as Dr Mirkin tells us: Fitness is determined more by how hard you exercise than by how long you exercise. Exercising at a casual pace does not do much to strengthen either your heart or your skeletal muscles. When you work harder, more blood returns to your heart, and this increased amount of blood fills the inside of your heart and stretches it, so your heart has to pump against greater resistance and the heart muscle becomes stronger. Abe Mirkin, M.D.. But I am not fit enough to train for long at high intensity. The solution is to introduce short intervals at high intensity, hence high intensity interval training (HIIT). Dr Mirkin cites a study conducted in Denmark: At the University of Copenhagen, Danish scientists studied experienced runners who had been running 60 miles a week at a fast pace. One group was told to cut their mileage in half to only 30 miles a week, but to run a series of around 50 to 100 yard dashes as fast as they could. The other group continued running 60 miles a week at a fast pace. Runners who ran fewer miles at a faster pace had a 7% improvement in their body's maximal ability to take in and use oxygen. Abe Mirkin. M.D
When I was young, I was a good runner, but now I can't run for more than 15 seconds. This experiment will test the idea that HIIT can restore the ability to run. I plan to do this by progressively increasing high intensity intervals relative to the low intensity baseline.
Progression I have not seen much about progression. What I will try is this. The first week, I will do 35 minutes on three days, as described above. The following week, I will increase the low intensity period to five minutes and the high intensity period to two minutes. Meanwhile, I will research the question of where to go from there, perhaps decreasing the low intensity component each week from 5 minutes to four to three, etc.
Before attempting HIIT, beginners should build up their level of conditioning to at least 20 minutes, aiming to keep heart rate at 70% of the maximum for their age, warming up and cooling down at least 5 minutes. Machines are not very responsive, so high intensity intervals of less than one minute may not be practical on a treadmill or ski machine. If jogging on the ground, the high intensity interval (running) might be as little as 15 seconds before dropping back to a jog. If walking, jogging would form the high intensity component.
Once reaching 20 minutes at 70% of maximum heart rate, a beginner should also consider having a stress electro-cardiogram before increasing intensity. The purpose is to determine if there are irregularities in the heart beat that would limit maximum heart rate below that indicated by the formula 220-AGE. For example, I know that I cannot safely go over 130 beats per minute, 90% of the maximum for my age. I wear a heart rate monitor and make sure that I don't push past 125 bpm. OK, so I did go as high as 133 a couple of times for a few seconds, but unintentionally.
How Does IT Feel? Weird, because I never imagined I could hit 12 mph (20 km/h). Monday was easy, because I did not really push myself to do the full one-minute high intensity. Wednesday, I tried hard to keep to the schedule and it was challenging. This morning (Thursday) my calf muscles were stiff and a little sore, a sure sign that HIIT is doing something already. The biggest benefit may be the fact the HIIT is not boring. To do HIIT, you have to concentrate on speeding up fast enough to hit the heart-rate target and maintain it. Then you have to concentrate on slowing down at a rate that will get you back to the baseline heart rate. HIIT is definitely not boring, like walking on a treadmill at a steady pace for 35 minutes.
Tips of the Week
Subjects: HST after one year, Beginnng HIIT.
Other research has shown that covering the head may be even more important than covering the feet, because more heat is lost from the head than from any other part of the body.
"I guess I got serious about fitness sometime in 2003. As a child I was lean, but as I progressed thru my late 20s it become very easy to gain fat (especially around my stomach). Despite always being interested in nutrition, it wasn't until I read Tom's BFFM, that I really felt motivated. It's also been a joy to watch my wife suddenly become interested early last year (after watching me I guess).
Bye until next week...
Fred Colbourne It's never too late!
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