Friday, April 11, 2014

High-Intensity, and Steady State Training Compared (Why You Need to Do Both)

High-Intensity, and Steady State Training Compared
(Why You Need to Do Both)

Training protocols for fitness, strength and conditioning are extensive and are tailored for specific sports and competitions to match performance criteria. At a simplistic level, two ends of the spectrum are 'high intensity,' and 'steady state or continuous' training. Here's an explanation.

High-Intensity Weight Training (HIT)
HIT as a form of weight training is attributed to Arthur Jones, the founder of Nautilus equipment, in the 1970s. The HIT protocols required training muscles up to the point of failure. In practical terms this means designing sets and repetitions and weights so that the last lift of any set is very difficult to perform. The purpose was to elicit maximum stress on muscles to stimulate growth.

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
HIIT has intensity as a common factor with HIT. HIIT requires short, high-intensity 'intervals' of movement exercise like running, cycling, rowing, swimming, or even calisthenics -- often of 10 to 30 seconds duration (it can be more) and interrupted by a rest period of similar duration prior to a repeat of the exercise.

Of course, it is possible to combine HIT and HIIT in bootcamp type sessions. High heart rates approaching maximum heart rate are common in HIIT and HIT programs.
Steady State Low to Moderate Aerobic Training (Continuous Training)
Various acronyms may be used including long slow distance (LSD), or low-intensity steady-state (LISS). An example would be jogging or running for 45-60 minutes at 65-75% of your maximum heart rate. You can roughly check this intensity by knowing that you can talk comfortably while running. If you are in the zone where you cannot talk comfortably and start to puff and pause in speech, then you are moving to higher intensity training. See next item.
Steady State Moderate to High-Intensity Training (Continuous Training)
Continuous exercise close to or above the threshold of aerobic and anaerobic intensity is steady-state high-intensity training. Above 80% of your maximum heart rate in continuous training like running or cycling, talking becomes more difficult. It's not an exact science and there will be individual differences, but in the absence of a heart rate monitor and knowledge of your maximum heart rate, this is the best guide you have.
One other way to judge intensity is to use the Borg scale, a recognized intensity scale in the exercise sciences. You can use the Borg 1-10 or 1-20 scale of ratings of perceived exertion (RPE). The problem with RPE scales is that the terms 'light,' 'hard,' 'very hard,' and 'extremely hard,' are somewhat subjective for individuals and probably even for fitness level.
Cardiovascular Training Differences
It has become popular among personal trainers and strength and conditioning trainers to favor the idea that HIT and HIIT are all you need for superior fitness. This is not the complete picture.

Central Adaptation with High Intensity. High-intensity training at high heart rates favors the development of the pumping power of the heart (cardiac output). This is a good thing because it improves VO2 max (oxygen processing) but it is not the only measure of fitness and performance.

Peripheral Adaptation with Low Intensity. Continuous, steady state aerobic running favors peripheral adaptation, which improves the ability of the muscles to utilize the oxygen in the blood that the big, powerful heart is delivering to arm and leg muscles. Small blood vessels called capillaries increase and the mitochondria (energy units) in the muscle cells adapt to optimize increased oxygen processing. Lactate removal and recycling is also improved.
While it is true that a track sprinter or Olympic lifter does not need the peripheral conditioning of a marathon runner, it is equally true to say that high-intensity training is only a part of the story in general fitness training. In one study, two groups were trained, one doing continuous, cardio type exercise, and the other shorter intervals of higher intensity. The longer, slower cardio group added twice as much capillary capacity as the interval trainers.
Even so, there will inevitably be cross-over benefits for both types of heart system changes from either type of training -- interval or continuous training at a range of intensities. High-intensity exercise can improve some elements of peripheral adaptation and continuous aerobic exercise, over time, does improve stroke volume for example.
The Fitness Triad
For optimum general fitness, and not specific fitness for a particular sport or activity, HIT, HIIT and steady state, continuous physical activity in combination are bound to provide superior all-round fitness.



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