Bodybuilding.com Information Motivation Supplementation
in:

HIIT Can Get You Huge, Especially If You Are A Meathead In Need Of Cardio

HIIT Can Get You Huge, Especially If You Are A Meathead In Need Of Cardio

The cardio devil details the effectiveness of HIIT cardio, breaking it down to the cellular level. Learn all you need to know about the science of slim.

You don't want conventional wisdom. You want to show convention your middle finger and start doing things the right way—and this applies to everything, across the board.

Take fat loss, for example. When you want to reach ridiculously low levels of body fat, what's the first thing conventional wisdom tells you to do? More cardio. The idea, then, is to put in hours and hours of work on the treadmill, elliptical and bike, right? That, conventional wisdom says, is how you'll get the fat off.

As usual, however, science tells us something different. Numerous studies have shown that this sort of steady-state cardio isn't even effective for burning fat. It also tells us something most of us don't know: that there's a big-time downside to doing hours of cardio, and several things to think about the next time you reserve an hour-long block of your time to step on a treadmill.

Drawbacks Galore

When you perform conventional cardio for long periods of time, it's been found to deteriorate muscle tissue and decrease testosterone levels. That's bad, obviously, but things get even worse. A recent study in The American Journal of Physiology found that steady-state cardio decreases the ability of muscles to absorb glucose after training.

This happens because cardio immobilizes the GLUT4 transport system, which is responsible for the insulin-regulated translocation of glucose into cells. Cardio further limits hypertrophy by shutting down the mTOR pathway, which is one of the primary regulators of muscle growth. When this happens, you burn the same amount of muscle as you do fat.

All isn't lost though. It's possible to avoid all of this by doing things in a different way. It's even possible to make your cardio anabolic [promoting constructive metabolism].

Ramp It Up

The "right" brand of cardio for anabolic fat loss is High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). This consists, in practice, of a set of bursts of balls-out, massive output cardio work followed by timed rest periods. This type of cardio is similar to the Fartlek style favored by old-school track athletes and it's been around for years, but it has enjoyed resurgence with this everything-old-is-new-again movement so prevalent in today's fitness industry. It's a simple concept, however, and since we know a lot more about how to program it—in terms of volume, intensity and duration—it's a perfect solution for anyone looking to drop fat.

It's all backed up by plenty of research, too. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research published recent work showing that HIIT can actually increase testosterone levels and GLUT4 concentration. Steady-state cardio, as I wrote earlier, has the exact opposite effect. Research has also shown that HIIT increases 24-hour mitochondrial biogenesis. This is the formation of new energy-producing mitochondria in cells, a process that typically shuts down mTOR during steady-state cardio.

Last, but not least, HIIT sets off an increase in the concentration of myofibrillar nuclei. Hypertrophy depends on increases in this concentration, along with the content of your muscle fibers.

Start The Countdown

When it comes to the fat-burning process, timing is everything. The good news for you, however, is that if you decide to make HIIT your primary form of cardio, there are several tweaks you can throw in to enhance the process and get the fat off much faster.

The first of these tweaks applies to how you space out your workouts. Make sure to schedule your training so that you complete your HIIT sessions up to an hour before you train with weights. Studies have shown that when you time this properly, it can amplify the aforementioned mitochondrial biogenesis. Research in the Journal of Applied Physiology also showed that scheduling your training sessions this way also turns on the mTOR pathway of growth instead of shutting it off—the benefits of which were explained earlier.

Volume is the other key consideration with HIIT. Research has shown that higher-rep, strength-endurance training is the most effective way to complement your HIIT sessions when you perform both on the same day.

Finally, you'll want to cycle everything. With HIIT, it's most effective to go four weeks on, followed by four weeks without it. During your HIIT-less cycle, focus strictly on hypertrophy to promote mitochondrial biogenesis and an increase in the nuclei effect. When your nuclei density is greater, you can make your muscle fibers larger. The only way to increase the number of intracellular nuclei you have, however, is to perform strength-endurance training.

This is somewhat dichotomous because this type of training will actually make muscle smaller. That's how it works: to get more nuclei to get bigger, you have to begin by training to make a muscle smaller. This sounds counterintuitive, but it works.

Time To Grow

When you're done with your strength-endurance cycle, you'll be left with an increased number of cellular nuclei. Then, once you start a strict hypertrophy schedule, you'll be able to get bigger than you otherwise could have.

It's possible to lose some mitochondrial density here—this makes muscle oxidative—but it takes much longer to actually lose the mitochondria. Simply put, you alternate between periods of increasing your potential to gain muscle (your "on" HIIT weeks), and periods where you actually fulfill that potential and get bigger and stronger (your "off hypertrophy cycle).

HIIT can be performed a number of different ways, but to make things as anabolic as possible the idea is to get as close as you can to maximum power output for 30 seconds, followed by four minutes of rest, for four to-six rotations.

For your week "on" cycle, you'll follow this pattern three times each week. I like using spin bikes—the ones in your gym's aerobics room—for this. Don't focus on speed here. Instead, increase your resistance and your rate of force production .This lower cadence will give you greater surge of testosterone—probably because it simulates a form of resistance training.

Supplementation

To get this right, there's a bit of supplementation you'll need to complement your HIIT cycles. I've long been known as a huge advocate of adding leucine to any supplement plan, and in terms of HIIT, I believe it's especially effective. Here, I'd recommend taking at least five grams of it before your workouts.

Research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that taking leucine-enriched amino acids before aerobic exercise can increase post-exertion protein synthesis by up to 33 percent—further proof of leucine's efficacy.

Reprinted with permission from the Nov/Dec 2012 edition of Power Magazine.

Recommended For You

The No Excuses Full-Body Workout

Even when you can't get to the gym, you can get in great shape. Try this full-body workout from former WBFF bikini champ Chady Dunmore!

4 Fat-Blasting Cardio Workouts

Cardio doesn't have to be a snooze fest. Crank up the intensity and revitalize your training with these fun workouts.

5 Keys To Doing High-Intensity Intervals The Right Way

Cardio may be boring, but at least you'll burn far more calories when you follow these 5 rules for making HIIT workouts vastly more effective.

Related Articles

About The Author

Check out these awesome articles by some of the best writers in the industry.

RATE THIS ARTICLE
POOR
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
EXCELLENT
OVERALL RATING
6.2

Out of 10
Good
118 Ratings

59

Comments

Showing 1 - 25 of 59 Comments

(5 characters minimum)

      • notify me when users reply to my comment
Enriquefranco

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
Enriquefranco

I am trying HIIT combined with Kris Gethin's DTP, I see good gains with minimal fat gain

Jan 8, 2013 6:38pm | report
 
DaMLooker

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
DaMLooker

I've also started DTP. Instead of 4 weeks I plan on doing 5. The first week being a test run, not really use to supersets, so its an endurance builder. In you opinion, will this help me tone up more? I have a layer of fat that is stubborn and just won't burn off.

Jan 10, 2013 3:48am | report
CNguyening

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
CNguyening

So when doing HIIT, the main point is to run as hard as you can, what about on the elliptical? Increasing the intensity to max and going all out, is that more effective? And how can you tell if you're going hard enough, but not too hard?

Jan 8, 2013 7:33pm | report
 
Mudvayne24

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
Mudvayne24

Increase the incline and the resistance. You definitely don't need to worry about how fast you're going. I've done 3 minutes off 1 minute on for 5 cycles. Kris Gethin actually has a good rundown on his DTP program for this. I followed his specific intensities and I was spent and drenched after 20 minutes.

Jan 8, 2013 8:47pm | report
ryanrodrigo

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
ryanrodrigo

You know what's better than the elliptical, how about go balls out sprinting on actual ground. Ellipticals have actually been proven to be the worst form of cardio one could do. I either saw an article on that here on BB.com or leangains.com

Jan 8, 2013 9:06pm | report
herofit54R

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
herofit54R

Yes, because ordering someone who may have ZERO running background out onto the pavement OR a treadmill is safer for knee and joint health than an elliptical.

If you're going to incorporate HIIT into an elliptical workout just don't try to bang the machine around, it forces momentum on your joints and completely messed with the human lower body power curve - I would echo what Mudvayne said - forget speed, go with high resistance and incline.

Jan 8, 2013 11:54pm | report
Fearnon89

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
Fearnon89

For elliptical, I say turn up resistance and incline levels. 60 sec intense and 30 sec rest, repeat for 3 sets:)

Jan 9, 2013 1:22am | report
AJacks92

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
AJacks92

Yes to run as hard as you can, but at a controlled time. HIIT isn't meant to burn yourself out all the way. You don't come to the gym and do one set. You have to take "breaks." My advice, run hard for 20 sec, speed walk for a min, then run hard again for another 20 sec. Repeat for 5 cycles. Enjoy :)

Jan 9, 2013 7:49am | report
Mudvayne24

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
Mudvayne24

I can't really see how an elliptical is inferior to say a stationary bike. You don't need to incorporate any of your core muscles (or any of your upper body at all for that matter).

Either way... the resistance is where it's at. When doing the HIIT for 1 minute at a time I found myself cursing every word I could think of at the 30 second mark. That's typically the intensity your looking for. By the end of the minute your muscles should be begging for that rest period. If you still have anything left you need to go harder next round.

Jan 9, 2013 7:54am | report
plmcute8402

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
plmcute8402

I do my HITT on the elliptical, here is what i do and it is very effective for my PM session when trying to lean out- I warm up 5min at a steady state, then 15sec burst (yes up the resistance) then recover 45sec(slower but keeping the resistance the same maybe half the effort), i do this for the next 20min and follow it with a 5min cool down. PS if you hold the hand grips and lean back, making sure to dig in with yoyr heels your glutes will BURN,like nothing else.

Jan 9, 2013 10:28am | report
Papiriqui

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
Papiriqui

The way i do elliptical is at the same resistance, balls to wall for 1 minute and rest period (slower pace) 2 mins, i do 3 sessions of HIIT of 20 mins each combined of elliptical, stairs, bike, treadmill, etc.

On either equipment you use the basic still applies, i think 15 second burst is enough to bring your HR high enough to the peak....

Jan 9, 2013 12:24pm | report
YOGUI

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
YOGUI

If you wanna run without too much impact in your joints, you can try to find a parking lot with several floors...jogging within the floor and run when you are going to the next floor. It's a very good exercise and the impact (due to the incline surface) is less. :)

Jan 9, 2013 1:14pm | report
PDeV1

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
PDeV1

I did HIIT cardio for cycle the last 12 weeks. I pass of 22% Body Fat to 12.8 %. It really works. Before I was doing cardio 2 times a week, 30 minutes. Now 12 minutes after my training. I do 30 seconds of tempo cardio on my bike, and 30 of sprint. For 12 times. For sure, nutrition help, but HIIT helped a lot too. Thx to Jim Stoppani

Jan 10, 2013 2:42pm | report
accace

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
accace

I play basketball so there is some hiit right there!!!

Jan 8, 2013 7:39pm | report
 
davisc1

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
davisc1

Just making sure I understood this correctly, when doing HIIT the 30 second bursts followed by the 4 minute rest periods are just as efficient, if not better than runnng about 4 miles straight.

Jan 8, 2013 9:54pm | report
 
dwest62

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
dwest62

True sir, personally don't recommend four minutes rest, maybe two at most but I'm no doctor. But doing 30 sec on 60 off helps me. Maybe even mix up steady state and HIIT. HIIT can cause some serious muscle fatigue so start out slowly. My two cents. Either way good luck man!!

Jan 8, 2013 10:36pm | report
Shifisu

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
Shifisu

HIIT targets the same muscle fibers as weight training (Fast Twitch). Conventional cardio targets Slow Twitch muscle fibers (more then 20minutes in a row). Fast Twitch makes your muscles stronger and bigger. Slow Twitch makes them smaller and weaker (to decrease the length at which blood/nutrients needs to travel to the muscle and as such can hold out for a longer period of time). The process of recovery and increase metabolism makes sure you burn a boatload of kcal/fat over a /- 24hr period of time after a HIIT training.

So in a nutshell. Cardio burns fat. HIIT builds muscle and burns fat. HIIT is more prone to injury though.

Jan 9, 2013 6:28am | report
Papiriqui

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
Papiriqui

1 minute on 2 minutes off, you want to do burst but give it just enough time to do it again, 4 minutes based on a minute burst is to long of a rest period therefor kills the principle of doing HIIT in the first place

Jan 9, 2013 12:26pm | report
Fearnon89

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
Fearnon89

I need to start this

Jan 9, 2013 1:18am | report
 
rengot

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
rengot

When HIIT is combined with great nutrition and workout program, results are astonishing.

Jan 9, 2013 2:49am | report
 
MikeWilson1000

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
MikeWilson1000

I've been doing cardio for quite a long time and as soon as I switched from Solid-State to HIIT I noticed an immediate difference. Which was an amazing thing for me. Because I, like a lot of people, do not like to do cardio... at all. I always promote HIIT to people whenever the topic of fitness and/or cardio comes up.

Jan 9, 2013 8:14am | report
 
xMiiDNIGHT

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
xMiiDNIGHT

I prefer a circuit, running that hard is hard on my ankle. Old hockey injury. Usually jog for 5min, 25 pushups, jog 5min, 25 burpees, jog for 5min, 1min plank etc etc Till I am spent.

Jan 9, 2013 10:20am | report
 
tneub0119

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
tneub0119

So what would be a good workout plan to compliment the HIIT Cycle and the off -HIIT cycle?

Jan 9, 2013 10:55am | report
 
prestonnoble

Rep Power: 80

  • rep this user
prestonnoble

id try what enriquefranco (he is the first person to comment) is doing. combine Kris Gethin DTP program with HIITsince it is very high rep

Jan 9, 2013 2:57pm | report
ambilextrous

Rep Power: 0

  • rep this user
ambilextrous

When doing HIIT is it important to drop your heart rate below high intensity during the rest period?

Jan 9, 2013 12:07pm | report
 
Showing 1 - 25 of 59 Comments

Featured Product

Give Us Feedback:
Report A Problem
Site Feedback
Follow Us:
Twitter
Facebook
RSS Feeds
Bodybuilding.com Newsletter

Receive exciting features,
news & special offers from Bodybuilding.com