Bob Clayson's Optimal Exercise
for optimal health, aesthetic form, and function

“You haven’t been through the workout yet!”

This is my first post of my blog. I intend to use the blog function here to regularly update you on experiences and incites from my own training as well as training clients.  Today I took my wife through her first HIT workout.  We focused mostly on form and finding the appropriate weights.

Something that she said prior to the workout that I hear often when I explain the concepts of  HIT to people, is “I can’t believe that that short of a workout could really do so much!”  It’s common for people when they learn that 2-3 times per week at 15 minutes a pop is common for beginners. Intermediate and advanced trainees workout even less. Sometimes as little as every 10 days.  My usual response is something like, “You haven’t been through the workout yet.”  Usually after I put someone through one of my workouts, they get what I mean.

Having to sit down because your legs are too weak to stand, feeling dizzy,  being totally out of breath and a heavy burning sensation in the muscles is common after and during a HIT workout.  The intensity leaves people feeling weak and drained after somewhere between 12-20 minutes, and it is virtually unheard of for people to ask for more.  Simply going through a workout, usually gets my point across for how short they are.

The intensity also accounts for the infrequency.  The S type (or slow twitch) muscle fibers, the ones used for “aerobics” classes, jogging, and long steady-state biking, usually recover within 90-120 seconds after finishing.  When you only tap those, or even slightly higher order fibers like the Fast-oxidative,  your recovery is quick and you can usually workout the next day.  However, little in the way of glycogen depletion has taken place with those lower order fibers.  You only really begin to tap your potential energy reserves when you use a weight sufficient to eventually reach and weaken the FOG and FG muscle fibers.  These can take between 2 and 10 days to fully recover and adapt to your workout.

It’s not simply that you can workout infrequently, it’s that it’s necessary to work out that infrequently to allow recovery and adaption.

In John Little’s Nautilus North Study, he discovered through extremely accurate body composition testing, that following a full body workout involving set durations lasting between 30 and 90 seconds, that full recovery and adaption occurred between 6.6 and 10 days following exercise.

This indicates that is it a requirement for the genetically average to workout once per week at this intensity.  True beginners are typically unable to give the intensity, and lack the resources to cause 6-10 day recovery periods, so starting out you can workout 2-3 times per week.  Once you begin to notice your improvements have slowed, then you need to further reduce frequency to account for the greater energy expenditure.

This is sort of counter-intuitive for us in our “more is better” society.  The typical trainee would assume that if he or she was not making progress, that more frequent, or longer workouts would be necessary.  However, we must realize that when we increase out strength and metabolic conditioning, we become more capable of expending greater amounts of energy per workout.  While our expenditure increases, our bodies ability to recovery is ultimately limited.

To give an example, let’s say your chest muscles have a total of 100 units of strength.  During a chest press, you use 80% of your 1 Rep Max and go to failure. This means that you expended approx. 20% of your available strength, or a total of 20 strength units. The next week you have improved your chest strength 20%, meaning now you have 120 units of strength available.  If you were to continue to use 80% of your 1 rep max in your workout, you would again expend 20% of your strength, assuming you’re going to failure.  But 20% of 120 units is now 24 units.  Your last workout you only expended 20 units of strength on chest press; 4 units less than this time.  Let’s say you performed a set of leg presses, pulldowns, rows and shoulder presses as well in both those workouts, with similarly 20% increases in strength respectively.  That would mean that your total extra strength expenditure would be at least 20 total units from the first workout to the second.  As stated before, your body will recover at roughly the same pace, meaning you will need an extra day or two in order to recover.

The basic point is, the more strength you have, the more you can give, the greater amount of time necessary to recover.  Brief+Intense+Infrequent=Effective.

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