Natural Bodybuilding With JC: High Intensity Interval Training

SprintingFitter3There was a time when I never did any cardio. I would joke around about not needing cardio – why exercise a muscle you can’t see? It wasn’t until I started taking the path of bodybuilding that I really got my first taste of cardio. At the hands of a guru, I was fed all sorts of untruths about cardio and certain ways to maximize my results. To avoid the resurgence of these ridiculous tactics, I will not address them here.

Much like my workouts, over time my methods for incorporating cardio into my routine have evolved. As a novice fitness enthusiast, I was under the impression that the only way to lose fat was to do insane amounts of cardio. Lacking the required discipline and motivation to perform insane amounts of cardio, or any for that matter, I was content with accepting my body fat percentage where it was at. Lucky for me, I maintained a body fat percentage of about eight percent year round, despite my haphazard approach to nutrition and exercising.

Cardio became a regular part of my workout when I decided to compete. As my knowledge on cardiovascular exercise grew, so did my desire to integrate it as a year-round necessity. Whilst my initial impression of cardio was as a weight loss tool, I came to realize it was just as important for growth and could be tailored to such. Regular and consistent cardiovascular training improves your heart’s ability to pump blood and it increases oxygen delivery. Cardio is typically viewed by most bodybuilders in one of two ways – a method to burn fat or a means to increase caloric intake/expenditure – but it can be much more.

Cardio increases the delivery of nutrients to muscle tissue, leading to an overall increase in muscle mass, but don’t get too ahead of yourself. This is not to say that countless hours of cardio will build you into a beast. Overdoing it will have a reverse result, leading to the breakdown of muscle tissue. This refers to the fast and slow twitch muscle fibers. Unknown-1The slow twitch fibers are more commonly associated with endurance style training whereas fast twitch fibers are associated with more intense workout styles like lifting. Sudden speedy bursts can stimulate muscle fiber growth.

This is where High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) comes into play. HIIT is cardiovascular exercise that is characterized by alternating periods of intense anaerobic activity followed by less intense recovery or rest periods. It was first thought that the best way to lean out and preserve muscle was to perform steady state cardio at moderate intensity, however studies are showing that the fat burning potential of HIIT far outweighs that of steady state cardio.

Performing HIIT will cause your body to repeatedly change its exertion levels which prevents your body entering steady state. Your body will require more energy (calories) to function at this level. An added bonus is that you actually continue to burn calories long after the exercise is completed, since HIIT has been shown to increase metabolism. Take a look at the body of a sprinter versus the body of a marathon runner!1C30805E-AB2D-4025-A95D-1B6952346245

I tend to follow the rule of low/moderate intensity cardio on weight-days and high intensity intervals on off/non-weight days. I usually also toss in some core work on my HIIT days. Low/moderate intensity cardio acts as a great warm up or cool down to any lifting session. It will get the blood flowing which either will pump you up for your workout or start repairing the muscles when done. It is important to remember that HIIT is more intense and will target the aerobic and anaerobic systems. The reason I do HIIT on off days is because I want all of my energy and effort to go into the weights, and not for it to be used up on cardio.

A typical HIIT session is about 20 minutes in length, comprising of a warm-up, the interval training, and a cool down. I have seen many different HIIT routines – so you can work with it a little to find a program that suits your needs. Just make sure you follow the basics: slow-FAST-slow. Try to incorporate 7-10 intervals to make it worth your while.

The following are two 20 minute HIIT routines I currently alternate between:

3 minute treadmill walk at 4.0 3 minute step mill at 60

30 second run at 12.0 OR 30 seconds at 160
1.5 minute walk at 4.0 1.5 minutes 60
(8 intervals) (8 intervals)

2.5 minute walk at 4.0 2.5 minutes at 60

Happy Lifting!

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14 comments for “Natural Bodybuilding With JC: High Intensity Interval Training

  1. February 7, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    Nothing works better than HIIT, and the other benefit is it’s over fast. I’ve done 1.5 hours daily of fasted cardio and nothing can be less fulfilling than that!

    • February 7, 2013 at 8:13 pm

      JC / Matt – Thoughts on preworkout nutrition for HIIT? Is fasted HIIT a good idea? Oh and Matt – Shoot me now if I’m doing 1.5 hours of steady state cardio! LOL

      • JC
        February 7, 2013 at 8:57 pm

        No different than if you were lifting weights. If straight out of bed in the morning, scoop of whey or some BCAAs at the very least.

  2. February 7, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    I love HIIT! It’s about the only way I can tolerate cardio. Put me on a treadmill and tell me to run 4 or 5 miles and I’ll probably stop after 1 mile because I can’t take it anymore. Set me on a treadmill and crank it up to 12 or 13 and do 30 seconds on / 30 off and I love every second of it! Feels like you are really do something (and you are.)

    • JC
      February 7, 2013 at 12:03 pm

      I’m the exact same way – but sprints are difficult on a treadmill. That’s why my split is 30 fast and 1.5 minutes slow. Rather than jump off and on a fast moving belt I just speed up and slow down as needed.

      • February 7, 2013 at 1:11 pm

        I’d definitely prefer that, but have to wait for spring now. Excuse or not I’m not willing to sprint in snow and 5 degree weather. LOL One of the gym locations I use has a track, I could maybe do that!

  3. Steven
    February 7, 2013 at 8:34 am

    Could I also do this at the end of my weights to burn more fat?

    • JC
      February 7, 2013 at 8:52 am

      You can do it at any time. The idea of the workout is to be very taxing. To be honest, the above examples are good starts to get used to the style, but it can be much harder. You want it to be as hard as possible. Besides running outside/on a track, the elliptical is a good choise since you can really let loose on it. Adding it to the end of a workout is fine, if you have the energy. What I have started doing recently is using HIIT as a quick warmup to weights. I do just 10 minutes which includes a 1.5 minute warmup and six intervals at 30 seconds fast, 1 minute slow.

      • Steven
        February 7, 2013 at 10:53 am

        Maybe I’ll try that at the start and end of weights. I have some weight to lose. You think it will help me?

        • JC
          February 7, 2013 at 11:33 am

          HIIT is a very effective fat loss tool. Combined with a good diet and workout plan, there is no reason why you shouldn’t see good results. Keep in mind, there is no single solution to fat loss. HIIT will not undo poor eating habits. You must also keep in mind that weight loss is not always fat loss. The key to success is establishing a diet and workout routine that suits your style and meets your overall fitness goals. Extremes in either direction – too much exercise and/or not enough food will only cause damage.

  4. Luke Aubin
    February 7, 2013 at 8:29 am

    Until I began working with you I thought the only way to successfully burn calories was to spend hours on end on the treadmill or bike, toiling away!

    How wrong I was! The HIIT style has ramped up my metabolism and torched fat like nothinge else! Great article! Great training technique!

    • Anonymous
      February 9, 2013 at 6:00 am

      Useful article JC, just checking whether the treadmill speeds you have quoted are mph or kms per hour? Im a quick runner so would need faster than 12kms p/h to be in HIT zone whereas 19kms p/h (12mph) would be near my max.

      • JC
        February 9, 2013 at 9:11 am

        This is MPH. At my little gym that is as fast as it goes. From 4mph, I throw the speed all the way up ten seconds before the mark. That allows a ten second speed up period. Then I run at that speed for 25 seconds before I begin the descent.

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