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intensity

Slant and Pant

HIIT Methods: Incline Treadmill Walking

Fitness centers present the client with an endless array of cardio training entertainment.  You can spin a bike, wheel around on an elliptical, run on a treadmill, row, ski,…  My recommendation is that we all start performing more incline treadmill walking intervals.  There are three big benefits you get from incline treadmill intervals that you do not get from any of the other cardio contraptions.

Single leg stance stability is a skill we all need to keep in our fitness programs.  Our independence and well-being is based upon being able to repeatedly balance, load, and then drive forward off a single leg.  Since we are all sitting more, we need to make an effort to practice the elaborate leg to leg “game of catch” that happens when we walk.  It is a sad fact that most of the more popular training devices in the gym have made exercise easier by eliminating the single leg stability demand.

Hip extension is the movement of your thigh bone (femur) behind your body.  Hip extension keeps your hamstring and gluteal muscles strong and responsive.  Well functioning hamstrings and gluteals keep your knees and lower back healthy and happy.  In the age of perpetual sitting and very little squatting and sprinting, hip extension has become a lost movement pattern.  Improving hip extension strength should be part of every training session.

Walking on an incline reboots the postural reflexes that hold us tight and tall.   Prolonged sitting, improper training, and weakness shuts down the team of muscles that keep our spine stable and upright.  As fatigue sets in, you can slouch over on a bike, slump onto the elliptical, or fold into a rower and continue to exercise.  If you lose your posture on the incline treadmill walk, you slide down the belt.  Many fitness clients report this is the hardest part of an incline treadmill session–their muscles in the middle fatigue before their legs.

Finding your initial incline and walking pace will be a trial and error endeavor.  My suggestion is that you start easy.  I find most newbies to incline treadmill intervals do well with a 5% incline and a 3.5 mph pace.  Incline treadmill training makes you stronger in all of the most neglected places.  Many people report they are able to significantly advance incline and speed with four months of dedicated training.  For the best results, frequently vary the intervals that you perform.  These are some of the sessions I have found work well for fitness clients.

90 seconds on / 45 seconds off

Walk for ninety seconds.  Step off the treadmill and rest for forty five seconds and repeat for three to six intervals.  The two to one work / rest ratio works well for nearly all fitness clients that are new to incline treadmill walking.

Quarter Mile Repeats

Get a stopwatch and track your performance on this interval session.  Set the treadmill speed and incline.  Walk ¼ of a mile.  Rest as needed and then repeat.  Perform four ¼ mile incline walks.  Record your time to complete all four ¼ mile walks.  I find this to be a good test of cardiorespiratory recovery capacity.  Work toward a faster performance.

10 seconds on / 10 seconds off x 10

This comes directly from Dr. Gibalas research on HIIT.  This protocol has been shown to be as or more effective at improving insulin sensitivity and cardiorespiratory capacity than longer training sessions.  Set the treadmill at a slightly higher incline.  Walk ten seconds and then step off and rest for ten seconds.  Perform ten of these ten second intervals.

2/10th, 3/10th, 5/10th Mile Interval Session

Get a stopwatch and track your performance on this interval session.  Set the treadmill speed and incline.  Walk 2/10th of a mile.  Rest as needed and then perform 3/10th of a mile.  Rest as needed and then perform 5/10th of a mile.  Record your time to complete all three intervals.   As you get stronger your times will improve.

For more information on the many benefits of HIIT read the The One Minute Workout by Dr. Martin Gibala.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Hills Make It Happen

HIIT Methods: Hill Sprints

Hills sprints are an amazingly effective method of improving fitness and keeping the lower extremities strong.  Sprinting up a hill reduces impact on the joints, improves running mechanics, creates a profound metabolic disruption, and your training session is over in twelve minutes.  Walter Peyton was a huge believer in hill sprints and no one could argue with his results.

Hill sprints are safer than flat surface sprints because the ground rises up to meet the foot.  Maximal lower limb speed and impact is reduced when you sprint up a hill.  Hill sprints make you lean forward into the posture of acceleration.  In order to produce more of the force that lifts the body up the hill, the athlete must pump the arms and drive back through the hips.  Hill sprints are arguably one of the most functional training activities you can perform.

Hill sprints are not for everyone.  They are not appropriate for the physically deconditioned population.  If you have a history of lower extremity orthopedic issues, you want to use another, less aggressive form of HIIT.  Hill sprints take some discipline to complete.  They are not the same as running uphill on an inclined treadmill.  I would argue that hill sprints are the most effective method of disrupting physiological homeostasis–you will get leaner and fitter faster.

The ideal hill is a five to seven percent grade and 100 to 150 yards long.  Most of the hill sprints you will perform are for distances sixty yards or less.  Listed below are some of my favorite hill sprint routines.

20 Yard Hill Sprints

Sprint up the hill for twenty yards.  Walk back down and rest.  Beginners start with three sprints and work your way up to eight sprints.

20 – 40 – 60 – 40 – 20 Yard Hill Sprints

Sprint 20 yards and then rest, 40 yards, rest, 60 yards, rest 40 yards, rest, 20 yards and you are finished.  Recover sufficiently so the next hill sprint does not suffer a breakdown in performance.

40 Yard Hill Sprints

Warm up and perform a 40 yard hill sprint at 80% of full effort.  Walk back down the hill and then perform another 40 yard hill sprint at 85% full effort.  Perform the next three hill sprints at 90-95% full effort.  Five good sprints are all you need.

Watch Mike explain hill sprinting on his favorite hill: https://youtu.be/AHJjmT87g7g

For more information on the many benefits of HIIT read the The One Minute Workout by Dr. Martin Gibala.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Spinning Wheel

HIIT Methods: Air Assault Dual Action Bike

The Air Assault dual action bike is a challenging metabolic disrupting machine.   For older fitness clients, heavier folks, and those of us with legs that are less tolerant of impact, the Air Assault improves cardio-respiratory capacity and minimizes joint stress.  If you are seeking an intense training experience, look no further than the Air Assault bike.

The number two reason people give for not exercising is limited time–lack of results is number one.  The Air Assault solves both of these problems.  Training sessions on the Air Assault are brief and very effective.

Set your seat for height and reach so at the bottom of the pedal stroke, the knee is bent about 20 degrees.  The arms should not fully extend at the elbows.  The bike is simple– increase the pedal speed and you push a greater volume of air.  Go slow—less resistance.  Go fast—more resistance.  Keep a tall posture to effectively drive with the arms and assist the legs.  I have outlined four of my favorite HIIT Air Assault training routines.  As usual, remember to perform a movement preparation warm up before launching into a HIIT session.

30 seconds on / 30 seconds off

Ride at an exertion level of 7/10 (1 is a stroll and 10 is sprinting away from a lion) for 30 seconds and then pedal slowly at a 1/10 exertion level for 30 seconds.  Repeat the cycle for ten intervals.  You are done in ten minutes.

45 seconds on / 15 seconds off

Ride at an exertion level of 7/10 (1 is a stroll and 10 is swimming to escape the alligator) for 45 seconds and then pedal slowly for at a 1/10 exertion level for 30 seconds.  Repeat the cycle for five intervals.  This workout takes five minutes.

Tabata Protocol

Twenty seconds on at an exertion level of 9/10 followed by ten seconds off at 1/10.  Repeat eight times.  This format is built right into the Air Assault bike timer.  Do not get discouraged if you have to stop well before completing eight intervals.  Work your way up to completing all four minutes of the session.

1.5, 1.0, 0.5 Mile Intervals

Ride for one and half miles and then rest 90 seconds.  Ride for one mile and rest for 45 seconds.  Ride for a half mile.  Record you overall time.

View Mike’s video on the assault bike: https://youtu.be/8Y3rmX2cF3s

For more information on the many benefits of HIIT read the The One Minute Workout by Dr. Martin Gibala.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Pushing For Performance

HIIT Methods: Sled Training

A good high intensity interval training (HIIT) session creates a disturbance of metabolic homeostasis while minimizing stress on the joints and / or compression of the spine.  Pushing a sled meets both of those goals.  Sled sessions are time efficient, and they have the added benefits of improving leg strength, core stability, and they make you better at nearly every daily challenge.  A well designed HIIT sled training protocol allows you to assess performance and track progress.  Presented below are four of my most frequently prescribed sled HIIT protocols.   Ditch the elliptical, cancel your Zumba sessions, and for the next month, give these a try.

I cannot tell you how much weight to use on the sled.  In general, men can start with bodyweight and women with half to two thirds bodyweight loads.  You will quickly learn if you have too much or too little on the sled.  Any progressive gym will have several sleds and plenty of open space.  The trainers at Fenton Fitness can get you started.

30 / 30 Protocol: Place a stopwatch so it is visible on the sled.  The load on the sled should create a thirty second interval exertion rating that feels “easy”.  Push the sled for thirty seconds and then rest for 30 seconds.  Perform eight intervals.

10 – 20 – 30 – 10 – 20 – 30 – 10 – 20 – 30 Yard Interval: Load your sled and start the timer.  Push the sled for 10 yards and rest twenty seconds.  Push the sled 20 yards and rest twenty seconds.  Push the sled 30 yards and rest twenty seconds.  Repeat 10, 20, and 30 yards two more times.   Finish all of the intervals and you will have covered 180 yards.  Record your time.

60 – 30 – 15 Yard Interval: Be careful that you do not use too much load for this HIIT sled session.  Push the sled 60 yards.  Rest thirty seconds.  Push the sled 30 yards.  Rest thirty seconds.  Push the sled 15 yards.  Record your time.

15 Yards Times Ten: Use a load on the sled that allows you to move at a fairly steady pace.  Think racehorse, not plow horse.  Place a stopwatch so it is visible on the sled.   Start the timer and push the sled fifteen yards.  Rest ten seconds and then push another fifteen yard push.  Perform ten, fifteen yard intervals.  Record your time.

View Mike’s video on sled training here: https://youtu.be/PfOccHMmzF4

For more information on the many benefits of high intensity interval training, read the The One Minute Workout by Dr. Martin Gibala.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Aging Muscles and Exercise

Fast Reaction and Helpful Hormones

New technology has produced some surprising information on the cellular response of muscle to various types of exercise.  Super blood analyzers and computers have enabled scientists to monitor gene expression and hormonal release in muscle cells during and after sessions of exercise.  The information from this research is revolutionizing our understanding of optimal exercise prescription for health and longevity.  It appears that older individuals derive the most beneficial muscle cell response with fairly intense interval training sessions.  Please take the time to read Gretchen Reynolds article in the New York Times, The Best Exercise for Aging Muscles.

Dr. Martin Gibala, a professor at the kinesiology department at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario recently released an outstanding book, The One Minute Workout.  Dr. Gibala explains the science behind high intensity interval training (HIIT) and why it is safe and effective for older fitness participants.

Skeletal muscles produce beneficial biochemicals called myokines that stimulate a response in cells throughout the body.  Myokines are a fairly new scientific discovery and we have only recently begun to understand their remarkable effect on human physiology.  Myokines enhance blood vessel development, promote beneficial hormone levels, stimulate greater mitochondria production, and improve the metabolism of fat.  In the older individual, myokine levels are enhanced with strength training and high intensity interval training.

The best method of creating more of the beneficial myokine biochemistry is to consistently perform some progressive resistance training followed by a brief but intense interval training session.  This regimen of training is similar to that of track athletes involved in sprinting.  These athletes have high levels of muscle mass and very low body fat levels.

Michael S. O’Hara, PT, OCS, CSCS

Read the NY Times article here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/23/well/move/the-best-exercise-for-aging-muscles.html

PDFTreadmills are found in virtually every gym.  Read the six treadmill facts you need to know.  Meet a Fenton Fitness member who learned how to manage her back pain, and read about the seven best TRX exercises.  Do you have limited time to exercise?  Be more efficient with HIIT.

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Intensity Know How

Exercise Intensity Is a Mystery For Most Fitness Clients

Cheryl trained in the gym three days a week and went to yoga class twice a week.  At the gym she used the elliptical machine for thirty minutes and did the “ab circuit”.  The yoga classes lasted an hour and she was always very tired after a session.  Despite six months of this program, she had not lost any fat and her blood pressure remained elevated.  After recovering from a heel pain problem, Cheryl began training at Fenton Fitness.  After her first session, it was evident what was stopping Cheryl from reaching her goals.  She had no idea what constitutes effective exercise intensity.

Cheryl’s problem is not an uncommon one.  Many fitness participants overestimate how hard they are exercising.  What they perceive as a moderate or intense work level is actually a low exertion level.  As the body accommodates to the same exercise stress repeated day after day, the intensity level falls even further.  A recent article by Gretchen Reynolds in the June 12, 2014 issue of the New York Times discusses a recent study on the overestimation of exercise intensity.

Many fitness clients and rehab patients are not comfortable with being uncomfortable.  They stop an exercise activity well before they reach a level that will produce a training effect.  They require guidance and reassurance that the feelings they get when heart rate and body heat elevate are normal and necessary.  Heart rate monitors are often the solution for these clients.  Gradually introducing ten second intervals of exercise at 70% of age adjusted maximums on a bike or treadmill followed by a fifty second recovery will get the client accustomed to the feeling of more intense exercise.  Having the client wear a heart rate monitor while walking and monitoring sensation while making an effort to push up the rate with faster paces and uphill walks is effective.

Cheryl felt lightheaded and short of breath during her first five exercise sessions but, after using a heart rate monitor and becoming accustomed to the intensity of each session, she started feeling better.  Four months later, she was able to stop taking one of her blood pressure medications, and she had lost eight pounds.  Cheryl now knows what mild, moderate, and intense exercise sessions feel like and no longer uses her heart rate monitor.

To view the New York Times article, click the link: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/06/11/judging-badly-how-hard-we-exercise/

Michael O’Hara, P.T., OCS, CSCS

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