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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

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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