You Don’t Know HIT Part 2: “Cardio” And Fat Loss

Drew Baye flexing quadsWhen explaining high intensity training to new clients or discussing it with people outside of the studio certain questions almost always come up:

What about “cardio”?

Why don’t you have any treadmills or elliptical machines?

Don’t I need to do something for my heart?

What about burning fat?

What about warming up?

For decades people have been told they need aerobics or “cardio” to improve cardiovascular fitness and health and to lose fat. Almost every commercial gym has an area devoted exclusively to “cardio” equipment and almost every major fitness organization recommends some weekly amount of “cardiovascular activity”. In almost every article I’ve read about high intensity training in a mainstream publication the authors contradict the information in the rest of the article by adding recommendations to perform “cardio”.

Even a few trainers and coaches who use HIT and should know better can’t seem to let go of these erroneous notions.

Forget “cardio”. Forget stretching. Forget conventional notions of warming up. If you are strength training with a very high level of intensity, adequate set duration, and relatively short rest intervals you are stimulating improvements in all of the general, trainable factors of functional ability including cardiovascular and metabolic conditioning and flexibility. If you train with good form and an appropriate level of resistance a separate warm up is almost always unnecessary.

Is “Cardio” Necessary for Cardiovascular and Metabolic Conditioning?

No. Regardless of what you are doing with your muscles as long as you work them hard enough there will be enough demand on metabolic and cardiovascular efficiency to stimulate improvements. The reason running, cycling, swimming, and other steady-state activities stress the cardiovascular system is because of the metabolic cost of the muscular work being performed. If you strength train with a high enough level of intensity and move quickly between exercises you will stimulate the same or better improvements in cardiovascular and metabolic conditioning along with all the other benefits of strength training.

In fact, when done properly the term “strength training” is a misnomer since it wrongly implies only strength is being trained for when it is actually capable of stimulating improvements in all of the general, trainable factors of functional ability.

Is “Cardio” Necessary for Fat Loss?

No. All that is necessary for fat loss is that you create an energy deficit and a hormonal environment conducive to accessing the energy in your fat stores. This can be accomplished with diet alone. If you do any exercise it should be strength training for the purpose of maintaining lean body mass while fat is lost.

Forget the idea of exercising to burn calories. It is a huge waste of time. No activity burns enough calories to be worth doing for that purpose alone; not traditional endurance training, not sprint interval training, not Spinning or “cardio” kickboxing or “boot camps” or other group classes, not even strength training.  You’d have to do most of these activities for one to two hours every day of the week to burn less than the calories in a single pound of fat (before you rush off to look it up realize the majority of activity calculators list calories burned during activities and not the additional calories burned as a result of those activities minus resting energy expenditure).

Dietary modification doesn’t require much time at all other than a few extra minutes a week for meal planning and preparation and can produce much faster fat loss. And it won’t injure you or contribute to long term joint and spine problems like many so-called “cardio” activities do, or interfere with your body’s ability to recover from and produce the improvements stimulated during strength training.

I have my gym and phone clients work out less than one hour a week (just one or two half-hour workouts) and they’re able to lose a few pounds of fat per week doing this along with a few simple modifications to their diet; reduce calorie intake to between 10 and 12 calories per pound of body weight per day (adjust until you’re losing at least one or two pounds of fat per week), eliminate or strictly limit intake of grains, legumes, refined sugars, and vegetable oils, and eat mostly beef, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, and nuts.

When the photo above was taken my body fat percentage was in the low single digits. At that time I was doing only one high intensity strength training workout a week and most of those workouts only took around fifteen to twenty minutes to complete. Other than standing for much of the day training clients I did no “cardio” at all. I actually tried to keep my physical activity to a minimum because part of the reason for getting ripped was to demonstrate it was possible with HIT and proper eating alone.

What About Warming Up? Won’t I Get Hurt If I Don’t Warm Up Before HIT?

No. Unless you have some joint problem or physical condition which requires it a separate warm up is unnecessary as long as you use proper form during your workout. A general warm up is just a waste of time and energy and additional warm up sets provide no physical benefit you wouldn’t obtain from the first few reps of your regular exercises and are also a waste of time and energy.

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77 Responses to You Don’t Know HIT Part 2: “Cardio” And Fat Loss

  1. Ryan October 28, 2012 at 4:02 pm #

    Great stuff. I lost 40 pounds and reduced my body fat by 8% without cardio. What I did was very similar to the recommendations you made in the article. I lifted weights 3 times a week using HIT, and I ate mostly meat and veggies.

    • Drew Baye October 28, 2012 at 4:19 pm #

      Thanks Ryan,

      I appreciate the comment and hope more people share similar experiences. When I talk about my own results critics often counter with the claim I have exceptional genetics for fat loss and most people still have to do cardio to lose fat. This simply isn’t true. These guidelines have worked for everybody I have trained who has followed them consistently.

  2. Jerry Y. October 28, 2012 at 4:37 pm #

    I enjoy hearing what results people have gotten using HIT. Mr.Baye do you have any articles where you display some of your clients results, or some of the results of athletes using HIT? Sometimes I just like seeing the examples for motivation.

    • Drew Baye October 28, 2012 at 4:46 pm #

      Jerry,

      No, but I ought to start putting together some case studies with photos.

      • jerry y October 29, 2012 at 9:45 am #

        That would be awesome. I think many people respond to the efficacy of “x,y,z” when they can see it.

  3. Matt Spriggs October 28, 2012 at 4:41 pm #

    Great article,

    I can’t recall where, but I remember reading that 1 pound of adipose tissue can sustain a 185lb man running at a speed of 5 mph for almost 30 miles – or 6 hours of non-stop running – so much for relying on steady-state activity to burn calories. Unfortunately, my older brother has gone on the HCG diet. The doctor he is seeing has recommended that he eat no more than 500 calories/daily. In addition to the horrible nutritional advice he has convinced my brother that these HCG drop will “trick” the hypothalamus into burning much more fat. It is encouraging to see you promote such rational advice concerning nutrition and exercise on your website. Thank you.

    • Drew Baye October 28, 2012 at 4:54 pm #

      Matt,

      Unfortunately this kind of scam is popular with doctors looking to make a few extra bucks at the expensive of the desperate and gullible. HCG has not been shown to be effective for fat loss and only been shown to increases muscle mass in androgen-deficient males, so if someone is only eating 500 calories per day they’re going to lose a lot of lean body mass along with the fat. Even if they lose a lot of weight they’ll still look like crap, and feel like it too.

    • Niles Wheeler November 2, 2012 at 9:02 pm #

      People need to remember 50% of all doctors finished in the lower half of their class. Most medical schools require 20 hours or less of nutrition. I have been using hit circuit training since 1974 after my first visit to the Nautilus facility in Lake Helen Florida. I had the good fortune to meet Arthur Jones, Casey Viator, and Dr. Ellington Darden. Much of my knowledge came direct from them. I have studied Arthur’s bulletins and every book written by Dr. Darden, I won numerous body building completions in my 50′s using circuit training exclusively. At 65 I still train as hard and with as much weight as I did at 30. I am 5′ 8″ 200 pounds with 12% body fat. I am thinking about dropping to about 8% for a last shot at competing. I usually lower my carbs to achieve my desired BF percentage. You can’t beat HIT circuit training for overall fitness. I am living proof…May God bless

      • Drew Baye November 3, 2012 at 8:10 am #

        Niles,

        Thanks for sharing, and if you do compete let me know. The more examples of people doing it right, the better.

  4. Mike October 28, 2012 at 6:28 pm #

    Drew,

    Great article on the myths of “cardio.” Whenever I tell someone that running on a treadmill is unnecessary, they tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about.

    The only question I have is for your food choices. When you mention to avoid/strictly limit vegetable oils, does that include olive oil? I’ve been under the impression that olive oil is healthful to consume, and it is a regular part of my diet.

    • Drew Baye October 28, 2012 at 6:47 pm #

      Mike,

      If they think you need to run on a treadmill or do similar activities for fat loss they don’t know what they’re talking about.

      Olive oil isn’t as bad as corn, soybean, or canola oils, but due to the higher amount of linoleic acid and oxidative potential you should buy only extra virgin, keep it stored in a cool, dry place with the cap tight, and not go crazy with the amounts.

      • Andy December 1, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

        Guys, may I suggest organic coconut oil. Has a very low melting point and does not become toxic at high temperatures. Great to cook with.. My body uses fat for fuel so I supplement with it as well.
        Cheers,
        Andy

        P.S. I dumped P90x for HIT and am loving the workout! As a single dad working out 35 min a week with HIT (and better results) has been a godsend vs 6 days a week at 1+ hours each day.. I’m all smiles.

  5. Farhad Ghorbani October 28, 2012 at 9:13 pm #

    I personaly find a general warmup very helpful in getting me ready for an intense workout. I do not go crazy, only 2 minutes on either eliptical or rowing machine. This helps to get blood flowing throughout the whole body, raise muscle core temp, loosen up joints, etc. I do not believe that performing this type of warmup dips into my energy reserves in a way tha jepordizes my performance of the actual muscle exercises. I even perform one or two warmup sets. This really helps me perform a very productive and intense work set. But this is just me. I believe each trainee has to judge what is best for him/her depending on many variables (gym temperature, muscle fiber-makeup, intensity of work sets, etc.)

    • Drew Baye October 28, 2012 at 10:11 pm #

      Farhad,

      All the things you mention – improved blood flow to the working muscles, lubrication of joints, etc. – occur during the first few reps of an exercise and don’t require a separate general warm up or warm up sets. Unless you have some joint problem which requires you to warm up to perform your work set without pain your warm up sets are not doing anything physical to help you perform your work set more intensely.

      You do not need to warm up if the gym is cold. It is better if you are cold when you start your workout and if you can stay as cool as possible throughout because you will be able to focus better and maintain a higher level of effort.

      There is no particular muscle fiber make up that would cause you to require or benefit from a warm up set. If you happen to have an extremely high percentage of slow twitch fibers you don’t need a warm up, you just need a higher duration for your work set.

      No matter how intensely you work you don’t require a warm up set. See the section addressing the myth that HIT is dangerous in the first You Don’t Know HIT. Risk of injury has nothing to do with how intensely you train. If you’re training correctly a warm up isn’t necessary to prevent injury, and if you’re training with bad form a warm up isn’t going to prevent one.

  6. Matt Spriggs October 28, 2012 at 9:25 pm #

    Drew,

    Thanks for your response. I will send my brother a link to your site – perhaps another perspective will help. I look forward to more great articles.

    Matt

    • Drew Baye October 28, 2012 at 9:53 pm #

      Matt,

      You’re welcome and I hope this helps set him on a healthier path.

  7. Thomas October 28, 2012 at 10:15 pm #

    “If you are strength training with a very high level of intensity, adequate set duration, and relatively short rest intervals you are stimulating improvements in all of the general, trainable factors of functional ability including cardiovascular and metabolic conditioning and flexibility.”

    Drew,

    Regarding set duration, it has been suggested recently over at the BBS site that a set’s TUL should be over 45 seconds to qualify as a good, high intensity set where only one set is needed. Otherwise, a second set may have to be performed to adequately inroad the muscle. What are your thoughts on this?

    • Drew Baye October 28, 2012 at 10:30 pm #

      Thomas,

      If the goal is improvement in overall fitness I agree. Less is required for strength and size gains but probably won’t do much for metabolic and cardiovascular conditioning. I think a TUL of between 60 and 90 seconds is a good starting point for most people if total fitness is the goal (muscular strength, size, and stamina, cardiovascular and metabolic efficiency, flexibility, resistance to injury, etc.).

  8. Brian Liebler October 29, 2012 at 7:17 am #

    Drew,
    What’s your thought of incorporating strength and size with metabolic cardiovascular conditioning with drop sets?
    An increased load for 45 sec for strength followed immediately by dropping the weight for another 45 sec for cnditioning.

    • Drew Baye October 29, 2012 at 8:28 am #

      Brian,

      It’s unnecessary. You will improve all those with a regular set of sufficient duration with less hassle and easier record keeping.

  9. Adam Budnik October 29, 2012 at 7:16 pm #

    Brill post as always. What is suprising though that even if you explain it to an average gym user often they still don’t really get it anyway. Many times I see people doing strength training, they stop way before any true effort as they only train strength only, like its a separate thing from outside of our body that is not connected to CV, flexibility,’ core’ and other similar time wasting approaches. The bottom line is we need strength whether we get up out of bed, run, swim, play sport or have sex… No strength, no movement. No Strength, no Cardio. No strengths, no flexibility. Im looking forward your next updates Drew. Regent. Adam

  10. Ernie October 29, 2012 at 9:04 pm #

    Hey Drew,
    I have lost 85.4 pounds since April 12 without any cardio, eating low carb/paleo and doing 2 HIT workouts a week. My leg press has increased by 65 pounds and my overhead press has increased by 30 pounds as well. I workout at our local YMCA and a PT asked me what I had been doing that has gotten such good results and when I told him his reply was “HIT is a myth and low carb doesn’t work long term”. Then he wanted me to sign up for a PT session and he would set me up with a workout and diet plan. I passed.

    • Drew Baye October 30, 2012 at 9:50 am #

      Ernie,

      Unfortunately most personal trainers are clueless. That trainer should have asked for you to set him up with a workout and diet plan instead since you’re obviously doing it right.

  11. marklloyd October 30, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

    Want to specifically improve your running?: Run. Your bicycling?: Ride. Etc,etc,etc. I doubt the general public will ever be able separate skill from conditioning.

  12. Ernie October 30, 2012 at 3:30 pm #

    Drew,
    Yeah, he introduced himself and told me how great I looked and how much progress he has seen me make in a short time. He then went on to tell me I was doing it all wrong. I have seen this guy running a woman from cardio equipment to cardio equipment in some kinda crazy cardio circuit. I just don’t understand how people fall for all of that crap. There is no way she will keep doing that 4 or 5 days a week like I am sure he is telling her she has to do. She will stick with it for a month or so, give up and go back to be sedentary because exercise to hard or time consuming. I know because I have done the same thing thing over and over until I found the truth. Thanks!

    • Drew Baye October 30, 2012 at 6:03 pm #

      Ernie,

      Keep doing what you’re doing, when others ask about your results tell ‘em, and hopefully your progress will inspire others to train and eat properly.

  13. Ondrej October 31, 2012 at 3:54 pm #

    Is it true that higher carb+milk intake on training days(s) up to 24h after workout lead to better results (hypertrophy)? Could this be the limitation of strict low-carbers?

    • Drew Baye October 31, 2012 at 4:11 pm #

      Ondrej,

      Consuming more carbs within a few hours after a workout will replenish muscle glycogen stores more quickly, but it isn’t necessary to eat a very large amount to do this or to increase carbohydrate intake for up to a day after a workout. Depending on your size you might only have 300 to 500 or so grams of carbohydrate stored as glycogen in your entire body and no matter how intensely you’re training you’re only going to burn a small fraction of that in a single workout if your training volume is reasonable, so you wouldn’t need to eat anywhere near that much either.

      • Gary Grenier November 2, 2012 at 11:37 pm #

        Also, a high % of people are intolerant of dairy protein and milk sugar. I am one of those, although I seem to tolerate Whey protein alright. In many people milk is very hard to digest and also causes allergies and asthma.

        • Drew Baye November 3, 2012 at 10:07 am #

          Gary,

          While there is a correlation between children with milk allergies and asthma there is no evidence that drinking milk causes asthma. If a person has an allergy to milk they should avoid it, and if they are lactose intolerant they can either avoid it or take a product like Lactaid. As long as you eat a variety of other foods drinking milk or consuming other dairy isn’t necessary for getting adequate calcium like the dairy industry would like us to believe.

  14. Jim November 1, 2012 at 9:51 pm #

    Drew,

    I really need to eat better and you and Dr. McGuff has been praising the Paleo diet. I just don’t know how to cut out rice, potatoes,and bread. I mean what do you do for lunch when you don’t have time to cook? What if you are allergic to nuts? Can you provide a resource for clean eating paleo style?

    Thanks

    Jim

    • Drew Baye November 2, 2012 at 11:54 am #

      Jim,

      Just decide not to eat them and stick to it. Get the things you shouldn’t be eating out of your house, don’t buy them when shopping for groceries, don’t order them when eating out. If you don’t have time to cook or prepare food, I recommend a low/no sugar protein powder or if you have to pick something up on the run most fast food salads with chicken aren’t too bad if you get them with oil and vinegar.

      If you absolutely can’t find anything you should eat then don’t eat until you can. You’re better off skipping a meal and having a little more to eat later than having a crappy one.

      For info on Paleo style eating I recommend Mark’s Daily Apple and Archevore

  15. Mal November 2, 2012 at 1:42 am #

    Another great article Drew. When i go to the gym, i walk past the rows of clones on the cardio machines. I do my routine, then leave after about 20mins via the same entrance. The looks i get make me smile, but after having been ‘converted’, i know who is getting the results that really matter.
    Keep up the great work Drew

    • Drew Baye November 2, 2012 at 11:58 am #

      Thanks Mal,

      Keep at it, and eventually some of them might notice and realize they’re wasting their time.

  16. Franny November 2, 2012 at 9:31 am #

    Drew, As usual, right on the money. I was going to say “Arthur Jones” himself would have been proud to hear you espousing only evidence-based information, however, I believe you “did” know Arthur. Therefore, he already knew what a great teacher you were (and are); A beacon of truth in a sea of frauds. Keep preachin’ the good word Drew, and thanks.
    Franny

    • Drew Baye November 2, 2012 at 12:21 pm #

      Thanks Franny,

      Jim Flanagan introduced me to Arthur at a MedX seminar in Maitland, Florida back in 1997 and I talked with and visited Arthur occasionally between then and his death in 2007. Obviously, Arthur had a huge influence on my own training. I discuss some of this in High Intensity, an annotated collection of post-workout essays on various training related topics.

  17. Craig November 2, 2012 at 10:57 am #

    Drew,

    In terms of strength training, I currently use an HIT approach, one full body workout per week. But, because I am doing this at home with free weights, I find it difficult to move quickly through the workout due to the need to change weights, set up my gear for different exercises, etc. As a result, I have longer rest periods between exercises than I would if doing this with machines or at a full featured gym. I can tell that this more ‘leisurely’ approach reduces the metabolic hit, and the peak heart rate that I acheive doing a workout. For this reason, I have choosen to add one (and sometimes 2) additional exercise sessions each week, doing short interval style ‘cardio’ workouts (e.g., wind sprints on a bike).

    In the past, I had done a lot more long steady cardio work. But I started to have issues with repetitive stress injuries, particularly with running, which lead me to do shorter and less frequent bouts of interval work. And I can testify that when I did do longer sessions of traditional cardio, it really seemed to boost my appetite a lot, which tended to negate the calorie burn benefit.

    So I guess you can say I am somewhat on board with your recommendations about cardio.

    But…. I still have some concerns about recommending that people confine their exercise efforts to just one session per week. There are two reasons for this:

    1) Impacts on blood sugar control. There are a lot of people who are type 2 diabetic or borderline for that. It has been shown that regular activity (even stuff less intense than what might qualify as ‘exercise’) is quite effective at restoring normal glucose metabolism. High intensity strength training also provides this benefit. But how long do the effects persist after a workout? Does one intense session per week provide better blood sugar control than, say, daily but less intense activity? I don’t think anyone knows for sure.

    2) The demonstrated damaging impact of a sedentary lifestyle on overall health. There seems to be, for example, a growing body of evidence that simply sitting for long periods of time is damaging to health, even amoung people who exercise regularly. This makes a lot of sense to me from an evolutionary perspective. In a pre industrial era, people would have spent a lot of time engaged in low intensity physical activity. Hunter-gathering would have meant, for example, a lot of walking. I think our bodies work best when forced to sustain long periods of low to medium level activity, which is hard to duplicate in modern living. Certainly, doing one session of HIT per week is better than nothing. But I think people still need to be encouraged to expend more calories on a daily basis in such simple activities as walking. Even if that doesn’t qualify as ‘exercise’ according to some, it seems like it could be quite essential for maintaining health. I hate for HIT to become the excuse for people to be couch potatoes outside of their once weekly visit to the training facility.

    • Drew Baye November 2, 2012 at 1:00 pm #

      Craig,

      If you are having difficulty maintaining a quicker pace training at home I recommend getting additional bars or adjustable dumbbells so you can load up several at a time or perform a 3×3 high intensity training workout instead.

      Done with proper form these are safer and provide far more overall physical benefit than sprint interval training, including blood sugar control and improving insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism.

      I don’t recommend everybody only train once per week. Goals and individual response to training dictates training frequency, including blood sugar control, but like energy balance that is something better addressed through diet.

      As for sedentarism I don’t recommend doing nothing at all between workouts, but people should not be doing things simply for the sake of burning calories or expect that engaging in physical recreational activities takes the place of proper exercise. Also, rather than become couch potatoes people who do HIT tend to take up physical recreational activities because as they become more fit and physically capable they enjoy them more. That being said, something is not always better than nothing; there are quite a few things people believe are exercise that are far worse for them in the long run than sitting on the couch.

  18. palo November 2, 2012 at 12:14 pm #

    Hi Drew, great article. It’s HIT in a nutshell.

    There is no doubt that a well designed HIT routine will improve cardiovascular and metabolic conditioning.

    My question is how much improvement can be expected?

    Suppose you start HIT training a person that the best he can run a mile is 10 minutes. After training HIT and only HIT for six months to a year, or more, can the person do a six minute mile? Less or more?

    Thanks!

    • Drew Baye November 2, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

      Palo,

      Six weeks of a proper HIT routine can improve general cardiovascular and metabolic conditioning to a greater degree than six months of traditional endurance training.

      The ability to perform a specific endurance activity like running a mile is also influenced by skill, and for optimal improvement in the specific skill of running you would need to practice, but with no practice at all your time would improve considerably just from the improved strength and conditioning from HIT workouts.

    • Les November 2, 2012 at 8:25 pm #

      Palo,

      I have always wondered the same thing! And it seems this question has never been properly addressed. For instance, would HIT adequately prepare me to run a 5K or 10K?

      • Drew Baye November 3, 2012 at 9:53 am #

        Les,

        For optimal athletic performance you need both exercise to improve your strength and conditioning and practice to improve the specific skills involved in the sport or event.

        You could improve your run times significantly with only HIT and no running (during Project Total Conditioning at West Point Military Academy cadets doing only HIT improved their two mile run time by an average of better than 80 seconds) or only running and no HIT, but you would improve them more by doing both.

  19. David November 4, 2012 at 3:01 am #

    Hi Drew,
    I am new to your site, and am enjoying the no nonsense approach to training. I also really like the idea of HIT training, and would like to implement this into my life.
    First question is, where do I start. I have a background in the gym, and many years of martial arts. So I know I can push, I just want the correct program. Any recommendations on how I can develop this program?
    Second question, I see you don’t recommend stretching and warm ups, which makes sense. What about stretching during off days, like yoga or some for of intense stretching. Do you see value in these activities(from a stretching perspective only).
    Thanks so much for you contributions and time.
    David.

  20. Jose Angel Yanez November 6, 2012 at 3:57 pm #

    Drew,

    It’s been a month now since I started HIT and I can see some serious improvements but now I’m worried about how much weight will be safe for my joints. I’m lifting 820 lbs at the leg press and I wonder if there is any limit I should observe, one of the things I notice from HIT is that you can overcome weight very fast and I’m concerned about my bones if they can’t keep it up with my muscles…

    Any idea about that?

    • Drew Baye November 8, 2012 at 11:20 am #

      Jose,

      If you are performing each exercise with proper form and using a weight you are capable of performing at least a few slow, strictly controlled reps with an injury is highly unlikely.

  21. Ondrej November 12, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

    I generally agree that one doesn’t need “cardio” or running. That said, I recently read about the workout plans of Matt Brzycki and Clarence Bass in Fred Fornicola’s book “Strenght and Fitness for a Lifetime: How we train now”. I respect them both, yet M.Brzycki does 2x HIT both followed by 20min light running, 1x 3×3 followed by intervals a week. Clarence Bass currently does 1x lifting, 1x aerobics and 1 mixed lower body aerobics and upper body weights. So there are still people in the field who believe in the dichotomy, ar at least it appears so. It’s also possible that M. Brzycki does it with specific performance goal in mind, I don’t really know.
    By the way, Fred Fornicola does 2x HIT and that’s it…

    • Drew Baye November 12, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

      Ondrej,

      They should know better. There are no general cardiovascular or metabolic benefits to running or other endurance activities that can’t be achieve more quickly, efficiently, and safely through high intensity strength training. The only thing they are absolutely necessary for is to improve specific running skill for those who require it for sport, work, etc.

      • Ondrej November 12, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

        I agree…but I have to say the society is refusing to even start to think about it this way…including medical professionals. I am a med student. There are some official guidelines that people parrot, walking around with step counters to achieve 10 000 steps, talking about optimal fat burning zone for cardio, tracking sleep with their mobile phone and running…and running…and running…or talking and posing in the gym. The main thing is others see them and label them active. My female friend who runs like 10 marathons a year and always trains is really fat, at first sight. My flatmate, former hockey player, recently visited a nutritional specialist because he is getting fat. He has a permanent ticket to very luxurious fitness center and is obviously very consistent with “training”, life etc, but just runs and plays sports, occasionaly lifting, but with no goal. Yet he still makes jokes about my once a week training…I hope that soon I’ll see the results to shut him up, or better, to make him think outside the box and change the training.

        • Drew Baye November 14, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

          Ondrej,

          Focus on achieving your own goals, help the people you can, and don’t waste your time worrying about the rest.

  22. Cub November 12, 2012 at 9:04 pm #

    I read somewhere that Arthur Jones – via his HIT training on Nautilus equipment – was in superb condition even though he smoked a pack of cigarettes a day.

    • Drew Baye November 14, 2012 at 1:00 pm #

      Cub,

      Arthur kept smoking right up until he died, but from what I’ve heard from people who worked for him at Nautilus when he did train he was very strong and muscular and in good condition.

  23. José Angel Yánez November 14, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

    Drew,

    First of all thanks for the post and all the comments. I have been following each one of your advices and in one of them you mention that the best results stem from one or two sets from 8-12 reps each reaching momentary failure at the last movement. Nevertheless, at some excersices, like pulldowns, I found it really hard to get to the 8th rep when using the maximum weight -I only get 3 or 4 reps, then when I take away the smallest possible unit of weight (10 pounds) I can lift 13-17 reps making me feel I’m not getting the best of the excercise.

    Am I doing something wrong here? Should I stick to the heavy 3-4 reps until it becomes 8reps or should I stick to the light 15-17 reps until I improve at the heavy ones? I know it’s something probably related to my forearms because everytime I do pulldowns they get way more tired than any muscle in the back.

    Any ideas?

    • Drew Baye November 16, 2012 at 10:17 am #

      Jose,

      What produces the best results varies between individuals. Most require no more than one set per exercise and only one or two exercises per muscle group, and the rep range that works best will depend on the individual and the speed at which the reps are performed (the slower the reps the fewer should be performed to stay within an appropriate time under load).

      If you can’t perform enough reps to begin with you should be using less weight, not dropping the weight halfway through the set. As a starting point for most people I recommend a repetition range that results in a time under load (TUL) of around 60 to 90 seconds. If you’re moving at least moderately slowly, taking around four seconds to lift and four to lower, and reversing direction smoothly between reps, this comes out to around six to ten reps, or five to eight if you add a few seconds to each rep by holding the stretch or performing the squeeze technique. Back the weight down until you can do this many repetitions perfectly before increasing the weight.

      • José Angel Yánez November 16, 2012 at 12:58 pm #

        Drew,

        I was reading about the exhausting principle explained in the “Nautilus principles 1-3″ (Which in my opinion is a MUST-READ for any trainee and thanks again for sharing) which stated that it could also be solved exhausting the torse muscles performing a 15-20 reps pullovers set and then immediately (in no more than 4 secs) jump into the behind-back pulldown 15 reps and then trying another 10 reps with a front-chest grip. According to the explanation, this way, a very momentary situation would be generated in which the arms are “stronger” than the lats which would allow me to finally exhaust the lats.

        Now, according to your experience what kind of results would you expect from this kind of approach? And something the bulletin doesn’t explain is after I perform all of that, how much should I rest until I move to the next muscle group?

        Thanks again for the comments and the great job, seriously, HIT training and all the advices contained in your site have really made a huge possitive impact in my results, I’m 29 now and I’m having results that are very hard to believe, I have been training for years and I finally feel I got the true formula for maximum performance.

        Thanks

        • Drew Baye November 29, 2012 at 11:10 am #

          José,

          I don’t think the arms are as much of a “weak link” in many compound exercises as Arthur believed. If you understand the levers in many movements it is possible to alter your body position and path of movement to increase or decrease the demand on the different muscles involved, making it harder or easier for the arms.

          Although pre-exhaust has proven to be effective I think it is often overrated and the benefit had more to do with the effectiveness of the simple or “isolation” movement than the combination of exercises. That being said, I think you should reduce your rest as much as possible between all exercises and not just during pre-exhaustion.

          I’m glad my site has helped with your training and you’re welcome.

  24. Steven Turner November 16, 2012 at 6:03 am #

    Hi Drew,

    This is my take on the fitness center “cardio” workout from my thirty years going to fitness centers.
    Example, 10 – 20 years ago
    If I could use girls (18-28 years old), on the treadmills, bikes and steppers etc., I notice all the different shapes and sizes some with extremely good figures and some overweight all doing the same “cardio” workout 30 minutes to one hour 4-5 days per week.

    Now
    The exact same “cardio” workout happening only difference is that I notice that they are not the same girls but you still have the different shapes and sizes, some with extremely good figures and some overweight. Which girls gets the most notice.

    Where are the girls from 10 – 20 years ago? Another story but I think that many would not be in the same shape.

    • Drew Baye November 16, 2012 at 11:12 am #

      Steven,

      The same is true with aerobics and group “cardio” class instructors. If these activities actually expended enough calories to produce significant fat loss you’d expect them to be very lean based on the amount of hours they put in each week, however relatively fat aerobics instructors are common.

  25. Brian F November 17, 2012 at 8:57 am #

    Hi Drew

    Great to see I can drop some of the angst I occasionally feel by not engaging in cardio specific training. I understand your argument in respect of warm up’s and stretching, however what is your position on “joint mobility’ protocols which are advised by several higher profile trainers?

    • Drew Baye November 17, 2012 at 9:33 am #

      Brian,

      The “joint mobility” training I’ve seen and read about is unnecessary if you are doing proper strength training to begin with and working all the major muscle groups.

  26. Ondrej November 19, 2012 at 8:15 am #

    Drew,
    what is the least amount of time of rest recommended after HIT workout to perform recreational sport activities (squash, tennis…) not to affect recovery much? Thanks.

    • Drew Baye November 19, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

      Ondrej,

      This depends on the individual and the activities and requires a bit of experimentation to determine.

  27. Simon November 29, 2012 at 8:25 pm #

    What do you exactly mean by ‘relatively short rest intervals’ ? How long of a rest you propose ?!

    Thank you in advance.

    • Drew Baye November 30, 2012 at 11:16 am #

      Simon,

      I recommend moving from one exercise to the next as quickly as possible. The ideal is to load all your bars and/or set up your machines before your workout so you can go from one exercise to the next without stopping at all. If you work out in a typical gym where this is not practical or if you train at home and use the same equipment for several exercises you should try to structure your workout as efficiently as possible with consideration for your goals and the environment or equipment and move as quickly as it is possible for you to do so.

      As a general rule, move slowly during exercises, quickly between them.

  28. Rob December 1, 2012 at 3:50 pm #

    I agree with the warmup aspect. But I still do a few minutes of random exercises to mentally set my mind and gear up for the HIT sets to come. I find this helps greatly over just jumping into my first set.

    • Drew Baye December 2, 2012 at 7:56 pm #

      Rob,

      While most people do not require a warm up for physical reasons if you find it helps psychologically and if you’re keeping the warm up light and brief it won’t hurt you either. Some people may find on some exercises like squats and deadlifts a light warm up set helps with rehearsal of proper technique and getting into the proper mind set.

  29. Marcus December 5, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

    Hey Drew,

    I never heard of HIT until recently but when I was younger I basically followed the principles because it made the most sense to me. I never wanted to get “big” I just wanted to be as lean and strong as possible. That was 20 years ago. I gained alot of weight. Starting in March I lost about 60lbs on lowering my caloric intake and restricting bad foods. No exercise. I want to lose 30 more pounds. As you could imagine I lost all my muscle. So I have been doing HIT for a month now and gaining strength. My biggest concern is how to gain strength without getting bigger or weighing more. I LOVE playing basketball and the less you weigh the better on the joints and body.

    • Drew Baye December 5, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

      Marcus,

      Don’t worry about the scale weight. If you want to perform well and minimize your risk of injury focus on getting as strong as possible and maintaining a good body composition.

  30. Matthew December 5, 2012 at 11:27 pm #

    Hey Drew,

    Thanks for writing all this helpful material out and for taking the time to respond to questions.

    Question: is it actually BAD to do aerobic exercise in between HIT workouts? I ask because I really enjoy running and walking on off days, and I find that it’s very good for me psychologically. It helps reduce stress and lifts my mood, so I’m reluctant to give that up.

    Related question: are you familiar with any research that links HIT or similar exercise to psychological benefits?

    Thanks again!

    • Drew Baye December 6, 2012 at 11:43 am #

      Matthew,

      Whether the running is bad for you depends on how you’re doing it and how much of it you’re doing. Any amount of running can result in acute injuries or the development of chronic joint and spine problems over time if you have poor running mechanics. If you’re just doing a few sprints or going for a short jog around the block once in a while you probably aren’t going to wreck yourself, but high volume endurance activity is associated with a variety of health problems.

      There is a lot of research showing resistance training reduces stress and improves both mood and cognitive function and clients with stressful jobs often comment about looking forward to their workouts because of this.

      On a side note, there is no such thing as “aerobic exercise”. Some activity involves more aerobic than anaerobic metabolism, but any physical activity demanding enough to be considered exercise is far from being primarily aerobic.

  31. Charles December 29, 2012 at 6:21 pm #

    Drew,
    From what I have read, there are countless studies showing that physical activity in general of any kind elevates the mood and can even cure depression. Also, low-moderate physical activity such as walking has been shown to cause an increase in the activity of the immune system and people who do it regularly have been shown to have significantly less colds.

    As little as one HIT workout per week along with dieting has been perfect for me to stay strong, keep the fat off, and be in be in the best shape of my life. But I have found it necessary for me to be more active in every day life for the additional health benefits I previously mentioned.

    I was just wondering what your thoughts were on such matters? HIT workouts as you discuss work perfectly fine for the purposes you discuss. But aside from that, it isn’t good to just sit on the sofa all day. But this isn’t an argument to support countless hours in the gym either. As I see it, any and all other activities in life are great such as working, cleaning, playing, walking, swimming, hopefully fun leisure stuff.

    • Drew Baye December 30, 2012 at 3:09 pm #

      Charles,

      People should participate in regular light to moderate physical activities they enjoy for the reasons mentioned (I go for walks while reading, practice several martial arts, and occasionally do parkour) but it is important to distinguish between exercise and recreation and not try to make one into the other.

  32. Robin December 30, 2012 at 9:21 pm #

    Drew,

    I am just starting Paleo and just learning about HIT. I’m here because of years of distance running with very little physical results. As a matter of fact as I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten more injuries! That said, I do love to run a couple of times a week, it helps me to decompress, is my time with my friend, and I just enjoy it. Can I run and still get results? If so what would be the max before I start effecting my results? My hope is to run 40 mins twice a week with my friend and to do a HIT split routine of upper body and lower body twice a week, one of each a week. This for me will be a significant reduction in milages since I’ve been running 25 miles a week, when not training for a marathon. More when training.

    Already seeing results from adopting paleo, looking forward to seeing HIT results!!

    Thank You for sharing your knowledge!!

    Sincerely,
    Robin

    • Drew Baye December 31, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

      Robin,

      You can still get results from strength training while running, but depending on how much running you do, how you run, and other factors it can interfere with recovery from and adaptation to your workouts while also undermining your long term joint health. Exactly how much of any physical activity or stress a person can handle within some period of time depends on a variety of factors, mainly genetics, and requires some experimentation to figure out. Keep accurate records of your workouts and your running time and make adjustments until you’re getting the results you want.

  33. Robin January 1, 2013 at 2:14 pm #

    Thanks Drew, will do, already have my spreadsheet ready to go and will track my progress and adjust accordingly!!

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