Exercise Hypertrophy & High Intensity Interval Training

This paper stems from the need to help a client reach his hypertrophy goal and desire to maintain cardio intensity in his workout.

Hypertrophy & High Intensity Interval Training

Hypertrophy & High Intensity Interval Training: Can they co-exist?

My client is a 50 year old male insurance agent, in excellent shape, tall and slender, a runner, who wants to bulk up his upper body, especially his arms. The bulk and arms part is a typical request for most males, but with the obesity rate so high I did not expect one of my first baby boomer client to be in such good shape.

We discussed ramping down his running regimen to a few days a week of less than 4 miles each run so that we could concentrate on resistance training and bulking him up over time. He agreed to the plan we came up with but it became evident during our workouts and conversations that he is intensity junky, having done Tough Mudders and other types of high intensity activities. So began my journey to help him reach his hypertrophy goal, while at the same time keeping him interested and wanting more.

I wondered, especially knowing that cardio and resistance training don’t mix well when you’re goal is hypertrophy, how was I going to incorporate some type of cardio intensity into his program. So I started adding mountain climbers, bicycles, jump rope, burpees and other cardio type exercises throughout the workout program in order to satisfy his need for some cardio intensity. These exercises did not seem to overly tax his ability to improve his resistance training volumes since he was pretty fit to start with.

While researching the topic of high intensity training and intervals I found the Tabata and decided that I may have found the promised land for my client. I added a push up Tabata at the beginning of a program and he was excited. Periodically I added a Tabata at the beginning or end of his program. It seemed to work well, but I was concerned that the Tabata may be too cardio intensive and affect his hypertrophy goal. This prompted further research into how to add high intensity training into a hypertrophy program and the subject of this paper.

Most high intensity programs such as High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) include as a primary goal to maximize fat loss.

The High Intensity (HI) part of the program provides muscle fatigue and maximum oxygen use in quick bursts, working your body close to its VO2 max with continued burning of calories up to 48 hours after the workout. The Interval Training (IT) alternates periods of intensity with periods of moderate or low intensity and boosts metabolism, while burning more calories than a steady workout., even after the workout (“The Complete Guide to Interval Training”, greatest.com).

An article on Livestrong.com, “Is Cardio Bad for Building Muscle?” states that concurrent training with cardio and weight training can produce positive results in that the weight loss from the cardio enhances visibility of muscles by minimizing subcutaneous fat. For the average person a HIIT program makes some sense, but for already fit individuals there may no fat to loose.

A study done at the Human Research Center, Brigham Young University found:

• That after burn or energy output after you stop exercising was greatest when cardio was done before weight training.
• Running after a weight session was physiologically more difficult than doing it before lifting weights.
• Researchers recommended doing aerobic exercise before resistance exercise when combining them into one exercise session.

A few of the HIIT programs I found interesting where the Tabata and Turbulence Training

The Tabata was developed by Dr. Izumi in 1996, a study using high intensity spurts at 170% of VO2 Max. (Tabata I, Nishimura K, Kouzaki M, et al. (1996). “Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max”. Med Sci Sports Exerc). The Tabata is a four minute workout, with 20 seconds of high intensity followed by 10 seconds of rest for eight cycles. I have used burpees, pushups, mountain climbers and pull ups either single or mixed up among the eight cycles.

There is some controversy about the Tabata method since the study used a bike or ergometer at 170% of VO2 Max, which is a level that cannot be sustained throughout a true Tabata.

Additionally the Tabata protocol was created for performance measuring aerobic and anaerobic fitness and not its affect on hypertrophy or weight loss. (The Tabata Myth by Mark Young). Other similar regimes like Gibal (Little, Jonathan P; Adeel S. Safdar, Geoffrey P. Wilkin, Mark A. Tarnopolsky, and Martin J. Gibala (2009). “A practical model of low-volume high-intensity interval training induces mitochondrial biogenesis in human skeletal muscle: potential mechanisms”. Journal of Physiology 588 (Pt 6): 1011–22) and Timmons (“How To Get Fit With 3 Minutes Of Exercise A Week: BBC Doc Tries HIT”. Medical News Today. 6 March 2012.) have shown performance and aerobic benefits from lesser VO2 max intensities and makes sense to incorporate these types of regimes in a weight loss program for certain individuals. Regardless of the controversy, HIIT methods like Tabata have shown in studies improvement in aerobic performance, metabolic benefits and improvement in CAD risk factors
The “Turbulence Training” method, developed by Craig Ballantyne, involves 8 weight training sets alternated with 1-2 minute cardio sets by alternating high weight/low rep strength training with high intensity cardio. (“Typical Turbulence Training Workout”, by Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS) Pretty much the method I have been using with my client utilizing Mountain Climbers and Burpee’s between weight training sets. A typical Turbulence session would be:
Warm up of 2 sets of 8-12 reps like Y-Squat, close-grip push up, bodyweight row.
Strength Training;
Circuit 1: lower body, dumbbell split squats, upper body push exercises like a dumbbell chest press
Circuit 2: lower body, stability ball Hamstring curls, upper body pulling exercises like dumbbell rows
Do 8 reps per set with 1 minute rest between supersets.
Finally do 20 minutes of interval training. Additionally additional circuits can be added to take the session out to 30 minutes or so.

The Turbulence method looks great for fat burning and I like the fact that weights are employed, however the methods main purpose is fat reduction and is advertised accordingly.

Some further web surfing took me to an exercise website www.projectswole.com and an article “What is HIRT (High Intensity Resistance Training) and How Should You Use It?” (December 11, 2009) This method focuses on resistance training for fat loss, increasing Basal Metabolic Rate, Exercise Post Oxygen

Consumption and burn calories

The method supersets several exercises together for reps and time and no rest. Some of the features and benefits listed on the website of HIRT are:

• HIRT workouts help maintain muscle mass when following a low calorie diet
• HIRT workouts outperform diet and aerobic exercise in fat loss studies
• HIRT workouts increase metabolism for up to 36 hours

The principles of HIRT are:

• Full body workouts using sets of 5 to 15 reps
• Pushing through the lactic acid burn
• Utilizing a variety of combo-sets (super-sets, tri-sets, giant-sets, etc…)
• Utilizing compound exercises
• Focusing on the largest muscle groups

The method employs different workout routines based on your goal and the one I found most interesting was the following for muscle gain; Day 1: 45 minutes of full body resistance training
goal – maximal strength resistance training; Day 2: 30 minutes of HIRT goal – maximal intensity cardiovascular training; Day 3: 45 minutes of full body resistance training
goal – maximal strength resistance training; Day 4: 30 minutes of HIRT goal – maximal intensity interval training; Day 5: 45 minutes of full body resistance training goal – maximal strength resistance training; Day 6 & 7: Off

The routine fits nicely with my clients hypertrophy goal as well as his need to maintain some cardio intensity since he does not run as often as he did in the past.

I found some research on the HIRT method published in 2012 in the Journal of Translational Medicine, “High-Intensity Interval Resistance Training (HIRT) influences resting energy expenditure and respiratory ration in non-dieting individuals”. The study tested HIRT against traditional resistance training on resting energy expenditure (REE) and respiratory ratio (RR). In both cases the shorter HIRT method showed improvements over traditional resistance training.

The study additional concluded that this exercise methodology allows subjects to improve metabolism and, at the same time, muscle mass and strength all of which are prompted as beneficial by many guidelines

What do you think?