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A little over three years ago, I was introduced to high intensity
interval training, commonly referred to as HIIT, when I met Phil Campbell
at a fitness camp in Mexico. I refer to it as Peak Fitness Training.
Since then, researchers have repeatedly confirmed the superior health
benefits of HIIT compared to traditional and typically performed aerobic
For example, high-intensity interval-type training gives a natural
boost to human growth hormone (HGH) production—which is essential for
optimal health, strength and vigor—and has been shown to significantly improve
insulin sensitivity, boost fat loss, and increase muscle growth.
can be performed on a recumbent bike or an elliptical machine, or sprinting outdoors
(with proper guidelines to avoid injury).
While there are a large number of variations, the HIIT routine I
recommend involves going all out for 30 seconds and then resting for 90
seconds between sprints. Total workout is typically 8 repetitions. In all,
you’ll be done in about 20 minutes, and you only need to perform HIIT two
or three times a week.
But researchers such as Dr. Izumi Tabata
have shown that even shorter workouts can work, as long as the intensity is
I personally modified the Peak 8 to a Peak 6 this year as it was
sometimes just too strenuous for me to do all 8. So by listening to my body
and cutting it back to 6 reps, I can now easily tolerate the workout and go
full out and I no longer dread doing them.
Another tweak is to incorporate Butyenko breathing into the workout and
do most of the workout by only breathing through my nose. This raises the
challenge to another level. I will discuss more of the benefits of this in
a future article but I do believe it has many benefits.
I then finish my Peak 6 workout with Power Plate stretches, 10 pull ups,
10 dips and 20 inverted pushups, and call it a day. I personally have never
tried the Tabata protocol as it seems too intimidating and I’m not sure I
could do it, but it is yet another option that people can use.
Can You Get Fit in Just Four Minutes, Four Times a Week?
After monitoring the Japanese speed skating team in the early 90’s, Dr.
Tabata noticed that extremely hard but intermittent exercise appeared to be
at least as effective as standard workouts that require several hours a week.
The training protocol he came up with as a result requires a mere four
minutes, four times a week. The caveat? Extreme intensity.
Dr. Tabata's HIIT protocol
calls for just 20 seconds of all-out drop-dead effort, followed by a mere 10
seconds of rest. This intense cycle is repeated eight times. According to
“All-out effort at 170 percent of your VO2 max is the criterion of
the protocol. If you feel OK afterwards you've not done it properly. The
first three repetitions will feel easy but the last two will feel impossibly
hard. In the original plan the aim was to get to eight, but some only lasted
six or seven.”
When performed four times per week for six weeks, participants in one
experiment increased their anaerobic capacity by 28 percent, and their VO2
max (an indicator of cardiovascular health) and maximal aerobic power by 15
percent. This is in contrast to the control group, who performed an hour of
steady cardiovascular exercise on a stationary bike five times a week. These
participants improved their VO2 max by just 10 percent, and their regimen had
no effect on their anaerobic capacity.
Dr. Tabata also has forthcoming research findings
showing that his protocol reduces your risk of diabetes, which other HIIT studies
have already suggested. And, according to the featured article:
“Another soon-to-be-published finding, which Tabata describes as
'rather significant,' shows that the Tabata protocol burns an extra 150
calories in the 12 hours after exercise, even at rest, due to the effect of
excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. So while it is used by most people
to get fit – or by fit people to get even fitter – it also burns fat.”
As Little as Three Minutes of HIIT Per Week Can Improve Your Health, Previous
Dr. Tabata’s claims may sound crazy, but previous research has also found
that performing high intensity exercises for just minutes per week can
significantly improve important health indices. One such study found that
just three minutes of HIIT per week for four weeks improved participants’
insulin sensitivity an average of 24 percent. This truly is amazing, and
while aerobic fitness is indeed important, improving and maintaining good
insulin sensitivity is perhaps one of the most important aspects of optimal
Other research has also demonstrated that 20 minutes of high intensity
training, two to three times a week, can yield greater results than slow and
steady conventional aerobics done five times a week. But the fact that you
can improve your insulin sensitivity by nearly 25 percent with a time
investment of less than ONE HOUR A MONTH really shows that you can
significantly improve your health without having to eliminate hours of other
commitments from your calendar.
As I mentioned previously I have not even attempted this protocol as I
know how hard Peak Fitness is with a 90 second recovery. I shudder to think
how painful the Tabata protocol is with only 10 seconds to recover. That
said, I believe that while it’s theoretically possible to reap valuable
results with as little as three minutes once a week, it might be more
beneficial to do these exercises two or three times a week for a total of
four minutes of intense exertion, especially if you are not doing strength
You do not need to do them more often than that however. In fact, doing
HIIT more frequently than two or three times a week can be counterproductive,
as your body needs to recover between these intense sessions. If you feel the
urge to do more, make sure you’re really pushing yourself as hard as you can
during those two or three weekly sessions, rather than increasing the
frequency. Remember, intensity is KEY for reaping all the benefits interval
training can offer. To perform it correctly, you’ll want to raise your heart
rate to your anaerobic threshold, and to do that, you have to give it your
all for those 20 to 30 seconds. Phil Campbell suggests that it needs to be
even higher than your maximum calculated heart rate, which is about 220 minus
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