Tag Archives: high intensity interval training

Got Abdominal Obesity? Improve Your Health With Mediterranean Diet and High-Intensity Interval Training

…according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Some quotes:

The study found an average reduction in waist circumference of eight centimeters [3 inches], a reduction in systolic blood pressure of 6 mm Hg and an aerobic fitness improvement of 15 per cent over the first nine months of the study.

Improvements in waist circumference, blood pressure and fitness can lead to numerous other health benefits including a reduced risk of developing high blood pressure, as well as improving osteoarthritis symptoms, quality of life, physical functioning, and cognition.

The high-intensity interval training was done two or three times a week over 20-30 minutes each session. Click for an example of HIIT on a stationary bike. More basic info on HIIT.

The classic Mediterranean diet has too many carbohydrates for many diabetics, although it’s better for them than the Standard American Diet. That’s why I devised the Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet.

Steve Parker, M.D.

High-Intensity Interval Training: A Primer and the Science Behind It

A treadmill is one of many ways to do high-intensity interval training.  Tabata's classic study used a stationary bicycle.

A treadmill is one of many ways to do high-intensity interval training. Tabata’s classic study used a stationary bicycle.

I found a free article by Martin Gibala,Ph.D., a major researcher into high-intensity interval training (HIIT).  He prefers to abbreviate it as HIT.

I don’t like to exercise, so I’ve been incorporating HIIT into my workouts for over a year.  It’s helped me maintain my level of fitness to that required of U.S. Army soldiers, without being a exercise fanatic.

So what’s HIIT?  Gibala’s definition:

High-intensity interval training is characterized by repeated sessions of relatively brief, intermittent exercise, often performed with an “all out” effort or at an intensity close to that which elicits peak oxygen uptake (i.e., ≥90% of VO2peak).

HIIT involves short sessions of very intense exercise about three times per week, for as little as 15 minutes.  That’s total time, not 15 minutes per session!  Yet you see a significant fitness improvement.  Be aware: the brief exercise bouts should be exhausting.

The Gibala article has all the scientific journal references you’d want, plus a suggested HIIT program for an absolute beginner.

One final quote from Dr. Gibala:

It is unlikely that high-intensity interval training produces all of the benefits normally associated with traditional endurance training. The best approach to fitness is a varied strategy that incorporates strength, endurance and speed sessions as well as flexibility exercises and proper nutrition. But for people who are pressed for time, high-intensity intervals are an extremely efficient way to train. Even if you have the time, adding an interval session to your current program will likely provide new and different adaptations. The bottom line is that — provided you are able and willing (physically and mentally) to put up with the discomfort of high-intensity interval training — you can likely get away with a lower training volume and less total exercise time.

Read the rest.

Steve Parker, M.D.

PS:  Why won’t Gibala give some credit to Izumi Tabata who did a pioneering study on HIIT in 1996?

PPS:  Gibala narrated this stationary bike HIIT video.

h/t Tony Boutagy

My Fitness Experiment No. 3

OK, here’s the new plan.

For aerobic and cardiovascular endurance:

  • twice weekly 15-minute treadmill high intensity interval training

For strength:

Twice weekly…

Why dumbbell weights?  ‘Cuz that’s what I’ve got.

I chose push-ups over bench presses because the former probably uses more muscles.

My hesitation about the pull-ups/chin-ups is that they may be redundant, i.e., working muscles already used in the other exercises.

Rather than counting sets and repetitions (e.g., three sets of 10 pushups), I’m going to continue using the exhaustion technique Chris Highcock taught me in Hillfit:

  • 90 seconds on each exercise
  • use enough weight that I’m exhausted after the 9o seconds
  • 10 seconds up and 10 seconds down for each repetition

If I skip the pull-ups, I could probably get the resistance training done in 20 minutes.  (I think I’m talking myself out of the pull-ups!)

My current fitness measurements are recorded elsewhere.  I’ll recheck after about six weeks.

None of this is etched in stone.

My goals are here.  Comments?

Steve Parker, M.D.


My fitness experiment No.1 was Mark Verstegen’s Core Performance.  No. 2 was Chris Highcock’s Hillfit.

Update May 22, 2012

The first workout went well.  I need to review the various types of dumbbell presses and decide which one I want to stick with.   Not doing the pull-ups/chin-ups.  I hope I’m a little sore tomorrow.  These are the dumbbell weights I used today:

Dumbbell squats: 25 lb (11.4 kg)

Push-ups: 25 lb (11.4 kg) in backpack

Dumbell presses: 15 lb (6.8 kg)

Romanian deadlift with dumbbells: 30 lb (13.6 kg)

Bent-over one-arm rows: 25 lb (11.4 kg)

Update May 25, 2012

I was sore in the back, quads (anterior thighs), and arms the next day.  I even postponed my second workout of the week for one day to allow lingering right arm soreness to resolve.  For my workout today, I reduced the overhead press weight from 15 to 10 lb.

Update May 27, 2012

Right arm/shoulder soreness is gone.  Now I’ve got soreness in my left hamstring, likely a strain related to the deadlifts.  Started 24 hours after my second workout in this experiment, and persisting 36 hours at this point.

Update May 28, 2012

Right hamstring soreness almost gone.  Instead of 30 lb dumbbells with the Romanian deadlift, I cut to 25 lb to avoid aggravating that hamstring.  Probably back to 30 lb next time.  With bent-over rows, I’m ready to progress to 30 lb.

Update June 9, 2012

It’s going well.  No injuries; no unusual aches.  Here are the dumbbell weights I carry in each hand: for squats – 30 lb; for push-ups – 25 lb in backpack; for dumbbell presses – 25 lb; for Romanian deadlifts – 40 lb; for bent-over row – 30 lb.  The set of dumbbells my wife got for me (used) in CraigsList was from 5 to 30 lb.  So I had to go buy a 40-lb pair, which set me back about $80 (USD).

Update June 26, 2012

Going well.  No injuries.  Haven’t missed any sessions.  Had to decrease backpack push-up weight from 25 to 20 lb  about 10 days ago—I just couldn’t keep up the exercise for 90 seconds at the higher weight.  A couple weeks ago I increased the bent-over row and squat weights to 40 lb.  I’m noticing much use of back and shoulder muscles when I’m doing exercises that superficially seem to target other muscles. E.g., the Romanian deadlifts and squats target the buttocks and thighs, but having to carry 40 lb in each hand works out my arms, shoulders, and back.

Update July 9, 2012

Having started my current fitness experiment six weeks ago, it’s time for a retest of my fitness to assess results.  But I’m not going to do it now.  I was at my son’s Boy Scout camp all last week and unable to do my regular routine.  (By the way,  jogging at 6,700 feet above sea level is definitely harder than at 2,000 feet.)  I’m going to do another two weeks of the program, then test.  Fair enough?  I’m a little concerned about some mysterious pain in my left forefoot that started roughly two months ago.  That may prevent my work on the treadmill.

Update July 21, 2012

I finished Fitness Experiment No.3 today and will retest my fitness after a couple days.  Originally planned as a six-week trial, I missed week six due to Boy Scout camp.  I made up for that by doing another two weeks.  I’m happy with my push-ups, dumbbell presses, and dumbbell squats.  By happy, I mean I get a good, exhausting workout in the allotted 90 seconds.  With push-ups, I wear a backpack holding 20 lb (9 kg).  Presses are with 30 lb (14 kg) in each hand.  Squats are with a pair of 40 lb (18 kg) dumbbells.  The bent-over one-arm rows have just now become too easy at 40 lb.  I’m not pleased with the Romanian deadlifts while holding 40 lb in each hand—they’re too easy.  I don’t have any heavier weights, so I’m looking at buying a pair of 50s for about $100 (USD) new, or $50 used.  Or I could 1) make the deadlifts more stressful in some way, 2) do them for longer than 90 seconds, or 3) find a substitute for the deadlifts.

Link to Evidence in Favor of HIIT

Tabata's team used stationary bicycles

I ran across this recent scientific review article on HIIT (high-intensity interval training) and thought you might be interested. Looks like it’s slated for publication in The Journal of Physiology.

I’m interested in HIIT as a means to achieve fitness in much less time than the 150 minutes a week of exercise recommended by various public health authorities.

Why didn’t the authors at least mention the oft-cited and apparently pioneering work of Izumi Tabata et al from 1996?

Steve Parker, M.D.


Gibala et al. Adaptations to low-volume, high-intensity interval training (preliminary draft). Journal of Physiology, doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2011.224725

Tabata, I., et al. Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max. Medicine and Science in Sports and Medicine, 1996 Oct;28(10):1327-30.