The fitness industry is loaded with many types of exercise that all promise quick and fantastic results. Just recently there was an article posted on the MSN Health & Fitness page by Sally Wadyka entitled, “CrossFit: The Fast, Furious Workout Craze!” This article described the CrossFit program which uses full body functional movements like lifting, pulling, twisting, running, crawling and pushing. Every movement is designed to incorporate the entire body so that a full workout can be accomplished in a 15 to 20 minute session. One of the trademark features of this program is its intensity. The objective is to get people to move as quickly as possible throughout the entire workout.
This concept of a short duration high intensity workout has been a growing trend in the fitness industry. The question is “Is this one of the types of exercise that will benefit you the most?” Before we examine it we need to first look at time.
Time is a Luxury!
In our modern life it seems that time has become a luxury as opposed to something to which you have every right. In the effort to accommodate activities for which we seemingly lack the time, we compromise in the duration of other things. The apparent lack of time to prepare meals has given raise to the explosion of fast food. 2nd day service in the post office is no longer enough. Overnight delivery has become the standard, and in many instances, anything less than electronic delivery is unacceptable.
This trend has compromised our quality of life. Many of the activities that are crucial for our physical and mental health keep getting postponed. The most important being physical activity or exercise; “I don’t have time” is the reason most people use to skip all types of exercise. People call it a “reason”. Most of the time, like it or not, it really is an excuse. Try adding all those minutes that you spend surfing the net for leisure purposes or watch TV, and you will find more than enough time to implement an exercise program.
Because of this apparent “lack of time” the fitness industry has exploited this excuse to create types of exercise like “real life training” or “sports performance workouts” to get people into their gyms. People are told that they only need 30 minutes or less to workout and only these types of exercise are productive. Short-duration high-intensity workouts are advertised as the sure way to get in shape. But are they?
History of Exercise Fads!
Back in the 80s and 90s (and sadly still today) people believed their workouts needed to be 60-90 minutes to really make them count. The fad was the mythical “Fat Burning Zone” and the types of exercise had to be long and slow to melt off that fat and reveal those juicy muscles that could then be sculpted with weights. With this kind of time commitment it is no wonder that exercise become the activity for which people simply don’t have time.
Additionally, after the initial changes, nothing more happened and people started falling into despair. Before they knew it, one missed workout became two and soon folks realized they hadn’t put on their gym shorts for a month. Missed exercise is a slippery slope toward irreversible consequences. Obesity wasn’t gained in one day or even in one year. Neither was heart disease.
People knew of the benefits of exercise and still wanted to exercise and improve their health, but they also started wondering if long workouts really deliver the best results. Their previous experiences told them not for the long term. And this laid the ground work for the next types of exercise.
High-Intensity Short-Duration Classes!
The fitness industry began to market high intensity, shorter duration classes. The more grueling the class, the more random, the more it mimicked a skill, the better. A marketing genius with no understanding of biomechanics decided to call it “Real Life Conditioning” and it caught on; after all “elite athletes train like this.” Everyone started using it and a new fad was born.
In reality, exercise doesn’t have to take 60-90 minutes to be effective. Many respectable names in the field agree that short, intense bouts of exercise can actually deliver better results than traditional low intensity exercise. In fact, a study was conducted at the University of Pittsburgh, School of Medicine that tested whether multiple short bouts of exercise would deliver better results than one long bout of exercise. They found that participants who performed short bouts of exercise stuck with the program longer and experienced greater weight loss than the participants that performed long bouts of exercise.
In addition to this study there is plenty of good literature and evidence to solidly backup the effectiveness of high intensity short duration exercise programs. There is nothing wrong with these types of exercise, only with the way it is being implemented. These types of exercise are not for everyone. For example:
This may sound like bashing but it isn’t. It is presented to help you understand that exercise is all about proper application.
Yea! But are These Types of Exercise Good or Bad?
They are both. If you are not physically ready and are dealing with structural issues, the nature of this type of training will certainly hurt you more than benefit you. On the other hand, if you have progressed through your training at a reasonable pace, have been consistent with your frequency, recovery, and nutrition, there is no doubt that the short-duration high-intensity workout will take you to a whole new level.
Without you being under our care or supervision it is impossible to tell you that these types of exercise are good for you. There is no general time frame that tells us that in so many weeks or in so many months you’ll be ready. However, here are some guidelines that will help you get there:
Finally, keep in mind that we are referring to general physical fitness only. Conditioning programs for specific demands have completely different parameters, and in the grand majority of cases, the athlete will not see time as an objection.
The bottom line to all of this is that high-intensity short-duration workout programs can be beneficial when administered properly by a qualified instructor. It is no secret that these types of exercise programs have been used by Strength & Conditioning coaches for a long time. However, getting the ability to sustain that type of load, while remaining productive and recovering, requires time and planning. These are aspects that have been neglected by those who have reduced a proper conditioning program to a quick session of glorified physical beating and unsystematic activities.
I hope this has been helpful and as Dan likes to say, “Until next time may we both age youthfully!”
Yours in Proper Fitness,
Israel A. Sanchez
Professional Strength & Conditioning Coach
Next Step Conditioning Systems
P.S. As a convenience, I’ve also included links to the following Exercise articles:
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