07-27-2010, 04:08 AM
Join Date: Nov 2006
The Comparative Joy of T-Nation
Interval Training Doesn't Work
by Mark Young
The Tremblay Study
If there's a single study I've seen used to support the use of intervals for fat loss more than any other, this has got to be it. Having checked it out though, I'm sad to say that I was disappointed. Here are a few things I discovered:
• The steady-state group sessions started at 30 minutes and gradually increased to 45 minutes. Interval training sessions actually started out with the steady-state exercise around 20-25 minutes. Two different types of intervals (short and long) were added later during the 15-week study.
• The steady-state group lost only 1.1 pounds. The interval group lost 0.22 pounds. Yes, you read that right. Less than a frigging pound after 15 weeks!
• The total of the changes in skinfold measurements (taken with a caliper to assess body fat) was almost three times lower in the interval group suggesting that even though weight loss was less, body composition may have changed more.
• The interval group actually started out with higher skinfold measurements.
• There was no dietary control in this study.
You can take from this study that doing intervals or steady-state without dietary intervention will result in a maximum of one pound of weight loss. As you know, that sucks serious ass.
And even though the total skinfolds dropped more in the interval group, the trunk skinfold decrease was pretty much the same. In fact, the main reason for the difference in the skinfolds in the first place wasn't that the steady-state group didn't lose fat. The big problem was that the calf skinfold of the steady-state group actually went up which obviously affects the total. Moreover, it makes sense that the interval group (who had almost 20 percent greater skinfolds to start with) would lose more regardless of which protocol they used.
In the end, I think the body fat testing method in this study sucks. These days we use DEXA or MRI to measure body composition. And even when they did this study, hydrostatic weighing was the standard. So why'd they use caliper testing? Skinfolds can get pretty sketchy depending on your tester.
If multiple testers are used, they can be even less reliable. (This might even be responsible for the increase in calf fat seen in the steady state group, but that's total speculation.)
Ultimately, the body weight loss in this 15-week study pretty much blows donkey balls and I think this only goes to reinforce the obvious: you can't neglect your diet.
The Tabata Study
Since you can't really go anywhere in the fitness industry without seeing or hearing about the latest and greatest Tabata workout, I just had to include this one. All in all though, there are really only a few points I need to bring forth.
• The Tabata study does not measure fat loss. Although Tabatas were certainly effective for improving aerobic and anaerobic performance, there was no mention of fat loss in the paper at all. None.
• The steady-state group in the Tabata study performed steady-state cardio. No surprise there. But the interesting part is that the Tabata group actually performed steady-state cardio instead of Tabatas for one of the five training days. In other words, 20 percent of their training days were allocated to a different method than what they were actually testing.
• The majority of the improvements in Tabata performance happened in the first three weeks and then leveled out.
• Tabatas were done at 170% of VO2 max, which is basically balls to the wall, maximal effort training on every set.
Having read all this I came to the following conclusions: Tabatas may or may not be effective for fat loss, but it certainly wasn't measured in this study and, based on this information, there is no real reason to assume that they are better than steady-state or any other type of interval training.
In fact, you can't really draw any conclusions about the effectiveness of Tabata style intervals for anything considering that they were also using steady state exercise and the results are difficult to separate out. Finally, even if Tabatas are effective for fat loss, lifting weights to perform them likely won't enable you to exert maximal effort to reach 170% of VO2 max on every set.
If you're lifting weights, odds are that your first set is sub maximal if you're able to lift it again after the 10-second rest interval prescribed by the protocol.
Note that I'm not saying these protocols aren't difficult (anyone who's ever done a round knows exactly what I'm talking about). I'm just saying they're not "technically" Tabatas, since you're using sub-maximal weights.
Fat on Fire!
by Bryan Krahn
and particularly these pearls from Chad Waterbury:
Tremblay's research was groundbreaking because he taught us that we should think less about the metabolic changes that occur during a workout and focus more on what's happening after you stop training. He compared high intensity and low intensity protocols. The high intensity group burned fewer calories during the workout, but their reduction in skinfold measurements was nine times greater by the end of the study.
So yeah, regular cardio will burn fat but not nearly as fast as high intensity cardio. But it's not as simple as merely alternating between sprinting and jogging. There are more effective ways to get the job done.
T: Such as?
CW: Tabata's research shows that just a few minutes of high intensity cardio will boost your aerobic and anaerobic conditioning. This is important for fighters who are constantly toeing the line between fatigue and performance because of all the striking, grappling, and other forms of fighting they must constantly practice.
Not to mention their strength and conditioning sessions. Bottom line: with high intensity cardio you kill two birds with one stone.
I also enjoyed Chad's revolutionary
utilization of descending reps.
The rationale for reduced gin intake and the knowledge of the perils of alcoholism and attendant metabolic derangement has almost entirely come from physicians and researchers.