Weight Training, The New Cardio?
Lincoln Bryden has his own business, Total Fitness, and has a BSc degree in Recreation Management and Sports Science. He has presented sessions all over the world, including Italy, Spain, Holland, Germany France, Hong Kong and Mexico. Linx has toured the UK presenting his unique stylised sessions and is the creator of 20 fitness videos. In between organising his own fitness and dance days, he had his own TV Slot on the popular Big Breakfast TV Show, teaching street dance fitness. Check out Lincolns website www.fitnesstrainingdownloads.com
Interval training has become the go-to protocol for quick and efficient fat loss. Resistance training is also an extremely effective modality for not only muscle building, but fat loss as well. We regard resistance training as the original interval-training workout. It now appears a combination of interval training and weight training intermixed together may be better than either one apart.
We say weight training was the original interval training because unlike aerobic exercise, rest was always built into resistance training protocols. The idea has always been to lift weights that are heavy enough to force the body to failure and then rest as long as is necessary to recover and repeat the same thing again. The quintessential example of this is the three sets to 10-repetition protocol. This is where a weight is lifted in a particular exercise 10 times. The weight is usually a 10-repetition max. In other words, it is a weight that can be lifted 10 times but not 11. This type of training is hard and cannot be done continuously without rest.
But what would happen if instead of resting completely between resistance exercise bouts, you were to do a cardiovascular interval instead before resuming the next set of weight lifting?
Exercise is evolving
Fitness has emerged from the aerobic dominated paradigm. Part of this evolution stems from a new understanding about anaerobic exercise. Anaerobic exercise is better described as “super-aerobic exercise”. When you are anaerobic, you are automatically aerobic, although the reverse is not true. Some research suggests anaerobic exercise may do a better job at improving aerobic capacity when compared to aerobic exercise.
An interesting study on scuba divers showed this effect. Scuba divers have a unique challenge given limitations that come with breathing from a regulator while swimming making them an interesting group to evaluate. The study was published in November 2007 in the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medicine Journal (1). The study compared anaerobic interval training with moderate intensity continuous training on aerobic capacity in these divers. VO2max increased by 18% in the anaerobic interval group compared to 6% in the aerobic group. Swim speed of anaerobic training was almost double that generated from aerobic exercise training.
How are you combining your workouts?
Combining weight training and cardio workouts is a well-known concept. Combination workouts usually take two forms. One where the aerobic exercise is done on one day and resistance exercise is done on another day. Another popular variation is to do the resistance exercise and cardiovascular/aerobic training during the same session but independently of one another. In other words, the resistance training workout is either immediately preceded by the aerobic exercise or vice versa.
Using what we call a weight-based interval approach may provide the best of both worlds. We have been using this technique for many years. It involves doing full-body exercises with heavy weights and sprint-based drills inserted continuously throughout the workout. Some of the sprints are done with weight (i.e., squat jumps holding dumbbells) and some are not (i.e., incline treadmill “sprints”, squat thrusts, or stair runs). The key feature of these workouts is it is virtually impossible to distinguish whether the workout is an anaerobic or aerobic workout. It is actually training both systems.
A new study on weight based interval training
Two September 2008 studies both published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research has dramatically validated the weight based interval approach (2-3). The study was conducted by Dr. W. Jackson Davis, and completed out of the University of California at Berkley and Santa Cruz. Dr. Davis and his colleagues studied two different combination workouts. One workout was of the type typically practiced by personal trainers and fitness enthusiasts, and consisted of a 60-minute resistance-training workout followed by 30 minutes of aerobic exercise. This more typical routine was compared with a workout that alternated resistance training with what the researches called “cardioacceleration”, which was essentially a high intensity sprint on a treadmill. There was little rest between the “cardio sprint” and the next weight lifting exercise. All other aspects of the training volume were kept equal.
The workout that involved and interval weight training approach, where the two modalities were merged together instead of distinctly separated, outperformed the more traditional workout in almost every measure. The interval weight training approach created significant positive differences in lower body muscle strength and lower body muscle endurance. But the greatest effects were seen in body composition. The interval weight training group saw an almost 10-fold (998%) reduction in body fat compared with the separated group. In addition to that, the weight based interval group had an 82.2% increased muscle gain over the other group
Another interesting side effect of this style of raining was its impact on delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) (4). Dr. Davis published an earlier study in the January 2008 Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showing this training method significantly reduced DOMS. This was an unexpected finding of the study and points to a synergistic effect on recovery when using and interval weight training approach
Exercise science is currently undergoing a revolution with many of the old ideas in exercise being turned upside down. The weight based interval approach seems to be able to offer the benefits of both aerobic and anaerobic training all within one compact integrated workout. With improved fitness and body composition results, it can provide a useful clinical tool to positively impact health and fitness.