What if you could lift less weight, spend about half as much time in the gym but still get better results than what you are doing right now? That is the definition of a win-win, right?
Researchers in Italy may have the program you are looking for. This study compared “traditional” weight training, the typical 3 set of 8 with one to two minutes rest in between to what is called “ high-intensity interval resistance training” — basically weight training with little rest in between; think short, sweet and intense.
The study had two groups:
Group 1 performed “traditional” weight training of eight exercises of 4 sets of 8-12 repetitions with 1-2 minutes of rest.
Group 2 performed “high-intensity interval resistance training,” 6 repetitions with 20 seconds of rest after, then lifted the same weight until failure, usually 2 to 3 more reps, then rested another 20 seconds, finally another set to failure (2-3 reps). This counted as one set.
At the end of the study, Group 1 performed 32 sets versus 7 of the high-intensity group. Energy expenditure (calories burned) was measured 22 hours after training. The high-intensity group expended 2,362 calories versus 1,999 in the traditional training group — over 300 more calories burned than the traditional weight training group.
However, a very interesting aspect was that the high intensity group lifted less total weight 17,273 pounds vs. 8,536 pounds, and they also spent less time in the gym as well; the traditionally trained group trained about 62 minutes a session vs. 32 minutes for the high intensity.
Burning more calories after the workout is important, as noted by the authors, “only 40 percent of energy is expended on activity while the remaining 60 percent is expended at rest.” The calories burned after the workout is called Exercise Post Oxygen Consumption which, scientifically speaking, is the “recovery of metabolic rate back to pre-exercise levels” and “can require several minutes for light exercise and several hours for hard intervals and up to 12 to 24 hours or even longer for prolonged, exhaustive exercise.”
What this means is how many additional calories your body will burn after the workout has been completed in order to return your body to normal. If someone is able to work out at a higher intensity, the more “metabolic disturbance;” the more energy your body will need to expend to bring it back down to normal.
The body needs to replenish muscle glycogen (energy) contained in the muscle that’s been depleted during the workout, restoring the blood lactate levels to normal and bring down the heart rate and body temperature. This is a major source of energy expenditure, which occurs during recovery, but is directly the result of the workout and is frequently ignored in most calculations of the energy expenditure of various activities.
The study concluded that, “Our results suggest that “high-intensity interval resistance training” increases excess post exercise energy consumption to a significantly greater extent than traditional resistance training. This exercise methodology allows subjects to improve metabolism and, at the same time, muscle mass and strength, all of which are promoted as beneficial by many guidelines.”
Be careful though, this study used young males who were an average age of 28 with weight-training experience, so someone older, deconditioned or without proper weight training experience should be careful, as high-intensity exercise and lifting to failure have been shown in other studies to increase risk of injury.
If you are unfamiliar with any exercise, seek the advice of fitness professional and as always consult your doctor prior to starting any exercise program.