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      Fitness Tips For 7/27/2005 

High-Intensity Training and Weight Control
By S. Franckowiak, B.S., and K. Fontaine, Ph.D.

In this article we will describe the potential role that a 
rationally-derived program of strength training can play in 
weight loss efforts, and outline some broad recommendations 
to enhance its effectiveness.

In order to lose fat, you must create an energy deficit 
(i.e., expend more calories than your body needs to function). 
Unfortunately, when you create such a caloric deficit you do 
not lose just fat. That is, the body takes energy from 
body tissue indiscriminately. In fact, any diet produces not 
only fat loss, but lean tissue loss as well. A recent 
analysis by Ballor and Poehlman (1994) indicated that an 
average of 28% of the weight lost among dieters who do not
exercise is actually fat-free mass (i.e., lean tissue) 
compared to 13% among dieters who performed primarily 
aerobic exercise. Indeed, if the caloric deficit is 
severe enough (e.g., very low calorie "fasting" diets) 
even organ tissue and bone is lost. Moreover, since calorie 
restriction  is an unnatural act, the body begins to adapt 
by reducing resting metabolic rate (RMR).

This means that you have to create progressively greater caloric 
deficits to continue to lose fat at a consistent rate. Given 
this, the primary goal for utilizing strength training in
conjunction with weight reduction activities is to preserve 
fat-free mass while losing body fat. The preservation of fat-free 
mass also serves to keep the metabolic rate as high as possible 
so that fat loss can be promoted even with a relatively modest 
level of caloric restriction. In addition, strength training may 
be a useful strategy for maintaining the fat loss (i.e., keeping 
the weight off) once the person has reached their goal.

That is, developing as little as one pound of muscle tissue 
after calorie restriction will allow a moderately active person 
to consume an additional 50-100 calories a day. In fact, adding 
three pounds of muscle increases metabolic rate by about 7%. The 
bottom line is that gaining lean muscle is highly desirable 
because muscle is metabolically active (i.e., it needs a modest 
amount of calories to survive) while fat is not.

Let us look at you can use a HIT approach to maximize the 
short and long-term effectiveness of your weight loss/weight 
control efforts. Note that our broad suggestions will need to 
be modified somewhat given the unique circumstances of a given


Intensity is the name of the game in strength training. You have to 
work hard enough to set the growth machinery into motion. You need 
to slowly and gradually increase the intensity of your workouts 
(perhaps over several weeks) until you are physically and mentally 
capable of working an exercise with the required effort.


The anaerobic workout should only be as long as required to 
stimulate the growth, or the maintenance of fat-free mass. Most 
often, individuals have time constraints make it difficult to 
participate in a regular strength training routine or that they 
have no interest in spending hours in a gym . Making workouts short 
and intense should provide necessary stimulation of muscles without 
producing disinterest or boredom. We suggest single work sets of 3 
to 5 multi-joint exercises which focus on the larger muscle groups 
(legs, hips, back). Weights can usually be lifted using 
approximately 60 to 80% of their initial 1RM and slowly progressing 
from there. Workouts should be conducted at a rather brisk pace 
and should be kept to less than 30 minutes. We would not 
necessarily discourage low intensity aerobic activity after the 
weight training, but if the weight training was of sufficient 
intensity, it is unlikely you would want, or becapable of 
performing, a great deal of aerobic exercise.


One reason many people are anti-strength training is the belief 
(propagated in the popular muscle magazine) that you must train 
very long and frequently (1-2 hours, up to 6 days a week) in order 
to make progress. The brevity and relative infrequency of HIT 
training is very appealing to most people. We would suggest 
training three times a week initially in order to develop the 
motor skill necessary to adequately and safely perform the
movements. As the intensity increases, the frequency of 
training should be reduced to ensure proper rest and recovery. 


HIT, being a high intensity low-force training protocol, is 
very safe, provided proper exercise technique is used. Make 
sure you acquire the skill to perform each exercise properly 
before you train alone.

Stressing slow controlled movements with good form will lessen 
the chance of injury. Obviously, the use of machines would be 
preferred because they require less skill to execute the

Reprinted with permission of Exercise Protocol. 

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