The Five Biggest Contradictions in Fitness
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The Five Biggest Contradictions in Fitness

Itís no secret that when people contradict themselves, it has the effect of making the flaws in their actions or statements seem glaringly obvious. But what about when WE ourselves get caught contradicting ourselves by someone else?

By: Nick Tumminello Added: January 6th, 2014
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  1. #26
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    Wow, how did I miss this thread? A lot of interesting opinions here. Really good discussion from clever people.

    Just one point that seems to have been completely missed here though; how hard are you exercising?

    This is one thing I find slightly bemusing when you look at the differences between athletes and bodybuilders/fitness hobbyists. I see some people doing HIIT and it doesn't look like they're going hard enough to call it HIIT, I see some fat people trying to get lean by walking for an hour, and I see some extremely lean and extremely fit runners/triathletes/cyclists/competitive sportsmen doing "steady-state cardio" but hard. All of it will be effective, but what's going to burn more calories, an hour's walk or an hour's run? 20min of half-hearted intervals on the rowing machine with terrible form, or 20min of fast interval sprints done perfectly? How far are you going? How much time did that distance take? These are the questions I'd want to know.

    HIIT vs Steady-state is nowhere near as black and white as you guys make out because they might have totally different meanings to people with different ability levels.

    So here's where I "step outside the box" with my opinion: what if you ignore calories, ignore optimal training and think about getting fitter. If you were primarily interested in functionality, wouldn't you just do a mixture, because that would be the best thing to get fitter?

    I realize this thread is mostly about aesthetics, so I'm kind of coming off a tangent here, but it is strange that this hasn't even been touched upon. I mean when comparing steady-state to HIIT, and saying HIIT burns more calories, how fast is the steady-state being done? A practical experiment would be to randomly pick fifteen people from the gym, put five on bikes, five on rowers and five on treadmills and tell them to do 30 mins at a moderately hard pace and ignore each other. The difference between distances travelled, calorie expenditure and exertion (because some people naturally put more effort in) will be wildly different.

    It's not so easy to compare cardio as this thread suggests. Obviously Allen is the man to listen to when wanting to get lean, but I sometimes find it frustrating that people only see cardiovascular exercise as a tool instead of something to try and improve at in the same way you would with strength training. It's also what I like about crossfit and its no surprise at all that the best cross-fitters are extremely lean without even trying to lose fat.

  2. #27
    Senior Member Allen Cress's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by J.C. View Post
    .
    HIIT vs Steady-state is nowhere near as black and white as you guys make out because they might have totally different meanings to people with different ability levels.

    So here's where I "step outside the box" with my opinion: what if you ignore calories, ignore optimal training and think about getting fitter. If you were primarily interested in functionality, wouldn't you just do a mixture, because that would be the best thing to get fitter?

    I sometimes find it frustrating that people only see cardiovascular exercise as a tool instead of something to try and improve at in the same way you would with strength training. It's also what I like about crossfit and its no surprise at all that the best cross-fitters are extremely lean without even trying to lose fat.
    Great points as nothing is black and white when it comes to training of any kind. You hit the nail on the head with the points I was trying to get across in not focusing soo much on numbers and more on the work you put in.

    Cardio is something you should strive to improve always especially in the form of workload capacity and this is why i'm a big fan of hybrid protocols. They have a much better payoff in terms of metabolic output and you are not just focusing on the lower body.

    Also see the Thread i posted "The Aerobic Myth".
    Last edited by Allen Cress; 07-15-2010 at 12:39 PM.

  3. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allen Cress View Post
    When I say step out of the box I mean implemeting things such as sequential activation sequences, metabolic circuits, etc.. not HITT over steady state. You keep refering to HITT is not better than steady stae and I haven't said it is or what i was discussing. My prefered method is using complex sequences and metabolic circuits not HITT so no need to refer to that as I am not debating that at all.
    Upon review I will concede that you did not specifically argue for HIIT, but it did seem to read as if you were, and at the very least that you were condemning steady state. It also seems as though you seem more against steady state because of the people you've seen who abuse it and I can certainly understand why you are of that opinion. However, people who take a smart approach to dieting can get extra calorie burn with intact recovery by using steady state. Again, just to be clear, I absolutely agree that pushing to hard with any kind of cardio is a road that leads to disaster.

    Unlike HIIT, your use of complexes and circuits DOES have merit because it is a good way to deplete glycogen and force your body to rely on body fat stores. Now obviously calories still matter, but in instances of stubborn fat, where it becomes difficult for your body to release the fat in order to use it, glycogen depletion can be an excellent way to force your body to burn it off. Low carb is another way to help this, but carb refeeds would be mandatory to help recovery and prevent metabolic decline. I agree with you here.

    Quote Originally Posted by Allen Cress View Post
    Metabolic damage does exist and have seen it in many individuals. When someone is on a diet and can't lose weight even with the right training program then they have damaged their metabolic rate (downregulated thyroid, decreased leptin sennsitivity, etc...) I'm not talking about typical rebounds like water retention but 2-3 months after and they keep gaining weight regardless of diet. I do agree people push themselves too hard in the sense that they basically try and starve off the fat and do way to much cardio of any form. If ones program is too intense or their bodyfat levels are very low then I agree steady state is less taxing and will not impose on recovery but I would never prescribe more than 45 min at a time for a max of 4-5 days per week.
    Are you of the opinion that this is caused from dieting to low body fat incorrectly, or doing excessive cardio? In my opinion, this is probably very similar to an overtraining response. In other words, people cut calories too low, and do amounts of cardio that would be excessive for someone who was eating at caloric maintenance, resulting in them pushing so far past their recovery that their hormonal profile deteriorates. Done correctly and with the right techniques (Intermittent Fasting turning out to be very useful here), it is possible for people to get to extremely low body fat levels and stay that way with little to no muscle loss and none of the nasty things that happen at low body fat levels. Set point can also be readjusted. Just look at Martin Berkhan for an example of this. He doesn't even do any cardio, which probably is a good example of how this "metabolic damage" is a result of stupidly or emotionally trying to do too much to get to a low body fat. This isn't an argument against what you said, more of speculation and inquiry. I think we probably agree here that too much cardio (or work in general) and too large of a deficit are the culprits.

    Quote Originally Posted by Allen Cress View Post
    I'm not trying to disprove your points as they are valid, but at the same time experience is of great use. I read research and look at studies as much as the next coach but I only use it as a base and then adjust accordingly depending on the individual. Also I am trying to get individuals to not focus too much on numbers because they become too obsesive about them and it takes away from the training experience and their performance because the become overly concerned with every little detail and make it too complicated.
    I can understand when dealing with individuals that numbers can becoming overwhelming, in which case some methods of forcing changes can be of use. For example eating low carb naturally reduces food intake (for a while anyways) and this helps people to lose fat. So if HIIT makes people actually do the cardio then it can be of use because as I've said, cardio not done is useless. I do think it is extremely important to know caloric intake and expenditure, because otherwise it's a shot in the dark as to whether you're actually in a deficit or not. You also have to realize that most people on this site probably don't have a trainer around crunching the numbers for them. So while your clients may not be worried with the numbers, you still need to be aware of whether they are creating a caloric deficit or not. So someone who doesn't have a professional looking over their shoulder will need to be concerned with their numbers.

    I agree people can get obsessed with them and this is probably part of why people push themselves into metabolic decline (they want to lose weight faster so they do the math and see the huge deficit required and push themselves to a level they shouldn't be working at). However I think this isn't an issue of being obsessed with numbers, but moreso an instance of self-control and will-power, along with the probability of misinformation. Someone who doesn't have a trainer and knows not to push too hard or create too big of a deficit will benefit greatly from keeping track of these numbers.

    My point with the numbers for the HIIT example was solely to illustrate that HIIT shouldn't be used as a way to burn tons of calories because it is inferior for that use. Even if you don't specifically track the amount it burns, it's good to know that it's no more than steady state, simply for the reason that you know you can't get away with eating more because you did HIIT today.

  4. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by J.C. View Post
    This is one thing I find slightly bemusing when you look at the differences between athletes and bodybuilders/fitness hobbyists. I see some people doing HIIT and it doesn't look like they're going hard enough to call it HIIT, I see some fat people trying to get lean by walking for an hour, and I see some extremely lean and extremely fit runners/triathletes/cyclists/competitive sportsmen doing "steady-state cardio" but hard. All of it will be effective, but what's going to burn more calories, an hour's walk or an hour's run? 20min of half-hearted intervals on the rowing machine with terrible form, or 20min of fast interval sprints done perfectly? How far are you going? How much time did that distance take? These are the questions I'd want to know.

    HIIT vs Steady-state is nowhere near as black and white as you guys make out because they might have totally different meanings to people with different ability levels.

    So here's where I "step outside the box" with my opinion: what if you ignore calories, ignore optimal training and think about getting fitter. If you were primarily interested in functionality, wouldn't you just do a mixture, because that would be the best thing to get fitter?

    I realize this thread is mostly about aesthetics, so I'm kind of coming off a tangent here, but it is strange that this hasn't even been touched upon. I mean when comparing steady-state to HIIT, and saying HIIT burns more calories, how fast is the steady-state being done? A practical experiment would be to randomly pick fifteen people from the gym, put five on bikes, five on rowers and five on treadmills and tell them to do 30 mins at a moderately hard pace and ignore each other. The difference between distances travelled, calorie expenditure and exertion (because some people naturally put more effort in) will be wildly different.

    It's not so easy to compare cardio as this thread suggests. Obviously Allen is the man to listen to when wanting to get lean, but I sometimes find it frustrating that people only see cardiovascular exercise as a tool instead of something to try and improve at in the same way you would with strength training. It's also what I like about crossfit and its no surprise at all that the best cross-fitters are extremely lean without even trying to lose fat.
    J.C. I pretty much completely agree here and although I was making cardio seem black and white, it was moreso to demonstrate a point from a physiological perspective.

    You bring up another very good point that might make HIIT useful. If HIIT actually makes someone push themselves, it can be amazing. The obese man who walks for an hour isn't pushing at all, but put him on a HIIT protocol where he sprints and he'll lose weight because now he's actually working whereas before he was just walk at a piss poor intensity. My comments were more directed to dieting to very lean conditions as bodybuilders do, and to people that actually push themselves when they workout. Beginners and obese most definitely have different recommendations and HIIT is probably more useful for them.

    As far as getting "fitter" and worrying about just getting in shape, HIIT can absolutely improve cardiovascular functions. I stated this in earlier posts when I said that when not in a caloric deficit, HIIT can be a great way to improve certain functionality aspects of training (I didn't say it exactly like that but that point was made).

    I also agree that cardio should be improved upon just as strength is, however the discussion was more geared towards dieting and caloric burn associated with cardio, in which case it does act more like a tool and less like a parameter to be improve upon. It would be unwise to try to improve any aspect of cardio while in a caloric deficit, just as it is unwise to try to improve strength during this time. It can happen, but it shouldn't be something you aim for - that leads to burnout.

    Your points definitely bring up topics regarding cardio that were not involved in the discussion and I think it's important not to forget those things as well.

  5. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by Berzinator View Post
    Your arguments for using HIIT as opposed to steady state are somewhat flawed. Yes, HIIT will increase EPOC more than steady state. Hell even double what steady state does. Here's what you're not saying: EPOC will total about 20-25 calories for a half an hour of steady state, probably around 40-50 calories per half hour of intervals. It sounds sexy when you say HIIT burns twice the amount of calories after you're done working out, but a large percentage of a small number is still a small number, and it's irrelevant in terms of calorie expenditure. This is especially true when you see that 30 minutes of steady state burns about the same amount of calories as 30 minutes of HIIT. The calorie burn is the same except for the extra 25 calories or so from EPOC, but HIIT is much harder.

    Not only is it harder, but it can dramatically cut into your recovery, something that is far less of an issue with steady state. Continuing a normal volume for legs while doing HIIT results in way too much volume for legs, but steady state doesn't tax the legs in the same way. And remember also that all the studies looking at HIIT were done on people that were ONLY doing HIIT, not trying to lift weights or do any other kind of exercise. When coupled with lifting, HIIT can be too taxing. I'd rather save my recovery for another heavy lifting session, than to use it up on something like HIIT that doesn't provide much stimulus for growth or muscle maintenance and doesn't help burn many more calories.

    Then of course there is the issue of duration. I don't think anyone can continue HIIT for more than 30 minutes, but 60 minutes of steady state is much more plausible. Since they burn the same amount of calories during the actual workout, that's double the calories you are able to burn with steady state. And this is in the realm of 600 calories as opposed to 300, not 50 compared to 25. It's a much more significant number. As for the metabolic advantages, HIIT does increase metabolic capacity, but only for the first few weeks. Then it provides little additional increase.

    I'm not trying to slam you or HIIT in particular, I've just seen way to many people shun steady state for HIIT when there's no real logical reason to do so. HIIT may have some advantage in moderation, but it's not a replacement or improvement from steady state and is much worse at burning calories.
    Hi guys, I just want to say that there is a place for everything. Low intensity, steady state cardio in the morning on an empty stomach is actually amazingly effective for fat loss in my opinion. Also, short burst, high intensity sessions are extremely conducive after a lifting session (HIIT, complexes, etc.). However, other than low intensity exercises for recovery, there're articles that advocate short lengths of strides followed by a few bodyweight exercises, like prisoner squats and pushups. As long as you keep your body moving and blood is directed to your muscles, your recovery will be stimulated.

    You guys may have other regimes that work as well, but I'm sure you can't argue that intermittant work in the form of complexes and HIIT train your ability to work at different ranges of heart rate. Steady
    state cardio only trains your body to do work better at a certain heart rate. So, it does have more benefits but cannot be done for days on end due to the high taxation on the body, unlike steady state!

  6. #31
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    Anyone following this thread should check out the thread Allen created called "The Aerobic Myth", in which we continue to debate issues involving aerobics and fat loss.

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