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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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!
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.