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More Evidence Burst Training Trumps Traditional Weight Lifting For Fat Loss

As you may know I’ve long been on record promoting the benefits of burst training for middle age adults. For years I’ve had to answer the critics who would argue that a 30 minute workout couldn’t possibly be enough for body transformation.

I came to the conclusion that burst training done in workouts lasting 30 minutes or less could very well be effective, not solely based on research, but rather from experience working with actual clients.

Over the last few years there’s been more and more research coming out that confirms the benefits of burst training while providing some insight into the reasons why.

In today’s post I want to share with you a recent research study that demonstrated a specific benefit that burst training has over traditional weight lifting for fat loss.

More after the jump…

Before we get into the specifics of the study let’s briefly review the differences between burst training and traditional lifting.

When I was growing up if you walked into the typical neighborhood gym, you’d mostly see old school body building routines being done. Bench presses, barbell squats, bent over rows and the like all being done for 3-4 sets with a couple minutes of rest between sets.

This way of lifting has been around forever and there’s no denying it works to promote muscular development and strength when done properly. The thing is these type of workouts would normally be done for 45-60 minutes or more.

If someone wanted to lean out and drop body fat, they would diet down and add in cardio to the end of each workout. This just lengthened the time spent in the gym even more.

Again, while this can certainly be effective, the time factor has long been a predominant obstacle for those trying to fit exercise into a busy lifestyle.

Enter into the picture burst training…

With burst training, traditional resistance training exercises are still utilized, it’s just the way they’re done which is different.

Instead of waiting 1-2 minutes or more between sets, exercises are paired together so there’s minimal rest periods. When high intensity resistance training is completed with these short, often incomplete rest periods, the body experiences elevated blood lactate levels and increased hormonal secretion of growth hormone, catecholamines, etc.

The end result is improved fat burning potential all while spending less time with your workouts. There is a trade-off here though which needs to be emphasized. For burst training to be effective, it requires the exerciser to put forth maximum effort and work really hard for short periods of time.

In short, burst training taxes the central nervous system and provides a fair amount of discomfort as you push your way through the workout. The trade-off is certainly well worth it however, as you’ll come to see why.

Ok, let’s look at the research study I mentioned earlier…

Researchers at the University of Padova (Italy) set out to compare the acute effects of high-intensity interval resistance training (HIRT) versus traditional resistance training (TT) on resting energy expenditure (REE).

In the traditional resistance training group (TT), subjects performed a 60 minute workout consisting of (4) sets to failure with (8) exercises. Each exercise was done at 75% of their 1 rep max.

The high intensity interval resistance training group (HIRT), performed a shorter 30 minute workout, that consisted of only (3) sets per exercise of leg press, chest press, and pull-down’s at 85% of their 1 rep max, followed by two “rest-pause-sets.”

Here were the results…

Traditional resistance training (TT) group:

Total lifting volume: 17,000 lbs
Blood lactate: increased to 5.1 mmol/L after training
Resting Energy Expenditure (REE): increased 5% over the next 22 hours (98 calories)

High intensity interval resistance training (HIRT) group:

Total lifting volume: 8,500 lbs
Blood lactate: increased to 10.5 mmol/L after training
Resting Energy Expenditure (REE): increased 24% over the next 22 hours (452 calories)

J Transl Med. 2012 Nov 24;10:237

What all this means for fat loss…

These findings may not mean all that much to you so let me explain. As you can see the length of time spent working out was 50% less for the HIRT group compared to the TT group (30 minutes versus 60 minutes).

The lifting volume was also 50% less (17,000 lbs versus 8,500 lbs). However, even though the lifting volume was 50% less for the HIRT group, they saw a whopping 450% increase in resting energy expenditure after the workout.

This is significant to say the least.

You’ll often seen the variable of Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) referred to as “exercise afterburn.” This is referring to an increase in metabolic rate post workout. It’s the main reason why we can’t judge workout routines solely on the number of calories burned during the workout itself.

Traditional cardiovascular exercise routines may burn more total calories during the session, but have far less of an impact on resting energy expenditure (REE) or a metabolism increase post-workout.

In short, the individuals who performed the HIRT workouts saw a much greater increase in exercise afterburn (EPOC effect) which led them to burn more calories over the next 22 hours.

While all the variables aren’t completely understood by scientists, it’s believed this is due to the increased blood lactate levels along with elevated growth hormone and catecholamine (adrenaline and nor-adrenaline) secretion.

So basically when the central nervous system was stimulated to a greater extent with the short bursts of high intensity effort and incomplete rest periods, caloric afterburn was increased.

This should result in improved fat oxidation post-workout so long as the diet variables are properly set.

Digging a little deeper into this research study…

I want to mention something that I believe is an important variable that may be over-looked in this study. When we look at the lifting protocol for the different groups, the TT group worked at 75% of their 1 rep max and the HIRT group worked at 85% of their 1 rep max.

While some exercisers are hesitant to lift heavier weights out of fear of getting big and bulky, this resistance could very well be diminishing their results. Sticking with really light weights and just trying to do high repetitions is not the best recipe to “tone and firm.”

Lighter weights and higher repetitions certainly has a place in burst training workout programs, but for optimal results you’ll want to go heavy at times.

This means stop using those 3 lb dumbbells for a boat load of reps all the time trying to get a “burn,” and start switching things up by using heavier loads.

The reason that using heavier loads with burst training can be beneficial is because it causes a more pronounced overload on the central nervous system. This produces elevated blood lactate levels and hormonal secretion which helps increase the exercise “afterburn” as we’ve discussed.

From a practical standpoint, I want to emphasize that burst training shouldn’t be confused with just looking to get your heart rate up and doing lots of reps with light weights. The objective of burst training is to produce a metabolic disturbance which is the key to improved fat oxidation.

Mix it up, but don’t miss out on the benefits of going heavier at times.

Bottom line…

While there are obviously numerous ways one could exercise and see fat loss with the right diet in place, burst training provides a specific set of benefits especially for time-crunched individuals.

There’s no need to spend an hour or more in the gym just to see results. Research studies like the one we just reviewed are increasingly showing the benefits of burst training style 30 minute workouts.

I founded Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studios on this very concept almost 10 years ago, long before there was much research to back it up. The business model was set more on a hunch than anything else. I simply found that burst training could be effective for individuals who wanted to change their shape, but didn’t have the time for 60 minute workouts.

You can see some of the success stories of our Charleston personal training clients on this website for proof that it works. If you’d like more information on how to set up a burst training workout routine that meets your individual wants and needs, how to use flexx labs supplement and so on. Sign up for a free no-obligations consultation.

Shane Doll CPT, CSCS is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts. With a staff of over 10 certified fitness professionals, Shaping Concepts provides personal fitness training in Charleston with a specialty on weight loss and body transformation for middle age adults. Sign up today for a no obligations consultation.

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Category: Burst Training.