What is High Intensity Exercise?

The high intensity exercise theory was developed by the inventor of the Nautilus equipment, Arthur Jones, back in the 1970’s. High intensity exercise is any routine that uses a large amount of weight or resistance over a short period of time. It is generally associated with strength training and involves training harder through the constant and frequent overloading of muscles to the point of failure, but for brief and repetitive periods of time. On the other hand, endurance training stresses frequent training with less weight or resistance over longer periods of time.

The goal of the individual usually defines the difference. For the person wanting to maintain muscle and burn calories, endurance training will work better. But, for the person looking for the maximum development of muscles and not focused on burning calories, high intensity training will work better.

With high intensity workouts, it stands to reason there is an inverse relationship between the amount of weight or resistance and the number of repetitions performed. Under intense weight, you may only be able to perform two or three repetitions per set.  Once that muscle has worked to failure – unable to do another repetition, move onto a different exercise that works a different muscle or muscle group.

Because of the extreme stress that is put upon the body, high intensity exercises should only be performed a maximum of three days per week, with a day of rest in-between. Overtraining can lead to a lack of progress and increases your risk for a serious injury.

Besides frequency of performance, high intensity exercising involves:
• performing 2 to 12 exercises per training session
• performing only 1 set per exercise
• performing each repetition slow enough to maintain control
• using a full range of movement of the targeted muscle.

Once the set repetitions limit is easily reached, add an additional 5% more of weight or resistance at the next session.

As expected, high intensity workouts burn more calories than low intensity – 8.4 calories per minute verses 6.3 calories per minute, respectively. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that a workout should burn 300 calories in order to be considered a fat-loss workout. If you do the math, that comes out to a high intensity workout duration of about 35 minutes.

Due to the intensity of a workout, monitor your heart rate throughout the sessions. Your goal should be to keep your target heart rate in the 80 to 90 percentile of your maximum heart rate (MHR). You can calculate your MHR by taking 220 minus your age.  You can use a heart rate monitor or periodically take your pulse for 10 seconds and multiply by 60.

High intensity exercising is not for everyone. If you are elderly or recovering from an illness or injury, low intensity may be a better choice.


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