Saturday, August 1, 2009

6 minutes of Fitness: Part II - Plain Language Take Aways - esp. for kb'ers

In Part I of this article, 6mins of Effort a Week or Less - what does that mean? i looked at a few studies that showed that a few wingates a few times a week (total effort 6-9mins) over a 2 week or over a 6 week period give the same benfefits as someone doing steady state cardio for hourly efforts a week.

I've been asked for a plain language version of what to make of the reseasrch. Here goes, 6 take aways, with a focus on applicability as i understand it, especially to kettlebell practice.

First: time and load
just a few (low volume)
super intense blasts of all out effort (30s)
followed by good recovery intervals of 4.5mins
a few times (3) a week
leads to the kinds of strength adaptations seen with endurance training.

These adaptations include improving the cell's capacity to take in oxygen and that means improved ability to use fat as fuel.

This result is important because the better the body can make use of fat, its most abundant and energy rich fuel source, the better off we are globally in terms of performance.

So short, few, all out blasts means super low volume for incredible pay off. that's amazing.

second: it's hard work - really really
the way to achieve these all out effort intervals (sprints) is non-trivial.

The authors use the well established Wingate test protocol where you're looking at about .75kg / kg of body weight put onto a bike, and told to go all out. So you are working really hard against resistance.

Will going all out for 30s with a light kettlebell achieve this kind of intensity? No.

This workout is heavier, more intense than KJ's vo2max protocol.
Please note: this does not mean that vo2max VWC is a sissy protocol. it means that they are different.

In fact if you get Viking Warrior Conditioning (which i highly recommend) there IS a similar type of protocol that one works up to that uses heavier bells with longer recovery than vo2max. You work up to this protocol. It will be interesting to look at how it *might* be comparable to the wingate efforts.

third: recovery
The critical piece here is that a TON happens during the recovery interval of the wingate protocol, so if you give this a go on say a stationary bike, be sure to give yourself the critical interval period.

Here's an article on recovery and its role in different kinds of strength: the type of strength is related to recovery - note that in this case when getting to super high intensity, we're using power lifting type recovery for endurance like effect in an nth of the time. wild.

Again, if you read VWC (did i say i recommend it?), you'll see Kenneth talking about similar things: the recovery is where the good stuff happens, so be sure to take it as prescribed.

fourth: gear

This came up in the previous article. Folks in these studies (including the infamous Tabata - see review by lyle macdonald that takes that apart -- finally) is that these efforts are done on bikes - and for good reason.

An obvious parallel for any kb workout is working hard for brief periods with good recovery breaks is a GOOD idea - it's not a sissy thing as long as you're working hard and with excellent form. These ideas are not new; they're in all Pavel's books.

The main difference between that idea and these particular intervals is that these intervals are all out, so you don't have a lot in the tank after doing them.

Note that the participants in the study were not officially classed jocks but they were in decent shape, so asking a sedentary person to leap into these not smart.

This is also, especially, why using a bike is better than a kettlbell may be worth considering because form can't degrade in the same way as it is likely wont to do if you're swinging a heavy kettlebell at a pace to take you to voluntary exhaustion. that's just kinda sensible, no?

fifth: this is research
there's lots we don't know yet in terms of evaluating this kind of protocol for general fitness and bodycomp goals.
sixth: what's middle ground? real world application?
If the studies are that - research studies - is there something we can put to work now?

In the RKC kettlebell universe, some well-experienced trainers have said they've had great results with people working 10mins a day with a kb. Tracy Reifkind is the poster child for the benefits of good nutrition and 15 mins a day with a kb, so there is something very special about the combination of the intensity of the workouts and the dynamic power generated from them.

Now these efforts are likely NOT all out gut busters for 30sec on; 4.5 mins off, repeat. When you read tracy's blog, and watch her vids, she's working pretty constantly, but she's able to talk while she's video'ing most of the time. A sign that someone is going into anaerobic overdrive which a sprint level interval requires is that you don't have much oxygen available to chit chat.

Again this ability to chat does NOT mean your workout sux. Far from it: a regular test when running x-country and NOT doing tempo runs was can you carry on a conversation? if you can't you're sucking wind and need to back off.

BUT (to ask this question again) If you just workout for 30secs with a kb, and then rest for 4.5 mins, will you get the same effects if you stick with those intervals?


That doesn't mean you won't get benefits. To move is to live.

What it does mean is that it seems to get that mitochondria growth - the stuff in the cells that improves o2 - at that rate in that kinda time period (please note all those variables: at that rate in that time period) we have to work at that intensity to trigger some genetic expressions that trigger that growth. That DNA signal doesn't get turned on it seems without that intensity.

What does that mean practically?
Kenneth's vo2max program at lower intensities than this DOES get o2 benefits. PLUS it gets muscular strength happening too, which this protocol does not test.

That was my question at the end of Part I of this article. The results are great for o2 capacity but what about the other stuff we want? like muscular strength? body comp? well there's some of that for sure, but it wasn't explicitly tested, and i'd bet you might not get as much of either as snatching a kb for 40-80 sets a la VWC

SO there are trade offs. Meanwhile - if you want to use a kb to jazz your body and enhance strength and vo2max, we know KJ's VWC can be done safely to get there. It may take a few minutes more, but it works.

Final Take aways: application to kb's
  • A super intense protocol like this is best done on a stationary bike for reasons not only of safety but of appropriate load to elicit effect. So many people in the Tabata craze miss that we're not just talking timed intervals but of particular intensities during those intervals and that it's near impossible to generate all those loads unless you're on something like a bike (see Lyle McDonalds recent take down of Tabata misunderstandings). That Kenneth has found a way to get something similar going with KB's for vo2max is awesome.
  • Doing kj's vo2max might take a bit longer, but it gives many of the same benefits, as well as muscular development that these sprints might not, and you won't be looking at puking every three days AND they may be easier (may) on your cns. dunno about that.
  • There is not a clear way to use a kettlebell to be equivalent in load (and safety) to a wingate to mirror these results with the same time interval of 30 on/4.5 off- if we could test one that could be cool. Again, worth looking at KJ's final protocol in VWC.

So what? Is there a role for 6mins a week of effort?

Well, if you want to boost your o2 capacity, have a bike on a stand, preferably one that shows you power readings, you might want to give this protocol a try for 2 weeks. Remember you're going all out - that means to voluntary exhaustion EACH TIME. IF you can only do two, do two.

What about Fat Burning?
Something to look at (and no doubt someone will) may also be the role these blasts have of fat loss. If this approach with this little effort up-regulates oxidation (which means burning fat, really), perhaps that will also mean kicking up fat mobilization for fat loss.

Now, does the fat that gets mobilized in these intervals then actually get entirely burned off, or *would* a little bit of cardio at a sane rate after the intervals lead to hoovering up some of that released fat, too? Dunno. may or may not be necessary. i muse aloud.

But if you do give this exact protocol a go,
Please come back and comment on your experience/results.

Thanks as always for dropping by.


Chris said...

have you read Lyle's Stubborn Fat Loss Solution? Basically he answers your last question - he recommends steady state after the cardio to burn the fat that is liberated by the intervals

dr. m.c. said...

Chris, i'm a big fan of lyle's and cite him liberally throughout this blog.

He is among a score of other coaches who say do cardio after intervals to hoover up liberated fat.

Lately i've been most intrigued by phd candidate casandra forsythe's exploration into the effects of five minutes of doing nothing after intervals before doing the cardio.

However, my question is really about *these particular maximal* intervals, i'm not sure if the same need (need may be too strong a word) is there to use additional cardio since so much is already going on in the recovery intervals and post interval efforts that it may not be necessary. That's sort of my question, and i should have been clearer to state:
normal intervals (85%max HR)some hoovering may be effective/useful.
these intervals? not sure.

tnx for posting.

ps i really like mcdonald's approach to why the last 5-10 pounds are the hardest to get off

Chris said...

thanks mc

Richard Chignell said...

MC - nice take aways. Clear and easy to consume. Thanks.

VO2 tomorrow ;-)

dr. m.c. said...

thanks gents,

i just did this protocol - for the heck of it.

according to my very basic calcs, with a 6 min warm up, and then the 30s+4.5min recovery,

+ 21 mins for 3 bursts.
+ caloric burn is less than doing say kj's vo2max for 40sets (20mins)
+ the last 5 secs of the 30 are the killers - really the first 15 secs feel all tasty fine, the next ten are hard, the last five are thank god there are only 5 is all i can say.


after the last recovery because i could and may pay for it later, i did some simulated hills for a couple mins, then 5 min chill, then 5 min cardio (65-70%) for hoovering, then 5 min cool down.

all told about 40 mins.

will be keen to see how this goes over two weeks. and how i'll test any kind of result?

oh, one more note: did not hit max heart rate on the all out efforts. hmm.


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