Short Bursts of Exercise Get You Big Gains

The most common excuse people from all walks of life have for skipping workouts or abstaining from exercise altogether is time—or more accurately, the lack of it. But a series of studies recently profiled by the New York Times have raised an alluring prospect: What if you could do an effective workout that was only four seconds long?

That’s not the whole story, of course; expecting results from a single work period shorter in length than the time it takes to tie your shoelaces would be an outlandish prospect for even the most gullible gym-goer. The four second bursts of activity—intense bouts of pedaling on specialized stationary bikes—referenced in the coverage were sometimes repeated up to 30 times over the course of the trials, with opportunities for subjects to recover for 15 to 30 seconds between rounds. Over three trials, Dr. Edward Coyle, a University of Texas professor of kinesiology and health education, found that the protocol could help his subjects metabolize fat betterimprove leg muscle mass and maximal power, and improve their aerobic fitness.

If you’re a fitness junkie, this type of protocol shouldn’t be wholly unfamiliar. The setup falls within the realm of High Intensity Interval Training (H.I.I.T.), although the work periods are shorter than usual and the effort required might be more demanding. Interval training-based gym gear like the CAROL bike are designed using similar principles. But the four second timing is extreme; even Tabata, the protocol most associated with super fast workouts, creates four-minute routines using 20-second work intervals.

Excerpted from Men’s Health

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