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Ask Chad #4

August 4th, 2013     Ask Chad

“Hi Chad,

I work really long hours and have to travel a lot for my job. I have heard a bunch about high intensity training and that its not only good for you but saves time. Chad is this something I can do, especially when I have to stay in a hotel for a couple of days at a time and how do I start it?

Thanks for the insight,
Gerry Cogan, Toronto, Ontario”

Thanks for the question Gerry!

For those who are unfamiliar with High Intensity Training, it can mean a few different things:

1) High Intensity Training (HIT)…as popularized by Arthur Jones and his Nautilus equipment in the 1970’s.

This type of training typically means executing one very heavy set of an exercise performed to complete momentary muscular failure (i.e. you can’t perform even one other repetition).

Failure is meant to occur between 6-12 reps for upper body exercises and 12-20 reps for lower body exercises. Rep cadence (the time it takes to both raise and lower the weight being lifted) is recommended to be a 2 second positive (raising) and 4 second negative (lowering).

Though originally Jones HIT programs were performed only using his Nautilus equipment, others have used this protocol with free weights, etc.

Also, some other HIT advocates actually do recommend more than one all-out set, however, the basic principle of heavy sets performed to failure are the same. Also, trainees are encouraged to workout 3 times or less per week.

I am not a big fan of this style of training. While as change of pace occasionally, it can be effective, I find the effort needed to truly push yourself to failure on one, all-out set is very draining and difficult to maintain over the long term. I also worry about the risk of injury be constantly pushing to failure.

Lastly, I prefer free weight and bodyweight exercises for the majority of your workouts, and HIT is typically performed on machines.

2) Super Slow Training

Super Slow is somewhat of an offshoot of HIT in that generally one set is performed to failure. However, Super Slow uses a different rep cadence. Specifically, Super Slow recommends both a 10-second positive and 10-second negative portion of each repetition for a total set time of 1.5 to 3 minutes.

Typically advocates train in two 20 minute weekly sessions. Again, this workout is typically done on weight machines.

While Super Slow can be effective (especially in a rehab type setting since we can achieve fatigue with low loads), I’m not a fan for the same reasons I mentioned in #1.

Also, I prefer the positive (raising) portion of a repetition to be done explosively (as fast as possible without losing control).

Most published, peer-reviewed studies find Super Slow to be no better, and most times LESS effective than traditional training speeds.

3) High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Unlike HIT and Super Slow, HIIT is not a resistance training workout, but a cardiovascular protocol.

HIIT means alternating very high intensity sprints with either low intensity intervals or rest.

HIIT can be done in any number of ways. For example, a 60-second sprint on a treadmill followed by a 2-minute walk and repeated as desired.

I am a big fan of this type of cardio training for people with limited time to train. Basically we can get much of the same benefit as longer duration, steady state cardio in less time.

However, these intensities can make recovering from workouts difficult (especially if done too often, and/or in conjunction with higher intensity weight training.)


Tabatas are probably the shortest HIIT protocol and have gotten popular in recent years. The workout is a 20 second max effort sprint alternated with a 10 second rest and repeated 8 times for a total of 4 minutes of work.

This may sound appealing, but most people simply will not be able to push themselves hard enough to make 4 minutes of work remotely effective. And if you CAN push that hard, you probably won’t want to do it again. (At least not any time soon.)

But again, if you are under a severe time crunch, you might want to use this protocol from time to time.

4) Cardio Strength Training/Metabolic Resistance Training

This hybrid strength and cardio combining program is probably your best bet to get both the benefits of working at higher intensities, a good stimulus to your muscle mass, and a good cardio and fat burning workout. (I do want to note that diet is the most important aspect of fat burning, not any of the programs discussed in this article.)

There are many options you can use to get the hybrid benefits from these kinds of workouts. Some of these include circuits, complexes, combination sets, density training/timed sets, etc. You can also use a variety of equipment like barbells, kettlebells or simply your bodyweight.

Since you travel a lot, I’m going to give you a sample program using your bodyweight.

Gerry’s  Bodyweight Circuit:

20 squats
10 pushups
20 hip thrusts (bridging)
10 pushups
20 shin grab situps
10 pushups

Rest 1-3 min and Repeat 2-5 times (don’t worry if the reps drop during later sets…always focus on quality reps, no just finishing).

If you were able to travel with some resistance tubes/bands and/or a suspension trainer like a TRX, or had access to a chin-up bar, you could make this workout even better as it currently lacks and work for the upper back.

If you are interested in learning more about these kinds of workouts, I recommend the books “Warrior Cardio” by Martin Rooney and “Cardio Strength Training” by Robert dos Remedios.


While traditional HIT and its sibling Super Slow can be used occasionally, they have their limitations.

Training at higher intensities during shorter workouts (like HIIT and Metabolic Resistance Training) are great options for the time-challenged trainee, but can be overdone if used too often.

Don’t let a busy work and travel schedule get in the way of your training program Gerry, and thanks again for the question!