Burst Exercise – What is it? Why is it so beneficial?

Posted on Oct 10, 2011 in Uncategorized

What is Burst exercise?

Once or twice a week you do peak exercises, in which you raise your heart rate up to your anaerobic threshold for 20 to 30 seconds, and then you recover for 90 seconds.

You would repeat this cycle for a total of eight repetitions. These cycles are preceded by a three minute warm up and two minute cool down so the total time investment is about 20 minutes.

The intensity is absolutely individual. For some it may be as simple as fast walking alternating with slow walking.

They key is to push your heart rate into that training zone for 30 seconds and then recover slowly for 90 seconds.

Why is burst exercise so beneficial?

Using this approach is far more effective than traditional cardio for a number of reasons:

  1. It can actually increase your growth hormone level.  Our bodies have three different types of muscle fibers: slow, fast, and super-fast.  Exercising with only Slow muscle fibers has the unfortunate effect of actually causing the super fast fibers to decrease or atrophy. neither traditionally performed aerobic cardio nor strength training will work anything butyour slow muscles. These are the red muscles, which are filled with capillaries and mitochondria, and hence a lot of oxygen. Next you have the fast type of fiber which is also red muscle, and oxygenates quickly, but is five times faster than the slow fibers. Power training, or plyometrics burst types of exercises will engage these fast muscles. The super-fast ones are the white muscle fibers. They contain far less blood and less densely packed mitochondria. These muscle fibers are what you use when you do anaerobic short burst exercises. High intensity burst cardio is the form of exercise that will engage these super fast fibers. They’re ten times faster than slow fibers, and this is the key to producing growth hormone!
  2. Lowers your body fat
  3. Dramatically improves muscle tone
  4. Firms your skin and reduces wrinkles
  5. Boosts your energy and sexual desire
  6. Improves athletic speed and performance
  7. Allows you to achieve your fitness goals much faster

How to properly perform burst exercise:

You will certainly want to work your way up to this point, but ultimately you want to exercise vigorously enough so you reach your anaerobic threshold .

Whatever activity you choose, by the end of your 30 second period you will want to reach these markers:

  1. It will be relatively hard to breathe and talk because you are in oxygen debt
  2. You will start to sweat profusely. Typically this occurs in the second or third repetition unless you have a thyroid issue and don’t sweat much normally.
  3. Your body temperature will rise
  4. Lactic acid increases and you will feel a muscle “burn”

If you are using cardio equipment like an elliptical or bike, you don’t need to reach any “magical” speed. It’s highly individual, based on your current level of fitness. But you know you’re doing it right when you’re exerting yourself to the point of typically gasping for breath, after a short burst of activity.  You’ll also save a tremendous amount of time because peak fitness will cut your hour-long cardio workout down to a total of 20 minutes or so, including your recovery time, warm-up and cool down.

Here’s what a typical peak fitness routine might look like using a recumbent bike:

  1. Warm up for three minutes
  2. Exercise as hard and fast as you can for 30 seconds. You should feel like you couldn’t possibly go on another few seconds
  3. Recover for 90 seconds
  4. Repeat the high intensity exercise and recovery 7 more times

If you are not in great shape and just starting this you may want to start with just two or three repetitions, and work your way up to eight, which is where the magic really starts to happen. You may need to start with just walking and when you do your 30 second bursts your legs would be moving as fast as possible without running – and your arms would be pumping hard and fast.

Workout twice a week, and follow these dietary recommendations:

  1. Get a good night’s sleep
  2. Avoid a high fat meal prior to exercising
  3. Drink plenty of water
  4. Eat healthy carbs (think vegetables) and high quality protein
  5. Optimize your vitamin D levels
  6. Avoid sugar, especially fructose
  7. If you consume sugar or fructose, especially within two hours post-exercise, you will increase somatostatin which will in turn obliterate the production of growth hormone!  This is yet another example of why gulping down sports drinks that are chockfull of high fructose corn syrup can do your body more harm than good, and will just shut down your body’s production of HGH and negate many of the benefits from your exercise.

There are four additional types that will turn your burst exercise regimen into a truly comprehensive exercise plan:

  1. Aerobic: Jogging, using an elliptical machine, and walking fast are all examples of aerobic exercise, which will increase the amount of oxygen in your blood and increase endorphins, which act as natural painkillers. Aerobic exercise also activates your immune system, helps your heart pump blood more efficiently, and increases your stamina over time.
  2. Strength Training: Rounding out your exercise program with a 1-set strength training routine will ensure that you’re really optimizing the possible health benefits of a regular exercise program. You need enough repetitions to exhaust your muscles. The weight should be heavy enough that this can be done in fewer than 12 repetitions, yet light enough to do a minimum of four repetitions. It is also important NOT to exercise the same muscle groups every day. They need at least two days of rest to recover, repair and rebuild.
  3. Core Exercises: Your body has 29 core muscles located mostly in your back, abdomen and pelvis. This group of muscles provides the foundation for movement throughout your entire body, and strengthening them can help protect and support your back, make your spine and body less prone to injury and help you gain greater balance and stability. Pilates and yoga are great for strengthening your core muscles.  Focusing on your breath and mindfulness along with increasing your flexibility is an important element of total fitness.
  4. Stretching: Active isolated stretching (AIS) http://www.stretchingusa.com/ developed by Aaron Mattes. It’s an amazing way to get flexibility back into your system, and it’s completely different from the traditional type of stretching.
Source: 
 USA Today June 1, 2010
Science Translational Medicine May 26, 2010; 2(33):33ra37