fish oils, muscle damage, infinite Labs
fish oils, muscle damage, infinite Labs

HIIT vs. High Volume Bodybuilding: Which is Better for More Muscle Mass and Strength

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If you’re looking to lose fat than high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is the training for you. Initial research evidence strongly supports the idea that HIIT is indeed the most effective way of inducing fat loss – both subcutaneous and abdominal. Performing HIIT does some pretty amazing things to enhance fat loss compared to traditional steady-state aerobic exercise such as elevated levels of post-exercise oxygen consumption – meaning you keep burning calories after you are done with the exercise session and increased mobilization of fatty acids due to increased catecholamine (adrenaline and noradrenaline) secretion induced by HIIT. Another interesting benefit to HIIT is that it suppresses appetite.

HIIT is intense exercise performed with an all out effort for a short time followed by low-intensity exercise or rest for another fixed time with repetition of these cycles. This can be done using any piece of aerobic equipment like a spinning bike, rower or a treadmill.

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In the early 70 and 80’s just about every bodybuilder trained with multiple sets and repetitions between 8-12 reps. Bodybuilding greats such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sergio Olivia, and Tom Platz were known to advocates of low volume resistance training sessions. Check out the leg workout of Tom Platz:

225 x 12 …rest 2 minutes
245 x 10 …rest 2 minutes
265 x 8 …rest 90 seconds
265 x 8 …rest 90 seconds
285 x 6 …rest 90 seconds
285 x 6 …rest 90 seconds
305 x 4 …rest 60 seconds
305 x 4

Leg Extensions, Leg Press or Lunges
4 sets of 6-20

Romanian Deadlifts or Hamstring Curls.
6 sets of 6-20

Then Arthur Jones who was named the “Father of High Intensity” workouts came along and preached something completely different. He believed in less is better philosophy for bodybuilding, he thought that many bodybuilders were overtraining and needed to spend less time in the gym. He advocated full body works, multi-joint exercises, and a complete range of motion taken to complete muscular failure.

Among the favorite bodybuilders to use high intensity exercise training principles were Mike Mentzer, Casey Viator, and Dorian Yates. Despite many successful bodybuilders using both HIT and high volume exercise, there has never been a study to compare the two.

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The Battle for More Muscle Mass: HIIT vs. High Volume
Researchers examined the effects of HIT vs. a high volume exercise and measured bodyfat and muscle mass for ten weeks. Each group performed the following exercises in this order in circuit fashion; chest press, calf raise, rear deltoid, bicep curls, seated back row, leg extension, leg curls, sit ups, push-ups.

The HIT group completed the circuit once performing a single set of each exercise with additional drop sets performed immediately upon reaching muscular failure. The HIT group performed repetitions to the point of muscular failure and then performed drop-sets, quickly reducing the load by 10-15% and continuing repetitions to muscular failure again (~2-3 further repetitions).

The high volume group performed 3 sets per group completed the circuit three times performing a single set of each exercise each time (3 sets per exercise in total). Rest between each exercise lasted as long as required for participants to move from one exercise to the next and normalize breathing for both groups. The 3 sets group rested a further 2-3 minute between each circuit.

So at the end of the ten-week study, the researchers found that both HIT and 3 set produced significant improvements in muscular performance, however, HIT produced significantly greater muscular performance gains than 3 set for 3 of the tested exercises and had larger effect sizes for eight of the tested exercises. Body composition did not significantly change in either group. However, effect sizes for whole body muscle mass changes were slightly more favorable in the HIT group compared with the 3 set group in addition to whole body fat mass and whole body fat percentage. So the HIT group had a slightly favorable increase in muscle mass and reduced bodyfat, but the effect was small.

Key Points: HIIT seems to be more effective for strength gains than high volume traditional bodybuilding. Additionally, the HIT training seemed to produce slightly more muscle mass gains and reductions in bodyfat,


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