Acute: sharp or severe in effect; intense
Conjugated: joined together, esp. in a pair or pairs; coupled
There are tons of articles trumpeting the benefits of high intensity interval training (H.I.I.T.), making claims of accelerated fat loss and increased heart function when compared to steady-state cardio. There are tons more articles espousing the benefits of high intensity weight training for these same goals as well as increased bone density. Literally, there are tons. I’ve printed them out and weighed them all.
Luckily for you, I also read all of those articles I found and I’ve come to the conclusion that they’re onto something. H.I.I.T. is much better for most individuals’ overall health and fitness than long endurance-type cardio sessions. Weight training builds bones, just like milk was supposed to. Both forms of exercise affect the hormonal system positively, eliciting a post-exercise response that uses a substantial amount of energy from optimal sources throughout the day. This is the basis of A.C.T., or Acute Conjugated Training.
Benefits of High Intensity Exercise
Before I tell you about A.C.T., let’s get a brief review of the benefits of both high intensity resistance and interval training. Below is a non-comprehensive list of clinical evaluations that show the many benefits of high-intensity exercise:
Heart Health Overview
Many studies showed improvements in a number of indicators of a healthy cardiovascular system with high intensity exercise when compared to medium and low intensity exercise.
Bone Mineral Density
Studies showed resistance training, high intensity in particular, to be effective in maintaining or even building bone mass in both young and old participants with varying dietary intakes and pre-existing conditions.
Studies in this subject show a substantial amount of fat loss in high intensity interval groups when compared to lower intensity techniques. Also, there is a trend toward burning fat during the recovery period of interval training thought to be due to growth hormone response to exercise.
While there is only a small amount of research regarding direct fat loss benefits of H.I.I.T., increased growth hormone, raised EPOC (exercise post-oxygen consumption), and mobilization of lipids are all indicative of a body that is burning fat and building muscle.
The Birth of A.C.T.
After reviewing the benefits of interval and resistance training, and considering the similar paths each technique takes to elicit their effects, I asked myself a very important question; why am I still viewing intervals and weights as two separate training methods? If you’ve ever been through an intense set of barbell back squats you know that afterward your legs burn, your heart rate is elevated significantly and you generally feel wiped-out for a few seconds. If you’ve ever performed an all-out sprint on a track, a bike, or up a flight of stairs, you know you feel the same way. If it feels the same, elicits much the same response from the body, aren’t they interchangeable? Yes they are. Shouldn’t they be used in one session to optimize training for over-all fitness? Yes, yes they should. And now they are.
Acute Conjugated Training is the melding of the two most effective training methods into one (conjugated), in order to maximize the reward for time spent exercising. In other words, you should only have to be moving intensely for short periods of time (acute) to get your desired result. By performing resistance training and some form of sprint intervals together, you will negate the need for long sessions of weights or cardio. Now you know what benefits you’ll receive from A.C.T., so now let’s learn how to put it together.
There are simple rules to follow when designing a workout program based on the A.C.T. principles. This list should take care of the basics:
1. Use Primarily Multi-Joint, Compound Exercises: Multi-joint exercises use more muscles than single-joint exercises. If you plan correctly, you can work practically every muscle in your body in just a few exercises, ensuring your time is spent as efficiently as possible. In some cases, single-joint movements may be beneficial, but make multi-joint exercises the foundation of your program.
2. Perform Mostly Total-Body Workouts: Total body workouts will help ensure that you elicit the hormonal response you know is necessary for optimal performance and body composition changes.
3. Maintain Balance Between Movement Planes: Balancing the work performed between
movement planes will hel p most trainees avoid injury due to muscle imbalances. In cases where an imbalance already exists, dominance of an opposing muscle group or movement may be necessary to help restore balance. In this case, a professional should be consulted.
4. Perform Both High Intensity Intervals and Resistance Exercises in Most Workouts: A.C.T. is built on the idea that performing both high-intensity intervals and resistance training in the same workout will get you the best results for the time you put in. In some cases, it may be necessary to perform one or the other alone in a session, in order to avoid overloading the nervous system.
5. Choose Set/Rep Schemes Based on Sprint Intervals and Vice Versa: Choosing set and repetition parameters with sprint intervals in mind, and vice versa, will ensure your workout is evenly balanced. If you’re performing 10 sets of 3 reps, you won’t want to be doing long, intense intervals, since you’ll have to do 10 of them. Instead, you should opt for shorter intervals which will fit into the set/rep scheme more efficiently.
6. Keep the Workouts Short and Intense: This may be the most important point. These workouts should not have to last more than 30 minutes, sometimes only lasting 15-20 minutes. Choose brevity and intensity.
7. Keep Frequency at 3/Week or More: Frequency is very much dependant upon the intensity and duration of each workout. Since most workouts should be brief, a higher frequency is attainable, but not always necessary. Start at 3 A.C.T. workouts per week and increase from there. Some trainees will perform as many as six workouts per week with no problems while others may run into over-training.
A.C.T. in Action
Keeping the basic recommendations in mind, here is a sample workout template.
Session: Circuit style
Circuit 1: 5×6
A1. Split Squats
A2. Inverted Rows
A4. Bike Sprint 30s
Rest: 20-30 seconds between sets, then as much time as necessary after A4 to recover
completely. (this may take a few minutes)
Session: Circuit style
Circuit 1: 5×3
A1. Stiff-legged Dead-lifts
A4. Planks 30s
A5. Uphill Treadmill Walking/Jogging 30s
Rest: 20-30 seconds between sets, then as much time as necessary after A5 to recover
completely. (this may take a few minutes)
A1. DB OH Press
A3. Bike Sprint 20s
B1. Cable Row
B2. Cable Press
B3. Bike Sprint 20s
Rest: 30-45 seconds between sets, then as much time as necessary after A3 and B3 to recover completely. (20 second sprints should not require too much recovery time)
In case you haven’t seen exercise prescriptions written this way before:
A1, A2, etc. = perform 1 set of A1, then perform 1 set of A2, continue through all ‘A’ exercises and start over again.
SMR = Self Myofascial Release/Foam Rolling
4×6 = 4 sets of 6 reps
A.C.T. is designed to get your body functioning as a well-coordinated unit. Set and rep schemes should be varied enough to elicit strength maintenance or gains, and when combined with sprints will enhance heart variability function, endurance capabilities, and peak oxygen consumption levels. All of these benefits will allow your body to function extremely well under stress of any kind, preparing you for physical or emotional stressors. The increased energy consumption elicited through A.C.T. makes it the best form of exercise for fat loss and body composition changes. Armed with this information and basic workout templates, there is no reason you shouldn’t start today. A.C.T. now!
Resistance Training and Bone Density:
1. Daly, et al. Does high-intensity resistance training maintain bone mass during moderate weight loss in older overweight adults with type 2 diabetes? Osteoporos Int., 2005 Dec; 16(12):1703-12.
2. Tsuzuku, et al. Effects of high versus low-intensity resistance training on bone mineral density in young males. Calcif Tissue Int., 2001 Jun;68(6):342-7.
3. Dornemann, TM, et al. Effects of high-intensity resistance exercise on bone mineral density and muscle strength of 40-50-year-old women. J Sports Med Phys Fitness., 1997 Dec; 37(4):246-51.
4. Judge, J.O., et al. Home-based resistance training improves femoral bone mineral density in women on hormone therapy. Osteoporos Int. 2005 Sep; 16(9):1096-108.
5. Ryan, A.S., et al. Resistive training maintains bone mineral density in postmenopausal women. Calcif Tissue Int. 1998 Apr; 62(4):295-9.
6. Ryan, A.S., et al. Regional bone mineral density after resistive training in young and older men and women. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports . 2004 Feb; 14 (1), 16-23.
7. Engelke, K., et al. Exercise maintains bone density at spine and hip EFOPS: a 3-year longitudinal study in early postmenopausal women. Osteoporos Int. 2006 Jan; 17(1):133-42.
H.I.I.T. for the Heart:
8. Delagardelle, et al. Strength/endurance training vs. endurance training in congestive heart failure. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2002 Dec; 34(12):1868-72.
9. Rugnmo, et al. High Intensity aerobic interval exercise is superior to moderate intensity exercise for increasing aerobic capacity in patients with coronary artery disease. Eur J Cardiovasc Prev Rehabil. 2004 Jun; 11(3):216-22.
10. Duscha, B.D., et al. Effects of exercise training amount and intensity on peak oxygen
consumption in middle-age men and women at risk for cardiovascular disease. Chest. 2005 Oct; 128(4):2788-93.
11. Nemoto, K., et al. Effects of high-intensity interval walking training on physical fitness and blood pressure in middle-aged and older people. Mayo Clin Proc. 2007 Jul; 82(7):803-11.
H.I.I.T. for Fat Loss:
12. Tremblay, A., et al. Impact of exercise intensity on body fatness and skeletal muscle metabolism. Metabolism. 1994 July; 43(7):814-818.
13. Phelain, J.F., et al. Post-exercise energy expenditure and substrate oxidation in young women resulting from exercise bouts of different intensity. J Am Coll Nutr. 1997 Apr; 16(2):140-6.
14. Pritzlaff, C.J., et al. Catecholamine release, growth hormone secretion, and energy expenditure during exercise vs. recovery in men. J Appl Physiol. 2000 Sep; 89(3):937-46.
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