High Intensity-Functional Training: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly – Daryl Leong

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Over the past decade health and fitness has seen a massive shift towards full-body, high-intensity training (HIT) styles – think the rise of CrossFit, F45 Training and various bootcamp style establishments. A large part of the population, especially millennials, have really delved into these methods to achieve their health and fitness goals: fat loss, strength gains and improved energy levels.

As a physio and Strength & Conditioning coach I am torn between being happy that people are readily improving their fitness, but worried if they are getting injured in the process. Here are my thoughts on the situation:

 

The Good

The very nature of the exercises being compound & functional means more muscles are working through an exercise, leading to more calories being used. If exercise programming is done properly and intelligently, high intensity whole-body training is an effective way to burn fat, make some strength gains and boost your cardiovascular health. There are very few other exercise options that would effectively target all 3 areas at once.

 

The Bad

Despite the ‘good’ we need to understand that there are limits to be able to access the benefits and avoid injury. It is very effective in shorter bursts (20-30 minute sessions), but does not translate well into extended workout; in other words long HIT sessions do not equate to better results. Instead, longer sessions will increase your risk of injury and affect your recovery.

HIT also has a limitation on strength improvement, with beginners hitting a plateau relatively quickly. The most common trap people fall into is to continually increase the weight. While correct in principle, in practice the nature of HIT increases resistance with fatigue so this ends up being a recipe for disaster, and often results in a trip to my treatment room!

 

The Ugly

HIT’s biggest issue is the rapid uptake in highly complex and technical movements. We’ve seen a vast increase in various Olympic and powerlifting lifts such as the snatch, clean & jerk, deadlift and squat variations. While these exercises are amongst the best choices for strength improvements and fat loss, they are complex and require a good amount of practice to perform safely and effectively. Making these exercises easily accessible to everyone without the proper coaching will eventually lead to strains and tears not normally found in the general public. Cue another visit to my treatment room!


My verdict

Despite the points I’ve mentioned above, I am a huge supporter of working hard for your health and fitness goals, and will always promote lifting weights as there are huge benefits that everyone can enjoy. The caveat is that each individual needs to have a plan for their current health profile that will help them reach their individual goals. A trip to a Physio before you start a HIT style regimen is a much better idea than waiting for injury or not getting the results you were expecting.

If you were interested in getting into high intensity training, or are already doing it and would like to maximise your results, feel free to contact me if you have any queries and I will gladly help you smash your goals for 2017!

 

Daryl Leong – Physiotherapist & Strength & Conditioning Coach


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