As a Vibration Training studio owner, I have become quite familiar with the question, “I still need to do cardio right?” This question, often asked with the intention of maximizing fat loss rather than any concern over cardiovascular health, is falsely based on the idea that exercise can be simply broken down into one of two categories, aerobic (“cardio”) or anaerobic (Vibration Training in this case). It is a question that exemplifies how little most people know about the science of exercise as it pertains to fat loss, and the incredibly brilliant yet complex metabolic pathways by which it is maximized.
For too many years now, the majority of the fitness world has blindly accepted the idea that a given exercise can be considered aerobic or anaerobic when in fact both metabolic pathways occur simultaneously within the cell and work harmoniously with each other to perfect the overall metabolism of the body.
Additionally, aerobic exercise has been inaccurately considered to be the only means to achieve significant fat loss while performing anaerobic resistance exercise such as Vibration Training, has been considered to be for the purposes of “toning” or “bulking up”. Both of these effects strictly attached to muscle appearance rather than their metabolic influence on fat reduction.
Even further, the fact that proper resistance training, compared to low intensity, steady state activities such as cycling and jogging often involves less sweating, most individual’s are left feeling that they should do more (often in the form of “cardio” exercise) in order to obtain a proper workout. In my studio, this phenomenon is quite common as the clients, against our advice, insist on attending spinning and kickboxing classes immediately after completing a full body Vibration Training program. This occurs despite the fact that they reach fatigue on many of exercises they perform when training.
It is the goal of this article to describe how Vibration Training, when properly applied, can represent a form of High Intensity Training. As a result, when combined with a proper diet (intermittent fasting for example), it is a means to enhance both the anaerobic and aerobic metabolic pathways. Through these benefits, it can therefore effectively contribute to a reduction in body fat and the resulting positive changes in body composition.
With this in mind, returning to our original question, the answer to whether an individual WITHOUT any cardiovascular risks needs “cardio” in addition to Vibration Training may very well be no!
Why the Obsession Over Cardio?
The concept of “Cardio” being the pathway to fat loss was built upon the realization that during exercise the aerobic metabolic pathway, in comparison to its counterpart, the anaerobic pathway, results in a greater amount of energy production and would therefore require the expenditure of more stored energy (one storage site being body fat) to operate. While this is a correct statement in a general sense, it takes into consideration a process occurring in isolation while disregarding the many other processes that occur simultaneously as well as those occurring before and after exercise. This belief, a representation of the reductionist mentality that has dominated western medicine for many years, is the equivalent of failing to consider hip and ankle function when an individual has knee pain.
The reality is that not only do both pathways integrate their processes to achieve the overall metabolic effects required to capitalize on the influence of exercise, but it is through the anaerobic pathway and its byproducts that the aerobic system achieves perfection. Not surprisingly, like most fast growing realizations in exercise science, this contradicts what has been considered a “fact” for many years.
To clarify things however, I am not suggesting that “cardio” serves no purpose. For those individuals that require cardiovascular training for the purposes of reducing the risk of or recovering from cardiovascular health issues, it is of utmost importance. When properly monitored (HR monitor etc.) and structured according to the great deal of diligent research into this area of exercise science, is provides incomparable value and can greatly attribute to life extension. Also, for athletes, including marathon runners, triathletes, and the like, it is of extreme importance to include steady state activities in their training. Without this, the cardiovascular adaptations required for the given activity cannot occur. This article is about achieving fat loss however, so we will lay this particular subject to rest here.
What is High Intensity Training?
In the body, there are 4 muscle fiber types that are further broken down into two groups. The two groups, slow and fast twitch refer to the rate at which they fatigue NOT how fast they contract. In the world of Vibration Training, I have heard many times that it represents a fast twitch fiber training technique. However, the muscle system and the sequential recruitment of muscle fibers only occurs in response to force. Therefore, unless proper force is generated in the muscle during Vibration Training, it is a very real possibility that the only fibers being used are slow twitch. This fact is quite important to consider as it points to the fact that it is unlikely that any platform system that is not designed to perform to proper specifications (90 – 95% of available systems unfortunately!) will ultimately be incapable of recruiting fast twitch fibers and result in zero changes in muscular force or power; not to mention a limited reduction in body fat. This fact also helps explain why there exists such inconsistency in the research and emphasizes the need to consider the system you are using when performing research.
Without going into the incredible complexity of the muscle fiber system, we can basically define High Intensity Training as being a training technique performed with the primary goal of maximizing the recruitment of the most fatiguable fibers, all of which belong to the fast twitch family. In order for this to occur we need to push the body safely towards fatigue and this requires, as mentioned above, proper forces and a thorough understanding on behalf of the instructor/practitioner of the physics of vibration technology and its application for proper high intensity training.
How Do We Generate Proper Forces?
This question requires a separate article in and of itself. An ever evolving subject for those that have delved deeply into the world of vibration training, the forces on the body may occur through the modification of many variables. Amongst the variables are frequency (cycles per second), amplitude (distance of platform movement), acceleration (a reflection of both frequency and amplitude), and the mass of the user (additional loading). No matter which variable is ultimately responsible, the intelligent manipulation of these variables is of most significance. When done correctly, high forces can be placed upon the muscles. This results in a strong muscular response and thus triggers the nervous system to pull the fatiguable muscle fibers into play and induce a cascade of metabolic effects that will result in the mobilization of stored energy from the fat cells and a clear path to a leaner and stronger body.
How Does This Process Occur?
Once again, we can not only write an entire article, but an entire book on this subject. For that reason, at the risk of being bombarded by the many experts in this subject, I will attempt to simply things for the purposes of comprehensibility.
The primary source of energy production during exercise is glucose. During exercise, glucose, mostly derived from the food you eat, enters the cell and undergoes a series of processes to become pyruvate. This process, referred to as glycolysis, is the anaerobic metabolic pathway and results in a small amount of energy production. Once this process is complete, pyruvate crosses into a component of the cell known as the mitochondria where it undergoes another series of events to produce a significantly more amount of energy (approximately 18x more!) This pathway is the aerobic pathway and based upon this difference, you can understand why it has long been considered the best way to utilize energy.
The fundamental issue with this mentality however, is that it has little consideration for the complex nature by which these systems interact. It is these interactions that display the anaerobic system’s fat burning potential among other things, which are driving a paradigm shift in both rehabilitation and fitness training. Two o f the many processes in this metabolic dance that we will focus on as examples are: (1) the buildup of lactic acid during anaerobic training, and (2) the breakdown of stored energy in muscle (glycogenolysis).
Shifting the Paradigm
Lactic Acid Buildup – As mentioned above, the anaerobic pathway, which converts glucose to pyruvate, has been considered inferior in comparison to the aerobic pathway because we have only looked at the final amount of energy produced in isolation. However, what is overlooked is that the aerobic pathway is extremely slow in comparison. As a result, during intense exercise, the anaerobic pathway cycles with much higher frequency. Because of this discrepancy, through several steps, the buildup of lactic acid occurs. This phenomenon, which creates the “muscle burn” feeling, is of extreme importance because of the fact that after exercise is complete, a portion of this lactic acid is converted back to pyruvate and then metabolized aerobically.
To summarize this collective process, when you perform exercise with high intensity (anaerobic), you continue to “burn energy” aerobically while you recover! This is the true mechanism required to change your metabolism overall and the definition of those magic three words, “increased metabolic rate”. Even further, this continued work by the aerobic system, combined with the repeated “pushing” of the anaerobic system through increasingly higher levels of training, creates neurological adaptations that result in improved efficiency of both pathways. As a result, future training is done with more metabolic efficiency leading to more and more energy utilization as well as a greater production of energy for performance enhancement.
Furthermore, through the continued demands on the muscle with higher levels of training, muscle tissue grows. Given the metabolic cost of muscle tissue, this additionally adds to your resting metabolic rate. It is estimated that adding 5 lbs of muscle increases your basal metabolic rate approx. 175 calories per day. That’s right, you can skip the 20 minutes on the elliptical all together now!
Glycogenolysis – Within the muscles, another major storage site for energy, glucose is converted and stored in the form of glycogen. During high intensity exercise, the muscle fibers utilize this stored energy by converting it back to glucose. Glucose then enters the processes described above to generate energy for the given exercise.
When considering the idea of stored energy in muscle, the fiber type directly correlates to the amount of storage within those fibers. Smaller fibers haven the least amount of glycogen and fast twitch have the highest amount. In order to “dump” the most stored energy during exercise, high intensity training is necessary. Through this form of training, the highest amount of glycogen is converted and emptied out of the cells. During exercise and the recovery from exercise, energy must be “packed” back into the cells. The more empty space available for storage, the more energy is removed from other storage sites to refill in anticipation for future activity.
When glycogen is emptied, insulin is allowed to act on the cell in order to allow glucose to reenter the cell. Once full, insulin levels fall and hormone-sensitive lipase is activated. Through its activation, mobilized body fat becomes the body’s primary source of energy.
These are but just two of the many intricate metabolic responses to high intensity training.
While I am aware that this information may be too technical (and too boring perhaps) for some readers, the bottom line here is that through a change in the way we look at things and by continuing to view the body as an integrative system, we can gain tremendous insight into the great potential that a brief, intense exercise program has to help us more effectively achieve our “weight loss” goals. More importantly, through the additional stimulation that Vibration Training can provide (as compared to traditional resistance exercise), this can be done even more efficiently. It’s time to stop wasting time acting like a hamster on a hamster wheel and recall the way our ancestors lived.