Sunday, September 9, 2012

Exercise News Round-Up: The Latest on Weight Lifting, Steady State, HIIT, Pyramid Training & Co, Their Effects on Body Composition, Leptin, Muscle Morphology & More

Running may be the "original exercise", but there is more to physical culture than that - irrespective of your gender, by the way; HIIT would be one thing, weight lifting the other that must not be missing from your regimen which can yet still benefit from one or another classic cardio session (img
I must admit that I am a bit lazy today and not really in the mood of writing a lengthy post on circadian rhythms. The weather is awesome and I think I'd better spend the time in the sun recharging the batteries of my circadian clock, than sitting in front of a computer screen.
Since I do know that the former, i.e. the good weather won't apply to all of you and that reading these posts does not take anywhere as long as writing them, I will yet put together the promised post on "exercise news" - and I can tell you there is half a dozen of them, such as
  • liver health, aerobics and strength training
  • no leg-based cardio on leg day
  • aerobics alone won't cut it
  • intramuscular arguments in favor of HIIT 
  • reverse or classic pyramid about equally effective
  • intense exercise has leptin plummeting
You see, more than enough for one day, so we better get right down and dirty... ah, I mean, sweaty - yeah, sweaty ;-)
  • Putting weights into the equation squeezes the fat out of your liver and belly In a recently conducted study into the effects of long-term exercise on the weight and fat loss in post-pubertal overweight adolescent with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, the combination of aerobic and resistance training was "more effective in significantly improving noninvasive biomarkers of NAFLD that are associated with the highest risk of disease progression in the pediatric population" (de Piano. 2012). The main facts about the program
    Figure 1: Only combined aerobic and resistance training offers the body recompositioning effect we are all looking for: more muscle, less fat - and that works optimally, only, if your liver is still fully functional (de Piano. 2012)
    • one-year intervention + dietary counseling
      • 60min of personalized aerobic training, or
      • 30min aerobic + 30min resistance training
    • performed three times a week
    In the abstract of their study the scientists unfortunately fail to point out that the additional resistance training, which consisted of a standardized, progressive full-body training with 3 sets of 6-20 reps (depending on exercise) had the extra bonus of building more muscle and cutting more body fat than the less versatile three times pe -week 60min aerobics program.
    Moreover, the fact that only the participants in non-NAFLD, "just obese" control group were able to increase their muscle mass, goes to to show you, how important an optimally functioning liver actually is, when it comes to building muscle, losing weight and staying healthy.
  • Image 2: If you train legs with a similar volume as Arnold & Franco did, back in the day, you don't want to and probably also don't have to do any additional cardio before or after your workouts.
    Doing 30min of cardio on the elliptical reduces the number of reps you will be able to perform on a subsequent leg workout, but the bench press performance won't suffer. That's the very unsurprising result of a hitherto unpublished dissertation by Jeremy Tan from the University of California in Fullerton (Tan. 2012).
    Tan had recruited twelve young men who had completed four trials in random order. In two of those trials the guys performed 30min on the elliptical machine at 70% of their age-predicted (not measured!) HRmax followed by either 3 sets of back squats or bench presses performed to failure at 75% of their predetermined 1RM - not exactly an "Arnold-esque training volume, anyway, right (see image 2)?
    Bottom line: Better don't do a lengthy cardio workout before your leg training - but also: Don't believe the bro-scientific myth that 30min of cardio were so exhausting (systemically) that you could not train a body part that was not heavily involved in the cardio session (in this case the upper body), afterwards.
  • Figure 2: Cardio alone won't change your body for the better and the changes in CRP and leptin are not statistically significant (data expr. rel. to baseline; based on Bijeh. 2012)
    Aerobics alone won't really cut it and this goes not just for advanced male athletes, but even for middle aged (42y) women (BMI 25-27) who have never trained before. At least this is what the results of Bijeh, Hosseini and Hejazi from the University of Mashhad (Iran) would suggest, because even after 6 months with 3x 60 minutes (55-65 HRmax) none of those body composition parameters women are usually trying to improve, when they are taking up an exercise regimen did come about (Bijeh. 2012): Other than a minimally, but statistically non-significant reduction of body fat a prominent but not significantly different (P=0.2 for the variation) increase in leptin levels in the exercise group were the only "beneficial" changes the "workouts" brought about.
    Plus, in how far the increase  in leptin actually is a good thing does still remain to be seen, also because the CRP levels (inflammatory marker) in the training group increased (likewise not statistically different) and the allegedly statistically significant difference in the waist to-hip ratio (-0.01 in the aerobics group vs. no change in the sedentary control) of the women is so small against the standard deviations of the respective value that I am not sure about how significant it really is - regardless of what ANOVA, a program that's often used to do the statistics on data like that, say.
    Bottom line: If for whatever reason you can only do light "classic cardio" there is no way it will make a difference if you don't combine it with a sound dietary regimen.
  • HIIT and classic endurance training equally effective in increasing muscle microvascular density The latest study from the UK shows that HIIT is more and more being accepted by researchers as a viable alternative to the classic aerobic training programs. In a 6-week intervention, Cox et al. assigned 16 young previously sedentary men (age 21±0.7 yrs, BMI 23.8±0.7 kg/m²) randomly to either 40-60 min cycling at ~65% VO2peak, 5 times per week (ET), or a much less time-consuming HIIT protocol that comprised 4-6 Wingate tests, 3 times per week (HIIT).
    Image 3: While the study used the classic wingate test protocol with a stationary bike you can also do 30s all-out sprints, use a spinning bike or whatever else allows for maximal efforts and temporary exhaustion without you hurting yourself or the equipment breaking down (or both ;-)
    Other than most of their colleagues the scientists were yet less interested in the beneficial effects this exercise would have on VO2Max, let alone simple weight loss, but analyzed muscle samples for their microvascular endothelial eNOS and NOX2 content (indicative of the vascularization) and the actual morphological capillarization of the muscle by quantitative immunofluorescence microscopy. Whole body insulin sensitivity, arterial stiffness, and blood pressure were also assessed.
    The results showed that both protocols were equally effective in inducing the adaptive changes in microvascular capillarization and NOX2 expression, while the short intense exercise bouts during the HIIT protocol yielded 12% greater increases in eNOS content (ET 14%; P<0.05, HIIT 36%; difference p < 0.05).
    Now, eNOS is actually better known for its preventive role in CVD (and hypertension), but its negative correlation with body fat levels (higher eNOS <> lower body fat - note: this is almost certainly not a causal relationship(!); cf. Hickner. 2006), its central role in the maintenance of exercise capacity (Lee-Young. 2009) and its putative role the maintenance of mitochondrial function and integrity into the old age (Chanséaume. 2009) it should be obvious that time-efficiency is not the only thing that speaks in favor of HIIT, here. 
  • Figure 3: Strength gains (no idea what the scientists mean by "compression", just think about it as the effect size) of 6 weeks, 18 lifting sessions, employing a classic or reverse pyramid loading scheme on chest (bench press), quads (leg extension) and biceps (curl) strength (adapted from Bostani. 2012)
    No statistical significant differences in strength gains between classic and reverse pyramid While Bostani and Shariati did in fact not find statistically significant differences between the strength gains of their physically active, but "non-athlete" (sic!) study participants (N=10 for the two active and the control arm) a closer look at the data in figure 3 to the right does still reveal that it could make a difference, whether increase the weight from set to set (regular pyramid) or decrease it from set to set (reverse pyramid) - at least for your extremities, with the quads responding more favorable to the reverse pyramid and the biceps to the classic pyramid training.
    If the study was not so hilariously poorly described and the translation so sloppy, I would love to use these insights for a recommendation on how to train.
    In the absence of set number, reps and everything else that would be necessary, I can yet just say that this appears to confirm my personal experience, which tells me that you have to hammer your legs to grow and get stronger, while the classic pyramid with it's generally lower overall volume matches the "hit it hard and short" approach that appears to work best for biceps, in the longer run.
  • Figure 4: Eight weeks of intense exercise in the presence of a negative energy balance (as evidenced by the weight loss) take their toll on leptin levels, it is yet not sure for whom that's a bad thing (data based on Ferdosi. 2012)
    Intense exercise will make make your leptin levels drop and that irrespective of whether you do endurance training, strength training or both! That's the long and short of a study that has been published in the latest issue of Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences (Ferdosi. 2012), which did not even find a quantitative difference between the effects 8 weeks of 3 session of either 40 minutes (increasing from 25 in the first two, to 35min in weeks 3-6 and 40min in weeks 7-8) cycling at 75-85% HRmax (aerobic), a standard full-body workout (resistance) or both strength and aerobic training concomitantly (concomitant).
    It is thus obvious that done at a high enough intensity and in the presence of a negative energy balance, the same endurance exercise that elicited an increase in leptin in the Bijeh study (remember, this was more of a leisurely walk and without a build-in progression) will decrease leptin levels significantly.
    Now, that's great if you got a lot of fat to lose and are leptin resistant anyway, if you are yet lean already (with a BMI of 29kg/m² the healthy but untrained 48 male study participants, here, were not exactly ripped, but far from being obese) this can become a problem that could not just forestall fat loss, but could precipitate endocrine imbalances - and that's nothing that can only happen to women, in whom it usually manifest as amenorrhea (Christo. 2008)
That's it for today, but since I know you will be asking, yes, there I will catch up with the circadian rhythm series and yes I understand that the last item of today's installment has left at least some of you very dissatisfied. So, yes, I will finally address the issue of amenorrhea (but also hypogonadism in men) in an individual post, although I still don't have the clearcut "do this, don't do that" solution to the problem, I wanted to find before, I write the respective post... ah, and in case neither of those things does interest you, don't worry there will of course be other posts in the next days, as well ;-)
  • Bostani M, Shariati M. The Comparison of Between the Effects of Two Training Methods on Dynamic Strength of Non-Athletes Males Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences. 2012; 46: 417–420
  • Bijeh N, Hosseini A, Hejazi K. The Effect of Aerobic Exercise on Serum C - Reactive Protein and Leptin Levels in Untrained Middle-Aged Women. Iranian J Publ Health. Sep 2012; 41(9).
  • Chanséaume E, Morio B. Potential mechanisms of muscle mitochondrial dysfunction in aging and obesity and cellular consequences. Int J Mol Sci. 2009 Jan;10(1):306-24. Epub 2009 Jan 13. 
  • Christo K, Cord J, Mendes N, Miller KK, Goldstein MA, Klibanski A, Misra M. Acylated ghrelin and leptin in adolescent athletes with amenorrhea, eumenorrheic athletes and controls: a cross-sectional study. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2008 Oct;69(4):628-33. Epub 2008 Mar 10.
  • Cocks M, Shaw CS, Shepherd SO, Fisher J, Ranasinghe AM, Barker TA, Tipton KD, Wagenmakers AJ. High intensity interval and endurance training are equally effective in increasing muscle microvascular density and eNOS content in sedentary males. J Physiol. 2012 Sep 3.
  • de Piano A, de Mello MT, Sanches PD, da Silva PL, Campos RM, Carnier J, Corgosinho F, Foschini D, Masquio DL, Tock L, Oyama LM, Oller do Nascimento CM, Tufik S, Dâmaso AR. Long-term effects of aerobic plus resistance training on the  adipokines and neuropeptides in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease obese adolescents. Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2012 Aug 27.
  • Ferdosi MH, Asad MR. The Effect of Endurance, Resistance and Concurrent Trainings on Plasma Leptin Levels of Non-Athlete Males. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences. 2012; 46: 311–315.
  • Hickner RC, Kemeny G, Stallings HW, Manning SM, McIver KL. Relationship between body composition and skeletal muscle eNOS. Int J Obes (Lond). 2006 Feb;30(2):308-12.
  • Lee-Young RS, Ayala JE, Hunley CF, James FD, Bracy DP, Kang L, Wasserman DH. Endothelial nitric oxide synthase is central to skeletal muscle metabolic regulation and enzymatic signaling during exercise in vivo. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2010 May;298(5):R1399-408. Epub 2010 Mar 3.
  • Tan J. Acute effects of lower body aerobic exercise on lower body and upper body resistance training workshops. California State University. 2012. Publicatin no. 1513816.