30 Minutes of Hydraulic Resistance Training for Max. Energy Expenditure: 30% More Energy Demanding Than Weights, 25% More Than Running. But is it Also Anabolic?

The Surge Performance Training HRS equipment is fancy and the training obviously intense, but will it trigger the adaptations you are looking for?
Before I even start discussing the results of a soon-to-be-published paper from the MusclePharm Sports Science Institute (Falcone. 2014) I want you to be clear that the amount of energy you burn per hour is not what I suggest as the main criteria to select your exercises.

In view of the fact that calories do count, when it comes to burning body fat, it's still worth taking a closer look at what Paul H. Falcone and his colleagues did. Why? Well, first of all they confirm that doing a single session of resistance, aerobic, and combined exercise can burn the same amount of energy, when they're performed with sufficient intensity.
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Now this alone would not necessary warrant talking about it in a SuppVersity post. And yes, it was not the comparison of a resistance training at 75% of the repetition maximum (1RM) of the nine recreationally active men (25 ± 7 years; 181.6 ± 7.6 cm; 86.6 ± 7.5 kg) who participated in the study, an endurance cycling session that was performed at 70% maximum heart rate (maxHR) and an endurance treadmill session at 70% maxHR.

"HRS training? Never heard of it!?"

What really intrigued me was something the scientists describe as a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) session on a hydraulic resistance system (HRS) that included repeating intervals of 20 seconds at maximum effort followed by 40 seconds of rest.
Figure 1: Average caloric expenditure (kcal/h) in the four trials (Falcone. 2014)
The scientists hypothesized that caloric expenditure, heart rate, and RPE will significantly increase when using the hydraulic system, compared to typical training protocols such as running, biking or lifting weights for a similar amount of time because of the increased intensity.

And in fact, the data in Figure 1 confirms: The caloric expenditure was significantly (p < 0.05) greater when exercising with the HRS (12.62 kcal/min ± 2.36), compared to weights (8.83 kcal/min ± 1.55), treadmill (9.48 kcal/min ± 1.30) and cycling (9.23 kcal/min ±1.25).
With HRS it's one machine for all body parts. Take a look at the training video to get a better understanding of how this thing works | watch video!
So what exactly is HRS? Hydraulic exercise resistance is a different form of resistance that uses hydraulic pistons to provide resistance (instead of weight). If you take a look at the video on the left, you will soon realize that the whole thing looks more like a cardio-machine than a chest press, butterfly machine or what not. Still, with a little creativity you can do many of the things you would usually do in the gym on hydraulic resistance training equipment, as well.

In that, the resistance is created by how (hard or fast) you either (push or pull) the exercise arms which controls oil flow through dual fluid cylinders. In other words: The harder you push the more the resistance increases.
Before we try to interpret this results it may be a good idea to take a closer look at what exactly the subjects had to do in the study:
  • The aerobic exercises were performed on a treadmill (Woodway Desmo, Waukesha, WI) and cycle ergometer (Nordic Track, Logan, UT) for 30 minutes at 70% maximum heart rate as determined by the equation 220-Age Moderate as described by ACSM).

    Throughout the treadmill session, HR was consistently monitored and treadmill velocity was adjusted accordingly if the subject’s heart rate was+/- 10 beats per minute.
  • Suggested read: Do we underestimate the ener- gy expenditure during lifting? Learn more!
    The protocol for the hydraulic resistance system HRS (Surge Performance Training, Austin, TX) was a standard HIIT regimen provided by the device company involving 8 exercises (Chest Press-Push/Pull, Circles inside, Circles outside, 360 Twist, Two-handed Fly’s, Bent over Shoulder Press/Pull, Torso Rotation, Power X) at 4 sets each.

    Each exercise was performed for 20 seconds with 40 seconds of rest, thereby resulting in 32 exercises performed for a total of 32 minutes.
  • The resistance training consisted of 6 exercises - squat, chest press, leg extension, shoulder press, leg curl, seated row - at 3 sets of 10 repetitions each at 75% 1RM (Vigorous as described by ACSM).

    Rest periods between sets lasted for 60 seconds, resulting in a total time of approximately 30 minutes. Subjects were maximally encouraged verbally by a researcher throughout each exercise, ensuring consistency.
If you compare the classic to the HRS training routine, you will realize that the comparison of circle to traditional training is not exactly fair. We know from previous studies that the fast-paced switch between exercises will increase the energy expenditure over the comparatively "lazy" classic resistance training protocols (Wilmore. 1977; DeGroot. 1998; Haltom. 1999). And still, a 30.1% difference in energy expenditure is pretty significant and probably not just due to the decreased rest times between the exercise.

What are the practical implications, then?

If you re-read the information on HRS training, you will realize that the biomechanics of classic and hydraulic resistance training are very different. With the former, the resistance decreases at the very moment the weight starts moving, with the latter, it increases - a difference of which the authors believe that it has implications for both, average and extraordinary gymrats:
Figure 2: As a SuppVersity reader you're well aware that you must not misinterpret the high fatty acid oxidation during treadmill running as evidence of increased fat loss (Falcone. 2014)
  • For untrained men who want to improve their health and/or body composition, the HRS provides a workout that combines the benefits of aerobic and resistance training. An individual can burn more calories performing HRS compared to other typical exercise modalities and intensities. Also, individuals can effectively burn calories performing a typical weightlifting protocol. Finally, if burning fat is desired during exercise, running on the treadmill appears to be a better option than cycling at the same intensity or lifting weights or performing hydraulic-based HIIT training.
  • For professional athletes, the maintenance of muscle mass is important as the season progresses, though training in-season is difficult due to time and energy constraints. The HRS could be used in place of 30 minutes of aerobic training which would give the athlete additional resistance training. Since the HRS involves only concentric motion, recovery may be faster due to less muscle damage, which would also be helpful for in-season training. Also, perhaps resistance training could replace some aerobic training, if the purpose is for maintenance of body composition since the caloric expenditures were similar.
Needless to say that especially assumption II requires future research to compare the training methods and durations used in the current investigation over multiple weeks of regular training to determine their impact on strength, athletic performance, and body composition. Overtraining and different effects on protein synthesis and the neural adaptations, for example, may render the HRS protocol useless, or more powerful than classic training - without monitoring these effects in a long(er) term study, we can only speculate what's going to happen if you, Mr Olympia or whoever else switches from classic weight + machine based resistance training to using HRS machines.
If you look at the rater of perceived exertion, it'll be obvious that overtraining could become an issue with HRS (Falcone. 2014)
Bottom Line: Due to the short study duration and the questionable usefulness of comparing the energy expenditure in 30 minutes workouts, the study at hand must be taken as a reminder that there are more than just two ways to train; and that we should remain open minded towards new ways to train and other forms of resistance training - not to be able to spend more energy in the gym, obviously.

Rather to find new ways of changing it up, of periodizing our training differently and of making faster progress towards our individual training goals by combining classic and innovative forms of working out.

Chances that the current HRS gear as it is built by Surge Perfomance will yield superior hypertrophy results compared to a classic resistance training are yet in my humble opinion slim - the biomechanics of the machines simply do not look as if if they were build to trigger strength increases (see for yourselves). As an option to increase your fitness an get ripped and thus as an adjunct to your regular strength training routine and replacement for HIIT or steady state cardio, on the other hand, it looks promising | Comment on Facebook!
  • DeGroot, David W., et al. "Circuit weight training in cardiac patients: determining optimal workloads for safety and energy expenditure." Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation and Prevention 18.2 (1998): 145-152.
  • Falcone et al. "Caloric Expenditure Of Aerobic, Resistance Or Combined High-Intensity Interval Training Using A Hydraulic Resistance System In Healthy Men." Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (2014). Publish Ahead of Print DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000661.
  • Haltom, Ronald W., et al. "Circuit weight training and its effects on excess postexercise oxygen consumption." Medicine and science in sports and exercise 31.11 (1999): 1613-1618.
  • Wilmore, Jack H., et al. "Energy cost of circuit weight training." Medicine and science in sports 10.2 (1977): 75-78.
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