“Life is an interval workout.” – Dr. Martin Gibala
Martin Gibala, Ph.D. (@gibalam) is a professor and chair of the kinesiology department at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. His research on the physiological and health benefits of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) has attracted immense scientific attention and worldwide media coverage.
Martin has published more than a hundred peer-reviewed articles, is frequently invited to speak at international scientific meetings, and has received multiple awards for teaching excellence. He is also the co-author of the brand-new book The One-Minute Workout: Science Shows a Way to Get Fit That’s Smarter, Faster, Shorter.
Please enjoy my conversation with Dr. Martin Gibala!
- Listen to it on iTunes.
- Stream by clicking here.
- Download as an MP3 by right-clicking here and choosing “save as.”
Want to hear another episode with one of the world’s top fitness experts? — Listen to this episode with strength coach Charles Poliquin. In this episode, we discuss, muscle-building techniques, how to become stronger, warmup routines, why people struggle to lose fat, and more (stream below or right-click here to download):
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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.
Scroll below for links and show notes…
Selected Links from the Episode
- Connect with Dr. Martin Gibala:
- The One-Minute Workout: Science Shows a Way to Get Fit That’s Smarter, Faster, Shorter by Martin Gibala and Christopher Shulgan
- McMaster University’s Department of Kinesiology
- Martin’s course: Integrative Physiology of Human Performance
- What is VO2 max?
- Metabolic equivalent (MET)
- Importance of Assessing Cardiorespiratory Fitness in Clinical Practice: A Case for Fitness as a Clinical Vital Sign by Robert Ross, et al., Circulation
- One example of an online VO2 max calculator
- Physiological Adaptations to Low-Volume, High-Intensity Interval Training in Health and Disease by Martin J. Gibala, Jonathan P. Little, Maureen J. MacDonald, and John A. Hawley, The Journal of Physiology
- Are Saunas the Next Big Performance-Enhancing “Drug?”
- Mitochondria and citrate synthase
- Life Fitness 95c, Lode Excalibur Sport, RacerMate, and Kettler are some of the bikes Martin uses for research and personal fitness.
- What is peak power output (PPO)?
- What is phosphocreatine?
- What’s the Single Best Exercise? by Gretchen Reynolds, The New York Times
- The Craft of Scientific Writing by Michael Alley
- The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande
- The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer by Gretchen Reynolds
- Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights?: Fitness Myths, Training Truths, and Other Surprising Discoveries from the Science of Exercise by Alex Hutchinson
- Setting the scene and learning how to pronounce “Gibala.” [05:11]
- What falls under the purview of physiology? [06:19]
- Martin talks about teaching integrative physiology at a college level and what his students find most fascinating (and confounding) about the curriculum. [06:48]
- What is VO2 max? [08:46]
- Is the link between high VO2 max and greater longevity a matter of causation or correlation? [11:48]
- Should cardiorespiratory fitness be considered a clinical vital sign? [13:47]
- Can VO2 max accurately be calculated online? [14:23]
- When did Martin begin researching interval training, and what was the catalyst? [17:28]
- Where Tabata training fits into the history behind the one-minute workout. [19:13]
- What is the Tabata protocol? Is it especially efficacious, or has the data been overinterpreted? [21:25]
- Why is most scientific interval training testing done on bikes? [25:12]
- What was the first interval training study that surprised Martin? [27:44]
- How is fatigue defined in lab tests on humans? [32:56]
- What are mitochondria and why are they important? [36:08]
- What minimal regimen would Martin recommend for a former competitive athlete with a history of minor injuries? [44:09]
- Warmup and cooldown recommendations. [47:15]
- How would Martin determine ideal starting wattage for testing? [52:09]
- Comparing the 10×1 protocol with other protocols, and determining which is right for you. [54:27]
- Does recovery time between intervals consist of pure rest or just less strenuous activity? [57:10]
- Why are some people prone to fainting after a vigorous bout of exercise? [58:08]
- Comparing the wattage of a warmup to the wattage of active recovery. [59:22]
- How is optimal rest period determined? [1:00:30]
- How many times per week would Martin recommend the 3×5 effort workout? [1:03:39]
- How do other interval protocols differ from Martin’s one-minute workout namesake? [1:04:31]
- What type of rest intervals does Martin recommend between twenty-second efforts? [1:06:07]
- What improvements would Martin expect to see with people who don’t regularly work out? [1:07:35]
- How would Martin recommend someone begin a program like this? [1:11:29]
- Does Martin believe there’s still a place for traditional steady state exercise? [1:14:36]
- What does Martin consider the single best exercise — and why? [1:16:13]
- What’s the best way to instill long-term adherence to interval training? [1:20:36]
- On stealth interval workouts and “exercise snacking.” [1:23:22]
- Most gifted books and writing he admires. [1:24:20]
- What would Martin’s billboard say? [1:27:26]
- Parting thoughts. [1:31:25]
- Peter Diamandis
- Ray Kurzweil
- Roger Bannister
- Izumi Tabata
- Richard Metcalfe
- Mark Hargreaves
- Homer Simpson
- Joshua Spodek
- Christopher Shulgan
- Atul Gawande
- Gretchen Reynolds
- Alex Hutchinson
The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.
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56 Replies to “The One-Minute Workout Designed by Scientists — Dr. Martin Gibala (#217)”
I’ve been really interested in the idea of Tabata training (plus squats / deadlifts) to train for a 5K again. Running is incredibly boring for me, but this seems like a fun test. Looking forward to listening to see how I can potentially further optimize my workout time!
Favorite quote: “Sprint from danger pace” – lol!!
Long time Podcast listener-Here’s a link to a 5 minute video from Nutrition Facts.org (Dr. Michael Greger) http://nutritionfacts.org/video/is-obesity-infectious/?utm_source=NutritionFacts.org&utm_campaign=9a2d18f9c9-RSS_VIDEO_DAILY&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_40f9e497d1-9a2d18f9c9-23634913&mc_cid=9a2d18f9c9&mc_eid=2deee2e298
that is first of all interesting and could be interesting as it relates to your fasting practice.
Can you have Damien Chazelle on the show?? Or another young successful writer/director ? :))
The link between flossing and longevity could have a causational component because flossing has been shown to reduce risk of heart disease, via reducing plaque buildup in the arteries.
Hi Time, great episode with Dr Gibala, I’m a big fan of cycling and interval training, at 61 yrs old keeping up with the young guys on the club rides is a challenge. Having completed many set’s I can attest to the benefit of HIIT
! Now off to more burpys?? LOL ha,, take care,, Bob,
Thank you Tim! You’re definitely influencing my movement. Hope to meet you sometime. ~ de Vie
I like pie… and lifting weights. Please invite in a powerlifter / bodybuilder type.. (like Layne Norton, P.h.D!)
Tim, It would be amazing to have Ryan Tedder (one Republic) as a guest
Thank you for this Tim and Martin!
I am such a huge believer in intervals and recovery!
Stress – recover – stress – recover
Sprint – stop – sprint – stop
In training, in life, in business. It produces the best sustainable results.
When I start working with a lot of my clients they believe to get the best results they need to go-go-go as intense as possible in everything – in training, in diet, in life. And recovery should be minimized to “enough-to-get-up-and-keep-going” amount. (That is a great recipe for burnout).
It takes time to gradually transition them to a different mindset – stress (be that training or diet or lifestyle change) and recovery are equally important for progress.
Stress is only good for the body when there is time to recover to build up strength and resistance for future stressors.
Lots of clients are surprised to see more progress (muscle hypertrophy, more fat loss, increased strength and fitness) when they start doing less but with more intensity and recover much more.
I went through the same journey in life. From go-go-go kind of athlete to go-recover.
Same in life.
I’m also in love with physics, quantum physics, cellular physics. Intervals are programmed from that level of depth. Particles are ultimately waves (with interval functions) and the most vital functions of the cell depend on flow of charges through cell membrane.
Nothing in life is at steady pace forever.
Life indeed is an interval workout. 🙂
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Great, actionable episode! One question that was unanswered: is there a simple way to calculate wattage on a basic treadmill. Assume I know my height, weight, etc., and that the machine displays my speed and incline. I tried Google but came up short.
Great tips from Dr. Martin Gibila on stealth interval workout suggestions aka exercise snacking throughout the day. The quote of “life is an interval workout” really struck a chord with me (as I’m sure it did with many of the fitness buffs on here).
This episode was great! Very practical and easy to duplicate. I’m looking forward to experimenting with these protocols. Here are my imperfect notes;
Three 25 minute workouts per week. Warm Up 2 minutes at low work load (roughly 1 lap around a track, or 2 min on a bike). Then three repeats of hard exercise with active recovery intervals in between (you can start at 3 minutes hard exercise and 1 min active recovery and work your way up to 5 minute efforts with 2.5 min active recovery).
More Advanced would be “10x1s”. That’s 1 min of hard exercise followed by 1 min of active recovery, rinse and repeat ten times (20 minutes total, not including warmup and cool down). Hard exercise loosely defined as 80-95% of top end heart rate or “sprint from danger pace”.
*Cheat Code (maybe next volume of Tools of Titans)* = 2 minute warm up / 20 seconds hard exercise and 2 minutes active recovery (repeat three times) / then 3 minutes cool down. Bonus nugget; Burpee is the best “single exercise”, applied in interval manner – 3 sets to failure. AND Exercise Snacking…
Flossing significantly improves oral health which decreases heart disease by decreasing bacteremia that is caused by poor oral hygiene
Listening to the interval training interview now; great stuff (as is so much of Tim’s brilliant work)! Suggest Tim knocks off the gratuitous foul language that crops up too often in his discourse. “Shitty,” etc., adds nothing to the effect of his communications; further it dissuades me from offering his podcasts to youngsters as inspirational messages. As a retired soldier, I’m no stranger to “locker room talk,” but here it has no place.
An interesting approach to workouts I’ll try.
Random note: there’s something meditative to these Sisyphus tables: http://www.sisyphus-industries.com. Between reading about stoicism (I’m subscribed to the daily emails, thanks to the recommedations) and practicing meditation after reading about its positive results in Tools of Titans, it’s one of the best calming visual pieces of art I’d seen recently that related.
Awesome episode thank you.
Can you recommend a set of scales to use for weight/fat% for at home.
I know you say scales are a blunt instrument but just looking for something I can use to gain some insight into body weight/muscle/fat trends while trying different systems.
Great podcast, here’s my question .
Can you change VO2max without exercise. Seems that the exercise forces the deep breathing.
Can focused deep breath work influence VO2 Max? Without having to stress out the body
Any VO2 Max testing done before and after Wim Hoffman breathing?
Body by Science by Dr. Doug Mcguff, one twelve min workout per week, written maybe 10 years ago
which, of course, is based on what Arthur Jones was saying, what, almost 50 years ago? good to see we’re finally catching up on this
I have begun studying for my CPT w/ NASM, which is heavily scince based and there is a great deal to take in, digest, understand and remember. Any tips or tricks on how to master learning a new subject? I’ll take anything at all.
Tim, here’s a show idea: do a tribute to your parents, especially your mom. What are the routines and habits that she created at home that shaped your childhood and set you on the path to success? You’ve told us about how she paid attention to your interests and found ways to feed your curiosity. Or how when she knew you needed to hear it from someone else, she asked a coach to send you a pep talk when you were in Japan. How can those of us who are parents set our kids up for success in similar ways?
Favorite lesson from this episode: a toss-up between the study reflecting the significant improvements in endurance capacity from just 6 sessions of interval training over 2 weeks with rest days (I’d love to know a lot more about how to optimize rest days with HIIT training)…or the moment when Tim admitted his citrate synthase is below Homer Simpson levels. Super-informative and well-conducted interview – thanks!
Is your photo a satirical PR photo? I like it.
Fantastic episode! I’ve been doing HIIT for 8 months and I’ve never felt stronger. I’m so thrilled to hear the scientific data surrounding these types of workouts and looking forward to reading Dr. Gibala’s book.
These podcasts are amazing man.. I just wish I had more hours in the day to listen 🙂
Great interview! You might not be familiar, but there’s a gentleman by the name of Andrew Magness who has run distances of ultra to multi-day adventure races using a HIIT approach. He trains less than 2 hours per week.
His book is “Ultramental” and he’s written a few guides. You might find it interesting if nothing else. Cheers!
hey thank’s for the mention Skyler, although I’m not sure I’m ready to be called a gentleman just yet. I’ve long thought that if I could just get Tim’s ear for 10 seconds I’d be able to quit my day job. Here’s hoping this comment does the trick (:
I’m still going to be a testimonial to you! Bought a business and am building that out but a low-volume ultra is still in the cards!
Does the endurance built up by high intensity cycling intervals transfer over to other movements, e,g, long walks, MovNat class? Great interview with a lot of knowledge. Thanks!
Loved it. Going to the gym now to test the 20 seconds danger run / 2 minutes rest.
I understand that it is effective for VO2 max. Does anyone know how effective it is for loosing weight?
Now that my email is blowing up from you and Marty talking about me, I figured I’d say hi and invite you to get in touch. I’m the PhD/MBA Marty gave a shout out to.
All I did was burpees every day since 2011 (approaching 3,000 days ant 90,000 burpees, about 50/day) and everyone goes crazy 😉
Anyone who wants can read more about it here: http://joshuaspodek.com/js_blogseries/burpees and here: http://joshuaspodek.com/js_blogseries/self-imposed-daily-challenging-healthy-activity-sidcha-series.
Wow! Is that one set of 50 or multiple sets?
Tim – maybe this could be a good 30 day challenge for you and your readers? I’d do it!
Dr Spodek, you sound like the most fascinating, quirkiest and most left-field person. SIDCHA sounds genius yet simple. I hope your burpee form is still awesome after all this time and I hope we find out more about you in Tim’s future podcasts. Where can we connect with you?
Conor: My links describe my practice and answer your question, but mostly I do 26 in the morning and 26 in the evening. When I do diamond push-ups I do sets of 21.
As a result of this interview, I’ve been doing three sets of 9 (or 7 for diamond push-ups) with short rests between, and I love the change. I do the burpees faster and enjoy the greater intensity.
You wrote “I’d do it.” From personal experience, I recommend actually doing it and not waiting for others to join. Nearly all of my burpees I did alone, with no one knowing whether I did them. Doing them daily without fail develops more than fitness. They develop integrity, discipline, diligence, self-awareness, knowing your values, and more.
Others will join when they’re ready.
I absolutely love podcasts like this (and the Easter Island one) – deep and provokes you to dig in and learn more. A master class in human biology.
Seriously outstanding discussion of the world of Tabata style protocols. Excellent.
Summary: Every day or two run or fight for your life for a few minutes. Amazing.
Hello Tim – This one was right in my wheelhouse. Loved it! Also, it inspired me to finally take the plunge and begin my own blog/podcast. Being a long time listener now, I have some different questions to ask of you directly if I ever get the opportunity. Unlikely as that may be with your selective schedule(I almost said busy, but I believe that you’re only as busy as you want to be at this stage), I thought that I would ask you if there was one specific task or need that you have, what would it be, and could I have the opportunity to help you out with it? I like to think I am somewhat of a modern day renaissance man with education and experience in sports medicine, music, volunteerism, relationships, parenting, religion, farming, ect. I’ve been blessed and think that I may be able to assist and be a blessing to you with something – could be something seemingly insignificant to a more substantial request or project. Thought that I would throw it out there though – no ego, pride, strings or expectations, just a standing offer to say thank you!
Melissa, the message board doesn’t let me reply to your post so hopefully you’ll see this response to your question or a moderator will post it under your question or forward it to you.
My personal blog, http://www.joshuaspodek.com, has a “connect” page that emails me. Having me as a guest here is up to Tim and, I guess, whoever moderates this forum and sees interest.
I agree on the value of the sidcha concept amid its simplicity. I consider them one of the most valuable concepts in personal and professional development.
My burpee form is constantly improving, including as a result of this interview, which got me doing them in intervals instead of 26 straight. I also started doing diamond push-ups for some of my burpee sets too.
Are you going to start a sidcha?
Tim, note that Wealthfront does not at this time offer investment plans that take into account either socially responsibility or environmental sustainability. I asked them and got polite response, truncated version below.
“Socially responsible investing could be in our future roadmap, but so far we’ve elected to focus our resources on other services such as direct indexing…. If we do support socially responsible investing we’ll update our website including our FAQ.
Wealthfront Client Services
I absolutely loved this podcast! Thank you, Tim, and Dr. Gibala! Great detailed explanation on the protocol of Tibata and ways to structure the interval training. I would definitely get the book and would recommend it to my friends.
P.S. I got the hard copy of Tools of Titans, but can’t wait for it to be available on Audible.
Really great book! Here is my review on Amazon:
One of the fundamental precepts for HIIT seems to be determining your VO2max. 1) It would be worthwhile recommending places – my web search results showed this – http://korr.com/facility-finder/ – which might be of interest to others. BUT if a facility is not nearby or costs too much or whatever, 2) are there any work-arounds to establish both the baseline and the 170% (or whatever the increased percentage ought to be) — especially for workouts which don’t involve a bicycle? Understand the online calculators, but could there be some other mechanism to arrive at an approximate number that is both practical and easy (and specific to a given individual)? For this topic to be effective, the starting point are those figures.
On a different note, addressing mixing HIIT with other objectives — weight loss, strength gain, competition preparation, endurance gain, etc. would be meaningful. What I took away from your interview is that this is a general approach to condense yet be effective in general health maintenance. Maybe this is beyond scope and/or additional research to arrive at those conclusions…or another podcast perhaps?
hey Raju–I’ve been using HIIT almost exclusively for years and think that there is an easy way to establish a baseline for whatever you’re doing–basically just repeating short workouts with (mostly) controlled variables. I’ve got a book UltraMental where I give some plans for using HIIT as an approach to endurance, as well as a few free training guides at http://www.ultramentalbook.com that provide insight into baselines for HIIT.
Hi Tim, Another great show!
My HIT drug of choice is hill sprints 3 to 4 times a week.
Take 1 reasonably steep hill, roughly 45 degree incline and about 100m in length. Add easy jog up and down hill for warm up. Then sprint up (sprint distance is about 85m with 10m to slow) turn and jog down = 1 rep. Repeat for a min of 8 reps up to a max of 12 reps. Some days will do 14 if I feel strong (but only do >8 once per week). At end of sprints, walk 3 mins to cool down and do some dynamic stretches with a focus on legs. A good cool down cheat is to walk backwards down the hill to stretch the calves.
Sprint up = 21 to 22 seconds, jog/amble down. Slowest time when first starting out was 18 mins for 8 reps. Now average time to complete 8 reps is low 8 mins (excluding warm up cool down).
Tips: focus on deep slow breathing including in recovery; in sprint mode, keep head up and focus on end point marker at top of hill (don’t look down at your feet), also work your arms.
The hill length and incline was selected on the basis of what was outside my front door, i.e., no science whatsoever!
After a couple of weeks you feel like a boss!
Note for the absolute beginner the idea is to get to 8 reps asap (to prove that you can go the distance). To achieve this start out with jogging up and walking down, then start substituting sprints in place of jogging.
Austin–i’ve done something very similar out back of my cottage in NZ. I figure you can use such intervals (especially if you don’t have too much rest in between) very similarly to reps for weight lifting. in lifting it is easier to train to failure. almost impossible with HIIT, but you can come up with a scheme like–‘hill reps’ under 25 seconds, leaving from the bottom every minute. You can attack this to failure, keep good records, and ‘move up in weight’ as you progress, either by adding more reps or decreasing the leaving time (leave every 55 sec) or the finish time (reps under 22 seconds, etc).
Hi Andy, In landing on Hill sprints for HIIT, I must confess that I was influenced a little by Dr Google as well as Mr Ferriss.
My problem to solve was that post age 40 your body produces a lot less HGH and IGF-1 (this stuff helps us grow and/or keeps us young) also I wanted a protocol that provided a MED (Minimum Effective Dose). I din’t want to pound sand or eat asphalt for 40 mins to an hour. So my research and testing took me to what I do as it would appear that the HIIT with 8 reps gets the body to produce a bunch of HGH, irrespective of age. This helps keep me young and fit: two birds with one stone.
My “moving up in weight” lever was pace of sprinting and literally the weight i carried. I actually use a weighted vest (sometimes i piggyback my daughter) and try to get up in no more than 25 secs. The active recovery is 40 sec to get back down the hill. I do not rest at the bottom. You need to orce yourself to keep going. All good mate. If the All Blacks do your sort of training, no wonder they kick the Wallabies where the sun don’t shine!
Haha i too have done the kid piggyback thing. Awesome. I usually set leaving intervals so I have 5-10 sec of rest…only enough for a few gulps of air…
I get the intensity over duration bit. The unanswered questions (and not covered in Gibala’s book either) are what is the ideal recovery/rest period and what is the ideal number of reps/cycles. Likely has something to do with goals. Thoughts?
RMB–good question. You can look at this in two ways–the rest/recovery within a workout and the rest/recovery between workouts. As far as I can tell there isn’t a clear ‘best’ when it comes to rest/recovery within a workout–I’ve used HIIT exclusively for many years and have tried many different protocols–tabata stuff, 30:30, and many more. for true time efficient exhaustion I find less rest (i.e. tabata style) more effective than more, for obvious reasons. I think the more important aspect is rest/recovery between workouts. i find that when employing true HIIT I can’t muster more than about 2 honest efforts a week, even if they are only 5 minutes or so. The lowest I got in terms of volume (when training for big endurance events) was 30 minutes–2 x 5 minute workouts and a longer 20 minute ‘race pace’ effort. the race pace effort was hard of course, but not true HIIT since it lasted for 20 minutes! I’d use baseline workouts to ensure I was pushing–standard protocols that I had done before and knew what i could achieve. I’ve got some good resources on my website for free–and an inexpensive $4 book–available that explore my own use of HIIT to approach ultra endurance. have a look if you want some ideas as to where this type of training can take you. [www.ultramentalbook.com]
I think I would be careful about generalizing the science unless you know something about the small sample statistics at play with his study design. For a good discussion on P-hacking listen to http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2017/03/andrew_gelman_o.html
Dear Martin, Dear Tim,
For my time short days, you helped me realize that just a little will do, intensely. And as I cycle to work from Marina to the Financial District in San Francisco, there is a nice interval session in left-righting across blocks snaking up over the Russian Hill quiet streets, perfect!
To the notebook went the protocol:
2 min warm-up, unloaded cycling
3 * 5 mins riding to near exhaust
or 10 * 1 min on-1 min off
2 min cool-down, unloaded cycling.
I would really like Tim interviewing Mark Twight and Bobby Maximus from Gym Jones.
Hey Tim, I would like to say a lot of thanks for sharing this information. and thanks to Dr. Martin.