After reading the reviews and seeing that the author has a best-selling book within the dieting field, I bought this one with high hopes. Let me divulge here that I'm a qualified personal trainer and have worked in a gym for five years using HIT with many of my clients. HIT truly is the most superior method of training for weight loss or any number of exercise related goals. Unfortunately I was left underwhelmed by this book; please let me explain.
I'll start with the positives and say that Fast Exercise is extremely well written; I understand the author is a journalist. I applaud the book and the writer for bringing HIT to the attention of more people - It works truly well. Now onto my criticisms:
First of all, the book references many studies, which I applaud, but precious few of these actually compare HIT to other forms of training which leaves you unable to see for yourself just how superior HIT is against the competition.
This being an exercise book, I would expect to put it down and be motivated to exercise. Unfortunately it falls a little flat here. Early on we are given statistics on arthritis and how exercise can cause and exacerbate this, yet we are given no council on reducing the risks. We are only told that we can expect crippling injury if we take part in this form of exercise. This should never be the case with a varied regime and good exercise preparation.
The book mentions some of the benefits of HIT, ie, weight loss, improved athletic performance and VO2 max. But it fails to mention some of the many other benefits such as beta endorphins or improving your tolerance to strenuous activity by pushing back your anaerobic threshold. The author sells HIT severely short here.
My real problem with the book is when the reigns are given over to the co-author who gets more into the specifics of HIT. Many of the exercise explanations are inadequate to say the least which will be a problem for novices. Dangerously, she advises us to run up flights of stairs and then take the lift back down. This is so bad I don't even know where to begin. If you work at all-out intensity and then stop and wait for the lift, you will suffer from extreme blood pooling, which for unfit or elderly participants could be debilitating. Why not just walk down the stairs?
She talks down the importance of post-workout stretching and then says that delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is caused by working out. It isn't necessarily - DOMS is caused by prolonged negative exercise such as lowering heavy weights or carrying out stepping. In fact, post-workout stretching is one thing that can alleviate DOMS, yet we're told to not really bother with it. We are also told that pre-workout stretching is a waste of time and I do agree with her on this point. However we are also advised not to bother too much with warming up, which I strongly disagree on, especially when performing HIT at an all-out intensity. You won't be exercising for very long, even by HIT standards if you don't warm up.
I think the most disappointing aspect of the book is the rigidity of the suggested HIT protocols. We are given a short list of them and then pretty much expected to go along with them with little or no guidance as to how we can progress from there or how we can tailor them to our own fitness levels. It's simply 3 x 20 seconds with rest in between etc. There is literally no guidance on using our own protocols or on some of the famous existing protocols such as Fartlek, which isn't even mentioned.
Some of the suggested exercises I would never use for HIT because they are nowhere near intense enough such as reverse curls and planks which have absolutely no place in a HIT workout. Unfortunately, there are many wonderful HIT exercises that aren't included such as burpees, squat jumps and some of the dozens of kettlebell exercise.
I disagree with some of the nutrition advice. We are advised not to eat carbs before a HIT session. Wrong! We should be eating carbs prior to all-out exercise because that is precisely the fuel the body uses when exercising at high intensity. If you have no glycogen from carbohydrates in your working muscles then the body will cannibalise its own muscle protein - Clearly the opposite of what we want regardless of our aims.
Approaching the end of the book, we are treated to filler content such as sections on Ways To Overcome Your Inner Couch Potato and the Guide To Being Active, both of which I've read in numerous places on the internet.
I was disappointed that the actual book finishes at 70% of the way in and from there it becomes Endnotes and Index. That's nearly a third of the entire book which you won't read.
In conclusion, I hope this book brings attention to how wonderful HIT is and in that respect it succeeds very well, especially if it gets people exercising. But there are much better books available on the subject, most notably HIIT - High Intensity Interval Training Explained which will leave you educated and most importantly motivated. But Fast Exercise is an ideal starting point which should get you on your bike and doing some hard, if short, yet effective exercise.