Functional Training Institute

HIFT Decreases Body Fat & Increases Lean Mass – High Intensity Functional Training

HIFT Decreases Body Fat & Increases Lean Mass - High Intensity Functional Training

In our third instalment in this series of articles on high intensity functional training, we are going to look at the results of another study, which investigated the effects of HIFT on body composition in sedentary overweight and obese women. Simultaneously reducing body fat and improving lean body mass is important to a large majority of clients who undertake regular fitness training. Therefore, ensuring we are using the best evidenced based training programs to help achieve these outcomes for our clients, is worth pursuing.

The Study Details

Why they did it: Evaluated the effects of a 40-week HIFT on body fat percentage, waist and hip circumference, lean mass, endurance and strength whilst maintaining an isocaloric diet (macro’s = 55-60% carbohydrate, 15-20% protein, 20%-25% fat).


What they measured: Body fat and lean mass were measured via DEXA scans, Strength was measured via 1RM horizontal leg press, aerobic fitness was measured using a treadmill test. Calorie intake was measured via 7-day diet recall logs and analysed by a dietician.


The training program: The researchers in this study used a small group (5-10 women) timed-interval circuit (HIFT), three times per week. The training sessions included a 10-minute warm up, 23 -41 minutes of HIFT and a 5-minute cool down. The training program incorporated a large range of functional training exercises, including kettlebells, foam rollers, resistance bands, medicine balls, suspended fitness straps, battling ropes and medicine balls.  Exercise difficulty was progressed over the duration of the 40-week training period. For example the kettlebell exercises commenced with Sumo deadlifts, progressed to sumo high-pulls, then to two-arm swings and in the final phase to snatches.

Program Design

HIFT Decreases Body Fat & Increases Lean Mass - High Intensity Functional Training

What they found: The women in this study reduced their body fat percentage by 5.5% which is similar to the range of body fat lost when following an endurance training program of the same duration.  In addition, the woman also increased their lean mass by 1.2-3.4% and improved both 1RM leg press strength and aerobic fitness without changing their caloric intake.

What does this mean: The results of this study show HIFT performed for approximately one hour, three times per week for 40-weeks, independent of dietary change can successfully reduce body fat, increase lean mass and improve general fitness in overweight and obese women. Given many female clients are often adverse to weight training and often unable to make large dietary changes, the prospect of undertaking 3 hours of HIFT per week whilst maintaining an isocaloric diet, may be more realistic for many overweight and obese women.

Reference: Batrakoulis, A., Jamurtas, A. Z., Georgakouli, K., Draganidis, D., Deli, C. K., Papanikolaou, K & Comoutos, N. (2018). High intensity, circuit-type integrated neuromuscular training alters energy balance and reduces body mass and fat in obese women: A 10-month training-detraining randomized controlled trial. PloS one, 13(8), e0202390.

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