Lack of time is the number one excuse for not exercising. High intensity interval training or HIIT eliminates this excuse.
HIIT has quickly become a popular form of exercise because it is both quick and effective, and, to add to that, it can be done anywhere.
HIIT offers full workouts that range from 10 minutes to 45 minutes from start to finish. As far as getting the most bang for your buck goes, HIIT is it. Not only does HIIT burn more calories, it optimizes muscle retention and muscle building during fat loss. HIIT burns more calories and has more reported physiological benefits than steady-state activity in a shorter period of time.
What is HIIT?
HIIT is a method of interval training that uses short bursts of maximal activity, alternating with moderate to low intensity bouts in between. The work intervals are usually gauged by rate of perceived exertion (RPE), which is a subjective rating scale to gauge percentage of effort. Work intervals should be between an 8-9 on a 1-10 scale, while the recovery intervals should be between 5-6. Tabata is an exception, as the work interval is maximal, or 10 on a 10-point scale. Typically, the work to recovery ratio is 1:2 or 1:1.
Why HIIT is so Effective
HIIT has been shown to increase both aerobic and anaerobic fitness, while traditional continuous or steady state exercise targets only aerobic fitness. Studies also show that those that completed HIIT showed a tremendous gain in human growth hormone (HGH) sometimes referred to as the fitness hormone, and these individuals also showed an increase in lean muscle tissue.
One of the many reasons that HIIT is efficient and effective is that when you work close to VO2max (the maximum volume that an individual can consume), the after burn effect is induced. This after burn refers to the fact that your body continues to consume oxygen, which means it is burning extra calories for up to 48 hours after the session.
Types of HIIT Workouts
There are three main variations of HIIT, which can be used for variation within your routine, or depending on how much time you have. Although HIIT can be performed with weights, it is recommended that the exercises remain power focused, and plyometric or strictly cardiovascular. The whole point is to get the heart rate up as fast as possible.
This method of HIIT can mean a full cardio workout is done in 4 minutes.
It should be noted that the Tabata method is very taxing on the body, and should be approached with caution if new to exercise. The work intervals are completed at maximal effort for 20 seconds with 10 seconds of rest between for a recommended 8 cycles.
This method uses a work to rest ratio closer to 1:1 than 1:2, and work intervals are completed at a lower % of VO2max. In this method the work is completed at 95% of VO2max for 60 seconds, with 75 seconds of recovery for a recommended 12 cycles. This means the workout is completed in 27 minutes. This method is best for those new to HIIT style exercise, and could be completed safely by most individuals.
This method of training combines the benefits of cardiovascular training with traditional resistance training. This method combines doing high weight, low rep training with high intensity cardio for a maximum recommended 45 minutes per session. The cycle will alternate between 8 reps of a traditional resistance training exercise, and a cardiovascular exercise, such as biking or running as the “recovery” interval. This method might be best reserved for those who have experience with resistance training methods, and are comfortable moving heavy weights.
HIIT is typically thought of in terms of traditional cardio methods, aka. Running or cycling, but it can be done using bodyweight strength exercises just as easily. An example HIIT workout using exercises instead of traditional cardio methods might look like this:
- Rest 30s between each exercise
- 10 Jumping lunges
- 20 push ups (traditional or modified)
- 30 squats
- 40 tricep dips
- 50 mountain climbers
HIIT is ideal for those who are busy or on the go because workouts can be completed with little to no equipment. Workouts can also be progressed easily by adding an incline, or resistance. Since HIIT workouts can be altered to include virtually any type of activity, it can be done by individuals of all fitness levels. HIIT workouts should not be completed more than 3 times per week, due to their strenuous nature.
It is important to note that though the benefits of HIIT are various, the method does carry inherent health risks. As with any type of exercise, HIIT may or may not be an appropriate training method for you. Please consult your physician, a qualified personal trainer, or another suitable health professional to determine whether or not this form of training is appropriate for you.
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