High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is still trending into 2019, according to fitness buffs. Combining an extreme activity with a following rest period has been used effectively to whip people into shape for well nigh 50 years now.
Both professional athletes and the rest of us can benefit from HIIT workouts.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) says that researchers in Canada and Europe first began looking into the cardio (heart-strengthening) benefits of short bursts of energy with time for muscle recovery.
The Canadian studies “required participants to pedal at an all-out intensity for 30 seconds before recovering for a few minutes and then doing it, again and again, several more times.” The European trials focused on distance rather than sprints. Findings from both groups linked interval training to enhanced physical performance and overall health.
HIIT was the #1 Fitness Trend for 2018 via ACSM’s Worldwide Survey.
One reason for the popularity of this efficient workout concept is that the idea behind a HIIT routine applies equally well to a wide range of physical activities, from cycling or playing tennis (“cardio HIIT”) to resistance exercise with calisthenics (“body weight HIIT”).
One distinct advantage of interval training is that it less baneful compared to many continuous exercises that last long periods of time. At least there are rest periods. But if your workout doesn’t raise your heart level and metabolism, it isn’t intense enough.
This is not to say that a HIIT workout is a walk in the park. No, it’s more like 20 burpees on the mat.
A burpee is a wonderfully energetic exercise that goes like this:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, weight in your heels, and your arms at your sides.
- Push your hips back, bend your knees, and lower your body into a squat.
- Place your hands on the floor directly in front of, and just inside, your feet. Shift your weight onto them.
- Jump your feet back to softly land on the balls of your feet in a plank position. Your body should form a straight line from your head to heels. Be careful not to let your back sag or your butt stick up in the air, as both can keep you from effectively working your core.
- Jump your feet back so that they land just outside of your hands.
- Reach your arms overhead and explosively jump up into the air.
- Land and immediately lower back into a squat for your next rep.
You say you want more? Check out this killer 24-minute cardio HIIT workout you can do in your living room. What I love about this is that each exercise has a video demonstration and the time duration in big black letters – easy!
By the way, burpees are the #3 move in the workout linked above.
You say you still want more? Good for you! Lita Lewis and her guy Reese lead you through a 30-minute cardio HIIT workout with scissor steps, jumping jacks, skaters (a personal favorite), and pop squats.
- Begin a pop squat from a standing position with feet together.
- Jump up, spread your feet wide, and land squarely in a squat position. Bring your fists together in front of your throat.
- Without hesitation, jump back up, bringing the feet together again and returning to the original standing position.
- Repeat at a quick pace for a short interval if you’re not used to this level of activity.
Fitness trainers tell how hard a workout is by observing the “rate of perceived exertion” (RPE), a subjective scale that describes effort levels on a spectrum of 1 to 10, with 10 being an all-out, hold-nothing-back, give-it-all-you’ve-got level of intensity.
For safety’s sake, try not to exceed a level 9 on the RPE scale. Train, don’t strain, as my swimming coach used to say.
HIIT works to shred fat and build six-pack abs because intense exercise burns more fat in the same amount of time. This makes a HIIT workout super efficient and great for people with limited time for workouts.
The formula to success is simple:
Working harder = higher oxygen intake = greater calorie burn.
Any cardio activity that leaves you breathless elevates the metabolism high enough to continue burning calories even after you stop exercising: bonus! This effect is called, appropriately afterburn and it means “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption” or EPOC.
In plain English, that translates to “continuing to breathe hard after exercising.” EPOC can burn more calories by six to 15 percent!
A body weight HIIT workout might include push-ups, added weight such as kettlebells, medicine balls, or dumbbells. The weights build and tone the muscles while raising the heart rate – the desired effect.
The only other parts to a HIIT workout are the recovery periods which give your body time to relax and rally for the next round of extreme activity.
Combining high-intensity exercise with rest and recovery periods requires a lot of fuel and the body eats up calories and tends to lose fat.
You can work out in a HIIT group or class at the gym or community center or watch a video in the comfort of your own home. You don’t need any fancy equipment. A mat is nice and protects your joints from high-impact stress.
Beginners to HIIT are advised to start with a 1:2 ratio of exercise to rest. For every minute of activity, recover for two minutes before tackling the next set. Gradually, transition to a 1:1 ratio.
For great results, do HIIT workout sessions that last 20 to 45 minutes, alternating high-energy exercises with recuperation spells.
Another technique, called Tabata training, calls for 20 seconds on, off for 10 seconds, repeated for eight rounds.
One combination experts say to avoid is a work interval that is both long and very intense. It’s okay to perform a very high-impact exercise for a short time interval – in fact, it’s recommended to avoid strain and burn-out.
Speaking of strain, HIIT may be too much of a good thing for some trainees. Go slowly at first if you have a known medical condition or physical limitation.
Change up three HIIT workouts a week with two days of moderate cardio exercise to play it safe and avoid overdoing it.
All set to HIIT it? Great. Now repeat this mantra (courtesy, SELF):
“If you’re not working your hardest, you’re not doing HIIT.”