High intensity interval training (HiiT) has become ridiculously popular as a type of exercise, but if you’ve never done it, you’re smart to learn the basics about it before you lace up your sneakers.
Once you have a few central facts down, you can decide whether HiiT is right for you.
What is HiiT?
HiiT is a form of physical training in which you work at a higher level of exertion. Each interval consists of one or more exercises where you are going “all out.” Between intervals, you can either just rest or do a less demanding activity to recover.
The work intervals usually are somewhere between 30 and 120 seconds, with recovery anywhere between 15 to 60 seconds. For a full workout, you string a sequence of intervals together.
Most HiiT workouts last somewhere between 20 to 60 minutes.
Who can do HiiT?
HiiT is hugely demanding on the cardiovascular system. For this reason, you should have a good baseline of fitness before you try a HiiT workout.
What are the benefits of HiiT?
HiiT burns more calories overall than most types of steady-state cardiovascular exercise. It keeps your body buming through oxygen and calories even after the workout is done, too (known as the afterburn effect).
HiiT also releases hormones like human growth hormone, which can help you build muscle and improves insulin sensitivity.
Studies suggest that HiiT is capable of improving both aerobic and anaerobic performance, which means that over time, you might be able to work for more extended periods or do exercises faster.
Then, of course, there’s the convenience factor. Because HiiT burns many calories quickly, you can get good results even with a short workout. This makes it perfect to squeeze into a busy day.
You don’t need equipment to do HiiT, either-moves like air jacks, burpees, and line taps will get your blood pumping with just you. That said, you can use equipment if desired. Adding a set of light hand weights to squats, for example, can kick your heart rate up enough to blur the line between strength qqqqqand cardiovascular work. A jump rope or step is a good choice, too.
What are the drawbacks?
Simply put, HiiT kicks you in the keester. You must have enough mental drive to push through the uncomfortableness of working so hard. At the same time, you have to be in tune with your body enough to know when it’s indeed time to stop. And because it’s so rough on the body, you’ll need time to recoup. You can’t plan to do HiiT every day.
Are there different ways to do HiiT?
Absolutely! The basic rule is simply to work hard, back it off a little, and repeat. You can do whatever moves work for your body, so long as you’re sure to work opposing muscle groups over the course of the workout to prevent imbalances.
If you do want a specific protocol for your workout, there are three different ways to go:
Little Method—work at 95 percent of your VO2 max, 60 seconds of high intensity followed by 75 seconds low-intensity recovery work; 12 rounds
Turbulence Training—start each series with a strength training move with heavier weight for eight reps, then do a cardio burst for one to two; 45 minutes total.
Tabata—work as hard as you can for 20 seconds and rest for 10; eight total rounds
Within any of,these protocols, as you progress, if you need to increase the challenge, you can do so by:
- Adding weights or bands (or using a heavier one)
- Increasing speed
- Reasonably increasing range of motion
- Reversing your usual direction (e.g., going backward on an elliptical)
- Adding a balance component (e.g., performing the move on one leg)
HiiT is a push-rest, potentially equipment freestyle of workout of up to an hour that can get you serious results fast. It’s easy to personalize and make harder over time, and there are different protocols you can try.
Still, it’s incredibly physically demanding. If you want to try it, work with your doctor to make sure you’re fit enough, and once you have clearance, start small and work your way up.