HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training. HIIT is an exercise method in which you switch back and forth between short intervals of high intensity exercise, followed by short rest or recovery periods. Studies have shown that HIIT can be effective for both sprinters and endurance athletes and it can be incorporated into just about any training protocol whether it be weight training, sprinting, rowing, climbing, or sport specific workouts.
The key is to pick exercises that use the majority of muscle groups. Using HIIT for isolation exercises will be ineffective. However, using it for full body exercises like sprinting, squats, deadlifts, and plyometrics will really kick your fat loss into high gear.
Benefits of HIIT Training
The benefits of HIIT training are several-fold. Probably one of the biggest benefits is it usually lasts only 20 minutes or less. This enables just about anyone to be able to get in a great workout regardless of their busy schedules. After all, we can all wake up 30 minutes earlier to get in a workout.
The best thing is that this short 20 minute workout will probably be one of the toughest you will ever do. By working at close to your maximal heart rate, you will be burning the most calories, and causing the most physiological changes to your body that will be beneficial to fat loss.
Not only will you burn fat during your workout, but you will continue to burn fat throughout the rest of the day through EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). EPOC is the measurable increased rate of oxygen intake following strenuous activity intended to erase the body’s oxygen debt .
In order to erase the body’s oxygen debt, fatty acids are released and used as fuel for recovery. This all happens in the time after a workout is complete. You will not receive this great benefit simply doing low intensity exercise. You need to be working out in your anaerobic zone at maximal heart rates to really see that added fat loss effect. This EPOC has been shown to last for over 24 hours. While this is a great benefit, it also means you need to be allowing yourself plenty of recovery time between workouts – at least 48 hours.
Why Does High-Intensity Interval Training Work
To sum up why it works so well, lets recap:
- Lasts 20 minutes or less – resulting in a short workout time nearly anyone can integrate into their lifestyle.
- Can increase VO2 max for both high intensity and endurance athletes. VO2 max is the max amount of oxygen a person can use and transport during exercise. You want this number to be high because it enables us to use more fat as fuel instead of glucose. Since our fat stores tend to be much higher than glycogen stores, it is preferential to be able to get the highest percentage of fuel from fat during exercise. While sprinting uses a high amount of glycogen because it is such high intensity, the rate at which you change from fat burning to sugar burning is higher in individuals with a higher VO2 max.
- Increases EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) resulting in an elevated fat loss state for up to 24 hours after you finish your workout – something you won’t get from lower intensity exercise.
- Trains the body to effectively remove metabolic waste from the muscles between intervals. By quickly removing lactate and other byproducts resulting from high intensity exercise, you enable the body to be primed and ready for another bout of high intensity exercise with less rest.
- One of several ways to boost both testosterone and growth hormone levels. Since these hormones are highly responsible for muscle gain and fat loss, you should be doing all you can to keep levels high.
The combinations are endless when it comes to HIIT workouts. We could do any combination of intervals, but here are a few examples:
HIIT training for on the track:
- Sprint the straightaways and walk/or jog the curves. Do this for 20 minutes.
- Sprint 200 meters (half way around the track) and walk/jog the other half. Do this for 20 minutes.
- Sprint 400 meters (1 lap) and then walk/job the next lap. Do this for 20 minutes.
Off the track you will want to do similar intervals, but use time as a measurement instead of distance:
- Sprint for 15 seconds and walk/jog for 30 seconds. Do this for 20 minutes.
- Sprint for 30 seconds and walk/jog for 60 seconds. Do this for 20 minutes.
- Sprint for 60 seconds and walk/jog for 90-120 seconds. Do this for 20 minutes.
HIIT in the gym:
- Squats for reps for 1 minute and then rest for one minute, then repeat for 20 minutes.
- Deadlifts for reps for 1 minute and then rest for one minute, then repeat for 20 minutes. Note: Make sure you are using the right form with these. Chances are, you’re probably doing them wrong.
- Circuit training – mix up squats, bench press, deadlifts, and pullups, doing 1 minute of exercise for every 1 minute of rest. Repeat for 20 minutes.
- Bodyweight HIIT training – combine bodyweight squats, pushups, and pullups for 1 minute of exercise followed by 1 minute of rest. Repeat for 20 minutes.
- Box jumps – jump onto and off of a box as quickly as possible for 1 minute and then rest for 1 minute. Repeat for 20 minutes.
- Jump rope – jump rope for 1 minute of exercise followed by 1 minute of rest. Repeat for 20 minutes.
By now you should have the idea. The key is to do a full body exercise for a certain period of time, and follow it up with a short rest interval, and then get right back into it. Yes, you are going to be breathing hard and not fully recovered before you start your next working set, but that’s what makes HIIT so effective. Your goal is to be able to work out at a high intensity for a longer period of time with less and less rest between intervals.
To progress with HIIT, you are going to want to vary your interval times. Try lowering the amount of rest time between high-intensity intervals, or try jogging instead of walking. Try shaving just 5 seconds off of every rest interval each time you work out. Eventually, you will be sprinting at a higher speed for a longer period of time than when you started.
Why not give it a try? You don’t need to do it every single workout, but maybe do it once a week to start to see how it goes. Be sure to give yourself a good warm up period to prevent injury, and be sure you have an interval timer to use to keep track of your interval times. You can use an app on your phone, or buy a timer. Good luck!