Boasting benefits such as increased fat loss, improved muscle efficiency and increased aerobic capacity, high intensity interval training (HIIT) is the go-to exercise for quick wins. And with an exercise session taking up as little of your time as 10-12 minutes, it gives you little excuse not to get a workout in!
So what is HIIT?
HIIT is often confused with standard interval training. Interval training refers to periods of high effort (70-80% of heart rate max (HRM), or between about 7-8 out of 10 on the exertion scale (0 being complete rest, 10 being exhaustion) interspersed with periods of recovery. The high effort periods, or “intervals”, can last anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes or more, with the effort reflecting the duration.
HIIT, however, requires intervals to be near maximal in effort (reaching 80-90% of HRM or 8-9 out of 10 on the exertion scale). Because of the extreme intensity, intervals cannot be sustained for much more than 30 seconds to just a couple of minutes, and recovery periods tend to be complete rest or very low effort.
A HIIT workout is usually characterised by cardio exercise, such as sprinting or cycling. But a mix of fast-paced strength workouts can also be performed using the HIIT approach.
How does it work?
A simple HIIT workout can challenge your body by repeatedly pushing it into the anaerobic training zone (where your body has to rely on limited stores of fuel for exercise) with the rest periods returning you to aerobic zones, using oxygen to replenish these stores ready for the next bout.
This causes metabolic changes in the muscles which increase the efficiency of the body to use fat for fuel. Insulin sensitivity is also increased, meaning that less insulin is required to return blood sugar to normal levels.Did you know that a #HIITWorkout can increase the rate at which you burn fat? Find out more here: Click To Tweet
As well as the more efficient use of fuel, aerobic capacity is also improved (you may have heard of this by the measure “VO2 max”). This is your body’s ability to transport and use oxygen during exercise. An improved VO2 max means improved endurance performance. Awesome!
Sounds great, what do I do?
As the name suggests, this type of training can be intense*, so if you’re relatively new to exercise make sure you ease into training, and step it down a notch if you need to – let your body guide you. Ideally you should already be able to complete 20-30 minutes of exercise at moderate intensity (that doesn’t mean chilling out on the recline bike…)
* If you’re a complete beginner, or have any concerns about your health, it’s always best to consult your doctor before taking on any exercise program.
Before starting any training always make sure you warm up, this can just be a lighter version of the exercise you are about to perform so there’s no need to go crazy here!
Example HIIT Workout
Below is an example HIIT workout using only body-weight exercises, so… no equipment. Bonus!
Perform the first exercise continuously for 30 seconds, then take 15 seconds rest and move on to the next exercise. Repeat the entire circuit 3 times through for a challenging full-body workout that lasts just under 15 minutes.No time to train? Try this 15 minute #HIITworkout and you'll never have an excuse again! Click To Tweet
To make it more challenging, you can increase the interval duration, or number of times you go through the circuit. You can also change to a pyramid style of training with intervals starting off fairly short, stepping up each time and then back down again, e.g. 30 seconds, 60, 90, 120, 90, 60 and back to 30 with rest periods between.
This workout can also be used to benchmark your progress – record the number of reps you perform for the entire workout, and repeat in a few weeks with the same interval durations and you can see how many more reps you perform!
How can I vary this for my sport?
If you take part in a particular sport, whether it’s running, cycling or rowing, HIIT can be adapted to train specifically. If you’re a cyclist, perform intervals on your bike or turbo, if you’re a swimmer, do a few lengths at maximal effort then slow it down for a length or two.
HIIT is a great way to get the most out of a short session, but remember that other sessions such as slow endurance runs or cycles still have their place, so make sure you mix it up to get the most out of your efforts!
How about you? Do you ever train with HIIT? Have you noticed any obvious changes in your fitness levels or body shape? Let me know if you try my HIIT workout!