High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is here to stay as the most cost-effective form of exercise.
Others suggest that the origins of HIIT trace back to the early 1900s and Finnish Olympic runners who alternated intense bursts with brief periods of recovery to increase their overall speed. It is still one of the “Top 20 World Fitness Trends” according to the American College of Sports Medicine.
But, if you ask 10 people to define an HIIT workout, you are likely to receive ten distinct responses. The fitness industry has developed various HIIT versions that are not authentic.
HIIT workouts involve multiple rounds of short, high-intensity cardiovascular bursts
A proper HIIT workout will consist of many rounds of short, high-intensity cardiovascular bursts (typically no more than 20 seconds) followed by brief rest intervals. This allows you to finish a considerable fitness-enhancing workout in as little as 30 minutes. It often takes minimal equipment, and you may select your favourite cardio technique.
To achieve truly high intensity, one must exert effort. You must elevate your heart rate over 80% of your absolute maximum before allowing it to recover to a minimal degree and then repeating the procedure. Danyele Wilson, a trainer and coach with the fitness app EvolveYou, said, “Get your intensity so high that you can’t carry a conversation, then rest and begin again.”
This distinguishes HIIT from other workouts, according to Wilson. “For example, holding a plank for one minute will not raise your heart rate to that level. You should feel that you could not perform this action at maximum intensity for more than eight to ten seconds at a time.”
When paired with conventional aerobic and weight training, HIIT can increase overall fitness, health indicators, calorie expenditure, and competitive sports performance. Here’s how to capitalize on them.
Why do HIIT?
The fundamental advantage of HIIT workouts is their capacity to produce rapid improvements in cardiovascular fitness.
According to a 2019 review of research on the health benefits of HIIT, it is a more effective kind of aerobic training than steady-state cardio, which maintains your heart rate within a narrow range for an extended period of time. A small 2020 study of sedentary men aged 43 to 73 found that six weeks of HIIT significantly decreased their high blood pressure.
According to Cedric Bryant, president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, many people utilize HIIT to lose weight in addition to improving their heart health. HIIT results in a greater average caloric expenditure than a steady-state workout of the same duration.
Wilson feels that the biggest reason to include HIIT into your fitness routine, whether you are a competitive athlete or not, is to improve performance. She described performance as “training the entire body to move with better efficiency and dexterity.”
She stated, “It improves your ability to move in several directions.” “This may refer to anyone, from LeBron James on the basketball court to an old guy who has tripped and is keeping himself from falling. It’s about life quality.” Nonetheless, you may wish to see your physician or physical therapist prior to introducing HIIT into your training routine.
Sunna Yassin, a 42-year-old event planner from San Francisco, viewed HIIT as a way to free up her body so she could pursue other interests. Initially, she found the exercise uncomfortable on her knees, but this improved as she acquired strength.
During the course of 18 months, Yassin claimed, “my body grew better equipped to withstand the pressure of exercises like kickboxing and leaping.”
What exactly is “authentic” HIIT?
There are many misconceptions regarding what constitutes HIIT. Several gyms and trainers use the term HIIT to denote circuit training – a set of exercises done sequentially. Although these exercises are difficult, the most of them will not elevate your heart rate sufficiently to qualify. A runner who runs for 3- to 5-minute bursts with rests in between is performing interval training, but not HIIT.
According to Wilson, CrossFit is another activity that is commonly confused with HIIT. “CrossFit is not HIIT,” she clarified, while CrossFit workouts may include HIIT circuits. Yet, they are not identical.
Operating on a treadmill
For beginners, a genuine HIIT session – the quick-bursts portion of the exercise that causes a rapid heart rate – may last as short as 10 minutes. Sabrena Jo, an exercise and health scientist with the American Council on Exercise, stated, “You will also spend 5 to 10 minutes warming up with milder movements, performing the HIIT circuit, and then cooling down for 5 to 10 minutes.”
Where does one start?
Once a week is a good starting point for folks who are new to HIIT. While HIIT may be performed alone, Wilson prefers to perform it towards the conclusion of another workout. “I would match it with leg day, for instance,” she added, adding that she would perform “super sets” of mixed exercises such as squats and lunges, followed by a 10-minute HIIT session.
Holly Roser, a personal trainer in San Francisco, suggests no more than two to three sessions per week once you are comfortable with them. “Thereafter, you may become more prone to harm.”
Avoid HIIT if you have a cardiac issue, are recovering from an injury, or commonly suffer dizziness. Consult your physician first if you are pregnant.
According to Roser, you may need to lower one or two intervals at the beginning to recover your breath, or you may find yourself slowing down towards the conclusion of a session. But, after approximately one month of continuous HIIT, you should be able to finish one and see an improvement, such as in your running, cycling, or ergometer rowing speed. Afterwards, you may experiment with adjusting your exercise-to-rest ratio such that you rest for shorter durations.
HIIT may be performed at home, at the gym, or in a group class setting with little equipment – a treadmill, bike, or rowing machine would suffice. Also good are brief spurts of running, jumping jacks, burpees, mountain climbers, and squat jumps. This makes HIIT simple and comfortable to execute while traveling.
Note that these exercises are intended to be difficult. According to Melissa Vasquez, a 31-year-old salesperson from Brooklyn, pushing oneself to 80% of your maximum heart rate may first be terrifying, but it can also be rewarding.
The most fundamental HIIT workout
Beginners to HIIT should begin with a single cardio-focused equipment or activity. The treadmill is typically the least intimidating for beginners. After warming up, sprint as quickly as possible for 10 seconds, then walk or relax for 50 seconds. This must be repeated six times.
You are well on your way to mastering HIIT after reading this. As you feel more at ease, reduce the rest to 20 seconds, and then to 10 seconds.
HIIT workouts are more effective if the exercises continue longer than the rest intervals. Tabata is a frequent format for this, typically involving many rounds and multiple movements. One Tabata round consists of eight sets of 20 seconds of intense exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest. Many trainers recommend four complete rounds, but if it seems too difficult, start with two.
Start with a 5-minute warm-up. Then perform one circuit of eight sets. Do as many reps as possible throughout each set. After each round, take a one-minute rest, then continue until you have finished four rounds. Following that, pause for 10 minutes. Consider using a workout app to indicate each break, as it can be tough to time them correctly.
Because HIIT is so strenuous, you should first restrict your weekly workouts to one or two, eventually increasing to up to three as your body adapts. Please stop if you feel lightheaded, dizzy, or too out of breath to continue.
Here is an example of HIIT in the Tabata technique that requires minimal equipment. Before beginning the workout, perform a simple run-through of each movement to confirm that you are comfortable with it. If a certain maneuver proves difficult owing to a mobility issue, feel free to replace another. This collection of exercises is intended to increase your heart rate, so select those that are suitable for your body. Alter the routines as time passes for variety.
Round 1 (4 minutes)
- Two cycles of high knees (20 seconds each, with a 10-second pause). Alternate between these and the other exercises.)
- 2 sets of plank punches
- Do two sets of jumping jacks
- Two sets of lateral skaters
Take a one-minute pause.
Round 2 (4 minutes)
- 2 sets of jump rope – 2 sets of high/low boats
- Two cycles of line jump
- Two circuits of push-ups
Take a one-minute pause.
Round 3 (4 minutes)
- 2 repetitions of burpees
- 2 repetitions of Russian twists
- 2 repetitions of squats
- 2 repetitions of lunges
Take a one-minute pause.
Round 4 (4 minutes):
- 2 teams of mountain climbers complete two rounds of push-ups.
- Two intervals of split squats
- Two circuits of box jumps