I’m pretty busy these days,
You’re no doubt busy as well.
With seemingly less hours in the day at the moment people look to be involved in things that are not big time wasters Like watching Keeping Up With The Kardashians. You want quick results and you want them now whether that be information, food or even faster wifi…
The one good thing that comes out of a rushed lifestyle is that people have discovered enhanced ways of working out that are not only time savers they appear to be WAY more benneficial than the exercises of old.
Hours on the treadmill are now going the way of the dinosaur and people are embracing quicker, more intense and ultimately more effective workouts.
And that’s what High Intensity Interval Training is
Better results in less time
What is High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT?
High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT is the ultimate fat burning and muscle building type of workout. It is basically performing a period of super intense excercise followed by a less intense recovery period.
It’s this short activity burst followed by a slower recovery period that provides some tremendous health benefits and body composition effects.
But this is an intense workout, like THIS type of intense…
He was my very first Halloween costume, and still is to this day…
Fun fact: The George Foreman grill was originally pitched to Hulk Hogan who passed on it leading them to offer the idea to Foreman..
How To Perform HIIT
Again like most things this is a simple approach that gets results. A typical HIIT session starts with a warm up of 5-10 minutes. This can be something to help get the blood flowing like light jogs or warming up on a stationary bike.
The workout itself will consist of 3-10 repititions of a high intensity exercise separated by a medium intensity rest period that is done for recovery. The high intensity portion is essentially going all out at close to 100% while the recovery portion is a less intense 50% exertion.
The thing that makes HIIT unique is this is not a set in stone workout. It’s more about getting the body in a state where it goes all out then needs to back off for a moment before going all out again.
Everyone has a different cardiovascular level and the exertion is dependent on your level at that particular time period.
Generally the high intensity portion will run 30-45 seconds while the recovery phase can be 15-60 seconds depending on your level of fitness. A perfect example of this is alternating sprinting and walking. Either on a track, a beach or a treadmill you would engage in a 30-45 second all out sprint then slow down and keep walking for 30-45 seconds before begining to sprint again.
These entire workouts can run from 4 minutes long up to close to 30. And trust me you do not need to go super long with them..
Examples Of HIIT Workouts
What do these type of workouts look like? Well that’s the beauty of HIIT, they don’t necessarily need a gym or top notch equipment. The sprinting/walking example is one of the simplest yet still most effective.
But there are many other ways to perform this. I like using a stationary bike where you can dial up the intensity for the sprint phase then lower it down during the recovery period. Other type workouts that you can do are:
- Running stairs and walking them during recovery
- intense skipping then slowing down during recovery
- performing burpees
- Using an elyptical for high intensity and lowering resistance during recovery
Honestly if you’re new to all this you can even do jumping jacks at a high intensity and then make sure to spend the recovery time walking.
You’ll notice most of these don’t have to use equipment and can be done in your home.
What Benefits Does It Provide?
This is where it gets interesting and the research goes back to 1994, the year of Crystal Pepsi and Tonya Harding
The first research showing that HIIT was more effective for fat loss came from my own country.. Researchers from Laval University in Quebec showed that young men and woman who performed a 15 week HIIT program lost significantly more body fat than those who performed a 20 week continuous steady state endurance program.
Also worth noting is this still occurred despite the 20 week endurance program burning 15,000 more calories than the HIIT
This only kicked off the research that continues to this day…
A 2001 study from East Tennessee State University found similar findings in that participants that followed an 8 week HIIT program dropped 2 % body fat compared to those that followed a steady state treadmill cardio routine who ended up losing no body fat.
How is HIIT able to do this?
HIIT is able to increase resting metabolic rate and also significantly lower insulin resistance. This along with creating skeletal muscle adaptations allow for more skeletal muscle fat to be burned off while improving glucose tolerance.
Recent studies by the American Journal of Physiology show that HIIT increases the amount of special proteins in the muscle that are responsible for carrying fat into the mitochondria where it is burned away for fuel by up to 50%. The more of these proteins you have in the muscle the more fat you can burn during workouts and after.
No this isn’t 2-Pacs environmentally friendly cousin..
Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption or EPOC could actually be called Afterburn because that’s what it helps do, burn more calories long after exercise is finished.
During strenuous activity, such as HIIT training, the body goes into an oxygen deficit. The body then goes into a very noticeable rate of increased oxygen uptake to replenish the oxygen used. And guess what this uses to do it?
This effect can last for hours after exercise with some studies showing there were still measurable effects 36 hours after exercise.
An important note here is to do with the burning of calories during exercise. Those who perform longer duration aerobic exercise on a treadmill for example can track the amount of calories they are burning as they go. It’s almost impossible to tell how many calories are burnt during HIIT but its acknowledged that even though the aerobic training may burn more calories in the long run HIIT will burn a lot more due to the EPOC After burn effect.
So Besides Body Fat Loss What Else Does HIIT Help With?
Everyone wants to look go and it is probably the main reason we all go to the gym but the effects of HIIT go further than that.
The American College Of Sport Medicine shares these other great effects that come from High Intensity Interval Training
- Improved Blood pressure
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Increased insulin sensitivity
- Improved cholesterol profiles
- Lower abdominal body fat
- Lower Body weight
- Maintained and increased muscle mass
- Improved aerobic and anaerobic fitness
You have to admit that’s a pretty good list and makes it even more worthwhile to get into this type of training.
Tabata training takes HIIT to the next level.
It’s something I like to do all the time and have trained a lot of young atheletes to do.
Tabata training was invented by Professor Izumi Tabata who was working with Olympic speedskaters (do you know Olympics needs to be capitalized? I just learned that, sorry IOC…)
Tababta is similar to HIIT but even more intense. You perform an exercise such as squats or burpees full out at an ultra high intensity for 20 seconds followed by a 10 second rest period. You complete this cycle 8 times to complete the whole workout.
Sounds pretty easy but it’s a full body workout that works wonders in improving your cardiovascular health. Tabata training improves your Vo2 max (your bodies ability to use oxygen) by 14% while boosting your anaerobic capacity by an amazing 28%.
In the pursuit of lean muscle and lower body fat, increased anaerobic capacity is key in achieving this. We looked at the afterburn effect of EPOC and how this more vigorous type of activity is showing more benefits than moderate steady state cardio.
To achieve more fat burning and lean muscle development anaerobic high intense training is a must. That long period cardio exercise may improve aerobic capacity but does not improve anaerobic capacity.
High intensity exercise improves BOTH along with body fat shedding and muscle building and the studies are showing it.
So it seems to make more sense to engage in something that has this double effect, takes less time and provides more benefits. Plus you don’t have to worry about this happening if you spend hours on the treadmill..
Tabata training is really easy to incorporate into your workout routine. You only need to do it 2-3 times a week and makes a good finishing cap to a strength training workout.
If you are new to exercising you can start simple with something like body weight squats but then can move up to things like sprints and even burpees. Tabata training is best when the exercise chosen involves a full body motion.
You’re still watching the guy fall aren’t you?
There are some great Tabata apps that you can find in any app store that provide countdowns for the exercise and alerts when the rest period has started and stopped. It’s very important to stick to the exact 20 seconds on and ten seconds rest. Those ten seconds rest periods may not feel like much at the start but by the end they go by in the blink of an eye and it’s important to not extend the rest period or cut a few seconds out of the 20 second exercise period. The apps are a great help with that.
Getting Started With HIIT
If you are new to exercise starting slow and consulting with your doctor to see if you are ok for intense exercise is a must.
I mentioned how a HIIT session can run 30-45 seconds for the exercise portion and up to a minute of recovery. This cycle can be done 3-10 times. There are some days I will do 7-8 cycles but some days will only do 3. The point is starting to incorporate high intensity exercise in will be a great benefit to your health.
Here’s a great beginner to advanced progression for those just getting started:
Week 1-2: 15 seconds high intensity exercise
60 seconds rest or low intensity recovery
* repeat 10 times
Week 3-4 30 seconds high intensity exercise
60 seconds rest or low intensity recovery
* repeat 10 times
Week 5-6 30 seconds high intensity exercise
30 seconds rest or low intensity recovery
* repeat 11 times
Week 7-8 30 seconds high intensity exercise
15 seconds rest or low intensity recovery
*repeat 10-12 times
Remember to get a 5-10 minute warm up in first and to end with a cool down period of very light exercise for at least 5-10 minutes.
HIIT training is something that should not be done everyday as it really taxes your body and is ideal 2-3 times a week with at least a day off in between.
Wrapping It Up
The great thing with HIIT is it never has to be the same. On any given day you could decide to do 4 sets of 30 second bike sprints with 40 seconds of low intensity recovery in between.
The next time you do it you might want to do 7 sets of 30 seconds of intense skipping with 15 seconds recovery in between.
The key with exercise is to always keep your body guessing. The best workout is the one you haven’t done yet. Your body wants to get in a state of balance where it does not have to be working harder than it likes to. High intensity interval training is a way to force your body to burn fat and build muscle while also providing you some tremendous health benefits.
I do it, Olympic athletes do it (caught the capital that time) Stay at home Mom’s and Dad’s do it, if you’ve ever played ice hockey, basketball or soccer you’ve unknowingly done it.
It’s simple, fast and effective and you won’t even lose your shoes like that dude above on the treadmill.
* If you liked this article do me a solid and share it with whomever you like and if you haven’t already make sure to sign up for the email newsletter below. Ill even send you a free nutrition guide. Because you’re beautiful..