If you’re bored with lengthy cardio workouts or just not getting the fat loss results you desire then it may be time to ramp up the intensity and cut down on time with high intensity interval training, better known as HIIT.
Swapping a few steady state cardio sessions for a quick blast of high intensity intervals could be just the change your body (and your mind) needs.
What is high intensity interval training?
HIIT is a combination of high intensity exercise followed by short recovery periods. By alternating between high and low intensity intervals your heart rate remains at a higher rate for the entire workout meaning you burn more calories overall.
Performing intervals at 80-90% maximum effort for 20-90 seconds gets your heart racing, but even during the brief recovery periods when you let your heart rate drop down to about 60-70% of your maximum heart rate your body is desperately trying to play catch up.
Therefore, the calories are still sizzling. 30 minutes of HIIT training can burn anywhere from 350-500 calories depending on your body size and fitness level.
Multiple studies have shown that HIIT is beneficial for it’s fat burning effects. One of the first studies on HIIT was conducted at Laval University in Canada. For 20 weeks, one group performed steady state cardio working at a moderate intensity for an extended period of time, while the other group performed HIIT. The HIIT group burned a significant amount of body fat compared to the steady state group.
A study in the Journal of Physiology reported that females who performed 7 HIIT workouts over 2 weeks increased their fat burning capabilities by 30%. One of the reasons for HIIT’s fat burning effect is the higher amount of human growth hormone (HGH) released during training. This hormone helps regulate metabolism, burn fat, and build lean muscle.
One of the most reassuring benefits of HIIT is that you can continue to burn more calories for up to 24 hours after the quick session is done. The American College of Sports Medicine reports that subjects who performed HIIT training burned nearly 10% more calories in the 24-hour period after the workout session compared to those who did steady state cardio.
HIIT makes you more efficient and improves endurance. The higher intensity level of the intervals calls upon the recruitment of more fast-twitch muscle fibers. These muscle fibers are better equipped for burning fat. By calling upon these muscle fibers more often you not only increase your fat burning abilities, but also improve your cardiovascular efficiency so you have more energy and endurance for all of life’s activities.
HIIT For Everyone
Sounds like the miracle workout you’ve been in search of, huh? Well, despite its tremendous fat-burning effects, it’s not always performed regularly by most, because it can be uncomfortable. I see a lot more people walking at a steady pace for 40-60 minutes on the treadmill at the gym in hopes of losing weight than I see them sprinting or performing plyos with sweat dripping from their forehead.
I have great news, though! HIIT can and should be done at your own level. I recommend using it according to your rate of perceived exertion (RPE). By working on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being so easy it feels like you’re sitting on the couch in front of the television and 10 feeling like you’re running for your life you can increase your fitness level and get all of the effects HIIT has to offer.
How to Perform HIIT
HIIT can be performed on any piece of cardio equipment or better yet outdoors on a run or biking along a scenic path. You can even use it in strength training by mixing in quick bouts of high intensity exercises like plyos or cardio intervals.
HIIT may be easier to do with a friend or within a group program. You have motivation to push yourself and get through the intervals. Plus, it makes any form of exercise more enjoyable. Try working out with a friend or join a class or program that features intervals.
Perform HIIT on non-consecutive days or with varying intensity. Working at a high intensity stresses the body, therefore you’ll need time to recover in order to get fit and reach your goals.
Now HIIT IT!
Below is a sample HIIT workout for you to mix into your training routine. This workout only takes 20-minutes making it perfect for when you may be short on time.
20-minute HIIT Cardio Workout
- Perform this workout in the gym on any piece of cardio equipment or outdoors on the road or bike.
- Remember to work at your level following rate of perceived exertion.
- To increase the intensity increase your speed, incline, or both.
- RPE = Rate of Perceived Exertion ie. Effort on a scale of 1-10
|Time(minutes)||Type of Interval||RPE|