It seems everyone wants to know about HIIT for fat loss. Let’s get the skinny on High Intensity Interval Training.
What does HIIT consist of?
This style of training involves “bouts of very high intensity effort followed by varied recovery times”. HIIT can not only help burn fat, but help to improve both your aerobic and anaerobic cardiovascular fitness. What’s the difference between aerobic and anaerobic cardio?! Glad you asked! The term aerobic means with oxygen. It allows your breathing to regulate how much oxygen reaches the muscles to work – hence “with oxygen”. You may decide to jog, swim, bike, or dance for your aerobic exercise. The key is you’re able to sustain effort for long periods of time. The term anaerobic means without oxygen. This style of cardio is performed in shorter durations and uses fast-twitch muscles. It does not utilize oxygen from inhalation as a fueling source. Examples include HIIT (obviously!), power lifting, and sprinting. The typical duration of these workouts could range from 10 to 30 minutes and could include various exercise modalities.
What are other benefits of HIIT?
You’re asking some great questions today! Besides the fat burning benefits and increasing your cardiovascular capacity, it’ll HIIT some other health stats as well. You may see improvement in blood pressure, cholesterol profiles and insulin sensitivity. Of course you’ll experience health benefits from traditional aerobic exercise and strength training though HIIT has the efficiency advantage.
Time is a major factor of why HIIT is in fashion. A typical HIIT session may only take between 10-20 minutes, 30 minutes max! This style of training could burn more calories than your traditional, steady-state exercise session. Why? Because you can burn the same amount of calories but in a shorter work session as this study supports. In addition, your body could burn more calories after the HIIT workout compared to the post exercise oxygen consumption from other forms of exercise as this study has found.
How do I design a HIIT training program?
Start by choosing your activity. You can use a stationary bike, run, jump rope, swing a kettlebell. Play a bit with the time frames of your work and rest periods to find what is suitably challenging for you. Decide on the total amount of time you’d like the HIIT session to be. Perhaps you start with 10 minutes and arrange your work and rest periods so that you are able to complete 4-10 rounds. You could choose to go right into a 25-minute HIIT session that consists of multiple exercises, like a circuit! You could choose to do a short 10-12 minute HIIT session to ramp up followed by aerobic work for 20-30 minutes.
Should I ONLY do HIIT training from now on?
Nope! While HIIT training boasts many efficiencies, it is also very taxing on the body and should be strategically planned in a fitness regimen. Aiming for 2-3 HIIT sessions per week will likely suffice to reap all the benefits while allowing the body adequate recovery. Bear in mind, you should still be weight training for the most comprehensive and optimal overall health and fitness levels.
Not every body should subscribe to a HIIT protocol either! This type of work is quite intense and likely not appropriate for a deconditioned person for this reason. There should be a baseline of conditioning before you attempt to super high intensity work like this. In addition, a novice body that cannot properly perform some movement patterns or has a compromised gait should improve those areas before kicking it into this high gear. When our trainers work with novice and/or deconditioned people, we typically start them with a simpler cardio prescription that includes steady state for a longer duration. The weight training we facilitate taxes their anaerobic energy system enough that we focus on safer aerobic cardio that is most effective per their needs. In summary, HIIT is a more advanced form of work.
Give me some HIIT workouts already!
Get a good warm up prior to your HIIT session. Spend 5-10 minutes performing your chosen activity with the intent to increase your heart rate, warm the muscles, and increase the synovial fluid of the joints. Most of these examples require effort from muscles in your entire body to some degree, so extra mobility drills could be quite beneficial to your work performance. Below are some sample workouts that are titled by the duration of work vs. the duration of recovery. Play around with them and insert different activities or variations of an activity. For instance, maybe you run on hills rather than a flat treadmill. You can sprint on a bike if you don’t want to ride a hill. You can jump rope rather than swing a battle rope.
A) 1 Work : 3 Recover
- Sprints on a treadmill
- 20-minute workout
- 3 minutes at very light jogging or fast walking
- 1 minute at maximal running speed. You should be able to maintain the speed for the full minute
- Repeat 5 rounds
B) 1 Work : 2 Recover
- Battle ropes
- 8-minute workout
- 20 seconds of maximal effort
- 40 seconds of full recovery
- Repeat 8 rounds
C) 1 Work : 1 Recover
- Stationary/spin bike hills
- 20-minute workout
- find a pace on a ‘flat’ you don’t feel is very challenging but know it will be when required to maintain that pace on a ‘hill’
- 1 minute at that paces on a ‘flat’
- 1 minute at that pace on a ‘hill’ – You should feel thankful for the recovery by the end of this minute.
- Repeat 10 rounds