High intensity interval training (HIIT) is a great way to bump up your cardio and strength workouts to add intensity and variety to your workouts.
So, what exactly is HIIT training? It's a type of interval training in which you alternate short, very high intensity intervals with longer, slower intervals to recover.
The idea is to work in the upper percentage of your target heart rate zone, around a 9 on this perceived exertion scale, meaning you go all out, as hard as you can during the work intervals.
This takes you into your anaerobic zone, a place where there isn't enough oxygen for your body. Kind of like being on Mars without your helmet and something you could only do for a very short period of time.
This type of training has been used by athletes to improve performance, but it's also been shown to benefit the average exerciser. Here are just some of the benefits of HIIT training:
- It improves performance – Put a little HIIT into your routine and you'll notice a distinct difference in your other workouts, namely that you have more stamina and endurance.
- It helps you burn more fat – This is where the real benefits come in, especially if you want to lose weight and burn fat. Studies have shown that HIIT training allows more fat to be burned within the exercising muscles, pretty amazing since we've always found that spot reduction doesn't work.
- It helps you burn more calories all day long – The other great thing about HIIT is that, because you're taking your body well out of its comfort zone to work that hard, it has to burn more calories to get your body back into balance after the workout. That means a greater afterburn, meaning you'll burn extra calories even if you're just sitting around after your workout.
- Your workouts are shorter – A typical HIIT workout usually lasts about 15-30 minutes and involves a 2:1 ratio, meaning your recovery intervals are twice as long as the work intervals. An example would be 5-10 high intensity sprints (working at a Level 8-9 on the perceived exertion chart) lasting 30-60 seconds interspersed with recovery intervals of 1-2 minutes (working at a Level 4-5).
Creating a Workout
Creating your own HIIT workout is simple. You basically choose a very high intensity exercise—sprinting all-out, cycling as fast as you can, etc—and, after a long, thorough warm-up, do about 30 seconds of your all-out exercise and then recover for about 1 minute, repeating that for about 20 minutes or so, depending on your fitness level.
If you're a beginner, going all out is not recommended and you won't like it, but you can easily start with aerobic interval training and work your way up from there.
Beyond that, you can try one or more of the following workouts, which really take you into your anaerobic zone for killer, calorie-burning workouts.
- High Intensity Aerobic Intervals: 64-minute workout adaptable for any type of cardio
- High Intensity Sprint Intervals: 30-minute workout adaptable for any type of cardio
- 30-60-90 Mixed Interval Workout: 39-minute workout suitable for any type of cardio
Talanian,J; Galloway, S; Heigenhauser, G; et al. Two weeks of high-intensity aerobic interval training increases the capacity for fat oxidation during exercise in women. J Appl Physiol 102: 1439-1447, 2007.
Trapp EG, Chisolm DJ, Freund J, et al. "The effects of high-intensity intermittent exercise training on fat loss and fasting insulin levels of young women." International Journal of Obesity (2008) 32, 684-691.