What is HIIT? And why you should be doing it.

HIIT is an acronym commonly used in the health and fitness world. It is short for High-Intensity Interval Training. HIIT gained tremendous popularity a decade ago for good reasons. People are reporting amazing fitness results by implementing the training style into their workout routines.

I have done traditional cardio combined with weightlifting for most of my adult life. While there is nothing wrong with that, I have found great success with HIIT. As an added bonus, it is very fun to perform. I realized that I have done quite a bit of HIIT unintentionally just from being creative at the gym prior to actually knowing what it was.

So what is HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training)?

There is no official definition for HIIT that is used across institutions. It may vary slightly based on who you are working with or talking to. The biggest difference between definitions that I have found is the minimum time you can do a high-intensity burst and the total time the workout should take.

I like to define HIIT as the following.

“High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a popular form of interval training that alternates between short bursts of High-Intensity with periods of Low-Intensity active rest periods. The high-intensity and low-intensity intervals can range anywhere from 10 seconds to 4 minutes long. Shorter high-intensity interval ranges (10-30 seconds) engage the anaerobic system for energy. Longer high-intensity interval ranges (more than 30 seconds) will engage the aerobic system for energy. Generally, a HIIT workout (including warm-up and cool-down) can be completed within 30 minutes based upon the intensity of the workout. HIIT workouts have gained popularity due to their ability to provide similar health benefits to steady-state moderate-intensity exercise in much less time.”

Now that you have a general sense of what HIIT is, let’s take a look at an example of a workout so you can get an even better idea.

HIIT Example: Stationary Bike

  1. Warmup 3-5 minutes (Easy to moderate resistance)
  2. 20 Seconds High Intensity + 45 seconds low intensity (moderate to high resistance) X4
  3. 30 Seconds High Intensity + 45 seconds low intensity (moderate to high resistance X5
  4. 20 Seconds High Intensity + 45 seconds low intensity (moderate to high resistance X4
  5. Cooldown 3-5 minutes (easy to moderate resistance)

You will have to play around with the resistance based on your personal fitness level to find what pushes you to give maximum effort. Start lower when you are first trying it out. By the end of the workout you should be feeling it, so make sure you remember to gradually push yourself.

Outside of the stationary bike, there are endless ways to incorporate High-Intensity Interval Training into your routine. You can do it through running, jumping rope, bodyweight movements, rowing, kettlebells, stairs, ropes, swimming, and more. Undeniably, it’s a creative person’s dream.

What are the benefits of HIIT that make it amazing?

There are many benefits to this style of workout. Below are three that stand out the most to me and why I use HIIT in my routine as often as possible.

Time Efficiency

Let’s face it. Time is something that most of us don’t have enough of. Traditional workouts combined with cardio can be very time-consuming. Doing a hit workout helps avoid having to hop on the bike or treadmill after a long weightlifting workout. This results in more calories burned while using a fraction of the time based on what studies have shown (Falcone et al., 2015).

Fat Loss

There are a lot of studies out there that have shown positive results in fat loss from HIIT workouts (Ives, 2019). The reasoning why is still not 100 percent clear. Researchers think it is because the metabolism may be increased after a HIIT workout and that people are less hungry after a session.

Staying lean is a year-round goal of mine so this makes a lot of sense to help keep off that unwanted fat.

Supports Muscle Gain

While HIIT itself isn’t going to make you look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, it is a better way to burn calories in coordination with muscle gain. Some studies have even indicated that some people have been able to gain a small amount of muscle from HIIT (Damas et al., 2015) alone. Doing a lot of long-form cardio can be detrimental to building muscle. This is an excellent way to combat that.

The final word on HIIT

As you can see, there are a lot of amazing benefits to High-Intensity Interval Training. Because of that, it made training more fun and escalated my results to the next level. Therefore, I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking to step up their fitness game with something different.

References

  1. Falcone, P. H., Tai, C.-Y., Carson, L. R., Joy, J. M., Mosman, M. M., McCann, T. R., Crona, K. P., Kim, M. P., & Moon, J. R. (2015). Caloric Expenditure of Aerobic, Resistance, or Combined High-Intensity Interval Training Using a Hydraulic Resistance System in Healthy Men. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research29(3), 779–785. https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0000000000000661
  2. Ives, L. (2019, February 16). Short bursts of intense exercise “better for weight loss.” BBC News; BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/health-47242940
  3. Damas, F., Phillips, S., Vechin, F. C., & Ugrinowitsch, C. (2015). A Review of Resistance Training-Induced Changes in Skeletal Muscle Protein Synthesis and Their Contribution to Hypertrophy. Sports Medicine45(6), 801–807. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-015-0320-0



Dominique Clare
Dominique Clare

Dominique Clare is a journalist and blogger covering the NFL, NBA, and fitness. He is the founder of SportsandFitnessDigest.com

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