Discover what is so great about HIIT and how your body can reap the rewards from this training protocol.

What is it?

High intensity interval training or HiiT as it is known, is a training technique that uses bursts of high intensity exercise mixed with short periods of recovery. Over the last 10 years HiiT has gained popularity due to its ability to dramatically improve a persons fitness in a much shorter time compared to conventional workouts.  Backed by considerable scientific research and having the support of both the fitness community and sports science – this is one technique that is here to stay. Anyone serious about making the most of their training should consider trying out a workout.

How does it work?

In general you pick a compound exercise (one that involves using as many muscle groups as possible) or a selection of such exercises and set the timer so that you are working at high intensity for a period of time before recovering for a short period. Start the timer and begin the first exercise. After the first set take a short rest before repeating the same exercise or moving onto the next. The idea is to keep your muscles from fully recovering while keeping your heart rate elevated for the duration. A more simple way of doing HiiT is to use a cardiovascular piece of equipment such as a treadmill or bike and interchange between sprints and periods of rest.
Many protocols exist. From 30 minute strength and cardio workouts to those, such as Tabata, that last as little as 4 minutes (or even 1 minute if this article is anything to go by). The premise of the workout is that you can get as much out 20-30 minutes working at high intensity as out of an hour long workout where that intensity is moderate.

Examples

Here are two examples of workouts that you can do anytime anywhere. If you do not have dumbbells grab a couple of bottles of water or your cat/dog/child.

Example 1.

One exercise:
A “squat to shoulder press” for 45 seconds followed by 15 seconds of recovery repeated 10 times.

Example 2.

Circuit of exercises: Do each exercise for 45 seconds, rest for 15 before doing the next exercise. Repeat the circuit 2-3 times.
  1. A squat to press
  2. Mountain climbers
  3. High knees
  4. Push ups
  5. Squat jumps.

The pros and cons

The pros:

  • Time efficient, by revving up the intensity you can gain the same effect of a long duration workout in a quarter of the time. [1]
  • You maintain and build lean muscle mass, while shredding fat.
  • Increases the efficiency of neuromuscular pathways meaning better motor skills such as coordination and agility.
  • Boosts your metabolism and burns calories up to 24 hours after the workout due to the EPOC effect (Excess Post-Oxygen Consumption). [2]
  • Strengthens tendons, meaning reduced risk of injury.
  • Increases bone density.
  • Strengthens your heart by increase blood stroke volume and lowering your resting heart rate.
  • Helps to control blood sugar, more so than continuous exercise, thus protecting against insulin resistance. It is particularly suitable for those with type 2 diabetes. [34]

The cons:

  • Can increase the risk of injury if not performed with correct technique (particularly plyometrics).
  • Can be tough on your joints
  • May not be suitable for those with heart conditions due to high demand on the cardiovascular system.
  • Higher risk of overtraining due to heavier training intensity. Make sure to limit the number of sessions per week

To conclude

As you can see, the positives outweigh the negatives, we recommend doing HiiT 1-3 sessions per week as a supplement to you regular training. This will keep your overall training program varied and therefore consistent. Gradually build up the level of intensity if you are a beginner, such as starting with shallow squats for the first few sessions before moving onto plyometric jumping squats. Get HiiTing to reap the rewards  of health and fitness (and lets not forget the aesthetic bonus of a lean, sculpted body).

Sources:

  1. The New York Times: 1 Minute of All-Out Exercise May Have Benefits of 45 Minutes of Moderate Exertion
  2. Excess postexercise oxygen consumption after highintensity and sprint interval exercise, and continuous steady-state exercise.
  3. High intensity interval training improves liver and adipose tissue insulin sensitivity.
  4. Modified highintensity interval training reduces liver fat and improves cardiac function in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: a randomized controlled trial.