If you’re looking to get fit then you might have come across HIIT. It’s everywhere.
HIIT Training stands for high intensity interval training. You might have heard that it’s all about pushing yourself to your max – hence the ‘high intensity’ bit in the name – and that you take breaks in between – hence the ‘interval’ bit in the name. But do you really know what it involves, and what its benefits are? And why it’s the workout routine that everyone is raving about?
There’s a lot more to high intensity interval training than just running fast for a minute then stopping to catch your breath. HIIT refers to a very specific and particular type of training and you need to fully understand this before reaping all the benefits that HIIT can bring. And there are lots of benefits that HIIT can bring! HIIT can be an incredibly effective way to work out and lose weight but you need to do it right.
What is HIIT?
HIIT is basically a fitness technique designed to burn the highest amount of calories in the shortest amount of time. It consists of short bursts of cardio at very high intensity. In other words, you work very hard for a short amount of time – anything from 20 to 90 seconds depending on your level of fitness – and then take a break.
What makes HIIT different from ordinary cardio sessions is the requirement to push your body to its absolute maximum during each set. It’s the opposite of going for a gentle jog where you burn your calories evenly over the whole duration of the activity. The harder you work, the more oxygen you take in and the greater your calorie burn.
The other essential element of HIIT, is the intervals. Effective rest periods between the intense activity are just as important to HIIT as the full-pelt, super-sweaty, giving-it-everything-you’ve-got bit too! Rest periods between each set are a key part of the workout. In fact, if you don’t take the time to recover, you won’t be doing HIIT properly. The reason for this is that when you take on serious anaerobic exercise, your body goes into one state, and when you move into the low intensity recovery period, your body has to move into another state. Alternating between them takes effort on the part of your body which can result in high calorie expenditure, which then leads to fat loss. HIIT will also help you burn more calories both during and after your workout thanks to your post-exercise oxygen consumption. Studies have shown that high-intensity cardio raises your metabolic rate to the point where you continue to burn calories even after the session ends. Sometimes as much as six to fifteen percent more. And if that isn’t enough to get you to try HIIT, then nothing will be! Burning calories even after the exercise is like eating and not putting on weight!
There’s another reason why the rest periods are essential though, and that’s because the body needs the rest periods in order to prepare for the next high intensity calorie burn. Not doing so will push your body beyond its limits.
The Benefits of HIIT
Studies have shown that HIIT is one of the most effective ways to burn calories, lose fat, increase your metabolism, boost your endurance and regulate your insulin levels. The body responds well to working at its most intense level.
HIIT can also be a good way to build muscle too. By using equipment such as kettlebells, and dumbbells in an intense way, you can tone your muscles while peaking your heart rate.
Working out this way can take a bit of getting used to but one of the best things about HIIT is that you don’t need any expensive gym equipment or a personal trainer to ace it. You just need a plan and to stick to it. If you find this hard to do though, then it might be best to join a group session or hire a personal trainer.
How to HIIT
A good place to start if you’re new to HIIT, is with a ratio of work to rest, of 1:2. This entails going all out on your chosen activity, say burpees, for, a period of time, for example 30 seconds, then resting for twice as long as that, so in this case, 60 seconds. As you start to get better at it, you can move onto a 1:1 ratio.
The actual activities you can concentrate your bursts of activity on can vary hugely depending on what works for your body and your lifestyle, and what pushes you to your personal max. It could be sprinting, skipping, biking, even running up the stairs. If it’s intense and it gets your heart pumping then it works.
You just need to concentrate on working hard, resting, then working hard again. Don’t overdo it though. Three times a week, for half an hour of alternating rest and activity is plenty to get you to those weight loss and fitness goals. If you want to push yourself every day then alternate your HIIT days with lower intensity cardio exercise classes or activities.
Is HIIT for everyone?
HIIT is a brilliant way to workout and achieve some pretty major fitness goals, but it isn’t right for everyone. If you’re training for a race for example, there may be a more effective regime that will get you to the level of fitness and race-readiness you need for that goal. Speaking to a personal trainer will help you narrow down which form of exercise and which routine will help you achieve your specific objectives the quickest.
It’s also not a substitute for eating well. Diet is just as much a part of the picture as exercise when it comes to losing weight and toning up so don’t think an intense burst of burpees is an excuse to binge eat on all the wrong things! The best way to lose weight and become fitter is through a combination of exercise and diet.
So, now that you know the benefits of HIIT, give it a go. It’s by far the best way to burn calories and get your heart pumping in the shortest amount of time, which makes it ideal for those of us who don’t live at the gym but are serious about achieving that ideal body.