Beginner’s Guide to High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
Does your workout routine include 30 minutes at the same pace on a treadmill? Or a moderately paced jog? Or perhaps 20 minutes at the same speed on an elliptical bike?
If these methods work well for you — great! But if you are struggling to see results and are looking for a way to work smarter, not harder, meet High-Intensity Interval Training (known as HIIT for short).
Here, we’ll look at what high-intensity interval training is, benefits of HIIT, how to get started with HIIT, and tips for making the most of your HIIT workouts.
What Is High-Intensity Interval Training?
High-Intensity Interval Training is a broad term for workouts involving short periods of intense effort alternated with short periods of low-intensity recovery. HIIT workouts typically range in duration from 10 to 30 minutes per session.
Because of their versatility and effectivness, HIIT workouts are quickly taking over as one of the most popular exercise options.
Almost any acitvity — biking, sprinting, jumping rope, aerobics — can be incorporated into a HIIT routine.
What Are the Benefits of High-Intesnity Interval Training?
The effectivness of High-Intensity Interval Traininig has been proven by science. Here, we’ll look at some of the unique, proven benefits of HIIT.
1. HIIT Can Burn More Calories in Less Time
Spend less time exercising but burn about the same amount of calories? Sign us up!
Research has proven that HIIT can burn up to 30% more calories than other forms of exericse. It can also help burn the same amount of calories in less time. This means you can reap the benefits of a longer workout session without needing to put in the extra time.
This makes HIIT a convenient, effective option for individuals looking to make the most of their workout time or fit exercise into a busy lifestyle.
2. HIIT Can Improve Oxygen Consumption
Studies have discovered HIIT’s ability to improve the muscles ability to use oxygen, also known as oxygen consumption. High-intensity interval training is capable of improving oxygen consumption as much as typical endurance training, and in less time.
3. HIIT Can Boost Your Metabolism For Hours After Working Out
One of the benefits of HIIT comes after you are done working out. Multiple studies have proven High-Intensity Interval Training’s ability to boost the metabolic rate for hours following a workout session, possibly even more than weight training or jogging.
HIIT has also been found to cause the body’s metabolism to shift to using fat for energy instead of carbs.
One study even demonstrated that just two minutes of high-intensity sprints boosted the metabolism for over 24 hours, similar to 30 minutes of running.
4. HIIT Can Help You Lose Fat
While both HIIT and traditional moderate-intensity exercise have been proven to reduce waist circumference and body fat, HIIT offers even further benefits.
One study found that individuals performing HIIT three times a week for 20 minute sessions lost 4.4 pounds of body fat in 12 weeks without any dietary changes.
Most importantly, individuals experienced a 17% decrease in visceral fat, a dangerous type of fat that surrounds internal organs.
5. HIIT Can Help You Gain Muscle
Along with being effective for fat loss, HIIT can also help promote increased muscle mass in certain individuals. While weight training remains the go-to method for gaining muscle, high-intensity interval training may provide support your muscle gains.
The studies found the trunk and legs to be the primary areas of muscle gain. Additionally, gains in muscle mass were noted most often in individuals who started out less active.
How Do I Get Started With HIIT?
There are practically endless ways to incorporate High-Intensity Interval Training into your routine. Here are some tips for getting started with HIIT and getting the most out of your workouts.
Tips For High-Intensity-Interval Training (HIIT):
1. Start Slow
If you are new to High-Intensity Interval Training, it is important to start slow. For example, push hard for 20 seconds followed by a 40 to 60 second rest. Starting slowly helps lower the risk of injury while building up your strength and stamina.
2. Always Include a Warm Up
As with any type of activity, a good warm up is crucial to get blood flowing to muscles and major joints and decrease the chance of injury. Marching or jogging in place and dynamic movements are excellent warm up options.
3. Use A Timer To Track Your Intervals
When you are pushing yourself to the max during high-intensity intervals, it can be difficult to keep track of the time on your clock or watch. An interval timing program is a convenient way to track your intervals, allowing you to focus 100% on pushing as hard as you can.
4. Compete Against Yourself
If you want to stay challenged and motivated, it can be fun (and effective) to compete against yourself. Try keeping track of your reps during an interval and trying to beat it the next time.
For example, if you completed 12 box jumps in 20 seconds, try to get to 13 box jumps during your next high-intensity round.
5. Keep Intervals Short
The high-intensity intervals should not last over 60 seconds. Short intervals allow you to push yourself to your absolute max and ensure you get the most out of High-Intensity Interval Training.
6. Do Not Train on Back to Back Days
As with most workouts, it is important to allow time in between for rest and recovery. On non-HIIT days, try a fun activity like hiking, dancing, walking, or a bike ride of Pilates or yoga.
7. Add Weight
If you need to make your workouts more difficult, adding weights is an easy way to increase the intensity of just about any exercise.
What Are Some Examples of a HIIT Workout?
Here are some quick examples of HIIT workouts:
- Pedal as fast and hard as you can for 30 seconds on a stationary bike. Rest for 30 seconds. Repeat the high and low intervals for a total of 15 to 30 minutes.
- Perform squat jumps for 30 seconds followed by 30 to 60 seconds of rest. Repeat the intervals for 10 to 20 minuts.
- Warm up with jogging or walking in place. Sprint as fast as possible for 15 to 30 seconds followed by 30 to 60 seconds of rest. Repeat for 10 to 20 minutes total.
Experiment with different interval timing and activities to customize the best HIIT workout for you.
How Do I Know If I’m Working Hard Enough During High-Intensity Intervals?
To gauge if you are pushing hard enough during high-intensity bursts, there are a few tests you can use:
- During high-intensity intervals, you should not be able to speak a full sentence. If you can, you need to push harder.
- If you are doing 30 second periods of high intensity, you should feel like getting to 31 seconds is impossible.
What Are the Common Interval Ratios for HIIT?
Some of the common ratios for High-Intensity Interval Training include:
- 1:1 Work-Rest Ratio — Push hard for 30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds
- 1:2 Work-Rest Ratio — Push hard for 30 seconds, rest for one minute
- 1:3 Work-Rest Ratio — Push hard for 30 seconds, rest for 1.5 minutes
- You can also do any mix that works for you. For example, 20 seconds maximum effort and 40 seconds of rest or 40 seconds of maximum effort with 20 seconds of rest in between rounds
Regardless of the ratio you choose, several rounds (usually at least 6 to 10 or more) of intervals are completed.
What Are the Risks of HIIT?
The main risk to be concerned about with HIIT, or any workout, is injury or overtraining. Doing HIIT every day may not give your muscles enough time to repair and grow in between workouts, setting you up for an increased risk of injury.
Similar to giving muscles a rest in between weight training sessions or training legs one day and arms the next, it is important to allow your body time to rest and repair in between HIIT sessions.
How Often Should I Do HIIT Workouts?
As long as you work in 24 hours of rest between sessions, two to three HIIT sessions a week is a popular choice. In between HIIT workouts, individuals often take a full break or work in some upper-body or lower-body training.
For instance, if you focus on your arms one day, HIIT sprints may be an excellent workout option for the next day as you still get a workout in while allowing your arms to rest. Yoga, walking, stretching, or hiking also make great options in between HIIT sessions.
Are You Ready To Try HIIT Training?
If you are short on time or trying to push through a fitness plateau, HIIT may be an excellent option to consider. High-intensity interval training is a convenient, efficient way to exercise and make the most of your fitness efforts.