HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) has been gaining huge popularity within the past 5 years. Personally, I love it. I'm an incredibly busy person and I just don't have time to run on a treadmill for 45 minutes anymore. HIIT gives me the ability to can burn the same amount of calories, if not more, with a 10-minute HIIT workout. In other words, not only can HIIT styled-workouts save your time, but also hit your weight loss goals. Admittedly, this is not the case for everyone. If you’ve added HIIT workouts to your training routine but still aren’t seeing the gains you’d like, it boils down to 2 main things:
- Not enough recovery
- Not exercising intensively enough
In this article, I'm going to show you how to overcome both of these obstacles and kick your HIIT workout into high gear.
But first, what is high intensity interval training (HIIT)?
HIIT is a form of training where you exercise at a maximum heart rate for a short period of time, followed by a rest interval. This type of training is designed to dramatically spike your heart rate, inciting your body to burn more fat in a shorter amount of time (compared to say a 45 minute jog). In simpler terms, HIIT is interval training taken to a higher level of intensity. The result is an effective way to get in a workout that helps you burn fat and build strength in a time efficient manner.
Where did HIIT come from?
This style of training dates back all the way to 1912. The best Olympic runners utilized HIIT conventions to spice up their training routines and give them a competitive edge. In 1959, Saltin and Astrand published Interval Training, High-Intensity Interval Training - a research based doctrine outlining their findings from how effective HIIT training is for athletes.
Why is HIIT so popular?
Well, that’s simple. If both of these options would burn the same amount of calories, which one would you choose?
- A: 45 minutes of jogging
- B: 10 minutes of interval training
Unless you’re a really big fan of jogging, either on a treadmill or track, I’m guessing you would choose the shorter option. The good news is HIIT has actually shown to burn more calories than your traditional long, moderately-intense cardio sessions. It’s ideal for losing weight and getting lean. Plus, it offers cardiovascular benefits equal to that of longer, steady-state exercise. But keep in mind, a price comes with choosing the HIIT option - that price is in the form of intensity. During those intense exercise periods, it's imperative to leave yourself exhausted. If you do, HIIT is not only a training session of your body, but also your willpower and mental strength.
Why HIIT works so well
The “secret” in HIIT lies in the effect that it has on your body and its need for oxygen. Since the work periods are performed at a very high intensity, your body requires more oxygen than usual and quickly ends up in an “oxygen deficit.” Once the high-intenstiy interval is over, your body is left working hard to make up this oxygen shortage. In fact, your body will continue to work (a.k.a. burn calories) long after you exercise session is complete. This process is called the EPOC (Excess Post Oxygen Consumption), and is the primary reason you’re able to burn more calories in a shorter amount of time when you perform such intense interval training. While most people are having tremendous success with HIIT, others are not reaping the results they're expecting. There's 2 major mistakes I see people making with their HIIT workouts - here's how to fix them.
HIIT mistake #1: not enough recovery
The whole purpose of HIIT is to have intense periods of exercise followed by adequate periods of rest. Each part of this equation is just as important as the other. If you neglect your rest periods, you’re not honouring the recovery part of the process and your overall workout will suffer. Working harder and longer is certainly NOT true when it comes to HIIT. For example, let’s say that you’ve decided you want to incorporate burpees into your HIIT workout. You go all-out on the burpees for 40 seconds, and now it’s time for your rest period. The rest period of a HIIT working doesn’t equate to sitting down and literally resting. Your goal is to keep moving, but to do so at a lower intensity. However, being the go-getter that you are, you might be thinking, “I wanna get the most out of this workout, so I’m going to do some squats while I’m resting.” Little did you know, this can actually hinder your workout. Squats require a high energy expenditure and therefore you’re not going to be fully rested by the time the next bout of high-intensity exercise rolls around. You simple did not recover adequately.
HIIT mistake #2: not exercising intensely enough
Didn’t I just say that you need to rest more during a HIIT workout? Well, yes. You need to rest and recover SO THAT you can exercise to a near-maximal capacity. If you’re not exercising intensely enough, then you’re not really doing HIIT. The whole goal of HIIT is to exercise at a level that you wouldn’t be able to hold for an extended period of time (usually longer than 1 minute). If you’re not giving it your all, whether that’s because you didn’t get enough rest during the recovery periods or because you just “aren’t feeling it today,” then you’re not going to reap the benefits that HIIT has to offer.
How to make HIIT work for YOU
Now you know what NOT to do when it comes to HIIT, but if you’re wanting some things that you CAN do to make HIIT work again, then here are some tips for you:
- During your recovery periods, do that exactly: Recover. Any form of exercise you choose during this period should be light enough that when it comes time for the “work” period, you can still give it your maximum effort (rest times usually range from 30 seconds – 2 minutes).
- Appropriate recovery exercises are those that recruit your smaller muscle groups. For example, you could do biceps curls, triceps extensions, or even some core work . These sorts of exercises are place low cardiovascular demands on your body and therefore will still allow you to recover while you exercise.
- During the work periods, make sure that you have enough energy to do them at max intensity for a short period of time (nothing longer than a minute!).
- Incorporate exercises that you love. Whether that’s boxing, skipping, cycling, running, a HIIT based class – anything! The more that you love the exercise, the more enjoyable the workout will be.
And that’s it! Find a way to incorporate HIIT workouts in your training routine. If you’re new to training, start with 1x per week and then work your way up to even 2-3 session per week. Get it done!
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