HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, is a training technique in which you work at high effort through quick, intense bursts of exercise, followed by short, sometimes active, recovery periods.
It has many different forms, but essentially involves a period of hard work, followed by a period of much lower intensity or complete rest.
This is then repeated for a number of rounds or for a duration of time.
HIIT training gets and keeps your heart rate up, increasing the body’s need for oxygen during the effort and creating an oxygen shortage, causing your body to ask for more oxygen during recovery. This effect is referred to as Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) and is the reason why intense exercise will help burn more calories than regular aerobic and steady-state workouts.
This type of intense training causes a sort of metabolic disturbance, and studies show that your metabolism stays in a heightened state for up to 24 hours after you’ve finished.
HIIT can also increase metabolism, reduce insulin resistance, improve cardiac function, produce faster gains in endurance levels than steady state cardio training and can be an effective way to recruit/build type 2 fast twitch muscle.
Quick And Convenient
HIIT workouts can be done anywhere: at home, in a hotel room, in a park, at a gym, etc. And most are 30 minutes or less. As workouts go, HIIT gives serious bang for its buck.
No Equipment Necessary
HIIT workouts generally use only your body weight, since the focus is on getting your heart rate up and keeping it there.
What should my rest and active HIIT intervals feel like? How do I know if I’m working hard enough?
Intervals during the high intensity work period should be performed at > 80% of your estimated maximal heart rate. The work period should feel like you would describe your workout as being hard to very hard. If you use the talk test as your guide it would be very difficult to carry on a conversation. During the recovery period you should be at 40-50% of your estimated maximal heart rate, enabling you prepare for your next high intensity work interval.
How Often Should I do HIIT?
The body has to heal after this type of training so a maximum of 1-3 days per week is suggested. It is NOT recommended that you perform HIIT every day.
Is HIIT for me ??
It’s really important to understand who should/shouldn’t be doing HIIT and to note that everyone is different.
What benefits one person does not necessarily benefit the next.
HIIT training exposes the body to higher stresses and it is important to focus on form and technique. It puts an incredible strain on your nervous system, joints and muscles; especially if you are overweight and unfit.
For some people the measure of a good HIIT session seems to be how destroyed they feel after doing it, However the biggest issues many people have are a lack of flexibility, mobility and core strength, on top of muscle activation issues. People end up doing workouts that they’re not conditioned for. It’s inevitable that problems arise from this ‘no pain no gain’ approach leading to chronic injuries.
If you are looking to get back into exercise for the first time in a while START SLOWLY.
It would be a lot more beneficial to start with some low impact cardiovascular exercises like walking, cycling or rowing, while adding flexibility and mobility practices to your daily routine. Do this for a couple of months to condition your body, and then start with the HIIT, once or twice a week. building up appropriately over a six to 12 week period. This is definitely a case of tortoise over hare.
HIIT can be modified for people of all fitness levels and people with various medical conditions. Workouts can be performed using various methods of exercise including bodyweight exercises, strength exercises, cycling, walking, swimming, or running.
However make sure the exercises in the session are SUITABLE FOR YOU.
For example a workout with lots of running and jumping IS NOT SUITABLE for anyone with core or pelvic floor weakness, or lower body joint injuries.
Please enjoy the HIIT workouts I have on my website and YouTube channel but ask for advice if you are unsure and I can provide safe alternatives.
Rachel Law is a personal fitness trainer based in New Malden, Surrey. Qualifications: ActivIQ Level 3 Personal Training; Burrell Education Pregnancy Exercise Prescription; Burrell Education Advanced Pregnancy Wellness Practitioner; Burrell Education Advanced Post Natal Exercise Prescription; Burrell Education 3rd Age Women Optimal Health and Nutrition; Burrell Education Peri Natal Athlete; Burrell Education Pelvic Flow and Freedom; Olympic Weight Lifting; Premier Global Kettlebells; FIE Level Assessment and Mentoring