What is High Intensity Interval Training (aka HIIT)? | Are HIIT Workouts good for improving fitness? | Can anyone participate in HIIT Workouts? | The Dos and Don’ts of HIIT Workouts | 5 HIIT Workouts For Fat-Loss
If you’re trying to burn fat and bring out a bit of muscle definition, you’re in the right place. HIIT is one of the best training methodologies for improving body composition and developing fitness. The below article will show you exactly how to do this wilth 5 HIIT Workouts for Fat-Loss. But before you assault the five sessions below, it’s advisable to familiarise yourself with the training procedures and the Dos and Don’ts of HIIT.
What is High-Intensity Interval Training (aka HIIT)?
At its simplest, high-intensity interval training (from here on out HIIT) is where we exercise at super high intensities for short exposures. Typically, each high-intensity interval is immediately followed by a rest or active recovery exercise of equal duration.
The time exposure of each separate interval rarely exceeds 30-seconds. The reason why is because HIIT training is anaerobic and thus is powered by the adenosine triphosphate system (ATP). ATP is analogous to the nitrous oxide in muscle cars that gives them an explosive boost of speed.
But because it’s high octane stuff and limited in quantity, ATP is quickly exhausted. Once used up, which at maximal effort takes between 10- and 30-seconds, the body begins synthesising more. However, this takes time and rest.
This is where the rest or active recovery exercises comes in. The rest period between intervals provides the body with enough time to replenish the depleted stock of ATP. Right in time for the next high-intensity interval!
Are HIIT Workouts good for improving fitness?
Hell yeah! HIIT is an excellent exercise methodology for promoting cardiovascular and functional fitness.
HIIT sessions, because of the high intensity element, typically involve cardio and light resistance exercises. Heavy loads aren’t completely off the HIIT menu, but the heavier the lift the riskier it becomes. Especially if your technique isn’t polished to perfection.
Another attribute of HIIT is that it enables you to pack a lot of exercise into a short space of time. Within a 20- or even 10-minute HIIT session you could comfortably cover more distance or shift more poundage than you could in a ‘typical’ gym workout.
And don’t be thinking that short duration sessions are in anyway inferior to their lengthy counterparts. Recent studies have shown that exercising at high intensities, in for as little as 7-Minutes, can promote physiological adaptations.
Can anyone participate in HIIT Workouts?
No, not everyone can or should participate in HIIT sessions. Why? If you have a pre-existing injury, even a mild one – such as a muscle strain – high-intensity training could exacerbate the injured area.
HIIT is also unsuitable for untrained people, the elderly or those carrying excess body fat.
Of course, high-intensity aerobic exercise places significant demands on the cardiovascular system. This poses a serious risk factor in those who have a weak heart or atherosclerosis – fatty plaque deposits (or ‘furring’) around the arterial wall.
However, that’s not to say that you should never incorporate HIIT into you exercise regime. If you fall into one (or more) of the categories identified above, firstly work on your general fitness and fat-loss. When you’ve improved your cardiovascular fitness and you’re at a healthier weight, then have a go at a short HIIT session.
As your fitness develops you’ll be able to get more adventurous and pit yourself against some of the more substantial HIIT workouts.
The Dos and Don’ts of HIIT Workouts
Do ensure to participate in a progressive warm-up prior to HIIT. This is arguably the most important aspect of any HIIT session. By progressively warming up the initial interval won’t be such a shock to the system. (Think how taxing it is to sprint for a bus from rest – you’re bonked before the first 10 steps!)
Also, the warmer you are the better you will perform. The correlation between the two is pretty well established., hence the reason why all professional athletes pay special attention to pre-training warm-ups.
Finally, warming up well can significantly reduce injury risk.
Don’t HIIT with heavy loads, at least not until you have achieved a high level of technical proficiency. HIITing heavy poses a significant risk for beginners and intermediate trainers. This largely a result of sacrificing form for intensity. And though we should always maintain flawless form, if we don’t the risk factor is not as great if the resistance is low.
Do balance high-intensity intervals with periods of rest. The ratio of rest to interval is typically 1:1 – that is, the rest period is equal in duration to each interval exposure. And it is the interval length that determines the rest time.
In saying that, though, you can pretty much do as you please here. However, do bear in mind that if you take too much or too little rest it could adversely impact on your HIIT performance. This is certainly the case if your rest periods are shorter than the intervals.
Thinking back to the ATP energy system, which once depleted takes time to replenish, if we do not give the body adequate recovery time, our stock of ATP will not have restored. Thus we will enter the next interval with an energy deficit.
Don’t be afraid to mix cardio and resistance exercises in the same session. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with shacking things up a bit by mixing modalities. For example, concluding a cardio row blast you could, after your rest recovery, hit a set of burpees, box jumps or kettlebell swings. In short, go nuts, experiment, have some fun.
5 HIIT Workouts
HIIT Workout #1: 22 x 300m Row Sprints
How it works: Your objective is to complete all 22, 300m rows in less than 1 minute each. To achieve this time you will need to sustain an average pace of 1:40/500. You are to take no more than 1-minute rest between each interval and for the final five sets (highlighted in red) you are only allowed 30 seconds rest. Make no bones about it, this is a tough HIIT session which transgresses some of the advice above. However, if you feel as though you’re not quite physically ready to tackle the session in its entirety, you can modify it by reducing the interval row distances.
HIIT Workout #2: 20-Minute Skipping and Kettlebell Swinging
How it works: For 20-minutes you are to oscillate between skipping and kettlebell swings. Set a repeating 20-second countdown timer and try to skip as fast and as hard as you possibly can. When the buzzer sounds take your rest. Ensure that you’re ready to start swinging the moment the buzzer initiates the next interval.
HIIT Workout #3: 20-Minute Sprint to Air Squat
How it works: Exactly the same format as above, for 20-minutes you are to oscillate between sprints and air squats. Set a repeating 20-second countdown timer and try to cover as many metres as you possibly can (it’s a good practice to make a note of the number of metres you achieved as this can be used as competition for the next interval). When the buzzer sounds take your rest. Ensure that you’re ready to start air squatting the moment the buzzer initiates the next interval.
HIIT Workout #4: 10-Minute Callisthenic Circuit
How it works: For 10-minutes you are to progress through the circuit below. Set a repeating 10-second countdown timer and try to perform as many repetitions on each exercise station as you possibly can. You will no doubt notice that one full cycle through the circuit takes approximately 60-seconds. After 10-minutes you will have completed 10 laps. Structuring a session in this way makes it easier for you to keep track of your progression, and also it’s quite convenient if you felt you had enough in the tank for another five laps.
1: 10-seconds Burpees
2: 10-seconds Press-ups
3: 10-seconds Mountain Climbers
HIIT Workout #5: 20-minutes Boxing to Medicine Ball Slams
How it works: For 20-minutes you are to oscillate between punching a boxing bag and slamming a medicine ball – both brilliant exercises and unparalleled fitness developers. So, set a repeating 20-second countdown timer and continuously hit that punch bag as hard as physically possible for the duration of the interval. I guarantee that withinside 10-seconds your punches will resemble those of a Saturday night drunkard scrapping with a streetlamp. When the buzzer sounds take your well-deserved rest. Ensure that you’re ready to start slamming that medicine ball the moment the buzzer initiates the next interval.
And there we have it, 5 HIIT Workouts that will help burn fat, build fitness and sculpt lean, defined muscles.
Now all that’s left is for you to try them out and begin creating your own HIIT Workouts. If you do we’d like to hear how you got on: email@example.com.
Enjoyed this circuit? Has it left you hungry for more? Click on the image below and get your copy of the Hungry4Fitness Book of Circuits Vol. 1.
Circuit training is one of the best forms of physical exercise for maintaining and increasing overall-fitness. A well designed circuit will provide a great cardiovascular workout, strengthening the heart and lungs in the process, whilst also improving muscle endurance and developing functional strength. This unique combination, of fat burning and muscle building, which singular exercises, such as running, cycling, swimming or weights cannot give, will help to sculpt a lean defined physique.
(As we are very interested in user experience here at Hungry4Fitness, we would be very grateful if you could take a few seconds out of your day to leave a comment. Thanks in advance!)
Adam Priest, former Royal Marines Commando, is a personal trainer, lecturer, boxing and Thai boxing enthusiast.
McArdle, W. D., Katch, F. I., Katch, V. L (2001) Exercise Physiology Fifth Edition. Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins.