If you’ve been in the game for a bit, you’ve probably heard of HIIT and wondered, well, what the heck it is.
Chances are, you’ve probably done a HIIT workout before, without realizing it (if you’ve ever done sprints on-and-off, or any type of interval/circuit training, you most definitely have dipped your toes in!).
This is because HIIT is simply an acronym for high-intensity interval training, and involves alternating periods of high intensity “work” with periods of lower-intensity “rest.”
The truth is, there’s more to it than simply doing intervals; HIIT training can give you a beast of a workout, and be much more effective than other styles of training.
Here I’m breaking down the what, the how, and the why of HIIT, and the reason it will definitely become your new favorite style of training, and your new sidekick for finally getting results.
Why Is HIIT So Effective?
One of the reasons HIIT may have piqued your curiosity is due to word on the street of how effective it can be, especially for fat loss and explosive training!
And let me tell you, those aren’t rumors that you heard: HIIT training is backed by plenty of research.
For instance, studies have found that HIIT significantly reduces body fat (and is specifically effective against abdominal fat), significantly increases both aerobic and anaerobic fitness, and significantly lowers insulin resistance, along with enhanced skeletal muscle fat oxidation and improved glucose tolerance. [*]
Not to mention, fat loss and results are often achieved in significantly less time than traditional, steady-state workout methods (i.e.: jogging on a treadmill for an hour).
Picture this: 15-20 minutes of HIIT 3 days per week can give you better results than jogging on a treadmill at a steady pace for an hour a day, 6 times per week!
How is this possible? It turns out the intensity of HIIT causes your body to make massive metabolic changes all the way down to the cellular level. For instance: studies show it can improve mitochondrial density, which is, to put it simply, creating more energy-producing factories for our body, while also improving their efficiency. This not only improves the way we use energy (which can provide our entire body with more energy to perform), but also means we are using calories (aka: energy) in a more proficient way, which can lead to a leaner body.
HIIT has also been shown to improve glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, both of which play a major role in energy utilization and fat storage. When our glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity are damaged, it becomes easier for our bodies to store excess carbs and sugars as fat, rather than burning them off for fuel.
And, to top all of this off, HIIT creates what is called “the Afterburn Effect.” This is a phenomenon that occurs when your body has to recover from a very intense workout, and has to use more calories to do so.
After a HIIT session, our bodies are typically starving for oxygen, and our muscles will need to repair themselves – both of which require extra calories to do. This is why studies have shown that HIIT can cause you to burn more calories even up to 24 hours after your workout!
Oh, and one last thing: HIIT also engages and challenges our fast-twitch muscle fibers, which support explosive movements, lending us more power and agility. Awesome news for anyone playing sports!
What Does A HIIT Workout Look Like?
They true key to gaining the benefits you see in these studies with HIIT is intensity.
We’ll take the sprint example to illustrate: during a HIIT sprint session, you would want to be sprinting all-out, as fast as you can, and pushing yourself as hard as possible during your sprint. Then you would want to walk (rest) for several seconds before doing it again. It may look like this:
Sprint for 15-20 seconds, all out
Walk/rest for 40-60 seconds
Repeat for a total of 10 minutes, depending on your level of fitness
Many people do regular interval training, which does alternate higher and lower intensities; however, true HIIT is very intense on your work phase. You want to be pushing yourself to the max with whatever exercise you’re doing.
Sometimes it’s easier to see a visual representation of a form of exercise, so here is a video of one of my HIIT workouts to illustrate:
As you can see, some of those moves are advanced, but they do illustrate the intensity I’m talking about with HIIT!
How Often Should You (HIIT) It?
Sorry, had to pun ya! How often you should do HIIT workouts truly depends on your fitness level.
If you’re a beginner, start with 1-2 days a week.
If you’re more advanced, try 2-3, or even up to 4-5 days a week.
And don’t be afraid to get creative with your HIIT workouts! As you saw, I mix in all kinds of different moves, but you can also do a HIIT workout with, say, battle ropes or even flipping tires.
However you do it, just be sure to do it with your ALL to see results!