MAIN POINTS:
1. High-intensity interval training (abbreviated HIIT) is a form of cardio workout training that alternates between periods of high and low intensity.
2. Compared to regular cardio training, HIIT will have a better impact on both your aerobic (endurance) and anaerobic (strength) energy systems.
3. If your goal is to burn fat and build muscle, HIIT is something you should include in your exercise programs.

HIIT ( High Intensive Interval Training or HIIT) is a form of aerobic exercise that focuses on short intervals instead of long cardio sessions. 

Spending hour after hour jogging on the treadmill is not very fun, but it is what many people think is required to burn fat efficiently.

If your goal is to burn fat and get fit, however, you do not need to spend long cardio sessions on the treadmill. Ever.

Yes, you heard right. No more boring workouts that take three hours.

All that is actually required to get in the best shape of your life is no more than 2 hours of cardio training a week, where the individual rounds are no longer than 20-30 minutes.

Getting in great shape is not as difficult as many may think it is. Understanding the basic principles behind how your energy needs, macronutrients, progressive overload, and exercise frequency work goes far beyond what you think.

There are no real shortcuts when it comes to building a body that you are proud of, it requires hard work.

However, there are methods and principles that are easier and more effective to follow than others. And HIIT is one of those.

High-intensity interval training not only gives better results than regular cardio training but is also more fun.

What Is High-Intensity Interval Training?

High-intensity interval training (abbreviated HIIT) is a form of cardio training that alternates between periods of high and low intensity.

HIIT workouts have been proven to be the most effective (and time-efficient) method of improving your fitness, burning calories, and improving your overall fitness level. In 2018, HIIT training was actually the main training trend according to the American College of Sports Medicine.

The concept is therefore very simple: During the periods of the high intensity you try to drive as hard as you can, and during the periods of low intensity you try to recover and prepare for the next round.

You could probably figure this out considering the name, but then there are always some specific questions about HIIT such as:

  • How intense should HIIT training be? How hard should you push yourself and for how long?
  • How do these rest periods work?
  • How long should these HIIT passes be?
  • How often should you do it?

In other words, what makes a workout a HIIT workout and how can you get the most out of this type of workout?

We will take a closer look at all this.

How Does HIIT Work?

All HIIT workouts work around the same concept.

Intervals are performed at a high intensity ( at least 80% of your VO2max ) for a specific time, followed by a period of low-intensity recovery, where you, for example, walk instead of running.

By training in this way, a fantastic result arises.

Compared to regular cardio training, HIIT will have a better impact on both your aerobic (endurance) and anaerobic (strength) energy systems.

But what actually happens when you perform HIIT?

Intense intervals where you are close to your maximum heart rate will train your heart very effectively as it works according to the same principle as all other muscles.

If you want a muscle to grow, you must introduce progressive overload, ie. that you are constantly challenging the muscle to force it to become stronger.

HIIT works extra effectively for this because it allows you to train close to your maximum effort for a longer time than would otherwise have been possible, resulting in more benefits that can not be replicated with the help of other cardio training.

And all this happens in a fraction of the time it takes to complete more classic cardio training. Research has shown that 27 minutes of high-intensity interval training 3 times a week gave the same results as 60 minutes of regular cardio training 5 times a week.

Benefits Of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

As I said, HIIT is very effective due to a number of different advantages compared to classic cardio training.

Therefore, I thought we could go through some of the main reasons why you should choose HIIT over other cardio sessions.

Burn Fat With HIIT

Fat Burn
Fat Burn

If you have ever stood on a cardio machine at the gym, you have seen that they have a table that recommends that you stay within a certain heart rate to burn fat.

The idea behind this is to maximize the amount of body fat you burn during your workout instead of the carbohydrates you consume during the day.

This is not true because you burn both fat and carbohydrates when you exercise, but the proportions of these will vary slightly depending on how intense your form of exercise is.

Studies have shown that the more intense form of exercise you perform, the more your body will rely on glycogen over your fat reserves.

This is why a low-intensity exercise like walking is very good at burning fat reserves, while short sprinters use much more carbohydrate reserves (glycogen).

This is why many people believe that low-intensity cardio is the best way to lose weight and burn fat.

However, many other studies have shown that this is not true. But why?

High-intensity exercise will burn more calories than low-intensity exercise, and since the most important mechanism that will control whether you lose weight and burn fat is your energy balance, it is clear why this is the case.

Burning 400 calories will always lead to a better result than burning 200 calories, no matter where those calories come from.

This means that the workout that burns the most energy will also be the most effective when it comes to burning fat .

But how much more effective is HIIT really than regular cardio?

If we take a closer look at the following study, we can see just how much more effective this form of exercise actually is.

The study divided 10 men and 10 women into two different groups who performed cardio three times a week for six weeks.

  1. Group 1 performed 4-6 intervals of 30 seconds each (with 4-6 minutes of rest between each round).
  2. Group 2 performed 30-60 minutes of regular cardio training.

The study showed that group 1, those who focused on interval training, had burned more fat than group 2.

This means that 4-6 intervals of 30 seconds each resulted in better results than 60 minutes of regular cardio training.

“How the f ** k then?” – maybe you’re thinking now.

The exact mechanisms why HIIT is so effective are not fully understood but researchers have been able to identify some of the factors :

  • HIIT increases your basal metabolism for up to 24 hours after exercise.
  • HIIT improves your insulin sensitivity.
  • HIIT increases muscle fat oxidation.
  • HIIT leads to more growth hormones, which help burn fat.
  • HIIT helps you with your hunger.
  • And more…

The research is therefore very clear: If your goal is to burn as much fat as possible in the most time-efficient way possible, then HIIT is for you.

Build Muscle With HIIT

Build Muscle With HIIT
Muscle Build

If you do strength training, you have probably heard that cardio and strength training do not go hand in hand.

There is a bit of truth in that statement but it is very simplified.

Combining strength training with cardio can stop muscle growth if you compare it to focusing only on strength training.

Research has also shown that the longer your fitness sessions are, the greater the impact this will have on your muscle growth.

However, this does not mean that the exercise cube automatically prevents you from building muscles. It’s more about doing too much cardio.

The right amount of cardio can instead improve your muscle growth by improving your fitness level, muscle recovery, and your metabolism.

But what is the right amount then? 

There are two different factors that are important to consider for this:

  1. How long each individual fitness session is.
  2. How often cardio is done during each week.

If the goal is to improve your body composition (how you look) then it is important that you keep the individual workouts short and the total workouts during the week relatively low.

Fortunately, HIIT meets both of these requirements.

What Can A HIIT Workout Look Like?

Hopefully, by now I have convinced you to test on HIIT.

To create an effective HIIT routine, there are five different factors to consider:

  1. What kind of cardio training.
  2. The length of the workout.
  3. Training frequency.
  4. How long and intense the intervals should be.
  5. How long and intense rest periods should be.

Therefore, I thought we could take a closer look at these different factors, one at a time.

The Best Forms Of HIIT Cardio

Cardio
Cardio

There are many different forms of aerobic exercise that you can do for HIIT, which is another reason why HIIT is so good.

However, there are some forms that are more practical and effective than others.

The best choices for HIIT are, therefore:

  • Cycling
  • Sprints
  • Jump rope
  • Rowing

All of these work very effectively, and the type of exercise you choose is entirely up to you and what you think is the most fun.

This also means that if you do not want to do any of these four, it is perfectly okay to do other things, such as boxing, swimming, or the like.

Ultimately, it’s about doing the right amount of cardio to minimize its negative impact on muscle growth. What form of cardio training is not as important.

An important detail to consider, however, is how this type of training will affect your strength training. For many, for example, sprints can be felt very much in the legs, which can affect your strength training in exercises such as squats and deadlifts.

If this is the case then maybe some other form is better for you.

How Long And Intense Should Intervals Be?

The goal of HIIT is to go hard and fast, not hard and slow.

This means that it is more important to focus on running/rowing/cycling fast instead of heavy.

The main factor behind how effective a HIIT workout will be is how long you can be close to your V02max (your maximum oxygen uptake capacity).

We know that most studies show that HIIT is most effective when you are between 80-100% of your VO2max, but this is not very useful if we do not know how to calculate our VO2max.

A more practical way to think about the intensity of the intervals is to think in terms of Vmax instead. This is the level where it starts to get harder to breathe and it feels like you are not really getting enough oxygen.

So you have to get up to an intensity where it becomes harder to breathe, and then keep that pace for a period of time. This is not jogging, but rather sprinting. If you can talk while doing so, you will not drive hard enough.

To maximize the time we spend at this level of intensity, it is important that you run “all-in” as fast as possible. Do not build up to that intensity but start the intervals directly at the required speed.

For example, if you run on a treadmill and know that you will reach this Vmax point at speed 14.0, then you should start the intervals of 14.0 from the start. Do not start at 11.0 and then go up to 12, 13, 14, etc.

The length of these intervals should be about 50-60 of your Tmax if your goal is to burn as much fat as possible.

Your Tmax is the maximum time you can spend on your Vmax speed before you have to quit.

For example, if I can run for two minutes on my Vmax (14.0) before I have to stop, my Tmax is 2 minutes.

Then I know I should spend 60-70 seconds on my Vmax at a time.

How Long and Intensive Should the Recovery Be?

How you set up the recovery periods depends entirely on the type of program you are following, as well as what level you are at at the moment.

In general, I think it is good to train against a relationship where the rest periods and intervals are the same lengths (eg 60 seconds of high-intensity interval training followed by 60 seconds of rest).

When you then reach this level, you can either increase the intensity of the intervals (higher speed) or increase the length of both the intervals and the rest periods, so that they maintain the same 1: 1 ratio.

As a beginner, it can be smart to start with a 1: 2 ratio, which means that you, for example, run intervals that are 30 seconds long and then rest for 60 seconds.

Over time, it gets easier and easier and then you should reduce the rest period until you achieve a 1: 1 ratio, ie. that your intervals and rest periods are the same lengths.

Then you can start raising both periods for example 60 seconds, and so on …

The intensity of the rest periods should be low-intensity, which means you should keep moving, not standstill.

This is beneficial because active rest is beneficial to reach your Vmax during the high-intensity periods, which is what we want.

HIIT Training Program For Beginners

If you are a beginner to HIIT, it can be difficult to know where to start, and then it can be good to run a training program that is designed for beginners.

This program is 8 weeks long and will serve as an excellent base for your future interval training.

Perform this HIIT program 2-3 times a week.

Phase 1 ( 1: 4 ratio ): Week 1-2

  • 15 seconds of high-intensity training (Ex running)
  • 60 seconds of low-intensity training (Ex walking)

Repeat this 10 times and finish with 15 seconds where you give everything you have.

Total time: 14 minutes

Phase 2 ( 1: 2 ratio ): Week 3-4

  • 30 seconds of high-intensity training (Ex running)
  • 60 seconds of low-intensity training (Ex walking)

Repeat this 10 times and finish with 30 seconds where you give everything you have.

Total time: 17 minutes

Phase 3 ( 1: 1 ratio ): Week 5-6

  • 30 seconds of high-intensity training (Ex running)
  • 30 seconds of low-intensity training (Ex walking)

Repeat this 11 times and finish with 30 seconds where you give everything you have.

Total time: 18.5 minutes

Phase 3 (2: 1 ratio ): Week 7-8

  • 30 seconds of high-intensity training (Ex running)
  • 15 seconds of low-intensity training (Ex walking)

Repeat this 25 times and finish with 30 seconds where you give everything you have.

Total time: 20 minutes

Other HIIT Methods

HIIT
Fitness

There are three leading high-intensity interval training programs. You’ve probably driven or heard of these before.

Tabata Methods

The Tabata Method was developed by Dr. Izumi Tabata in Japan in 1996. The good thing about the Tabata method is that each session is only 4 minutes long. Yes, you heard right, 4 minutes a few times a week may be all you need to lose fat!

Run it:  2-4 times a week

Heating:  3 minutes

Time:  4 minutes long, 8 “sets”

Ratio:  20 seconds of high intensity followed by 10 seconds of rest

Little Methods

The Little Method was developed by Drs. Johnathan Little and Marin Gibala 2009. The Little method works better for you who want more results and who are willing to fight more for it.

Run it: 3 times a week

Time: 27 minutes, 12 “sets”

Ratio: 60 seconds of high intensity followed by 75 seconds of low intensity.

Heating:  3 minutes

Turbulence Methods

Turbulence methods were developed by Craig Ballantyne. This program works well for those who want to combine HIIT and strength training.

Run it: 3 times a week

Time:  45 minutes, max

Condition:  8 repetitions of strength training followed by 1-2 minutes of high-intensity interval training.

Heating:  5 Minutes

4 Things To Keep In Mind At HIIT

There is a lot to think about before you throw yourself into a HIIT routine.

Regardless of which method you use, it is important that you think about these 5 things to get the best results possible.

Increase Exercise Gradually

Starting with HIIT and expecting you to cope with a tough high-intensity interval workout 5 times a week right away will most likely end badly.

As with any workout, you need to start simple and then increase the intensity of your workouts over a longer period of time. When you feel more comfortable, you can increase the intensity and try tougher challenges.

Your Tmax will improve over time which means you will need to train harder to keep seeing the results you want.

As with all training, it’s about focusing on progressive overload to constantly improve.

Make Sure You Follow an Effective Diet

HIIT training is tough. Very tough.

In order to cope with the workouts and get as good results as possible, it is important that you keep track of what you eat, and above all how much you eat.

You can run as much HIIT as possible but still not burn any fat if you do not keep track of your diet.

Think Of The Leg Workouts

Think about how and when you structure your interval workouts so that they do not end up after a heavy leg workout at the gym. After a leg workout, you will have a hard time performing in running or similar activities.

Try to do the interval workouts at least 24 hours after your leg workouts, but feel how tired you are in the legs before you start your interval workouts.

If you are at a more advanced level, it can be beneficial to run high-intensity interval training right after your leg workouts to really put maximum stress on your legs.

Listen To Your Body

As with any exercise, it is important that you listen to what your body is saying. If it gets too hard, you simply have to take a rest or maybe drive at a lower intensity. If it starts to hurt somewhere, maybe it’s time to take it easy.

However, it should be hard to train, and I do not want you to fool yourself into coming up with a lot of excuses.

High-intensity interval training is hard, but that is what makes the result so valuable. However, it is never worth going on an injury by overtraining, so here it is important to train smart.

In Summary About HIIT

There are no real shortcuts when it comes to building muscle and burning fat, but HIIT comes as close as possible.

It is significantly more time-efficient for burning fat compared to classic low-intensity cardio.

Not only that, but it also works better than classic cardio when it comes to building and maintaining muscle mass.

Whether you want to burn fat or improve your athletic ability, HIIT is something you should include in your training programs.

Good luck!

What do you think of HIIT, what is your favorite method? Do you have any insight to share? Leave a comment below!

Author

A content writer by profession, Vrinda Bagadia has worked in various content niches including fashion, beauty, health, technology, entertainment, sports, and education. A postgraduate in Literature, she has been working as an independent writer and loves to explore new opportunities every day!

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