HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training has received much attention over recent years, popularised as an effective method to get fit, lose weight and gain muscle in superfast time.
So what is HIIT? Quite simply HIIT is a training method whereby you perform short bursts of very high intensity exercise/s, before resting and repeating. A very popular feature of HIIT is that it is easy to drop in to your day as great results can be achieved with total workouts lasting 20 minutes or even less. The golden era of spending 2-3 hours in a gym are thankfully over.
HIIT workouts have been shown to increase your calorie burning capacity significantly when compared to long, steady state exercise. Not to discount long steady state Aerobic training however, as that type of training still has a huge array of health and fitness benefits, but that’s for another blog!
The very best thing about HIIT is that it continues to burn calories at a higher rate than usual even when you have finished exercising. EPOC or “Exercise Post Oxygen Consumption” is the term used as post exercise your body has a huge oxygen deficit. In order to replenish this lacking oxygen, your body continues to keep working harder throughout the day, resulting in higher calorie expenditure than if your workout was at a lesser intensity.
So how exactly can we do HIIT?
The ways to perform a HIIT session are as varied as your imagination. If you are someone who enjoys Gym based cardiovascular machines as opposed to weight training, you can still perform a HIIT and get great benefits. Likewise, weight training HIIT’s are extremely effective though extra care must be taken to pay close attention to lifting form to reduce the risk of injury.
The most popular HIIT protocol worldwide is the Tabata protocol. The Tabata was devised by Japanese scientist Dr Izumi Tabata is a highly researched protocol which requires the participant to perform a short warm up followed by:
– Work out hard for 20 seconds
– Rest for 10 seconds
– Complete 8 rounds
Dr Tabata and his team conducted research on 2 groups of athletes. The first group trained at a moderate intensity whilst the second group exercised at very high intensity. The moderate intensity group trained for 5 days per week for 6 weeks, each workout lasting for 1 hour. The very high intensity group exercised for 4 days per week for 6 weeks, with each workout lasting for 4 minutes and 20 seconds.
The moderate intensity group increased their aerobic system (cardiovascular) but showed little or no results for their anaerobic system (muscular). The very high intensity group showed a higher increase in their aerobic system and increased their anaerobic system by 28%.
Before You HIIT
Sadly, many people have tried HIIT and not found it either to their liking, nor been impressed by the results. In my professional opinion having trained many clients who had bad HIIT experiences, the problem lies not within HIIT as a proven method of training, but more so in the participants failure to prepare physically, mentally and emotionally for the demands of HIIT.
For example, if you are 35 +, haven’t exercised in 5 years or more, have gained weight, work in a stressful career, look after children, sit down for most of the day…trying a HIIT workout may not be the safest, nor the best way forwards. In this case, which is not uncommon, the participant may have postural issues, adrenal fatigue, high levels of stress and/or anxiety which could easily hinder progress or even cause injury.
From my experience, whilst I feel that HIIT is an incredible way to get in shape, it shouldn’t ideally be attempted by absolute beginners. Once a client has mastered the basics of primal pattern movements, Squats, Lunges, Push, Pull, Bend, Twist and Gait whilst maintaining optimal static and dynamic posture, then and only then should a HIIT be attempted.
In short, whilst HIIT is a great way to get fitter, a better and safer idea would be to firstly “Get fit to HIIT”.
As always, seek advice and clearance from your GP before attempting a HIIT workout.
5 HIIT Mistakes
1) Not optimising your diet. HIIT whilst incredible is only 1 tool in your holistic approach to health & fitness. Stick to the basics, don’t over eat. Consume plenty of organic protein, keep hydrated, eat plenty of organic vegetables and consume dense carbohydrates within 2 hours post exercise. Remember, you can never out exercise a poor diet.
2) Not working out at a high enough intensity. The clue is in the name HIIT, the “H” standing for HIGH. Sadly, for many people who would most benefit from HIIT, they are simply unable to perform such a workout, partly due to reasons already mentioned, but also as they are simply not prepared for the high levels of physical exertion that the workout demands. Emotionally and mentally, it takes time to work up to this level.
3) Doing too much HIIT without enough recovery HIIT should be exhausting, a huge blast. If you are able to train after a HIIT then put simply you haven’t worked hard enough. This then requires at least 48 hours to recover. For a newby, once per week is recommended building up to 3 times per week absolute maximum. Workout, eat, rehydrate…recover!
4) Timing your workout wrong. A study in the British Journal of Nutrition showed that aerobic training in the morning could potentially burn 20% more fat. The same journal found strength training to be better in the evening. My advice…find YOUR best time of day and stick to it.
5) Not using the right exercises. A good HIIT involves a variety of exercises, a great HIIT involves a great variety of big, multi joint exercises eg Squats, Burpees, Overhead Press. Don’t attempt to lift heavy weights, keep moves explosive in nature, heavy weights equals slow moves.
The first time you try a HIIT or even a Tabata, my advice is to try a simple exercise that you are familiar with that’s not heavy on impact such as a Gym cross trainer. Performing 8 rounds of 20 second sprints with 10 seconds rest will be a good indicator of just how intense a HIIT workout can be.
The benefits are enormous but if you have health or injury issues, proceed with caution.
At M.A.S.K. Personal Training we ensure that each and every client is thoroughly evaluated to so that our programmes are 100% safe, effective and most importantly, in line with their unique health and fitness goals.
If we can be of any help…please drop us a line.
Simply Aweome! : )