WTF Is HIIT (And Why Should You Do It)?
I talk a lot about HIIT in my fitness and health articles. I’m not the only one though; more and more people are beginning to catch onto this different style of training. If you’re fed up of long runs and cycling for hours just to feel like you’ve gotten a good workout in, then HIIT might just be for you too.
So, what is it? HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. Your workout is split into two segments: high intensity segment, and rest segment. You alternate between the two (hence the ‘interval’ of HIIT) to give you a short, yet grueling workout that studies have found may be just as effective as its exercise counterpart, Low Intensity Steady State (LISS.) So, if you’re only working out for 20 minutes, how can that be equivalent to a 45 minute run?
The answer lies in the high intensity segment of your workout. For a short amount of time, the aim is to push your body as hard as you physically can. This can be done with almost all forms of exercise: sprint as fast as you can for 30 seconds, pedal as hard and fast as you can up that hill, or you can even ramp up the resistance on that cross trainer until you feel like your behind is about to fall off. Part of the reason of the success of HIIT is the fact that through pushing yourself as hard as you physically can, you should be pushing into the anaerobic zone (this is the feeling you get when you can’t breathe). Anaerobic exercise, defined by its intensity that leads to lactic acid formation, is a key component of building muscle mass. So by pushing yourself as hard as you can in cardio… you get some bonus muscle building!
The rest segment – usually the same period of time as the high intensity segment – is therefore necessary to give you (and your heart) a little chance to recuperate before your next high intensity segment – so you can either slow down or stop entirely. This high level exertion throughout your whole workout then kicks your metabolism into overdrive; not only are you burning calories and fat during you workout, but you’ll also be burning more for longer after.
That’s pretty much the basics. There’s a whole range of workouts which you can apply HIIT style training to, including circuit style training and body resistance workouts (Shaun T’s Insanity program is a good example). So next time you decide to get some cardio in – either for a change or if you’re pressed for time – try condensing your workout to a shorter, yet equally (if not more) effective session of HIIT! Can’t complain about how boring running is if you’re only doing full on sprints for 30 seconds at a time!