The first time I heard about High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT as it is commonly referred to, the trainer recommended going to a park or large grass area and running up the field for 30 seconds as fast as you could then walking back slowly for a couple of minutes then repeating that process for about 15 minutes. My first thought was, “that’s so stupid, are you serious?” My next thought was, “I will look SO stupid, there is no way I’m going to exercise THAT way out in public!” Then I kept reading about trainers and other experts in the fitness world that were recommending this type of training. Then I saw pictures along with explanations of why this type of training is so great. Sprinter bodies were trim, fit and shapely. Marathon runners were just skinny. I was sold. The experiment began, whether I looked silly or not.
How it Works/ The Background
Research behind HIIT continues to come out. Research has compared HIIT methods to long endurance cardio programs. They have found that while you burn about the same calories during the exercise time, sometimes even more in long endurance exercise, HIIT ultimately burns more fat. (And who doesn’t want to lose more fat!) One of the reasons for this is an after burn effect that HIIT creates. You will continue to burn extra calories from a HIIT workout even after you have stopped exercising. Some claim for as much as 72 hours after you have stopped exercising, but definitely the 24 hours after you have performed HIIT exercises.
How to Use It
You can apply HIIT principles to any high energy exercise, especially in any cardio exercise that you use in your fitness program. Different trainers vary on their approach, but here is the general idea. While doing your cardio, you will vary the level at which you perform. These numbers are based on a 1 to 10 scale. 10 being full out cardio, as hard as you possibly can. Your first set is what I call they GO phase. You go all out on your cardio at a level of 7 to 9 for 15 seconds to 1 minute. You should not be able to talk at this level. Then you move onto the SLOW phase. You will continue your cardio at a level 3 for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Don’t stop moving during this phase, but you should briefly be able to catch your breath during this time. Then you repeat this cycle for 10 to 20 minutes. You can continue your cardio exercise after your HIIT cycles are done, just maintain at a middle level. My running HIIT program looks like this:
- 1 minute GO, 30 seconds SLOW
- Repeat for 20 minutes
- If I want additional exercise, I will continue my running at a level 5 to 6 for the additional time, usually 10 minutes.
Some trainers are also moving toward a 3 level HIIT cycle called 10-20-30 or 30-20-10. In this performance cycle, you would do 30 seconds on a low level, 20 seconds on a medium level, and then 10 seconds on a high level. And again repeat your cycles. In this method, you are able to push your body harder at the high level, because you only do this for a very short time.
Other Names it Goes By
It actually took me a while to make the connection that HIIT is the same thing as High Intensity Interval Training. (Now- I didn’t try to go out and look for the connection either.) And individual trainers seem to have a preference for a specific phrase that they like to use and then they don’t mix it up or explain that someone else might use a similar phrase, but it is basically the same thing. In fact, personal trainers love to coin their own phrase in this department. It seems like every new program I’m reading right now has some variation of this. So, as I run into these coin phrases I’ll just add them to my list here, given they still fit the basic format described under “How to Use It”.
- High Intensity Interval Training
- Interval Training- yes some trainers are just referring to this concept as just plain interval training and then they go on to explain this further in detail
- High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise (HIIE)
- Sprint Interval Training
- Energy Systems Training
- Burst Training
- Metabolic Training
- The Tabata Method is also similar to this training (in case you’re looking for key words in app searches to help you in your training)
So Why Do I Love HIIT?
For the first time in my life, I am actually getting a curvy middle section. Now, I recognize a lot of that just has to do with my body shape. Even when I am thinner I am not real curvy, I am more boxy. But… I am definitely seeing more curves and more definition then I have seen in the past using a whole lot of other exercise methods. Now for you guys, you may not get excited over a curvy shape… at least on yourself. But definition in one place accentuates definition in other places. That’s why a traditional body builder goes for a triangle torso. His thinner waist makes his chest, arms and shoulders look bigger. So, add HIIT principles to your routine and see the change for yourself. And if you see someone exercising a little strangely out on the trail (fast and then slow), just give them a quick wave. Who knows it could be me…