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High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) - is it right for you?

  • 4 min read

When you want to get in shape, it can sometimes be difficult to choose the right training program. An excellent workout programme is HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training. 

What is HIIT?

It’s simple – you are alternating between short intense anaerobic exercises with less-intense recovery periods. HIIT is excellent if you need to get your workout done in a shorter amount of time. HIIT has been proven to improve athletic capacity, conditioning, glucose metabolism and fat burning. 

Studies indicate that that even a short programme of two and a half hours a week can result in the same improvement as if you were spending nearly ten hours a week at the gym with traditional “less intense” training! 

This high intensity workout routine teaches your body how to metabolise fat, sugars and increase those processes faster. HIIT also significantly reduces insulin resistance and allows for skeletal muscle adaptations that will result in a better muscle fat oxidation and improved glucose function.

HIIT works by training and conditioning both anaerobic and aerobic exercise levels. By pushing your body beyond what it is used to at the upper end of what you generally receive through steady state exercise (i.e. thirty minutes on an elliptical, bike or running), these all-out efforts help increase the total amount of overall calories you burn during your training session. 


The benefits of HIIT

One of the best benefits of HIIT is what’s known as EPOC – excess post oxygen consumption. This essentially means that you are still burning fat up to 24 hours after your HIIT session. During this time, your body will still be acting as if you are at the gym working hard even if you're at home doing not much. If you are serious about fat burning first, HIIT may be the program right for you.

As you progress, you will soon see other added benefits to it. For instance, your muscles will increase their oxygen consumption as you grow your overall aerobic ability. You’ll also see an increased lactate threshold meaning those burning thighs won’t bother you as early in your workout as they used to.

These HIIT sessions will also help increase the effects of anabolic exercise. Use interval training along with a diet that allows you to eat more calories than you burn and you'll help build muscle as you train. (This doesn’t mean trips to McDonalds, but rather larger portions of lean meats, green leafy vegetables, nuts, and fruits) 


Where to start with HIIT

As a beginner taking on HIIT, you shouldn’t try to climb the mountain all at once just yet. If you can do a sixty minute session at the gym doing a standard workout, you should be all right to try and work at 60-70% for your first HIIT session. (If you're unsure, check with your doctor before beginning any exercise regimen.)

A good rule is the 2-1 rule for interval training. That is to say, you want to work out as hard as you can for sixty seconds, and then spend one hundred and twenty seconds doing a “normal” workout speed. You can also flip flop this for shorter time periods.  So twenty seconds of high intensity work with ten seconds of rest (or slow movement).  

Five to six cycles of this is great for beginners, but as you train up and are feeling more confident with your workouts, then begin increasing the amount of these cycles. HIIT means high intensity, so don’t hold back when you’re in that working period. The more you put into it during these high intensity sessions, the more you will get out of it in the end. 

You can do HIIT training with almost any exercise.  It’s a great option if you don’t have much equipment (or no equipment).  What matters is the amount of effort you are putting into the high intensity sections of your workout, and increasing the amount of cycles you do when you are doing your sessions. 


Four HIIT challenges to try

HIIT Challenge 1: Run/walk

  • 1 minute running
  • 2 minutes walking 
  • Repeat 3-5 times


HIIT Challenge 2: Tabata style squatting 

  • 20 seconds of squats
  • 10 seconds rest
  • Repeat 8 times


HIIT Challenge 3: Full body workout in 16 minutes

  • 20 seconds of pull ups
  • 20 seconds of squats
  • 20 seconds of sit ups
  • 20 seconds of push ups
  • 10 seconds rest between each exercise
  • Repeat 8 times


HIIT Challenge 4: Sprints

  • 20 seconds of sprinting
  • 10 seconds rest
  • Repeat 4-8 times


HIIT: Is it right for you?

High intensity interval training is not for everyone – but it is a great idea for those with busy schedules, or those who think they don’t have the time or energy to workout. You can achieve better results, quicker with a HIIT session of a fifteen-minute jog than you would otherwise if you were just jogging normally. As you increase your ability and have more fun, you will soon find that if you miss a HIIT session your body will be disappointed and want that exercise. Given the busy professional lifestyle that many of us live, High Intensity Interval Training can help those who believe they can never lose weight get the bodies they want and deserve! 

With thanks to Allaroundjoe for contribution to content.

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