I guess, by the courtesy of thousands of websites most of you fitness freaks are already a master of this topic. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is all over everything…every fitness sites or blogs have already published dozens of articles on it!!!
So, I thought I should also write something about it.
Why this thing “HIIT” is getting so much popularity?- you may wonder. The answer is pretty straight forward- for its proven effectiveness in weight loss or, I rather say, fat loss.
If it’s about fat loss then the most common question is “what is the best workout routine for maximizing weight loss?”
Well, it is a burning question; without any precise answer. 🙂
Many experts will show you many solutions. I am not going to describe all of them. However, you can check out this article to know details about fat loss methods.
This article is about High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). In recent times fitness experts from all over the world, backing up with hundreds of researchers, are unanimously describing HIIT as the most effective way of burning fat faster.
Compare to traditional steady-state longer period cardio, HIIT has been proven more effective not only in this particular case of fat loss but also in improving athletic performances.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- 1 What is HIIT?
- 2 Why is HIIT so special?
- 3 The benefits of HIIT that you can not ignore
- 3.0.1 Most effective workout routine
- 3.0.2 The fastest way of losing weights
- 3.0.3 HIIT Improves Aerobic and Anaerobic fitness
- 3.0.4 Makes Heart Healthier and prevent cardiovascular diseases
- 3.0.5 Other health benefits
- 3.0.6 Incredible way of increasing athletic performances
- 3.0.7 Other Benefits
- 4 WORKOUT- General Concept for HIIT
- 5 Caution
- 6 HIIT Infographic
What is HIIT?
We all know, what are cardio exercises, right?
Well, HIIT is a strategy of doing cardio exercises that include continuous alteration of two different phases of intensity/speed. One is a high-intensity phase following with a medium intensity ‘resting phase’. The medium intensity phase clears out the lactic acid from the blood and prepares the muscles to perform another high intensity interval.
Both phases usually consist very short period of time (not more than 1min). HIIT normally continues following these repeating changes of intensity for around 10-15 minutes without any complete resting break between two repetitions. Each set finishes with a very low-intensity phase and a complete resting phase for cool down. One can complete numbers of sets depending on his choice.
One thing you should always remember – “never let your body cope up with your workout intensity”, is the ultimate aim of HIIT method. It should always be shifting and/or changing that keeps your body guessing.
Though the workouts are same, the way of doing HIIT is different than a conventional cardio exercise. In a conventional cardio, we normally do things steadily in a moderate intensity for a longer period (more than 30 min) of time.
Whereas, HIIT generally requires only 15-45 minutes to complete a full workout session. Within this time period, unlike conventional training, a repetition of high intensity and low-intensity workout occurs.
For example, if you are doing conventional cardio then you may run for 1 hr with a 5-7 km/hr speed steadily. On the other hand, if you are doing HIIT then you will have to run at your maximum speed (80-95% of maximum heart rate) for 30 to 60 sec and then a 30-60 sec medium intensity (50-60% of maximum heart rate) at your half speed and then 1-2 min low intensity for cool down. You have to repeat this process for 15 to 30 min.
Why is HIIT so special?
To understand why HIIT is so effective, at first we need to know the basic mechanism of energy production system in our body. The process of generating energy from food includes several chemical reactions to converting the food items that we intake form complex molecule to simplified molecule. Finally from this simple converted molecules energy generated in the form of ATP (Adenosine Tri-Phosphate). This whole procedure of resynthesis of ATP is well known as Metabolism. There two major types of metabolic system are used to generate energy in out body.
Our body generates energy from food that we intake through a complex biochemical process popularly known as metabolism. In this process, the calorie from food generates energy with the help of air (oxygen). This system called Aerobic System.
Basically, energy generates from aerobic system fuels most of our body functions. This is the main source of cellular energy. A vast amount of energy is generated this way through a complete conversion of food to operate all the cellular functions inside our body.
When we exercise for a longer period of time (more than 2 min) then our body gets the necessary energy generated through Aerobic System. Aerobic System is very complex and requires Oxygen to complete the process. It takes a time to generate energy in this way.
Research shows that our body needs at least 2 min to produce energy through the aerobic system.
Now the question is if we need a vast amount of energy within short notice (i.e. lifting weight) then how our body gets that energy?
The answer is from the anaerobic system. From its name can you guess how this system actually differs from Aerobic System?
Yes, you are right. Anaerobic System doesn’t require any oxygen for generating energy. So, when our body requires short-term energy for any intensive activity then our body generates energy in this way.
Depending on the method of energy production, Anaerobic System can be divided into two systems. Both of these two doesn’t need oxygen for creating energy.
One, which is known as Phosphagen System, is the quickest way of energy generation. In this method, energy generates from Creatine Phosphate that stored in our skeletal muscles. Phosphagen System doesn’t require any outside sources of energy like food or oxygen. The resynthesis of ATP happens directly from donated ADP by Creatine Phosphate. That is why this quickest pathway of producing energy.
For any types of short-term (less than 30 sec) intensive activities body gets the required energy from this system.
The other type of Anaerobic System is known as Glycolysis. This is the second quickest way of generating energy. In this way, energy generates when the demand for oxygen is much higher than the supply. Only two molecules of ATP are resynthesized in this pathway from Glucose.
After using up the energy generates from Phosphagen System if we continue high-intensity activity then our body uses Glycolysis for producing energy. This system goes for maximum 2 minutes. After that human body goes into Aerobic System which I discussed earlier.
The benefits of HIIT that you can not ignore
Most effective workout routine
So far HIIT has been proven to be the most time-efficient exercise you can do. Because of our daily busy time schedule stick to a lengthy workout routine become very difficult. Getting the maximum benefit from our hard works it’s really important to be regular with our workout program. Many of us could not do that just because of time. Good news is around 15-20 minutes of HIIT you can get the maximum benefit out HIIT.
Researchers showed that spending around 10-15 minutes of HIIT burns almost equal calories to run at a steady pace for around 30 minutes on a treadmill. The benefit is not only limited to fat burning – HIIT also has different other health benefits.
Tips: A high quality weighted vest can make HIIT more effective.
The fastest way of losing weights
Several experiments show that HIIT is the most effective way of doing any workout for burning extra calories that are losing extra weights compare to others. This fact is also found by Tremblay et al. in their Experiment. They compared the amount of weight loss between 2 groups of people who adopted two different types of cardio training. This study shows that the group of people who performed HIIT losses 9 times higher body fat than the group who did conventional training.
A similar result was also found by Syazwani Airin et al in their study. Where they showed that reduction of a percentage of body fat is much higher with HIIT group compare to the conventional steady intensity training group.
The researcher has found different causes behind this effectiveness. Burning calories even after an exercise session famously known as “afterburn or EPOC” is one of them.
Resistance training or weight lifting boosts EPOC (Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption) and keeps it at a stage where our body automatically burns extra calories even when we are not doing any exercise. HIIT also has a similar impact on EPOC as resistance training.
After a vigorous HIIT session, our body continues burning more calories for around 24 hours. According to the American College of Sports Medicine’s brochure, published on 2014, because of HIIT the EPOC become so much greater that it adds up to extra 6-15% more calorie burning to the total energy used for the HIIT session.
So, it can be safely claimed that HIIT is the best way of doing cardio type workouts that cause fastest weight loss in a healthy way.
You can increase this impact of HIIT by using a high-quality weighted vest during exercise, as wearing a weighted vest during the workout is a tremendous way of burning fat faster.
HIIT Improves Aerobic and Anaerobic fitness
The greatest health benefit that we can get from HIIT is it actually makes our heart much healthier. And, by making our heart healthier it augments our aerobic and anaerobic fitness.
Remember the time when you can easily run all day long without a sweat when you were much young? And, what happens now? Running 2-3 minutes on the treadmill or climb few stairs and we are done! Completely out of our breath!
Research shows that HIIT improves the VO2 max which is a parameter of aerobic fitness.
According to the definition given in Wikipedia, VO2 max is the maximum oxygen consumption capacity during exercising which actually reflects the aerobic physical fitness of a person. A higher level of VO2 max shows a higher endurance capacity and stamina.
In 2008 Abbie E Smith et al conducted an experiment of a group of college students. His study shows that performing HIIT with beta-alanine supplementation significantly improves aerobic performances that are endurance performances.
Therefore, performing HIIT regularly will increase our stamina and endurance level. We will experience less out of breath and will be able to perform any strenuous physical work for a long time.
Makes Heart Healthier and prevent cardiovascular diseases
Like a conventional (i.e steady state, medium intensity, and longer bout) cardio HIIT also makes our heart healthier. According to many scientists, this effect is more significant in HIIT compare to conventional cardio training.
As Brad Schoenfeld (2009) says “cardiovascular adaptations to exercise are intensity dependent, and improvements in the cardiovascular function via HIIT may be superior when compared with more traditional training protocols.”
Other health benefits
In their article, Brad Schoenfeld and Jay Dawes (2009) states that HIIT improves blood pressure, Insulin sensitivity, cardiac contractility, insulin signals and contraction coupling.
In 2015 a paper was published in Sports Medicine written by Hoyce S. Ramos et al where they describe that HIIT improves brachial artery vascular functions. That means HIIT enhance the functionality of the blood vessels. So, ultimately this improves blood pressure situation.
Regular High-Intensity Interval Training can prevent cardiovascular diseases. It can even retract certain risks for those who are suffering cardiac and metabolic disorders.
Incredible way of increasing athletic performances
High-Intensity Interval Training has been used to augment athletic performances for a long time. Endurance, stamina and also a rapid increase in speed (acceleration) are a vital characteristic for players. In many games these qualities in a good player are crucial. I have already mentioned that HIIT can improve aerobic and anaerobic fitness. In other words, an incorporation of HIIT in regular training of professional players can improve those qualities.
A number of researches have been conducted in this area. Research shows, HIIT can significantly improve athletic performances.
A similar research was conducted on professional hockey players in 2015 by M. A. Naimo et al that showed high-intensity interval training can improve muscle thickness, power, and on-ice performances.
A different research C. B. Harrison et al found that a mix of game-based training and High-intensity Interval Training (HIIT) can improve the performance parameters. The findings were published in International Journal of Sports Medicine in 2015.
The greatest advantage of HIIT over conventional cardio is its time-efficiency. You can get all the benefits of doing cardio for 1 hr daily from only 15 minutes of HIIT session 3-4 times per week. How great is that!?
It obviously solves the time problem of working individuals who faces when they tried to put their workout routine in their daily schedule. In addition, doing a steady state cardio for a long hour is tedious and less appealing. For this reason, many lose their motivation to stick to their fitness plan.
HIIT is less time-consuming and more challenging. Just spend 15-20 minutes and you are done for the day!!!
HIIT Keeps Us Energetic
Less time for exercise leads less energy consumption at a time. Working out for a long time burns more energy which may make us tired. Though HIIT is intense, it takes less energy during working out. So we feel energetic even after a workout session.
Research proves that in the case of HIIT “afterburn” impact enable our body to burn extra 15% calories even after working out. This effect stays for around 24 hours and by this time we consume food. Therefore, we don’t feel tired like conventional cardio. So, though we actually burn equal calories but it doesn’t occur at a time.
HIIT is easier to do regularly. You don’t need any special place like a gym or any extra equipment to get it done. Like any other normal cardio type exercise, HIIT doesn’t require any equipment. This is a great advantage of HIIT. Running, rope skipping, biking, jumping lunges anything work will do just great for HIIT. So, when you are away from home for work or pleasure you don’t have to miss your workout routine. For this reason, it is easier to stick to this exercise program and we all know regularity is the main key to get the maximum benefit from a workout.
No Need to Go to Gym
For our tremendous work pressure, we often forced to miss our regular gym routine no matter how motivated we are. When we miss few days of our daily workout plan we can lose our motivation. HIIT can be a great solution to this problem. You don’t have to go to the gym for HIIT. Spend just 20 to 30 minutes in their bedroom and continue your journey towards your fitness goal.
Solves the muscle burning process of conventional cardio
Conventional steady state cardio has a great drawback – it not only causes fat loss but also burns muscle mass. This impact is higher when we are on diet. Generally, no one wants that to happen, not even the dieters.
Again, HIIT can be our savior here. Research shows that HIIT and weight training can solve this muscle burning problem. HIIT causes fat burning while preserving our hard-earned muscles.
WORKOUT- General Concept for HIIT
You can find lots of HIIT workouts on the web. I want to keep it simple here as it itself is very simple. The concept is to burn your anaerobic energy and stops before your body starts using aerobic energy. Then get enough rest so that your body prepared to generate more anaerobic energy for your next rep.
As we already know, to use up our anaerobic energy we have to do intense physical activity for maximum 30 seconds. After that, our body goes into the second phase of the anaerobic system which goes for maximum 2 minutes.
Our body starts generating energy through the aerobic system after using all our anaerobic energies. So, any workout we do after 2 minutes then it will become aerobic exercise. Therefore, for doing HIIT correctly we need to keep it bellow 2 minutes of intense training. And, always remember, each rep should follow with a 3-4 minute resting phase.
Which exercises are suitable for HIIT?
Well, you can do any sorts of cardio i.e. running, cycling, swimming, rope jumping, punching bag workout or any kind of exercise that rise up your heartbeat to at least 80% of our maximum heart rate.
Here is a sample workout routine:
Here, maximum intensity means, for example, if you are running then run with the maximum speed that you can achieve.
And, the medium intensity is around the half of your maximum ability. Remember, a medium intensity is mostly for providing rest to your muscles to prepare it for next maximum bout. So, for the beginners, it might be little difficult to keep on at medium intensity. In that case, they can do it at low intensity initially.
Do that above routine for 2 reps in total and finish it with a low-intensity workout (5 minutes) for cool down. The total workout routine will take around 30 minutes including the warming up session.
Continue this routine until you become very comfortable with it. Then you can move to the next level.
Do that above routine for 3 reps in total and finish it with a low-intensity workout (5 minutes) for cool down. The total workout routine will take around 38 minutes including the warming-up session.
Like the previous step, continue doing this HIIT routine.
Do that above routine for 4 reps in total and finish it with a low-intensity workout (5 minutes) for cool down. The total workout routine will take around 45 minutes including the warming-up session.
The basic idea is starting with around 15 minutes of HIIT at the beginning and later when you adjust with your routine increase the number of reps and sets. This is simple.
High-intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is undoubtedly a great workout strategy for all, especially people who don’t have much time to spend on their fitness goal. However, like any other hard physical workout, before starting HIIT, consulting with your doctor is a good idea. If you don’t have any major health problem then you are ready to jump into this thrilling world of HIIT.
Remember; start slow if you are a beginner. Always care for a well warm-up/ stretching session before starting your intense workout regime. And, don’t overdo it. 🙂