H.I.I.T. It!


Most of you have probably already heard of high intensity interval training (or H.I.I.T for short). But for those who haven’t, or those who have but aren’t sure exactly what it actually is, hopefully this post will help. First things first, what is H.I.I.T?

H.I.I.T is a method of exercising that is intended to boost (aerobic and anaerobic) performance utilizing short, intense  training sessions. Workouts are kept short in length because they are  quite intense in the amount of effort expended. Most H.I.I.T. sessions last anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes, but no longer than that. The most common ratio used in cardiovascular training  is a 2:1 ratio cycle that is repeated 6 to 12 times. Let’s use the example of running to demonstrate.

H.I.I.T. for Cardio

First you would get on the treadmill and warm up. After warming up you would begin your H.I.I.T session by running at 10 mph for 2 minutes, then slow down to a 5 mph jog for 1 minute to allow your body to actively recover from the 2 minutes of all out running you just finished, after which you would repeat the cycle for a set amount of time or a set number of cycles. When that is completed, make sure to end with a cool down and the appropriate stretches.

H.I.I.T. for Weight Lifting  

When applying H.I.I.T. to weight lifting, there are some changes (obviously). Again, a warm up period is critical. After warming up, begin with 6 to  10 reps of a high intensity exercise (near maximal effort), followed by a medium intensity exercise (50% of maximal effort) for 30 to 60 seconds. Again, make sure to end with a cool down exercise and the appropriate stretches. The goal should be to  do at least 6 cycles, and to have the entire session last at least 15 minutes, but  no more than 20.

Benefits of H.I.I.T.

One of the coolest things about high intensity interval training is that it takes the “I don’t have time to exercise” excuse and throws it out the freaking window. Everyone can make time to fit in a 15-20 minute date with the cardio machine of their choice…everyone! There have been multiple studies aimed at exploring the effectiveness of this method compared to traditional endurance training methods. One study showed that 2.5 hours of high intensity interval training produced similar biochemical muscle changes to 10.5 hours of endurance training and similar endurance performance benefits. Still another study determined that H.I.I.T. increases the resting metabolic rate (RMR) for 24 hours due to excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), and improved maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max) more effectively than doing only traditional, long (and may I add boring) aerobic workouts. Hmmmmm, better results with less time spent in the gym? Sounds like a winner to me!

High intensity interval training has also been shown to improve athletic performance. For athletes that are already well trained, improvements are difficult to obtain and most can tell you first hand that hitting the gym more frequently doesn’t necessarily translate into gaining anything in relation to their performance. In a  study by Driller (Driller Matthew, Fell James, Gregory John, Shing Cecilia, Williams Andrew (2009). “The effects of high-intensity interval training in well-trained rowers”. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance)  there was an 8.2 second improvement in the 2000m rowing time following 4 weeks of H.I.I.T in well-trained rowers. It has also been shown that two weeks of H.I.I.T. substantially improved the insulin action in young healthy men. This means that H.I.I.T. may be a way to prevent type-2 diabetes, though further research is needed to confirm the theory.

So all in all, H.I.I.T. isn’t a bad way to go in my opinion. The benefits are  the same as what you’ll get from long endurance training sessions on the treadmill but without the long  or the having to  endure the boredom of it all. That’s a win-win in my book.

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