High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is a fitness strategy that helps to maximise performance with short training sessions. Alternating fast bursts of intense exercise with slower recovery periods, it is a great way to burn calories and improve your fitness, especially when you don’t have much time to exercise.
Studies have shown that HIIT can be more effective for weight loss than longer, more moderate workouts. After an intense HIIT session, your body continues to burn calories for the rest of the day, perhaps burning up to nine times more fat while doing nothing. So push yourself out of your comfort zone- here’s how you can incorporate HIIT into your fitness plan.
Different types of HIIT training
There are a few different ways you can do HIIT training. Typically, you will begin with a warm-up period, followed by six to ten short periods of high-intensity exercise, with a period of medium-intensity exercise in between each one. The high-intensity bursts should be done at near-maximum intensity, while the more moderate exercise should take you down to about 50%. The entire session should last between 15 and 20 minutes- so you can more than half your gym time and get the same effect.
One popular routine is called the Tabata method. After a five minute warm up, you should do 20 seconds of intense exercise, followed by 10 seconds of rest, and repeated continuously for 4 minutes, or 8 cycles. This really pushes your body to its limits and achieves the maximum results. Alternatively, you can work at a slightly lower intensity, with 60 seconds of hard and fast exercise, followed by 75 seconds of rest, repeated 8 to 12 times. This is known as the Little method, and is probably the more common way of doing HIIT.
Adding HIIT into your fitness plan
You should aim to do HIIT workouts 2 to 3 times a week. A good way to work this in is to alternate days with strength training and HIIT- try not to do both on the same day, as you will need to devote all your energy to each. As always, make sure you start with a proper warm up and end with a cool down to help prevent injury. And make sure you drink plenty of water to help repair muscle tissues and stay hydrated.
Of course, HIIT isn’t for everyone. Especially if you’re just beginning your fitness plan, the intensity might be too high for you to complete the workout effectively. If this is the case, you can still apply some of the principles at a lower level and alternate between higher and lower intensity periods.
Continue with a moderately paced endurance-type cardio workout, but challenge yourself with a few harder minutes interspersed throughout your workout. This will help boost your metabolism. Gradually, as your fitness improves you can raise the intensity and try to follow a more traditional HIIT method to get the best results from your workout.