HIIT: What You Need To Know

woman doing HIIT exercise

HIIT stands for High-Intensity Interval Training and is a popular style of exercising. As the name suggests, it involves short bouts of exercises with maximum effort, alternated by bursts of short recovery periods. Typically, strength training and cardio are combined to create a well-rounded HIIT workout.

The specific amount of time you exercise and recover will vary depending on the activity you choose and how intensely you perform it. Regardless of how the workout is implemented, the short periods of vigorous exercises should get your heart rate to reach at least 70-80 percent of its maximum capacity. Exercising with this type of effort is rather difficult, but it has enormous health benefits.

Benefits of HIIT

Burns Calories

It is a proven fact that HIIT burns more calories than traditional exercise or the same amount of calories in a shorter time span. According to a study that measured calories burned in 30 minutes of weight training, biking, running, and HIIT, the latter burned about 20 to 30 percent more calories than other forms of exercise. It’s important to note that the participants of the study exercised only 20 seconds of high-intensity bursts followed by a 40 seconds rest. This means that not only did they burn more calories, but also spent less time working out as opposed to those biking and running.

Improves Cardiovascular Activity & Builds Stamina

HIIT strengthens your cardiovascular activity by increasing your heart rate and improving oxygen consumption. It will increase your body’s VO2 MAX (maximum level of oxygen a person can utilize during intense exercise), thereby building your stamina and allowing you to perform better. Over time, you’ll notice that you’ll need less and less recovery time. 

Boosts Metabolism after Exercise

HIIT workout keeps your metabolic rate raised even after you’ve finished your session. This phenomenon is called EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption), commonly known as ‘afterburn.’ It occurs when your body burns more calories healing from the wear and tear caused by the demanding exercise session. 

Researchers have pointed out that HIIT increases your metabolic rate after exercise far more than resistance training and jogging, seemingly shifting your body metabolism to use fat for energy rather than carbs. 

Helps Build Muscle

Most HIIT workouts include many different movements, allowing you to exercise different muscle groups during the same session. For example, a HIIT workout may include burpees, push-ups, and squats, all of which target different muscles. The intensity of the exercises will help build muscle and improve your ability to continue working out. It’s important to mention that people who’ve been less active may be able to increase their muscle mass with HIIT, but not as much as they would if they performed weight training.

Lowers Blood Pressure and Sugar

Although HIIT causes an increase in blood pressure while doing it, it helps to keep it normal low in the long term. This is because the exercise reduces the stiffness of the artery walls which leads to a lower resting BP. The workout is particularly useful for those needing to reduce blood sugar and improve insulin resistance. These improvements have been observed in both diabetic as well as healthy individuals. Both high blood pressure and blood sugar are risk factors for heart disease, hence it is pivotal to keep them under control to avoid health complications. 

Things to be Watchful of HIIT

Inadequate Warm-Up

If you’re starting out your workout routine and intend to jump right into HIIT without warming up, then you’re setting yourself up for injuries. Since many people view this form of exercise as convenient, they often want to use it as their short-cut for fitness. But this is likely to backfire, causing excessive strain on untrained muscle groups, leading to potentially serious injuries. It is therefore essential that you get your body used to a basic level of cardio and strength training before moving on to HIIT.

Improper Form

This is one of the prime reasons why people get injured during HIIT. As the workout takes a big burst of effort and energy, at times the focus drifts from the proper form and technique to speed and numbers. If you feel the workout is too challenging, then modify. It is better to do fewer reps and do them right than doing more in a sloppy form. Beware that bad form will put too much strain on your joints, work the wrong targeted muscles, and make you prone to injury.

Eating Beforehand

HIIT is a workout that requires every ounce of energy in your body. Do not do this on an empty stomach. If you do, not only will it affect your performance, but you’ll also feel sick and off-balance. This is because your body will struggle for energy in order to perform the higher-intensity pieces, but will have nothing to grab. So you must have some carbs to pull through your session with big energy.

Length of Intervals & Recovery Periods

During HIIT, the objective is to go as fast and as hard as you can for a short interval. If you try to drag the small window of time, you’re likely to go easy in between which defeats the purpose. 

Similarly, you need to see that you’re not resting too long between sets and circuits. You should stay strict with small breaks to bring your heart rate low in between exercises. Also, never skip these rest breaks. A fitness tracker can help you get the most out of your HIIT workout.

Don’t Overdo It

HIIT should not be performed every day. Your body needs time and rest to recover and replenish the muscles before they are worked again. So listen to your body and don’t function against it. Take care of other aspects such as stretching, walking, eating healthy, and getting good sleep.

Conclusion

HIIT is a great option to include in your fitness regime. Bouts of high intensity followed by recovery will allow you to meet your fitness goals. Now you know more about HIIT and how to do it right.