HIIT Workout: What it is and why you should include it in your workout plan

High-Intensity Interval Training, also called HIIT workout, incorporates a mix of short, intense, bursts of exercises and intervals of less intensive physical activities or quick rests. If you are wondering why you should try this workout, here are couple of the many reasons:

  1. If you have a busy schedule, HIIT workout is great for you as you will spend less time in the gym
  2. The number of calories you burn will increase during your HIIT session resulting in an increase potential to burn fat, even after the workout has finished

What is the correct way to do HIIT?

First of all, you have to understand that High-Intensity Interval Training can include any type of physical activities such as swimming, cycling, running, bodyweight exercises, strength workout, a fitness class and so on. You can do HIIT workouts anywhere and if you don’t have access to equipment, you can perform HIIT without equipment.
The key though is to perform intense work periods at 80% to 95% of your estimated maximal heart rate. Because it is difficult to know how to measure your heart rate or to know if you work hard enough, here’s a quick trick:
Use the RPE scale (rate of perceived exertion) which helps you define the level of effort on a scale from 1 to 10; where 1 is basically you sleeping and 10 is when you give your all level of intensity. During HIIT you need to be somewhere between 8 and 10. This means that if you do the talking test, you barely can talk.

So, when you work out harder you have a higher intake of oxygen which results in burning more calories.

After each intense exercise, you perform you also have to rest. Rest periods between each set are an essential part of the workout. When the body works to adapt from the anaerobic period to the low-intensity recovery period, the workload results in high caloric expenditure, which can lead to fat loss. Rest periods will also help your body to perform at max capacity during the high-intensity intervals.

So how long should you rest?

If you are a beginner, I recommend a 1: 2 ratio. For example, if you perform a 30 seconds’ sprint you should continue with 60 seconds of walk or complete rest. Once you start accommodating with HIIT workouts you can go for the 1: 1 ratio, where you perform for example an intense exercise for 30 seconds and you continue with a rest period of 30 seconds. You should repeat these intervals for 10 to 20 minutes.

How often should you do HIIT?

As HIIT burns more calories you will be tempted to substitute all the workouts during the week with this. Like everything in life, moderation is key. When you overdo it, the benefits of the High-Intensity Interval Training will diminish and you can risk injuries and exhaustion. As your body needs to rest between these workouts you should start with 1 HIIT session per week (for beginners) and increase to up to 3 sessions per week. It is also important to take it slow and give your body time to get used to the intense workout. 

It is also advisable to monitor your recovery between HIIT workouts. This includes sleeping properly every night and having a healthy and complete diet. By doing this you will avoid injuries and improve your performance during High-Intensity Interval Training.

Benefits of HIIT workouts

As I have previously said HIIT workouts are great for those who want to spend less time in the gym and want to burn a lot more calories. But these are not the only benefits you will get:
  • You will burn more calories during the post-exercise workout period: HIIT workouts tend to generate about 6-15% more calories burned during the EPOC period which adds to the overall workout energy expenditure. This means that after you finish your workout you will continue to burn more fat that you would during the HIIT session. 
  • You will improve your heart health: It will be difficult at first when you start pushing it during the intensive sessions (your heart rate will increase and you will feel like it is difficult to breath and your heart is going to jump out of your chest), but you will see that in a few weeks it will be much easier and you will be able to improve your performance. 
  • HIIT is an effective way to build muscle while losing weight 
  • In addition to increased fat burning and more muscle building, HIIT stimulates production of your human growth hormone, which is responsible for the increased caloric burn and slowing down the ageing process
Though HIIT workout is great if you want to lose weight, improve your health and save time, it is important to know your own fitness level and adjust this training to your needs, with the right type of exercises and intervals. I would also like to advise you to check with your doctor before starting High-Intensity Interval Training, so that you make sure it is absolutely safe for you.
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