3
 min read

what are high intensity workouts (HIIT)? We'll give you all the details

Talk about doing HIIT workouts is on the rise and quickly gaining popularity. Let's go over what exactly a HIIT workout involves and why it may be the workout plan for you. 

Talk about doing HIIT workouts is on the rise and quickly gaining popularity. Let's go over what exactly a HIIT workout involves and why it may be the workout plan for you. 

What is HIIT?

HIIT stands for high intensity interval training. This involves performance at maximum ability for short bursts of time with short breaks or recovery periods in between. These breaks can look different depending on your fitness level. You can complete active recovery with comfortable, low-intensity exercises or passive recovery with relaxing and a good Netflix show. HIIT can be broken down into 2 subdivisions, SIT (sprint interval training) and HIIT (high intensity interval training). SIT is intended for people already conditioned with an advanced fitness level. It involves 20-30 seconds of full effort exercise and 2-3 minutes of rest. HIIT is better suited for the general public and people of any fitness level. This type involves the performance of 30 second intervals with rest intervals of the same or greater amount of time for 15-30 minutes. HIIT can be modified for people of all fitness levels and special conditions. For example you can take it down to 15-30 second intervals for 10-20 minutes. You can also experiment with the ratio of high intensity exercise to recovery period. The most commonly used ratio is 1:1 but you could also try 1:2. As you progress and gain more fitness ability, you can gradually decrease the amount of rest period time, but it should not be less than the 1:1 ratio.

Within HIIT, there are different formats or structures of workout you can follow. We're going to cover the following:

  • Circuit Training
  • Pyramid training
  • AMRAP
  • EMOM

With circuit training, there is various muscle group coverage as you rotate through stations for 30 to 60 seconds each. Moving to the next station is considered the rest time for this type of training. Pyramid training is the same setup, except you can increase or decrease the number of reps for different exercises. During AMRAP (as many rounds as possible), a timer is set and exercises are completed until the time is up. There is no “goal” time so you should perform as much as you can safely and to the best of your ability. For EMOM (every minute on the minute), the workout is broken into 1 minute intervals filled with reps of certain exercises. The remaining time after the reps have been completed is the rest time and then the process is repeated.

Now that we have covered what a HIIT workout looks like, let's go over some tips to get started! Begin by picking a type of activity to apply the HIIT method to. For example, many people use cycling, sprinting, jumping rope, walking, or swimming. The great thing about HIIT is it can be performed anywhere, even in the comfort of your own home. There are also some safety recommendations to incorporate into your workout, such as warming up, maintaining proper form even when exhausted, hydrating before and after exercise, and tracking heart rate. During a HIIT workout, you should be landing at 80-100% heart rate. You can find this magic number by subtracting your age from 220. Next, to plan a schedule for your workout, all you need is 2 to 3 sessions with 5 to 4 rest days. It is important to maintain a 24 hour gap between HIIT sessions to allow the body to recover and prevent injuries and burnout. 

HIIT workouts allow for the maximum amount of benefits in a minimal amount of time. The exercise is performed in short bursts to maximize activity while depriving muscle groups of oxygen. This may sound bad but it actually creates an improvement of post-exercise oxygen consumption. You may see this referred to as EPOC or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, which allows the body to continue to burn calories after exercise at a higher rate than normal. This is due to the fact the body uses energy to restore itself, so the workout increases your metabolic rate and shifts it to convert fat and carbs into energy fuel for the body. This makes HIIT great for losing weight and fat. The increase in amount of oxygen your body can absorb impacts athletic performance by facilitating better endurance and overall health. HIIT is basically a more efficient and intense cardio workout, making 1 hour of HIIT equal to 4 hours of average endurance training. HIIT has especially been proven beneficial for people with pre-diabetes or type-2 diabetes due to regulation of glucose levels by increase in metabolism and insulin sensitivity. Overall, in simple terms, HIIT benefits include improvement in overall fitness, cardiovascular health, blood pressure, blood sugar, insulin sensitivity, cholesterol, and weight loss.

If HIIT fitness does not sound like your cup of tea, that is more than okay! There are plenty of other types of workouts you can check out such as low intensity long duration, medium intensity medium duration, aerobic interval training, or fartlek training. Just remember to not give up on your fitness goals because there is a program out there for everyone, you might have just not found it yet. 

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About the Author:

Abigail is a 2nd year student at the University of Texas at Austin studying sports medicine. She's originally from Long Beach, California and loves being active. Her true passion for fitness shows and she couldn't be more thankful to get to share this excitement with readers seeking insight on a variety of health related topics.

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