Believe it or not, HIIT training has been making it’s claim to fame in the fitness industry since 2014, and it has proven 5 years later that it is here to stay! It has been in the top 5 ACSM fitness trends since 2014, and chances are, if you’ve tried a fitness class recently, you have done some form of HIIT training, without even knowing it.
What is HIIT and what does it do?
HIIT training is best described as repeated bouts of high intensity exercise followed by a bout of recovery. The high intensity exercise periods can range from 5-8min and are usually performed at 80% to 90% of your heart rate max (220-age). The recovery periods can last equally as long with either complete rest or active recovery exercises that are usually performed at 40% to 50% of your heart rate max. The HIIT workout continues to alternate between the workout and recovery bouts for a set time of anywhere between 20min to 1 hour.
Why is it so popular?
One of the best things of HIIT training (especially for trainers who use this as part of their client’s workouts) is that it can easily be modified for people of all fitness levels and special conditions, such as overweight and diabetes. HIIT can be performed on all exercise modes, including cycling, walking, swimming, aqua training, elliptical cross-training, and in many group exercise classes.
That being said, the biggest selling point of HIIT is its efficiency: a workout can last up to an hour, but it can also be completed in 20 minutes or less. Tabata, one of the most well-known HIIT protocols, consists of 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated eight times for a total of just four minutes, not counting the warm-up and cool-down.
What are the benefits?
HIIT workouts provide similar fitness benefits as continuous endurance workouts, but in shorter periods of time. This is because HIIT workouts tend to burn more calories than traditional workouts, especially after the workout.
HIIT training has also been shown to improve:
• aerobic and anaerobic fitness
• blood pressure
• cardiovascular health
• insulin sensitivity (which helps the exercising muscles more readily use glucose for fuel to make energy)
• cholesterol profiles
• abdominal fat and body weight while maintaining muscle mass.
If you are physically inactive, or have cardiac risk factors such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension; jumping straight into a HIIT program is not recommended, but that doesn’t mean you can never give it a try. Medical clearance from a physician will be your first step as an appropriate safety measure before staring HIIT or any exercise training.
Because HIIT can be quite strenuous, for a beginner we suggest starting off with a pre-conditioning phase in order to build up a basic level of strength, endurance, technique and overall fitness. This will aid in injury prevention and ensure that you get the best out of your HIIT workouts.
Lastly, don’t try to be a superhero! The most important way to ensure that your HIIT training is safe for you is to modify the exercise intensity to match your fitness level. A fitness professional (Biokineticist or personal trainer) will be able to help you with this and ensure your program is right for YOU!
How much is enough?
HIIT workouts are more exhaustive than steady state endurance workouts, and therefore a longer recovery period is often required. The ACSM recommends starting with 1 HIIT training workout a week, with your other workouts being steady state workouts. As you feel ready for more challenge, add a second HIIT workout a week, making sure you spread the HIIT workouts throughout the week.
So now that you have enough info to make an informed decision, why not go give HIIT a try!