High intensity interval training is a way to burn more calories, lose more fat as well as improve the level of cardiovascular fitness while spending less time working out. Athletes use this technique to take their fitness and fat loss to the next level, without having to spend additional time at the gym.
Because high intensity interval training is highly demanding it may not be for everyone. Since this approach to cardio training is very physical, it is only recommended for individuals who do not have any health concerns or cardiovascular problems. Athletes who are in very good shape can benefit hugely from this type of a workout and others who wish to do the same first need to build up their strength, stamina and endurance to incorporate high intensity level training into their schedule.
How Does High Intensity Interval Training Work?
High intensity interval training, also known as HIIT, is often described as a specialized form of interval training that works with quick intervals of intense exercise that is paired with longer stretches of low to moderate training. HIIT workouts involve momentarily pushing the individual beyond their upper end of aerobic exercise zone that result in yielding better benefits than a workout which simply centres on doing repeated exercises that only work at a steady heart rate.
This type of training is typically designed for individuals and athletes who are concerned with improving their overall fitness levels including the cardiovascular, endurance and fat loss aspects. At the same time, they do not wish to lose any muscle mass.
How to Start a High Intensity Interval Training Workout?
Before starting any high intensity interval training program, it is very important to gradually build up the workout sessions so as not to overdo it. Just like any other workout program, an integral component of HIIT is a warm up and cool down before and after each session.
The important consideration when doing HIIT is to work as hard as possible during the high intensity intervals so that the anaerobic zone is entered. Typically this is identifiable by a burning sensation in the muscles. A good guideline to remember is that most elite athletes can keep up high intensity for three to five minutes before slowing down, so aim for working no longer than that.
Interval duration for high intensity exercises can and should be modified based on the individual’s capacity. As such workouts and recovery periods may be lengthened or shortened accordingly. Remember that full recovery takes around four minutes for everyone, but this duration may be shortened especially if the high intensity intervals are also shorter and do not completely exhaust the anaerobic energy system.
And while high intensity interval training can be a very exciting prospect to start, individuals still need to be cautious of the downfalls of interval training. The first is overtraining and experts recommend that it is not something which should be incorporated into the routine on a daily basis. If anything, it shouldn’t.
A better approach to proceed with HIIT is to engage in high intensity interval training sessions two or three times during the week and alternate it with traditional cardio workouts on the remaining days. This will prevent overtraining as the fill in cardio days will allow the body to recover properly. Overtraining, on the other hand will only tax the central nervous system, cause muscle damage as well as metabolic stress.
Benefits of High Intensity Interval Training
High intensity interval training a few times a week will improve body composition along with conditioning levels. Some of the benefits reaped by doing HIIT include the following:
- Because a high intensity interval training session is a fluctuation between extremes of exercise, it is a good way for athletes to condition both their aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. The anaerobic system is targeted via the brief yet all-out effort while aerobic conditioning happens during the longer, steady rate exercises.
- High intensity interval training is also a great opportunity to burn more calories during the training session as well as after it since the time it takes for an individual’s body to recover after the workout is also lengthened. As such, recovery time is directly linked to the amount of calories burnt with a HIIT session.
- Since activity levels during a high intensity interval training workout session are more vigorous than during traditional workouts, the metabolic adaptations of the individual are also affected. This means that the workout uses more fat as fuel which consequently results in improving athletic endurance while also burning a greater amount of fat.
- While greater weight loss seems to be a given benefit of high intensity interval training, the associated muscle loss that typically comes with strenuous workouts is not. In other words, when individuals engage in traditional long cardio work outs, their weight loss is often accompanied by some muscle loss as well. However, when doing high intensity interval training sessions, this associated muscle loss is limited meaning that only fat is lost and muscle retained.
The key element that makes high intensity interval training so effective is that its short burst of high intensity involve maximum effort on the athlete’s part and not simply working at a higher heart rate. This may be achieved by doing a number of HIIT approaches, each involving a different combination of high and low intensity intervals. The timings as well as the intensity levels vary for each type and the number of training sessions per week will also differ.
Do you practice HIIT? Share your experiences within the comments below 🙂