High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) 101

If you exercise, or if you talk to anyone who does exercise, you have probably heard of High-Intensity Interval Training or HIIT. If you are not entirely familiar with the term, you probably associate it with jumping, sprinting, burpees, or just all out craziness.  Beyond those descriptors, you probably know that it is high intensity. You work in intervals and that you are training.  You know this because it says so in the name, right?

There is actually much more to HIIT than its name suggests. HIIT refers to a very specific type of training.  Just because you are doing interval training or high-intensity training, does not mean you are doing an HIIT program. There is a lot of misinformation about HIIT, especially on the internet, that might convince people they will receive those immediately shredded results they want without putting in the work. Truth be told, HIIT is an incredibly effective way to exercise and get the fitness results you want, however you need to do it correctly.

Great news! Evolve Fitness is here to help you understand HIIT.  We are going to provide you with facts so you can burn calories, shred fat, and build muscle effectively.

HIIT is a training session arranged into short bursts of energy (very hard work). The entire point of HIIT is to increase the intensity of your training. In order to qualify as a legitimate HIIT session, you will have to push yourself to the limit during every set. Give 90% of your available energy. Which is why it is done in short bursts.  Typical bursts last anywhere from 20-90 seconds.  This is the exact opposite of training for long distances, such as running, where you would ration your energy in order to last the duration of the event.

Delivering 90% of your available energy is key when it comes to boosting endurance, increasing metabolism, gaining lean muscle, and losing body fat.  Any type of exercise will assist in burning fat, but when you work harder and push yourself to your limits you will burn fat at a much higher rate.  This is the reason HIIT is becoming so popular.  Compared to many other workouts, HIIT can be a more effective way of getting leaner faster.  HIIT workouts involving either bodyweight work (burpees, push-ups) or weights (dumbbells, kettlebells) will build muscle while spiking your heart rate.  HIIT will improve your strength, your endurance, and your fat loss rate.

The intensity of HIIT may take some getting used to, especially if you are prone to one style of exercise.  So, how do you know if you are working hard enough? An easy way to gauge your effort is to use a 1-10 scale.  1 being minimal effort and 10 being absolute all-out everything you possibly have, plus some!  Now that you have an idea of the scale, you should be at about a 9 for every set.  Yes, it is a lot of hard work but that is the point.  The harder you work the higher your oxygen intake which leads to a much higher calorie burn.  Not only will you burn calories during your training, HIIT ensures you will burn calories long after your session is complete.  This is due to Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC), commonly known as "afterburn."  Work hard enough during your HIIT session, and you can raise your metabolic rate, causing you to burn more calories, for hours after you have finished!

Rest periods are an essential part of HIIT.  If you do not take the time to recover between each set, you are not properly performing HIIT.  Recovering before the next interval is extremely important.  Your body is working hard to adapt between the high-intensity periods to the low-intensity rest periods.  This is what results in a higher caloric burn.  The rest periods are needed in order for your body to prepare to perform at its max during the next high-intensity burst.

The concept of HIIT is very simple: Work extremely hard...rest...then work extremely hard again! Group Fitness classes are a great way to try HIIT or schedule a Personal Trainer to assist you with an HIIT workout.   

Although HIIT is an amazing workout, it is not the only type of training you should be doing.  Overtraining in HIIT will cause you not to be able to workout at your maximum capacity.  HIIT sessions should never be done every day of the week.  Two to three HIIT sessions is recommended.  Use your other training days for weight training or cardio.  If you are training for a specific goal, race, etc., HIIT may not be for you.  Always follow the appropriate training program for your goal.

Remember, if you are not giving maximum intensity for every set, then you are not doing HIIT!