Are you wanting to burn fat quickly? Maybe you’re tired of doing ridiculous amounts of cardio? Or maybe you have cardiovascular problems that are limiting the amount of cardio exercise you can do?
It is believed that 3 x 27 minute HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) sessions per week will give you the same aerobic and anaerobic improvements as 5 x 60 minute cardio sessions per week would. Want to know more? I suggest you keep reading.
What is Interval and HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)?
Interval training is known for being a very time efficient method of completing an intense workout in a short period of time, whilst being highly effective in converting your physique. I know what you’re thinking now, how does it work? Well the Holy Grail is to combine short bursts of high intensity exercise with longer periods of low to moderate intensity exercise or even a short recovery period.
Interval training and HIIT ensure that you are using both your aerobic and anaerobic energy systems, throughout your high intensity phases your anaerobic system will predominantly use energy stored in muscles (also known as glycogen) for the short period of time you are in this phase. Now here is a fact that you will have to read twice before you believe it, if you use HIIT correctly in your gym routine you will continue to burn fat even once you have left and are on your way home.
That’s correct, YOU WILL STILL BURN FAT EVEN ON YOUR WAY HOME AFTER YOUR WORKOUT.
In a nutshell, HIIT training is done at such a high intensity using the anaerobic energy system your body is unable to take in enough oxygen to meet your body’s demands.
This is when anaerobic metabolism takes place which is without the need of oxygen, however it produces lactic-acid, and as the lactic acid builds this is when you then accumulate a debt of oxygen which like a debt of money must be paid back. This is where the aerobic system comes in to save the day and during the recovery/post-workout phase your heart and lungs work together to pay back your oxygen debt whilst also breaking down the lactic acid build up. This could take anything from minutes up to hours which leaves your metabolism burning after you leave the gym for that amount of time burning fat and turning stored carbohydrates into energy.
You may also have heard of this spectacle as excess post exercises oxygen consumption (EPOC), the most efficient way to use this is to include short, intense exercise phases as a regular component of your workout regime. Don’t be too worried about the thought of accumulating a build-up of lactic acid in your muscles, by continuously completing high intensity intervals which produce the lactic acid your body will adapt and be able to burn the lactic acid more efficiently during future exercise. This results in being able to exercise at higher intensities for longer periods of time before you fatigue.
Interval training and more specifically HIIT stimulate muscle building hormones in your body which leaves it in an ideal state to initiate the building of lean muscle mass as well as developing the cardiovascular system. During this type of training you will be pushing your heart rate high during your workout which inevitably will increase your cardio ability and strengthen your heart. Once these become stronger you will improve you recovery time during rest periods which enables you to recover faster in future workout sessions.
Don’t be worried if you attempt HIIT and find it extremely difficult, it isn’t for everyone, or at least to begin with anyway. As we know it is an exceptionally effective routine for improving your level of fitness in a short period of time. But these kind of benefits don’t come without the negatives, HIIT isn’t to be taken lightly as it can be enormously taxing on your body. I recommend that if you are unsure if your body can hack it that you start gradually and integrate it into your training regime over time.
What Equipment Do I Need
Unlike circuit training you don’t actually need a great deal of equipment, or at least depending on how creative you choose to be. The majority of the time you will only need one piece of equipment, for example if you are doing sprint intervals on a rowing machine all you will need is the rowing machine. When you start to use weights for your exercises that is when you will probably be better off in a gym where there is a wider selection of weights available.
You are not limited in any way as to what equipment you can use to perform your interval training in the sense that if you have access you can use kettlebells or medicine balls instead of dumbbells, or any other weighted equipment you can get your hands on. So when planning your workouts make sure you use a range of different equipment to prevent yourself reaching boredom, remember it’s your plan so make it suit you and include activities you enjoy and don’t include those you don’t enjoy.
Duration of Workout
The duration of your interval workout should take usually anywhere between 15-30 minutes, anything longer then you’re on your own.
So we know that interval training/HIIT can be and definitely should be very intense, it will be very challenging to complete 30 minutes of exercise at that level of intensity. The best way to conquer this problem is to simply break your workout up into short intervals where you are working all out, and allow yourself a brief recovery period after each one as this will allow you to work at a higher level of intensity for each interval. Each interval you have made within your workout should last for anything between 5-7 minutes with a 1-3 minute rest.
Just to clarify, that doesn’t mean you’re expected to sprint all out for 7 minutes have one minute rest and go again, it’s more of 5-7 minutes for your ‘set’. An example would be sprint for 30 seconds and jog for 30 seconds and repeat 6 times, then you can have a little rest or a very slow jog.
The beauty of interval training is simple, you can do it anywhere with as little or as much space as you like. If you’re in a gym using a treadmill, then don’t over complicate things the only space you need is where the treadmill is. And maybe a little space behind for you to curl up in a ball when you have finished. Or maybe if you’re using weights as your interval training you will only need the space that the bench you’re lying on needs. Just one quick tip, when you have finished with your weights try your hardest to PLACE them down, no one likes someone who THROWS the weights half way across the gym when they are finished ‘because they can’.
If you are a little like me and enjoy exercising outside as much as you can, then you can use objects such as trees/benches or houses as markers or equipment. For example you can easily do tricep dips or push ups on benches. If you’re working on cardio such as running then I have a great idea for you. It isn’t as controlled as in a gym where you can easily time your runs but I find a road/area about half
a mile long with plenty of trees that are evenly spread out between 50-75 metres apart and use them as my markers. So I run a steady recovery jog to the first tree, 60-75% of a sprint to the second tree and then as fast as I can to the third tree which I continuously repeat. An advantage of exercising outside is if you find a big and quiet enough space then you haven’t always got someone asking ‘How many sets do you have left?’ It is yours to use at your desire.
During your interval workout there are some basic safety precautions you should follow which are pretty universal for most workouts.
* First things first, if you have any serious medical conditions such as heart problems, diabetes or any other respiratory problems you may find it difficult to complete an interval workout. Or more importantly it could be dangerous for you to attempt to reach the levels of intensity required by this kind of training. It is highly recommended that you consult your GP before beginning a new training programme.
* Before you even step foot in a gym or even think about starting your workout, you need an aim or a goal or just something to work towards. So make sure you have a clear idea as to where you want to get to through your training and set realistic goals that are within your ability. For example if you are a beginner and you want to do some running intervals, there is no point in you jogging for one minute and then going hell for leather for a minute sprinting because you won’t last a great deal of time and this could lead to injuries. You’re much better starting off easier with something like walk 2 minutes and run 2 minutes and then you can alter your intervals judging on how you feel after that.
* I don’t care what anyone says, you should always do some form a warm up before exercising whether it be lifting light weights on the desired muscle being trained or getting the whole body warm by going on the rowing machine.
* Once you have begun to tackle your monster of a workout to get the most out of it you should aim to keep a steady pace throughout, however make sure it is still challenging you.
* Once you feel you’re ready to increase the difficulty of your workout you have several options, you can either:
1. Increase the number of repetitions,
2. Increase the intensity or duration but don’t do them both at the same time,
3. Decrease the rest time.
When you are making these adjustments just make sure you do so when you are fully ready and over a suitable period of time, don’t just jump from 1 minute walking and 1 minute jogging up to 1 minute jogging followed by 2 minutes sprinting. Be sensible with your decisions and make the adjustments where necessary.
Interval Training ideas
So I know there are a lot of us who will hit the gym and want to stay there until we can’t physically lift a 1kg weight. I don’t have a problem with that, in fact I think it is important that we push ourselves to our limits as often as we can. The important thing to remember is each individual is different, so know your limits. When using HIIT ‘MORE IS NOT BETTER’, given the level of intensity it is recommended you should do no more than 3 or 4 HIIT sessions per week. But again I can’t stress enough that everyone is different and have different individual needs.
When creating interval workouts you should ensure you include challenging exercises/movements that can challenge as much of your body as possible in one single movement (burpees/walkouts).
You should aim to include at least 2 exercises back to back before you give your body any time to recover. Then when you do have your break you should only allow yourself a little time to get enough breath back but be sure not to allow yourself to recover fully before you jump into your next set.
When performing a HIIT session, regardless as to what exercises you use you need to make sure you are giving it your ‘MAXIMUM EFFORT’ and not just increasing your heart rate slightly. Planning your workouts can be difficult too especially when thinking of so many different activities to include, well to make it easy for yourself I am going to let you in on a little secret. You only need to change FOUR KEY VARIABLES to alter your workout from session to session to prevent boredom and continue to encourage fat loss and muscle growth. These are:
1. Intensity (speed) of the working interval,
2. Duration (distance/time) of the working interval,
3. Duration of your rest/recovery interval,
4. Number of repetitions in each interval.
If you wish to make your HIIT more intense you can turn your recovery periods into active periods by doing less intense activities such as the plank.
So if you’re thinking of making a weighted interval session (Using weights including bodyweight) it has been proven to be an incredibly effective method of HIIT so go for it. To utilise resistance training to its full potential you should use compound exercises that use as much of the body as possible such as burpees, kettlebell swings, jump squats and snatches.
If you wish to change this up or you’re finding it easy you could include combo exercises instead for example you could do a pull up into a push up and then back to a pull up and so on. Or you could do a weighted squat into a shoulder press or using dumbbells a bicep curl into a shoulder press. If you’d like to include a little bit of cardio into a weighted interval you could sprint for a specific time followed by a fast set of push ups and then back onto sprinting.
A good example of a combo interval session could be:
* Push up into a row using dumbbells – 15 reps
* Bicep curl into a shoulder press using dumbbells or barbell – 15 reps
* Plank for 30 seconds (active rest period)
* Repeat 6 times.
A good cardio interval session will have you sweating and gasping for breath as much as you can. You will know if you have had a good session by the end of it when you’re stood there taking extremely deep breaths to try and return your breathing to a steady normal rate. A good example of a cardio based interval session consisting of running could be:
* Sprint as fast as you can for 30 seconds
* Steady jog for 45 seconds
* Repeat cycle 8 times depending on your fitness level.
You could work on rate of incline if you’re on a treadmill and increase the incline at each sprint interval. I know you’re probably looking at this and thinking this seems very simple, well that’s because it is, you don’t need to overcomplicate things.
Who can benefit from this type of training?
Interval training and HIIT can be enjoyed by anyone of any fitness level in any sport, however those who will benefit the most are those who participate in sports with a constant varying intensity. So if you are a BASKETBAL OR SOCCER PLAYER the low to moderate intensity constantly alternating with high intensity exercising will benefit you massively when it comes to game day.
Looking at who can benefit from interval training/HIIT from a non-sports perspective anyone who is wanting to lose weight, but is finding it is taking a long time to shift their excess fat should partake in regular interval training. The cardio aspect of it will shred that fat away in no time, but REMEMBER exercising is the easiest part, you need to ensure you’re eating correctly and you have control of your diet. If this is a problem for you head over to our nutrition page and check out our advice.
Advantages of Interval Training
There are many advantages to interval training (HIIT), here are the key positives:
* It leads to numerous physical changes including an increase in cardiovascular efficiency, which is the ability to deliver oxygen to the working muscles.
* Your VO2 max will increase which means your oxygen intake will be more, therefore able to deliver more to working muscles (better anaerobic capacity to back up your improved physique).
* There has been evidence that your anabolic hormone production could in fact increase which makes way for muscle mass gains.
* You gain an increased tolerance to lactic acid build up.
* Interval training has been associated with helping avoid injuries that relate to repetitive overuse in endurance athletes.
* You are able to increase training intensity without overtraining.
* Adding intervals into your workout regime are ideal ways to include cross training to your exercise routine.
* You can easily change/design your interval workout by changing four variables;
1. Intensity of work interval,
2. Duration of work interval,
3. Duration of rest/recovery interval,
4. Number of repetitions of each interval.
* It increases the amount of calories you burn during and after your workout due to the increase in length of time your body is taking to recover from the intense workout. In fact it is said to burn up to 50% more fat than your general cardio workout would.
* A metabolic adaptions occurs which results in you using more fat as your fuel (energy source) which will inevitably improve your athletic endurance as well as accelerate your fat loss.
* It seems to be the most effective method of losing weight whilst limiting muscle loss to a minimum in contrast to your average cardio exercise of a longer duration.
* You are able to exercise at higher intensities for longer periods of time before you fatigue which inevitably improve your aerobic and anaerobic endurance.
Disadvantages of Interval Training/HIIT
* This form of exercise isn’t to be taken lightly as it is extremely taxing on the body therefore shouldn’t be done daily. If you end up doing HIIT every day you are at great risk of
overtraining which is where your muscles haven’t had enough time to recover efficiently, this can lead to huge setbacks as it will get to a point where you can’t train for a limited amount of time until your body has repaired itself completely.
* Positional changes and all the jumping around can cause a rush of blood to the head and lead to dizziness, so be careful when doing exercises that involve those movements.
* By doing too much too soon you can cause severe muscle soreness and in some cases it can lead to rhabdomyolysis (breakdown of muscle fibres that enter the bloodstream and can poison kidneys).
* If you rush into it and do too much you can also incur abnormal amounts of stress on your heart, so make sure if you aren’t familiar with exercise or this form of exercising you consult your GP.
So now you know everything about interval training and HIIT, please feel free to leave any comments below and if you have any questions feel free to contact us via Facebook, Twitter