Yes. We made a HIIT pun. Sorry about that. For those that don’t know what the acronym means, High Intensity Interval Training is a super-effective way to exercise with maximum benefits in minimum time.
HIIT is a great way to workout, but a lot of beginners aren’t really sure where to start, and what intervals to do.
That’s OK – UsFitties is here to HIIT you up with a handy guide. (Honestly, we’ll stop with the puns now)
There is nothing particularly new about High Intensity Interval Training. HIIT has been around for decades. Here’s the basic premise.
You work really hard for a set amount of time. Then you do light work or rest for a set amount of time. You repeat the cycle for a set number of repetitions.
HIIT provides a huge number of benefits including increased fat burning, muscular endurance and both aerobic and anaerobic activity.
If you’re completely new to HIIT, you may find it a good idea to take it easy to begin with. For example, you might do standard intervals every day for a couple of weeks, running for one minute and walking for one minute for a total of sixteen minutes. Once you find this easy, it is time to start moving towards HIIT.
In general, you are aiming to work as hard as possible in the ‘work’ phase, and then use the ‘rest’ phase to recover. But what about the timings of these phases, and how many should you do?
While you can set your own intervals, here are some of the more popular options:
30-second HIIT – 30 seconds of work followed by 90 seconds of rest, repeated six times for a twelve-minute workout. A good beginner HIIT workout that you can make harder by reducing the rest period to 60 and then 30 seconds.
60-second HIIT – As above, but 60 seconds of work with 120 seconds of rest, repeated six times. Again, can be advanced by reducing the rest period.
Pyramid – Perform the first and last set of work for 30 seconds, the second and sixth set for 45 seconds, the third and fifth set for 60 seconds and the fourth set for 90 seconds. Rest for 30 seconds between each work period. An advanced HIIT routine that will really push you.
Tabata – 20 seconds work followed by 10 seconds rest, repeated eight times for an intense four-minute workout. Probably the best HIIT program ever devised, this workout will give you the same muscle endurance benefit in four minutes that you would get from 45 minutes of normal cardio training!
With each of these HIIT types, you are aiming to perform at 90% effort during the work phase, and 30-40% effort during the rest phase. In the case of Tabata, the work phase should be 100%, or as close to it as you can manage.
But what exercises can you do during an HIIT workout? Here’s some inspiration for you…
- Run on a treadmill
- Use a cross-trainer
- Throw a medicine ball around your garden/yard
- Sprint on a track
- Hit an old tyre with a heavy sledgehammer
- Throw a medicine ball hard against a wall and catch it
- Pick up a heavy weight and walk around with it (farmer’s lift)
- Lift a sandbag over your head and drop it as many times as possible
- Pushups, burpees, squats, jumps or combinations of them all
- Skip a rope as fast as you can
- Double-arm kettlebell swings
- Cycle sprinting, on a real bike or on a spinning bike
Get the idea?
It is worthwhile getting your hands on an interval timer. Several are available, from apps like Impetus on Android and Bit Timer on iOS to dedicated options like the Gymboss Interval Timer (Gymboss at Amazon UK / Gymboss at Amazon US).
So if you’re looking to burn fat, build muscle and increase endurance, it turns out that the intense four-minute workout you get with the Tabata HIIT routine is more effective than almost anything else you can do.
Remember to always warm up and cool down before and after an HIIT session. High Intensity Interval Training is a brilliant weapon in your UsFitties armoury, and remember to work your way up to it through less intense intervals if you’re a beginner.
Go on – HIIT it up! (OK; that was definitely the last one.)