High-intensity interval training (HIIT)

Updated: Jul 18

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The most popular trend in fitness – and the most misunderstood. I will show you how to get the maximum benefit from high-intensity interval training (HIIT)

The term (HIIT) is used to describe a wide range of training methods, which is why it’s not always clear what it is beyond the basics of work, rest, repeat. The description is not wrong, but it doesn’t get anywhere close to providing the full picture when it comes to what undertaking a (HIIT) session actually involves.

Below you’ll find all the information you need on how to incorporate (HIIT) into your regular workout schedule, and how it can benefit you no matter what your overall goals are – whether you’re trying to lose weight, build lean muscle. Crucially, you’ll also learn how often you should do HIIT, because it’s not a style of training you should use every day – you’ll risk injury or burnout.

What Is (HIIT)?

While “hard work, short rests” is the essence of HIIT, there are several main variables that can change the nature of your (HIIT) workout massively. The first two are your work and rest durations. Working for 40 seconds and resting for 20 is significantly different to resting for 40 and working for 20 seconds, with longer work periods generally being better for improving endurance and shorter ones better for power.

Also the intensity of the work periods. Incorporating (HIIT) in your workout schedule means you will need to be pushing hard to get the most benefit from it, and it’s also important to try and maintain a consistent level of effort across the work periods. That means it’s not just about going all-out, because you won’t be able to sustain it across the workout.

One more variable is the type of rest you do- are you stopping completely or engaging in active recovery?, for example: like pedaling slowly on an exercise bike! Active recovery can help flush out lactic acid ahead of your next work period.

Lastly the total volume, as in how many intervals you do. It’s easy to do too much with HIIT, which ends up being of no real benefit because by the end of the workout you’re unable to maintain the intensity. As a rule, start with low volume and go as hard as possible. When it feels easy, add a round or two, but drop the RPE slightly.

What is RPE?

We all know how important exercise is to our overall health. While putting in the time to exercise, is important that you also need to monitor how hard you’re working.

RPE or Rate of Perceived Exertion scale is a way to measure your effort, I recommend to use the modified RPE scale (easier to work whit) that has a range from 0 to 10 (with 0 being no exertion and 10 being maximum effort you can do!

The modified RPE scale allows for daily changes in your training. You can push harder than usual on days where you feel great, and back off on days where you feel sluggish.

This chart will help you to understand RPE and give you an idea of how this can help you to monitor and adjust your high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

HIIT chart

To get a better idea of how these numbers correspond to specific exercises, try to think of it this way: If you’re training high-intensity interval training (HIIT) , you should be at about a 9 or 10 on the RPE scale for 20 to 60 seconds. This will of course be adjusted depending on the type of high-intensity interval training (exercises/rest/repeat) you perform. Most people with a goal of general fitness, will train in the 4 to 8 range.

The Benefits Of (HIIT) Training

Start with the calories you will burn, which are many, not only during the training but also in the hours afterwards. This comes from the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) effect, where you burn more calories as the body returns to its normal resting state after a workout and adapts to the exercise you’ve done. This EPOC effect increases with the intensity of the exercise you do, which is why (HIIT) is an effective fat burner.

(HIIT) also increase the VO2 max, which is the amount of oxygen your body can use and is an indicator of cardio fitness. This is why a good running or cycling training plan has some form of interval training in it. Increasing the VO2 max is key to working harder for longer, helping you do a 5K personal best, for example.

There are also logistical benefits to (HIIT), like the fact your workout takes less time so you can fit it in to your daily routine. And while it’s tremendously hard work, the short, sharp challenge of (HIIT) ensures you’ll never get bored when you are training.

Remember This:

It’s supposed to be short, intense and not an everyday effort. Recovery days are vital both for avoiding injury and for ensuring you can actually do the work at the intensity required for effective (HIIT). Simply put, if you’re doing four or five (HIIT) sessions a week, it probably isn’t real HIIT, and you’re probably going to get injured.

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