High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Interval training has been an integral part of athletic training programs for many years due to a variety of sports and recreational activities requiring short bursts of movement at high intensities. The incorporation of interval training into a general conditioning program will optimise the development of cardiorespiratory fitness as well as numerous other health benefits, so give it a go.

Why is HIIT Training so Popular?

HIIT training can easily be modified for people of all fitness levels and for people with special conditions such as those that are overweight or suffer from diabetes. HIIT workouts can be performed whilst cycling, walking, swimming, aqua training, cross-training, and in many group exercise classes.

How HIIT Works

HIIT workouts provide similar fitness benefits to continuous endurance workouts but in a much shorter period of time as they tend to burn more calories, especially after the workout. The intense work periods may range from 5 seconds to 8 minutes long and are performed at 80% to 95% of a person’s estimated maximal heart rate.

The recovery periods are not really rest periods, but exercise sections at a lower intensity, and may also last 6 seconds to 8 minutes long, usually performed at 40% to 50% of a person’s estimated maximal heart rate. The workout continues with the alternating work and recovery periods totalling 20 minutes to an hour.

The post-exercise period is called “EPOC”, which stands for excess postexercise oxygen consumption, this is usually a 2-hour period after exercise where the body is restoring itself to pre-exercise levels, and therefore using more energy.

The Benefits Of HIIT:

HIIT training has been shown to improve:

  • Aerobic and anaerobic fitness
  • Blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Insulin sensitivity (which helps the exercising muscles more readily use glucose for fuel to make energy)
  • Cholesterol profiles while maintaining muscle mass.

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Developing a HIIT Exercise Program

When developing a HIIT program we should consider the duration, intensity, and frequency of the work intervals and the length of the recovery intervals.

Intensity during the high-intensity work interval should be equal to or greater than 80% of your estimated maximal heart rate.

As an indicator, the work interval should feel like you are exercising “hard” to “very hard”. Using the talk test as your guide, it would be like carrying on a conversation, with difficulty.

The recovery interval should be 40-50% of your estimated maximal heart rate. This should be a physical activity that feels very comfortable, in order to help you recover and prepare for your next work interval.

A popular HIIT training protocol is called the “spring interval training method”. With this type of program, the exerciser does about 30 seconds of ‘sprint or near full-out effort’, which is followed by 4 to 4.5 minutes of recovery. This combination of exercise and recovery can be repeated 3 to 5 times.

Safety Concerns with HIIT Training

As with all training it is best to seek the guidance of a professional until your body becomes accustomed to the new rigours you are placing on it.

Persons who have not exercised for a while, or have been forced to have periods of limited physical inactivity due to ill health will certainly need to consult a specialist or medical practitioner before starting any high-intensity exercise. It doesn't really need to be said, but, if you have any family or personal history that includes cardiovascular troubles then consult your physician before embarking on a HIIT programme.

Before beginning HIIT training a person is encouraged to establish a base level of fitness. This level can be achieved with consistent aerobic training 3 to 5 times a week for 20 to 60 min per session at a somewhat hard intensity, for several weeks. Establishing appropriate exercise form and muscle strength are important before engaging in regular HIIT programme to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injury. Regardless of age, gender and fitness level, it is important for the safe participation of HIIT training that everyone modifies the intensity of their work intervals to their own levels.

How Many Times a Week Can You do a HIIT Workout?

HIIT workouts are more exhaustive than steady state endurance workouts. Therefore, a longer recovery period is often needed. Perhaps start with one HIIT training workout a week, with your other workouts being steady state workouts. As you feel ready for more challenge, add a second HIIT workout a week, making sure you spread the HIIT workouts throughout the week.

For help and advice on this type of exercise and the most effective supplements to help you succeed in your exercise goals, please feel free to contact us at Xtreme Nutrition

A range of  HIIT appropriate products can be found to the right of this webpage to guide you in your selection.