What is a HIIT?


Fitness Short Takes

by Deb Servidio, Certified Personal Trainer | October 28, 2019

Watch Out...it's a HIIT!

We see them all the time, these mysterious acronyms in the wild wild world of the fitness industry.  I don’t know about you but when I first heard them, I thought I might’ve stumbled across some secret mafia or military exercise.  I mean c’mon…. HIIT, MetCon, AMRAP, EPOC etc, etc. Tell me these don’t conjure up visions of The Godfather or say Rambo?! Well, I stuck around and soon found that these terms had much different meanings. I also learned that they were in their own way, their own kind of “hell.”

Today I am going to focus on HIIT, a shortened version of a special kind of torture.  But stay with me….. because while it may seem like you are slowly killing yourself off, there are a tremendous amount of benefits from this type of training. 
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a mode of training that focuses on intervals of short intense bursts of exercises performed at 80-95% of Max Heart Rate immediately followed by an active recovery where you work at 60-65% of your Max Heart Rate.  There’s a short rest period and you then move onto the next exercise finishing all exercises in the round and then repeat for as many rounds as you can complete in the allotted time. The great thing about HIIT training is it can be modified for all clients from beginner to advanced and designed to meet your client’s specific needs.  Don’t have weights? No problem, it can be done with body weight exercises. You prefer running or swimming? Not a problem either as HIIT is highly adaptable and focuses more on the idea of using intervals to get your heart rate up and building endurance. 

The reason so many people like this type of training is that you can perform the same volume of work in a typical hour session in less time.  And let’s face it, in this day and age we all struggle with finding time to workout. Another great feature is you can perform body weight exercises and not worry about equipment or machines. This is perfect for those times you are traveling, on vacation, busy taking care of kids or maybe work is just too hectic and has you working crazy hours. All you need is 20-30 minutes and you will be firing up that metabolism burning body fat, training your cardiovascular system and strengthening those muscles!  It’s all about working smarter, not longer. 

Why does HIIT work?  Well as I mentioned earlier, this type of training focuses on short intense bursts of exercise.  Because of these short intervals (1-3 minutes), the body primarily uses the anaerobic energy system and thus breaks down stored carbs and fats for energy as opposed to using the aerobic energy system, which usually kicks in after the first several minutes of exercise, and utilizes oxygen for energy. The intensity of these workouts, which has you working above 80% of your Max Heart Rate, launches our metabolism into high gear and stays elevated even after the workout is completed.  The elevated rate of metabolism after a workout is known as EPOC, Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption. This afterburn effect is the result of the body trying to adjust back to homeostasis, otherwise known as our resting level of metabolic function and can take anywhere from several hours to 48 hours. So even after the workout our body is still “working” so to speak and shredding our body fat stores. The high amount of stress placed on the muscles during this training will require greater lengths of time to repair and recover so therefore the body produces higher levels of growth hormones and results in increased muscle growth and definition.  

When programming a HIIT workout for a client, class, or yourself, the options are endless.  Because of the stress placed on our bodies during this type of training, it is important to have a solid base foundation of strength and cardiovascular endurance to avoid injury.  So when working with beginners to interval training, maybe do a quick assessment to see where your client is. If designing a program for a class then have modifications ready for those who need them and progressions for the more advanced members in the class.  I like to approach programming by following these easy steps: 1. Select the amount of time to exercise, 2. Choose your work to rest ratio, and 3. Choose your exercises. For beginners you may want to start with a 1:2 ratio such as 30 sec work: 60 secs rest. This can progress with time to shorten the rest periods while increasing work time.  Now the fun part….. the exercises! You can pick all upper body, all lower-body, full body, alternate, use supersets for more advanced clients etc. etc. You can really have some fun here. I personally like to do a full body workout and utilize supersets of strength and cardio and alternate between upper body, lower body and some core work.

So as you can see, HIIT in of itself is a special kind of training that does not have Rambo chasing us through the woods or Don Corleone making us an offer we can’t refuse but one where we can work smarter not longer in our never ending quest of improving our fitness.  I will be posting more information during the upcoming week on HIIT Training on my @fitnessshorttakesbydeb Instagram page and also on the Facebook and Instagram pages for Worcester Fitness. So please check them out and give me a follow! Who knows…. I may even post a fun workout challenge for you to try out !!  I did one the other day with my son….. and he’s currently not speaking to me. LOL. But I promise to be nicer to you all !!

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