HIIT Training: What You Should Know

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HIIT training is a unique style of exercise known for being a quick way to get a good workout. But what makes it such an effective routine? Read all about HIIT below!

What is HIIT Training?

HIIT stands for high intensity interval training. As the name suggests, this training style consists of rapid bursts of vigorous exercise, followed by an extended recovery period. It’s a more time-friendly exercise routine that pushes your cardiovascular stamina to the limit and improves both strength and endurance (assuming you have a proper diet).

A basic HIIT training session can look something like this:

  • Perform an intense exercise for one minute.
  • Once the time is up, rest for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat the cycle three times, then move on to another exercise and use the same template.

You don’t have to be precise with your timing, but loosely following a structure like the example above can allow you to fit 10 minutes of high-intensity exercise into a 30-minute window or less, depending on your endurance levels. While efficiency is HIIT’s main calling card, it also has many other benefits.

Benefits of HIIT Training

HIIT’s rapid-fire training style pushes the human body in ways that other routines don’t, and it’s also a highly versatile training style that allows you to create a custom routine with all kinds of exercises and equipment. Here are the main benefits of HIIT.

1. You Can Burn More Calories

HIIT is a more effective form of cardio than other common exercises like running and cycling. Your heart rate and activity level are much higher, and your body remains in calorie-burning mode for much longer after the workout. If you’ve reached a plateau in your diet, try HIIT before lowering your calorie intake.

2. It Improves Your Heart Health

Such a rigorous cardiovascular workout works wonders for your heart’s long-term health. It will improve your anaerobic threshold (your body’s endurance) and help stabilize your blood pressure and resting heart rate.

3. It Minimizes Muscle Loss While Dieting

Studies have shown that high-intensity exercises like HIIT promote more fat loss than moderate to low-intensity exercises. HIIT and a consistent weight training routine will help you burn your fat stores instead of eating away at your hard-earned muscles. This more efficient fat loss happens for three reasons:

  • HIIT burns more calories in less time. 
  • HIIT increases your metabolic rate, which helps you burn more calories during recovery.
  • HIIT recruits your muscle fibers more than low-intensity exercise, which helps preserve muscle mass.

The harder you push yourself during workouts, the more calories you burn and the more activity your muscles receive. Active muscles are less likely to lose mass. Of course, you need to eat in a caloric deficit to see this benefit come to fruition, so make sure you have your diet nailed down as well.

4. It Doesn’t Require Equipment

You can complete an effective HIIT workout from just about anywhere without equipment. All you really need is a good pair of athletic shoes, a flat, stable surface with enough space to move around. Here are some of the most popular HIIT exercises that don’t require any equipment:

  • Burpees
  • Plyo push-ups
  • Russian twists
  • Mountain climbers
  • Flutter kicks
  • Planks
  • Lunge jumps
  • Squat jumps

Together, these exercises create a full-body workout with high levels of intensity that you can complete at the gym, in your home or an outdoor environment.

5. You Can Tailor HIIT Training to Your Preferences

If you still want to use equipment, you can also create a full-body HIIT program from your existing weight training routine. Simply take the exercises you usually do (squat, bench press, etc.) and shorten the rest periods between sets. You should also lower the weight and do more reps to get the full effect of HIIT.

For example, instead of doing 4×10 with your usual weight and two minutes of rest, you can do 3×15 with less weight and one minute of rest. The higher rep range and frequency will make your workouts quicker and more intense.

HIIT also opens the door for a wider variety of equipment usage. You can use kettlebells, medicine balls and other gym machines you never considered using before. The standard weight training split only utilizes a handful of tools without much room for customization, but with HIIT, you can use anything you want to get a good workout.

Is HIIT Right For You?

For all of its perks and benefits, HIIT isn’t the right training style for everyone. It requires at least an intermediate fitness level and training experience to get the full effect. If you’re a beginner, start with a basic routine that allows you to develop the fundamentals of safe exercise in a controlled setting.

HIIT also isn’t the best training method for those looking to gain strength. While it certainly helps you get stronger over time, the results come slowly. If you want to gain strength as fast as possible, stick to a routine of heavy lifting and longer rest periods. 

HIIT is the ideal training method for people of intermediate to advanced fitness who are pressed for time and/or struggling to burn calories. If that description sounds like you, you have to give HIIT a try! 


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