High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been completely bastardized over the last few years.
What started off as a tremendous conditioning protocol with the “side effect” of getting you extremely lean has turned into virtually any type of physical movement as long as it’s done with no rest or regard for exercise technique.
"Hey bro, did some awesome HIIT house cleaning today!"
All joking aside, done properly, HIIT remains one of the most effective ways to get ripped and maintain muscle while developing awesome conditioning.
The goal of this article is to provide you with a quick, functional overview of what true HIIT is - and how to incorporate it in your program today for maximal benefit.
What is HIIT?
It’s exactly what the name suggests – high-intensity effort for short intervals followed by lower intensity activity or rest. This is then repeated - usually for a specific and pre-determined number of rounds.
Examples of HIIT:
Sprinting – 100-meter sprint followed by 300-meter walk (400-meters is one time around a track or ¼ of a mile)
Jumping Rope – 30 seconds of all out jump roping followed by 30 seconds of rest
Machine Rowing – 30 seconds of maximal rowing followed by 60-90 seconds of slower, low-intensity rowing
Stair/Bleacher Climbing – This is THE classic HIIT method. I think we can all remember running the stadium/bleacher steps in high school. The actual climbing is the high-intensity portion and the walking back down is the low intensity. HIIT at its finest!
If you're like most of us and work a mostly sedentary job (.ie. sitting/driving) chances are your conditioning isn't where is should be.
Simply walking up stairs can be a great place to start your HIIT training!
What HIIT is NOT:
-Burpees till you puke
-Dozens or even hundreds of box jumps or “plyos” (Tip: this type of activity really isn’t plyo)
-A list of ten or more exercises supersetted
Just because something is "hard" doesn't mean its HIIT (or smart).
Benefits of HIIT
-Increased conditioning with a strong carryover to sports, other activities and everyday life.
-Increased calorie burn
-Increased recovery times (as long as you don’t over-HIIT)
-Challenging – brings out your competitive spirit as you try to beat your previous efforts.
-Short workout duration - Great for those with busy schedules. Typically, a true HIIT workout can be completed in just 10-20 minutes!
How to Incorporate HIIT
In a nutshell, the more demanding a HIIT session is, the less frequently most people can perform it due to the demands placed on the central nervous system.
For example, let’s say you want to try HIIT sprinting for 8 “rounds” (eight 100 meter sprints each followed by 300-meter walks)...
This is an effective HIIT workout and one of the simplest to begin with.
Even if your nutrition and recovery is on point, you’ll likely only be able to do this once a week max before your weight training sessions begin to suffer.
The higher the intensity the more your recovery stores are tapped.
With HIIT, more is not necessarily better. Plan on starting with one HIIT session per week – lasting between 8-20 total minutes.
Some may find they need another HIIT session and some may find even 1 a week is too much. The only way you’ll figure it out is through trial and error.
But one thing is clear - HIIT is effective and efficient. Almost any movement can be done in HIIT fashion and quite often no equipment is needed.