Have you ever seen or heard the term "HIIT" thrown around and wondered 1. what it even stands for and 2. how the style of training works/is structured? You are not alone! HIIT is growing more and more popular (and for good reasons) because of its quick, effective way to increase your heart rate and burn fat.
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So, what is HIIT?
HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)
is a style of workout that incorporates short bursts of high-intensity exercise intervals with periods of lower intensity active recovery or rest periods.
The “maximum effort” periods are described by any activity that gets your heart rate up to 80% or higher of your max heart rate (a.k.a. about a “okay this is pretty tough” on the “I could do this all day” to “I can’t speak this is so hard” scale).
HIIT is super easy to do on your own, because you can turn pretty much ANYTHING in to a HIIT workout! Running, cycling, swimming, bodyweight circuits - you name it. I like to structure my HIIT workouts in a 1:1 ratio: one minute of high intensity + 1 minute of rest, and repeat - but there are many different ways to put together a HIIT session.
The reason HIIT is so effective is because your body requires more oxygen during these periods of high-intensity exercise. According to ACE Fitness, your body burns about 5 calories in order to utilize 1 liter of oxygen. Therefore, the more oxygen you are using, the more calories you will burn during AND after a workout.
The "after-burn" effect a HIIT workout causes is called EPOC, or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. EPOC is the amount of oxygen your body requires after a workout to restore it to its natural state and can lead to a greater net calorie burn during the following hours of a HIIT workout.
A few quick things to know about EPOC:
- Intensity has a greater effect on EPOC than duration of exercise (shorter, more intense session = greater results? Yes, please!)
- Resistance training circuits that incorporate multiple muscle groups can stimulate EPOC in an even greater way than steady-state exercise
- The more lean muscle mass your body has, the faster your metabolism will be, and the more calories you will burn throughout the day
- You can thank EPOC for the calories you will burn just sitting on the couch following a high intensity workout
Benefits of including High-Intensity Interval Training in your workout routine:
1. It’s time efficient
You burn MORE calories in the 24 hour time period after your HIIT session than you would in a lower intensity, steady state session (Thank you, EPOC!)
2. It’s CHALLENGING
Looking for a workout that will REALLY push you to your limit and challenge you - physically AND mentally? HIIT will definitely give you a way to push yourself to another level.
3. HIIT can help you build muscle mass
With MANY other contributing factors in the right place (diet, weight lifting regimen, etc.) HIIT can actually help you build muscle mass if you are not used to this style of training. Muscle mass will mainly be gained in the areas being utilized (for example, sprinters will gain muscle in their legs).
4. It can help you improve your body's oxygen consumption
Numerous studies (read more here) have shown that HIIT can improve your oxygen consumption (how efficiently your muscles use oxygen) at a faster rate than steady state cardio.
How often should you do HIIT?
The benefits of HIIT can be seen with just 2-3 sessions per week. OF course, always listen to your body and take things at your OWN PACE. If you are just starting out on an exercise program - consult with your physician before you start to include HIIT in your routine.
How long do HIIT workouts last?
The average HIIT workout can be anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes, depending on the level of intensity and the style of exercise. Like I said earlier, you can turn almost any form of exercise into a HIIT workout. I like to use a 1:1 ratio, so for example if I were doing HIIT sprints, I would sprint at maximum effort for 1 minute and then walk for 1 minute and repeat this process for around 12-15 minutes.
How can I get started with HIIT?
Like I said above, ALWAYS consult with your doctor before you start a new exercise program to make sure it is right for you and your body. HIIT is a very intense style of training and may not be the best option for everyone - and that is OKAY! Everyone is different and finding the workout style that suits you best will be the ultimate key to your fitness success. Remember, the best workout is the one you will actually DO! That being said, if you are looking to start including HIIT in your weekly routine, start slow and gradually implement periods of higher intensity exercise into your schedule.
What is your favorite way to include HIIT in your workout routine? Leave a comment below. I want to hear from you!
HIIT is my favorite style of training because I have personally seen the benefits the combination of high intensity intervals and weight training has given my body. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out in the comments below, over social media @samanthabowers_, or through email!
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REFERENCES (click to view):
1. ACE Fitness