09 May HIIT: Does it Work?
The world of health and fitness is in constant fluctuation. Ten years ago, carbs were your greatest enemy. Now, scientists say that this is not the case at all. Fads come on strong and disappear quickly, and it’s easy to become skeptical of the latest trends.
One such trend that’s risen to extreme popularity in recent years is High-Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT. This style of workout involves periods of nearly all-out efforts followed by periods of rest. Then repeat. The 7-Minute Workout was one of the first to truly popularize this training method, and it’s still going very strong. Advocates of HIIT will tell you all about how you can burn more calories in significantly less time, and watch the weight just fall off! Sounds kind of like a scam, doesn’t it?
The truth is, as with anything, deciding whether or not HIIT will work for you requires a little more research. But if you decide to incorporate it into your own routine, you’ll find that interval training supplies a ton of benefits–and yes, it does so in less time.
Get Results in Less Time
Most of us are aware that in order to burn fat, we have to get our heart rate up. A lot of fitness trackers, books, and even treadmills will tell you to exercise in your “fat-burn” range because that’s where you’ll burn the most body fat. This is called “steady-state” cardio, and it doesn’t require a whole lot of effort.
The disadvantage with steady-state is that although more of your burned calories come from fat, you aren’t burning very many calories overall. Calorie burn is the number one way to get rid of the body fat, and steady-state just doesn’t cut it.
HIIT, on the other hand, can burn double the amount of calories in about half the time. You’ll be getting your heart rate up higher than with steady state, and at that point, yes, fewer of those burned calories come from fat. But that elevated heart rate will boost your metabolism for hours after your workout, and you’ll continue burning through your fat reserves even when you’re not exercising. That sounds like a pretty good deal, right?
The key to succeeding with any weight loss routine is simply remembering that it doesn’t come easy. HIIT is a great tool to aid with fat loss, but it can’t make up for a poor diet. And while it doesn’t require as much time to work as a traditional workout, you’ll have to give it all the more effort for that shorter timespan.
The periods of high intensity should be very difficult. When they’re over, you should be breathing hard. On a scale of 1-10, it should be at least an eight. During your recovery intervals, you’ll get a chance to catch your breath, but you won’t stop moving. On a scale of 1-10, these should be a three or four. This is usually the difference between sprinting and jogging.
How should I do it?
Technically, HIIT can be done with nearly any exercise. However, as a first-timer, you should probably only use interval training for cardio, such as an elliptical, running (on or off a treadmill), bicycle, or rowing.
How long should your intervals be? Well, that’s ultimately up to you. A good starting point, though, would be a 1:2 time ratio. That might be a high-intensity interval of one minute, followed by two minutes low-intensity. Or, it could be 30 seconds high, one minute low. Play around with the times and find what works best for you.
Over time, you’ll want to make the workout harder. You can do this by either a) increasing the high-intensity interval time or b) decreasing the low-intensity interval time. You want to shoot for a 1:1 ratio, but don’t get there too fast.
Let’s go through an basic example routine. Say you choose the bike (my favorite option). You want to begin with a warm-up of about five minutes. Out of 10, this should only be a 1 or 2. Then you’ll up the intensity to about a 3 or 4 and keep it there for a minute.
Once that minute is up, give it everything you’ve got for 30 whole seconds. Then “rest” for a minute, decreasing your intensity to a 3 or 4 again. Then repeat this process for about 15 minutes total. That’s it! Give yourself a cool-down period of about five minutes, and you’re done. You’ve just worked out for only 25 minutes, but burned more calories than an hour of steady-state uphill walking.
Used the right way, HIIT can be a powerful tool for weight loss, as well as breaking through your plateaus. As always, make sure to ask your doctor about it before you undertake a new routine. But once you’ve been cleared, you’ll find that HIIT is a fantastic way to save time, burn more calories, lose more fat, and most importantly, to reach your goals faster than ever before.