Let's Talk About HIIT
Quick and efficient is the name of the game in my house - between my 2 daughters and running a business, there's no time for dili dally! That’s why I love high-intensity interval training (HIIT). If you've taken class with me, you know I'm all about all things HIIT. If you're new to the squad, or if you're curious if HIIT training is right for you - keep reading! I'm breaking it all down:
What is HIIT?
So, what exactly is high-intensity interval training, what are the benefits, and can it really maximise your training efficiency if you are short on time? Designed for you to reach your max, HIIT training is a great choice for those short on time but greatly committed to hitting their fitness goals. This fast-paced training style is typically between 15-45 minutes and involves short, intense bursts of exercise. These exercises can be bodyweight, use dumbbells, a kettlebell, mini loop band, etc. No matter the equipment - all exercises performed are followed by either active or complete rest. HIIT workouts will make you sweat and keep your heart rate elevated the whole time!
The idea is to work at your maximum effort. According to the American Heart Association, vigorous activity is usually around 70-85% of your maximum heart rate, which is the maximum number of times your heart will beat in a minute without you going beyond your limits. To get the full benefit of a HIIT session - work really hard during those efforts and earn your recovery!
What are the benefits of HIIT?
Results continue after you finish the workout High-intensity workouts burn more energy in a shorter period of time than steady-state cardio, generating a greater excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), or “afterburn” effect. According to the American Council on Exercise, with HIIT, you not only burn calories during the workout, but because of the high intensity your body will continue to metabolize as it replaces energy and repairs muscle proteins targeted during exercise. You can continue to burn energy anywhere up to 48-72 hours after you finish the workout. Pretty cool, right?
Increases VO2max HIIT works to improve your VO2max, which is the maximum rate at which your heart, lungs and muscles can effectively use oxygen during exercise - it is often considered one of the best indicators of cardiorespiratory fitness. When you have an increased VO2max, your body can gain better endurance in aerobic exercises and may also improve overall health.
A more efficient form of cardio If you’re short on time, HIIT can help you to fit a workout into a busy schedule because it is more time-efficient. A healthy, long-lasting burn in a short amount of time? Talk about a bang for a metabolic buck!
What modalities are considered HIIT?
Any type of cardio exercise can be done as a HIIT workout — including cycling, jumping rope, running or rowing. Simply set a work interval and rest period to get started. Some of the most common high-intensity interval training styles include:
Tabata My FAVORITE! Yes, Tabata is a separate category on our platform - it’s simply because it’s my speciality. Tabata is actually a specific modality within the HIIT umbrella. This training style involves 20 seconds of maximum effort, followed by 10 seconds of rest eight times through. After that 4-minute round - rest for one minute before moving onto the next round as prescribed by your coach. Want a deeper dive into Tabata? Click here! I always teach true Tabata in this format, varying the style of exercises and equipment to keep it fresh. I also use two movements per round to keep it interesting - you'll complete those 2 movements back-to-back until you complete your set of 8. Try one of these workouts now.
AMRAP Stands for “as many reps as possible” or “as many rounds as possible” where your aim is to repeat an exercise as many times as you can, or for as many rounds of a circuit as you can, in a specified timeframe. The goal of an AMRAP workout is to focus on intensity. You can use AMRAP in your training routine to help you build endurance. Try this HIIT class with intervals and an AMRAP finisher to see what you think!
EMOM “Every minute on the minute” — as the name suggests, the workout is broken up into one-minute intervals. During each interval, you complete a specific number of reps of a certain exercise or exercises. If you finish your reps before the minute ends, the remaining time is yours to recover. Once the minute is up, you repeat this process, start a new minute and work to complete the reps all over again. Have you tried EPIC EMOM yet?
Want to try HIIT?
The great thing about HIIT is that anyone can give it a go. However, like with any form of exercise, there is always a risk associated with it if you are new to this kind of programming or if you are overtraining.
If you are new to HIIT, go at your own pace and listen to your body. If you have any prior injuries or health concerns, it is best to get cleared by a health professional before getting started. Focus on your own capabilities and what you can control — not what others around you can do — and scale back as necessary. If you're taking class with me, I always give a low impact option if your feet leave the ground. It’s important to make sure your form is correct, especially for fundamental movements like push-ups and squats. As you become more comfortable with this modality, you can increase the intensity.
In terms of overtraining, as much as I love HIIT workouts I aim to complete 2-3 workouts of this style per week. The remainder of the time with be 2 strength days, 2 cardio (steady state or intervals), and one rest day. Overtraining puts our body at risk for injury, and we want to make sure we get the most out of our sessions together. The KE platform offers plenty of alternative workouts to enjoy on days that are not focused on HIIT training!
Examples of HIIT movements
Explosive bodyweight movements like burpees and jump squats are examples of high-intensity exercises that can work together to form an effective HIIT workout. We have plenty of HIIT workouts to choose from here! Strength endurance exercises that include weights, like kettlebell swings and dumbbell snatches can also be used in a heart-pumping HIIT workout.
Where to perform HIIT
The great thing about HIIT is that it can be completed almost anywhere, with minimal equipment. Just make sure you've cleared your space and you have enough room to move around. Also, if you’re jumping I strongly recommend a supportive pair of sneakers to help protect your joints upon impact.
How to get started with HIIT
When you begin something new, like a new training style or program, there are some key steps that will help you succeed. When getting started with HIIT:
Begin with a warm-up
A good warm-up before any workout is essential. A cardio HIIT warm-up may include low-intensity aerobic exercise like a light run, followed by some dynamic stretches to get your muscles warm and blood flowing. You can also try one of our cardio warm-ups here!
Focus on your form
As I say - form over everything! Before starting any high-intensity workout, make sure you are familiar with the exercises and confident with your form. If you begin to fatigue during a HIIT workout and your form starts to deteriorate, reduce the intensity of the exercise so that you are still able to complete each rep safely. This might mean using a lower weight, reducing the number of reps or switching to a low impact alternative exercise.
HIIT uses a lot of energy, so it’s important that you eat before and after your workout. Staying hydrated throughout the day and having a meal/snack before your workout helps you maintain solid energy to perform well, and having a snack after your session can help rebuild muscle tissue.
The timing of your pre-workout meal can also affect how you feel during your workout — if you eat anything that doesn’t sit well or if you ate too closely to your session, you may feel uncomfortable during the bouts of high-intensity exercise.
If I'm short on time (I usually am!), I have a banana beforehand - Mike usually opts for nuts. After a workout is where I prioritize protein to help my body rebuild.
You should always end a tough HIIT session with a cool down, using stretching and foam rolling to focus on the muscles you have just trained. Like warm-ups, try a stretch session with me here!
RPE stands for the “rate of perceived exertion”, or how hard an exercise feels. It’s a scale of 1-10 that you can use to determine your effort during exercise. A rating of 10 indicates a maximum effort. The work periods in a HIIT workout should be done at an RPE of 7/8. I talk about this much more in our guided HIIT runs.
Scale To What You Need
If you are new to HIIT and you want to give Tabata a go, I would prefer you skipped an effort (as long as the movement isn’t unilateral!) to have more rest, or pause your workout rather than push through and potentially get hurt. As long as you keep showing up, I promise you will build up to that solid set of 8 - I’ll be here cheering you on!
You can also start with lower impact high-intensity exercise. For example, instead of doing jump lunges, you might start with reverse lunges, progressing to jump lunges on your time. In our classes together, I always give a low impact alternative so that we can meet where you feel your best.
How to get the most out of HIIT
Here are some tips to help you to get the most out of each HIIT session, and recover effectively too:
Allow recovery time
High-intensity workouts like HIIT can create elevated levels of cortisol, which is the stress hormone in your body. After a HIIT session, it can take about 24 hours for your cortisol to return to it’s baseline levels. Because of this, you won’t find back-to-back HIIT sessions programmed into our calendar! I recommend spreading your HIIT workouts throughout the week to allow your body to recover properly and adapt to this form of exercise, with your other workouts being different modalities such as strength, mobility, or mat work.
Less is more
It’s important to keep your working intervals in a HIIT workout short - you’ll usually see 20-30 seconds on our platform. This will enable you to hit maximum intensity to get the full benefit of the workout with every interval.
Use your rest breaks
Work hard, rest hard! Resting during a HIIT workout allows your body to work at its full capacity during high-intensity intervals. During high-intensity work periods, your muscles get most of their energy from the anaerobic system - training with the lack of oxygen. Aerobically (training with oxygen), you can provide energy for much longer than your anaerobic system which is why your body reverts to the aerobic system during rest, utilizing oxygen to generate the energy required for your body to recover.
Elevate your next workout with HIIT
HIIT workouts have so many benefits like boosting metabolism, improving cardiovascular health, and helping promote faster results. HIIT training will positively impact your strength sessions, and you’ll see the benefits the next time you have to sprint up the stairs! What is your favorite HIIT session on demand? Let me know in the comments!