Do you dread doing 60 minutes of cardio on the treadmill, stair-climber or bike? How many more boring cardio sessions can you do? If you are sick of your cardio routine and are not seeing the results you want anymore, it’s time for you start doing HIIT, High Intensity Interval Training. HIIT is different than steady state cardio because you complete several short intervals of maximal intensity cardio lasting anywhere from 10 to 60 seconds and then recovering with moderate activity, rather than performing cardio at a moderate level for one hour. Therefore, you are actually training your cardiovascular system to recover from the high intensity and then bringing the intensity back up. You end up burning more calories in a shorter amount of time, because the actual workout is more intense. Most importantly, you do not have to spend 60 minutes running on a treadmill because your workout can be completed in a short 15-20 minutes. This leaves you with more time, and a more challenging workout for your body. What could be better?
In several studies where participants were analyzed after doing HIIT, results showed greater fat use and decreased carbohydrate use after only 16 minutes (1, 2, 3). HIIT has also been shown to increase V02max (1). The beauty of this higher intensity training is that improvements in fitness can be seen in as little as 6 days of short bursts of workouts, versus hours of endurance training (1). Another great thing about HIIT is that there are many variations to it. It does not limit you to a bike or treadmill. HIIT can be done with many different exercises that quickly raise your heart rate, such as up-downs, jumping jacks, sprints, or even using weights. If you have ever taken a Spinning class with a good instructor during a strength or interval ride, you would notice a similar type or training. Your heart rate gets up very high, and the instructor guides you back down for a specific amount of time and back up again. This is a way of training your heart to be able to recover faster from high intensity exercise, which also means training your heart to be in better shape. If you are on a hill the whole time during a Spinning or cycling class, find another instructor.
So, if you’re in need of a quick and effective workout to burn fat and build muscle, HIIT is the way to go. Just remember that during the high intensity interval, you are exerting your maximal intensity and working very hard. It should not feel like a walk in the park. By performing at your max, you will end up burning more calories, fat, and getting closer to that lean and muscular physique.
- Astorino T.A, Allen R.P, Roberson D.W, Juranich M. Effect of High-Intensity Interval Training on cariovascualr function, VO2max, and muscular force. J Strength Cond Res. 26(1):138-145, 2012
- Burgomaster KA, Eigenhauser GJF, Gibala MJ. Effect of short term interval training on human skeletal muscle carbohydrate metabolism during exercise and time-trial performance. J Appl Physiol 100: 2041-2047, 2006.
- Burgomaster KA, Hughes SC, Heigenhauser GJF, Bradwell SN, Gibala MJ. Six sessions of sprint interval training increases muscle oxidative potential and cycle endurance capacity in humans. J Appl Physiol 98:1985-1990, 2005.