Thursday, November 22, 2018

Why HIIT Training Works & How to Make Your Workout Better

These days, online fads have a new fitness routine to showcase just about every time you open an internet browser, muddling the waters of what works and what doesn’t. However, not all of these popular exercise trends are junk.

HIIT, for example, is everywhere. In fact, the American Physical Therapy Association surveyed exercise professionals around the world and found that HIIT had risen to the number-one spot of 2018 fitness trends, rising from number three in 2017, and there’s certainly a reason for HIIT’s popularity! 

What is HIIT Training?

HIIT is short for “high-intensity interval training,” and the name itself does a lot to explain this fitness philosophy. Most exercise gurus will describe a high-intensity interval as around 30 seconds of pushing yourself to the max—at least 80%, but usually 90% or more. In other words, HIIT is all about pushing your body as hard as you can for short bursts of time.

These high-intensity intervals alternate with periods of recovery, like miniature cooldown periods.

Fitness fiends love HIIT because: 

  • It’s easily adaptable to any fitness level. By increasing the length of rest periods or adjusting the number of repetitions, HIIT workouts are highly customizable.
  • It can work with a variety of exercises, as long as your entire body is involved.
  • It’s quick! Many people believe that they don’t have enough time to exercise, contributing to the fact that nearly a third of people worldwide aren’t physically active enough each day. Because HIIT training focuses on short bursts of strenuous activity, it’s rare to see a HIIT workout last more than 30 minutes, and that includes warmup and cooldown!

Why HIIT Training Works

During the high-intensity bursts which define HIIT, you’re pushing your body into an anaerobic state. This means that you don’t have enough oxygen, so your body will utilize its energy reserves to keep you going. This increase in metabolism is maintained for hours after the workout is finished, continuing to burn calories even after you’ve showered and ditched the gym clothes.

Called the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) effect, this phenomenon is part of the reason why HIIT training can help you to burn calories and metabolize fat even during workouts of a shorter duration. In fact, HIIT is the best-known way to stimulate this effect since EPOC is determined by the intensity of the exercise rather than the length of time spent exercising.

If you’re more convinced by numbers, the EPOC effect achieved from a HIIT workout is capable of increasing the session’s energy cost by 6 to 15%. 

Also, consider the fact that your body burns about 5 calories for every liter of oxygen used. This means that exercises which increase oxygen demand (think HIIT) will be responsible for burning higher numbers of calories both during and after the workout.

Plus, the metabolic stress placed on your body results in elevated muscle repair and energy production, meaning more muscle definition, less body fat, and less time spent at the gym.

Improving Your Workout with HIIT

So, what’s the next step? You guessed it—trying HIIT training out for yourself. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to rearrange your workout routine to become more HIIT-friendly, and there’s no need to change up your favorite activities. Do you like to cycle? You still can!


Many stationary bike workouts suggest something like this: a five-minute warmup, 30 minutes of steady cycling, and a five-minute cooldown. To turn your ordinary cycling routine into a HIIT cycling routine, try something like the following: warm up for five minutes, then power through 30 seconds of high-intensity effort (pedaling as quickly as you can on a high resistance setting) followed by one minute of low intensity. Rinse and repeat for as many reps as you’re comfortable with, then cool down.

As you get those gains, you can begin to ramp up the length of your high-intensity intervals, increase resistance, or aim for more reps. As long as you’re pedaling as hard as you can for short bursts of time, you’ve got the right idea.


Prefer to run? The same principles can be applied to running. Replace your steady, long-distance routine with intervals of short sprints. Go all out for 30 seconds, then walk briskly or jog during low-intensity intervals. 

Everything Else

No gym handy? No problem! Eric Salvador of The Fitting Room in New York City has developed a “Do-It-Anywhere” HIIT workout consisting of 50 sit-ups, 40 jump squats, 30 push-ups, 20 split jumps, 10 tricep dips, and 30 burpees. 

Just about any workout regimen can be transformed into a HIIT routine, so don’t be afraid to get creative and toss some variety into your normal schedule! As popular as HIIT is, it’s more than just a temporary fad—this super-effective theory of exercise is here to stay.

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