Saturday, April 27, 2019

How HIIT Affects Your Muscles

Everyone wants to get in shape, but many people go about it the wrong way. They’ll waste hours and hours on the treadmill or stationary bike, mind-numbingly glued to the machines. Unfortunately, research has shown that this can actually be counterproductive to muscle growth.

Steady-state cardio could even cause you to lose muscle if you’re not careful! So, what should you be doing then? Should you just avoid cardio entirely? Well, no, but you might need to go about it a different way.

In this article, we’ll be talking about the benefits of high-intensity interval training. We’ll explain why everyone is doing it, what the benefits are, and how you can make it a part of your routine to shed fat faster and build more muscle.

We’ll get to the benefits of HIIT and how it impacts your muscles in a minute, but first let’s talk about what HIIT is and where it came from. Who pioneered high-intensity interval training? Athletes looking to get the best performance from their training of course.

What is HIIT and where did it come from?

Despite what people may think, HIIT is not anything new. Athletes from as early as 1910 have been using interval training to condition their bodies for competitive sports. Hannes Kolehmainen, an Olympic gold medalist from Finland also trained using similar techniques.

HIIT means performing brief, but high-intensity bursts of cardio followed by equal periods of rest. As an example, you might consider sprinting. This would require you to run as fast as you can for a short period of time, and then follow that up with walking or a slow jog.

While many people have bemoaned the uselessness of steady cardio like biking or running when trying to gain muscle mass, the studies for HIIT tell a different story. In this study, comparing HIIT to steady-state cardio, the group who performed HIIT exercises gained nearly two pounds of muscle. The steady-state cardio group lost almost a pound.

That’s a staggering result, and if you’ve been on the fence about adopting a HIIT routine, you should definitely take a closer look. While you might think that it would be common sense that you would burn more fat with a longer cardio workout, another study says that while you would burn more calories, you could actually burn more body fat with HIIT.

So, what’s the downside to HIIT training? Well, interval training is very taxing on your body. You’re literally going as hard as you can in that time period, and that means that you need to be more careful about your recovery time. It’s important not to overtax your body when you incorporate HIIT into your workout routine.

What are the benefits of HIIT?

There are a lot of benefits to establishing a HITT routine. For starters, those sudden bursts of activity do an amazing job of burning a ton of calories in a short period of time. You could even burn up to 30% more calories with HIIT versus other methods of exercise.

HIIT has also been shown to boost your metabolic rate for an extended period of time even after your workout is over. This allows you to continue burning fat throughout the day.

It also allows you to do cardio while still gaining muscle, which is likely one of the biggest benefits of HITT. Especially seeing as steady-state cardio could even cause you to lose muscle mass.

This study also found that HIIT can reduce blood sugar and increase insulin resistance. How big of a difference is it? Enough for researchers to find it useful for diabetics, and it does a better job at it than traditional exercises as well.

There’s also evidence that HIIT can actually increase the proportion of fast-twitch muscle fibers. Fast-twitch muscle fibers have less in the way of endurance, but they can give a much larger boost to overall strength and power when compared to slow-twitch muscle fibers.

How does HIIT affect your muscles?

So, what makes HIIT so special? Why is it superior to boring old steady-state cardio? HIIT succeeds where everyday cardio fails because it can actually increase testosterone and GLUT4 concentrations, while steady-state cardio can actually be detrimental to testosterone.

Intense cardio periods, like the ones that appear during a HIIT workout actually deprive your body of oxygen. Your muscles then attempt to compensate for this by working harder to return to their normal state.

That’s really the magic of HIIT and why it allows your body to torch calories so quickly, but it also allows you to pack on more muscle. HIIT actually forces your body to use a greater percentage of your muscle fibers than something like jogging would, and that leads to a much larger boost in muscle growth.

How do you get started with HIIT training?

If you want to get started with HIIT, this means giving it everything you’ve got. You’re literally looking to be moving as fast as you can for 15-30 seconds. Then you’ll need to follow that up with an at least equal, but possibly longer rest period.

While sprinting is often a common example used for HIIT routines, you don’t have to run if you don’t want to. There’s plenty of other popular choices like cycling, rowing and cross trainer machines.

HIIT can also be extremely effective if it’s paired with a weight lifting routine. Try completing your HIIT routine an hour or so before you start lifting weights to help shed fat faster. If you’ll be performing both HIIT and weight training on the same day, go for strength endurance training with more reps to maximize the benefits.

In closing, HIIT workouts are actually very flexible, and they can be performed with little to no equipment. You can do HIIT at home, at the gym, when you’re traveling for business or even in your downtime somewhere. Just remember to give yourself ample rest periods to avoid injuring yourself.

Sprinterval is an app that helps you get started with HIIT using sprints.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

How to Stretch Before You Run

Stretching is the number one thing to incorporate in your regular exercise routines to minimize the chances of injury during workouts. Muscles need to be prepared and warmed up in order to function properly during the rigorous physical activity that will follow.

Stretches and stretch routines vary as much as there are different types of exercises and plans. If you’re to stretch before going for a run, you will concentrate on the core, hips, legs, calf, and ankle muscles. These are the muscles that will be used during jogging, so these parts of the body have to be warmed up before you hit the treadmill or pavement.

Warm-ups and stretches can help prevent injury and also increase your performance level during your workout or jog. It’s always a good idea to plan a few minutes before starting any activity to stretch out those muscles and get them prepared.

Do your stretches while focusing on the movement and not the number of repetitions. Feel your muscles and joints energize and warm up. Make your stretch routine count and let it be beneficial to your body.

Let’s warm up those muscles!

Stretching Before Running

Stretching the main muscles located in the hips and legs is recommended before running to energize and warm up the core muscles that you will be using during your run. Doing a few localized and effective stretches will warm up your muscles and your joints to help prevent injury and provide valuable energy to get going with your run.

Dynamic Stretches

The most effective stretches to do before a run are dynamic stretches as opposed to static stretches. The movements should be light and increasing. The muscles that you will want to concentrate on are your quads, glutes, hamstrings, hips, and calves.

5 Great Stretches for Runners

1. Hip Flexor Swing - This stretch helps improve hip mobility.
  • Hold on to something and stand on your right leg.
  • Swing the left one back and then forward. Build the stretch farther as you repeat. 
  • 15-20 repetitions on each leg

2. Hip Abductor – This stretch helps improve mobility
  • Hold on to something and stand on your right leg.
  • Swing your left leg crossways on top of the right one and then the other way. Build the stretch further as you repeat.
  • 15-20 repetitions for each leg.

3. Calf Raises – This stretch helps warm up the calf muscles
  • Stand on a step or a stair with the front of your feet firm and the back hanging.
  • Lower your heels past the stair.
  • Raise up on your toes.
  • 10-15 repetitions 
4. Lunge Walking – This stretch warms up hips
  • Large step forward with your right leg.
  • Bend until thigh is parallel to the ground.
  • Repeat with other leg.
  • 15-20 lunges.
5. Rotate Ankles – This stretch helps ankles flexibility
  • Sit on the floor and grab your right ankle.
  • Rotate your ankle in circular motion switching from clockwise to counterclockwise.
  • 15-20 repetitions for each ankle.

Stretching Before HIIT

Interval Sprint training has become increasingly popular in the last several years. There’s a good reason more and more people are hopping on the trend because it has proven to provide fast calorie burning and quick results.

Sprint training takes less time than a regular workout. Your body is subjected to short, intense periods of extreme exercise followed by short periods of rest and recovery. This is repeated several times over the course of approximately 25 minutes or so. This is meant to raise your heart rate to 80% or 90%, then bring it down a little but not completely.

Stretching before HIIT is different as you will want to warm up your muscles by mimicking the movements that you will be doing during your HIIT workout. It’s best to do dynamic stretches for pre-HIIT workouts. You want to slowly raise your heart rate and body temperature. A few minutes is sufficient to warm your muscles and prepare them for your interval sprint training.

Try These Quick and Easy Warm-Ups

When doing warmups before your HIIT workout, remember that the movement is important, not the number of repetitions. Focus on doing the movement fully and intently.

Jumping Jacks or Jumping Rope

Jumping jacks and jump rope are time-honored fitness workout warm-ups.
Try 2 minutes of one of these to get the heart pumping and muscles fired up.


Push-ups will get your core muscles into action and ready for your HIIT workout.
10 to 20 push-ups while engaging your core.


20 lunges will rev up the legs.

Arm Circles

10 to 15 Small arm circles clockwise and counterclockwise.
10 to 15 large arm circles clockwise and counterclockwise.

Stretching IS Important

Stretching is as important as you hear it said everywhere. Every fitness instructor or professional will tell you that warming up and preparing your body to do a physical activity is mandatory if you don’t want to hurt yourself.

Stretches shouldn’t take up too much time to be efficient. When done correctly you can get those muscles warmed up and ready for your workout in a few short minutes. There’s no use spending a lot of time and energy on stretches, energy that you will need for your run or your workout.

Adapt the type of stretches to the workout you are about to do. Think about the muscles that will be used and focus on warming those up. The core is always a good idea to prepare for any workout because it’s central in most movements we make.

Your stretches should be efficient; otherwise it's a waste of time even doing them. Listen to your body and don’t overstretch. Take the repetitions s gradually and build the flexibility until you fell the muscles and joints warm and not rigid.

You know you have had a successful stretching warmup when your muscles feel warm and your joints are flexible. That simple.

Don’t forget to stretch!

Sprinterval helps you get started with High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) using sprints. Available for iOS & Android.