What if I told you that by spending 30-45 minutes at the gym running intervals would help you lose fat faster than walking on the treadmill for four hours?
Welcome to the wonderful, time-saving world of high intensity interval training!
What is High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)?
It’s a kind of exercise that aims for maximum fat loss in a short period of time, and it combines two kinds of training:
- High Intensity Training. Working out at maximum effort in order to reach VO2 max, which triggers the afterburn effect that makes your body burn calories up to 48 hours after your workout ends.
- Interval Training. Alternating periods of low-intensity with moderate-intensity. This builds lean muscle mass and boosts metabolism, and burns more calories than steady state cardio (working out the same duration for a set period of time.)
By combining these two types of training, you get HIIT!
What are the benefits of HIIT?
1. Increased metabolic rate. Who doesn’t want that?
2. Increased calorie burn during and after your workout. The afterburn effect from high intensity training is magnified by adding intervals into the mix.
3. Improved mitochondrial function. HIIT actually improves your body at the cellular level, improving mitochondrial function and energy levels in our body.
4. Increased fat loss. Intervals combined with intense exercise boost your metabolism and the afterburn effect, promoting fat loss.
5. Shorter workouts save you time. Research has show that 27 minutes of HIIT 3x/week produces the same set of anaerobic and aerobic benefits as doing steady state cardio 60 min/day for 5x/week!
Health Professionals Recommend HIIT
Dr. Mark Hymen, author of well-known book The Blood Sugar Solution featured on the Doctor Oz show, says this about HIIT:
“I recommend including strength training and a special type of aerobic conditioning called high intensity interval training (HIIT) in your regular routine. This combination has been shown to dramatically improve mitochondrial function, and leads to weight loss and improved cellular metabolism (Hymen 132).”
Jillian Michaels also uses HIIT in all her workout videos.
How to HIIT
There are THREE WAYS to do HIIT:
Method #1: Wing It
You can always just take the basic principle of HIIT and run for it. i.e. sprint for as long as you can, then walk until you’re ready to sprint again.
Pros: No equipment, routine, videos, or music necessary! Just push yourself to the max, then rest, then do it again! The key here is to WORK HARD!
Cons: You might slack off, you might not push yourself hard enough, this way might be as effective as a structured HIIT routine.
Method #2: Pick a Type of HIIT and time it yourself!
You can follow one of the three types of HIIT and use a timer to time the intervals.
Types of HIIT:
- Do this: 2-4 times/week
- Total workout time: 4 minutes
- Ratio: 20 seconds of high intensity/10 seconds of rest for 8 cycles
How do Tabata: Start with a three minute warmup, 20 seconds of sprinting, then 10 seconds of walking, and repeat for 8 cycles.
*Remember, you can do Tabata, Little, and Turbulence for cycling or other methods of cardio, too. The point is to make sure you’re really working hard during the intense intervals.
This method is best for those who have zero time and are in good shape.
- Do this: 3x/week
- Total workout time: 12 cycles/27 minutes
- Ratio: 60 seconds of high intensity/75 seconds of low intensity
How to do the Little Method: 3 minute warmup, 60 seconds sprinting or fast cycling at max resistance, 75 seconds of walking or slow cycling at low resistance. Repeat for a total of 12 cycles or 27 minutes.
This method is best for: Those who want a more flexible routine than Tabata and are in reasonably good shape.
Also known as “circuit training.”
Use heavy weights, low reps, and intense cardio.
- Do this: 3x/week
- Total Workout Time: 45min max
- Ratio: 8-rep weight training sets alternating with 1-2min intense cardio
How to do the Little Method: 5 minute warm up of jumping jacks or something, 8-rep set of weightlifting, 1 min of mountain climbers or burpees, repeat through a full-body strength routine for 45 min or so.
This method is best for: People who want to tone up and incorporate strength, but still want to lose fat, and have time to spare.
Method #3: Use an App or a Workout DVD
There a lot of great apps and videos out there for high intensity interval training: just a Youtube search of HIIT videos will reveal a whole other world of fitness!
Here are my favorite go-tos for apps and videos.
Best HIIT Apps: Lolo Beat Burn Treadmill Trainer and its half marathon counterpart are the best apps out there for structuring HIIT runs!
Best HIIT Videos: My 30 Day Youtube Workout program has a huge variety of HIIT videos, including a Fitness Blender Tabata workout, a HIIT pilates routine, and more! Check it out, and let me know which ones are your favorites!
Is HIIT Right for You?
High intensity interval training is quite a challenge, but the results it yields are miles ahead of anything steady state cardio has to offer.
However, because of the intensity of HIIT, not everybody can handle it. Fitness beginners might not be able to handle it, and may have to work up to HIIT through easier steady state cardio. Those with health conditions also should be sure to check with their doctor before starting HIIT.
Hopefully this HIIT guide has helped you out! Leave a comment if you have any questions!
Mark Hyman, The Blood Sugar Solution.
Department of Kinesiology, McMasters University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada (2009).
Department of Physiology and Biomechanics, National Institute of Fitness and Sports, Kanoya City, Japan (1996).