What is HIIT?
HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. In other words, it is short periods of intense exercise separated by short periods of rest.
- Sprint 100 m
- Rest 10 secs
- Repeat 9 more times
- Rest 10 secs
A HIIT session usually lasts for anything up to 20 minutes. This is because the average person’s body would be unable to cope with performing intensive intervals for much longer than this.
The opposite of HIIT is Steady State Cardio. This is cardiovascular exercise that usually lasts 20+ minutes where the intensity stays consistent. An example would be swimming 50 lengths of the pool at a steady pace. This is what we traditionally regard as cardiovascular exercise.
Why choose HIIT?
- Very quick – between 4-20 minutes is all that is required to perform a HIIT session.
- Burns fat – in fact it can burn fat for up to 48 hours afterwards by raising your metabolism.
- Can be performed anywhere – within reason!
- No equipment needed – HIIT can be performed using just your own bodyweight.
- Reduced risk of injury – less wear and tear on joints compared to steady state cardio, such as running.
- Increase heart and lung capacity – body has to adapt to the intensity over time.
- Reduces risk of cardiovascular diseases – helps to improve the health of your heart.
In terms of most goals, HIIT is a much superior option to steady state cardio. However, steady state cardio still has its benefits. For example, many people simply enjoy performing certain exercises such as running, swimming and cycling at a steady pace. It also depends on the individual’s goals. For example, if a person’s goal is to run a marathon, there is no substitute for steady state training in terms of getting the mileage in.
How does HIIT burn fat for up to 48 hours afterwards?
After a HIIT workout, your body requires a lot of oxygen to return the body to the natural balanced state that it prefers to be in. Your body uses this oxygen to raise metabolism, and so fat is burnt to help restore and repair for up to 48 hours afterwards.
This is unlike steady state cardio, where most of the fat is burnt during the workout. Very little fat is burnt afterwards as it doesn’t take much time or effort for the body to return to it’s natural balanced state.
HIIT is usually performed using full body exercises, working as many muscles as possible at all times. This is because we want to exert as much energy as possible and raise our heart rate.
Examples of exercises used in HIIT:
- Sprints (i.e. whilst running, swimming, rowing or cycling)
- Bodyweight exercises (e.g. jumping jacks, mountain climbers, burpees or high knees)
- Barbell/dumbbell exercises (e.g. squats, lunges, clean & press or deadlifts)
- Kettlebell exercises (e.g. swing, squat & press, snatch or rows)
- Others (e.g. skipping, boxing, jumping or kicking)
Length and structure of HIIT sessions will depend on the individual’s goals, fitness levels, experience, time constraints, and equipment and space available. For example, a beginner may want to rest twice as long as they perform the exercise. Everyone has different fitness levels, so one person’s intense could be another person’s stroll.
Where to start?
Every Friday evening at 6:30pm, I hold a HIIT class at the Tesco community room in Church wood Drive, Hastings. It lasts 30 minutes (including warm up/down and stretching), involves no equipment and costs just £3 per person. I am passionate about the fact that my class is open to people of all abilities, and everybody is welcome to do it at their own pace. I will not scream and shout in your face if you rest out a couple of sets (or your money back – ha ha). Come along and try for yourself what HIIT is all about!