Don’t be put off by the tricky name – High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is something any active person can do. What makes it such a brilliant tool for everyone to try is how quickly it can shape your body and take your fitness up to another level. It’s also one of the best ways to increase your body’s fat-burning potential.
What is it exactly?
As the name suggests, HIIT is all about intervals of contrasting training. Brief but intense bursts of exercise (where you give maximum effort) are followed by low-intensity recovery or rest periods. For example, you might alternate 30-second sprints with 30 seconds of brisk walking or resting, repeated eight times. Don’t be put off by the challenge: HIIT is adaptable to you. If your heart is racing, you’ve found the intensity that’s right for your fitness level. And remember, you only have to work hard for a short time – a typical HIIT workout is completed in 20 minutes, so it's over quickly and the rewards are worth the sweat.
To get straight to the heart of this style of training, we spoke to HIIT expert, Fitness First Health and Fitness Manager, Andy McTaggart…
What is a HIIT workout like?
Hard work but fun! My clients look forward to their HIIT workouts. Training is intense but incredibly effective. People are short of time and want big results, so they’re looking for a session that leaves them knowing and feeling that they have worked hard.
What makes HIIT so popular?
It’s a major boost to your cardiovascular system and metabolic rate. But what people really love about it is that it burns fat faster than conventional training – and for up to 48 hours after you’ve left the gym. There’s nothing like HIIT for burning calories both during and after your workout. It also appears to limit the muscle loss that can be associated with weight loss.
Is it right for everybody?
Yes, you just need to choose the right exercises for your fitness level. When creating a HIIT workout, focus on the intensity of the workout rather than on the complexity of the exercises. It is all about working as hard as possible for the required period, so ditch any complicated exercises and start with simple bodyweight movements like squats, press-ups and burpees. Keep the workout simple and train hard.
Andy’s top tip: Keep it short
The ideal HIIT session is no longer than 20-30 minutes in entirety – so three 5-to-7 minute workouts in which you alternate short periods of high-intensity activity with lower-intensity activity. If you train for too long your level of intensity will decrease and, with it, the effectiveness of your workout.
If you’re a gym newbie: Start with the most basic exercises and gradually progress as you start to find these easier. Keep the movements simple and focus on giving 100% from the very beginning.
Andy recommends this routine…
Start with a 1:1 work-to-rest ratio and aim to work out for 20 minutes in total. For example, alternate a minute of jogging with a minute of brisk walking and repeat. If you find this routine too easy you can decrease the amount of rest time or increase the work time for each exercise. Another option is to increase the total workout time. Always warm up and cool down for at least five minutes before and after each HIIT session.
Battle Rope Alternate Waves
This is an upper-body workout that will certainly get your heart rate up. Face the anchor point with your feet shoulder width apart and your knees slightly bent. Grab one end of the rope in each hand, with your palms facing in towards your body. Raise one arm to shoulder level and then quickly lower it back to the starting position, raising the other arm to shoulder level as you do so. Control your breathing throughout and keep moving your arms as quickly as possible.
A full-body workout in one exercise – with every rep, you’ll be working your arms, chest, quads, glutes, hamstrings and abs. Keep your back straight when you’re doing the push-up and don’t cheat on the jump – aim to get at least 18cm off the ground.
BOSU Mountain Climbers
This workout will challenge your whole core as well as your shoulder stability. Place the BOSU dome-side down, then get into a push-up position, with your shoulders directly over your wrists. Brace your core – maintain this position throughout the movement. Holding your hips steady, bend your right knee up towards your right elbow and then return it to the starting position. Quickly repeat the movement with the other knee, and continue alternating until time is up.
Kettlebell Goblet Squats
With your feet shoulder width apart, hold the Kettlebell tightly close to your chest. Squat down until your hips are in line with your knees, holding your back straight. Keep your core muscles tight while you perform as many squats as possible during the allocated time.
ViPR Ice Skaters
A great exercise requiring balance and coordination. It always hits the glutes first but it will work most of the body. Start by holding the ViPR level in front of your hips. Take wide steps from side to side, bringing the stepping leg behind the stable leg and aiming to keep your foot up off the floor. While stepping, swing the ViPR towards the stable knee using the same arm you're stepping with. Decelerate through the hips, then push back to perform the same movement on the other side. Keep your back straight and your core muscles active throughout the exercise.
Not at the gym?
If you’re working out at home or at the park, Andy recommends this equipment-free session:
- Squats for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds.
- Press-ups for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds.
- Burpees for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds.
- Mountain climbers for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds.
- Repeat these four exercises as a circuit, completing five rounds in 20 minutes.
Aim for a pace that challenges you and focus on working your whole body throughout the workout. Do as many repetitions as possible in the first round and challenge yourself to maintain that pace in each following round.
So, has High Intensity Interval Training transformed your workout? Please leave your comments below…