(Excerpted from bodybuilding.com)
See full article: http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/wotw40.htm

HIIT is a training idea in which low to moderate intensity intervals are alternated with high intensity intervals.

HIIT can be applied to running or to exercises such as squatting. HIIT is considered to be much more effective than normal cardio because the intensity is higher and you are able to increase both your aerobic and anaerobic endurance while burning more fat than ever before.

“In research, HIIT has been shown to burn adipose tissue more effectively than low-intensity exercise – up to 50% more efficiently.” It has also been shown to speed up your metabolism which helps you burn more calories throughout the day. (www.musclemedia.com)

HIIT improves both energy systems for endurance:

General Warm-up/Flexibility Routine

Touch Toes – 15 Reps (Touch toes quickly, come right back up and repeat)
Lunges – 10 reps/leg
Side Lunges – 10 reps each direction
Butt Kicks – 25 yards
High Knees – 25 yards
Arm Circles – 20 reps
Trunk Twists – 20 reps
Side Bends – 20 reps

The best way to get started with HIIT would be to keep things simple and progress from there. Keeping in mind that these workouts will require some time to recover from, they are best performed at a frequency of about 3 times per week on non-weight-lifting days. Each workout should be outlined similar to this beginner’s layout:


Minutes 1-4 (Warm-Up)
Jog at about 50% effort
Minute 5 (Workout Interval 1)
Sprint 30 seconds at maximum effort Jog/Walk 30 seconds
Minute 6 (Workout Interval 2)
Sprint 30 seconds at maximum effort
Jog/Walk 30 seconds
Minute 7 (Workout Interval 3)
Sprint 30 seconds at maximum effort
Jog/Walk 30 seconds
Minute 8 (Workout Interval 4)
Sprint 30 seconds at maximum effort
Jog/Walk 30 seconds
Minutes 9-12 (Cool-Down)
Jog at about 50% effort

After every two workout sessions, one can increase the number of “workout” intervals they do each time up until about 10 total “workout” intervals. This will allow for a steady progression of fitness levels, and help one realize the full potential and results of interval training.

While it’s definitely possible to perform this training using a variety of methods like with a Stairmaster, bike, or treadmill, it’s more beneficial to apply a simple unassisted running technique. Because sprinting causes a greater peak in oxygen consumption, it is most ideal for HIIT workouts.

It’s been shown that the closer one gets to their maximum oxygen intake (or VO2max) while exercising dictates how much fat will be used for energy afterward. So the use of sprints conforms best to our goal of losing adipose tissue.

However, the option of sprinting is not always convenient for those who want to reduce the stress on their joints. For such individuals, a bike or elliptical machine may be the perfect solution. These types of machines might also want to be used once in a while just to provide a different stimulus for the body, and to prevent adaptation and plateaus. But for the most part, it’s highly recommended to stick with the alternation of sprinting and jogging for HIIT.

For those who have progressed through the previous workout that was outlined and are still seeking new challenges, the following HIIT workout might do the trick. It’s certainly not easy and might be the closest to being “the best” one can do for a HIIT workout in terms of intensity.


Minutes 1-4 (Warm-Up)
Jog at about 50% effort
Minute 5 First-Half (Workout Interval 1)
Sprint 20 seconds at maximum effort
Jog/Walk 10 seconds
Minute 5 Last-Half (Workout Interval 2)
Sprint 20 seconds at maximum effort
Jog/Walk 10 seconds
Minute 6 First-Half (Workout Interval 3)
Sprint 20 seconds at maximum effort
Jog/Walk 10 seconds
Minute 6 Last-Half (Workout Interval 4)
Sprint 20 seconds at maximum effort
Jog/Walk 10 seconds
Minute 7 First-Half (Workout Interval 5)
Sprint 20 seconds at maximum effort
Jog/Walk 10 seconds
Minute 7 Last-Half (Workout Interval 6)
Sprint 20 seconds at maximum effort
Jog/Walk 10 seconds
Minute 8 First-Half (Workout Interval 7)
Sprint 20 seconds at maximum effort
Jog/Walk 10 seconds
Minute 8 Last-Half (Workout Interval 8)
Sprint 20 seconds at maximum effort
Jog/Walk 10 seconds
Minutes 9-12 (Cool-Down)
Jog at about 50% effort
Using these 12 minutes as planned, for 3 times a week, will no doubt have anyone reaping the benefits of new leanness and more within 8 weeks. To help stay on track for the duration of the program it is be best to monitor heart rate during exercise in order to ensure that the desired intensity levels are reached.

Body fat and weight should also be recorded at least on a weekly basis so changes can be made to diet and training in order to better reach your goals.

Speaking of diet, no article discussing any type of training would be complete without touching upon nutrition. First off, just because one’s goal happens to be fat reduction, doesn’t mean they should stop consuming fat. This is one mistake made too often.

Dietary fat not only aids in the absorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K, but also helps regulate hunger and body temperature while providing essential fatty acids that the body does not produce on its own. Up to 30% of calorie consumption can come from fat before becoming unhealthy.

With the fat dilemma now removed, protein and carbohydrates make up the rest up the picture. As the main source to fuel intense workouts, carbohydrates should be eaten plentifully, but the majority should be of a less sugary nature. These low-glycemic carbohydrates, like oatmeal, whole-grain wheat bread, and sweet potatoes, are less likely to increase the storage of body fat.

Protein, as the main muscle-building nutrient, is a necessity to aid in recovering from the extreme intensities of interval training. It is often indicated to take in about 1 gram or more of protein per pound of body weight in order to prevent muscle loss during intense training programs. For those involved with weight-lifting routines, the amount of protein to eat is especially important to help recovery and in reaching mass-building goals.

A couple more tips concerning nutrition that can help drastically with fat loss goals are to perform HIIT workouts in the morning on an empty stomach, and to have a meal following the workout. Morning activities before food consumption are more effective at burning fat than the same activities done later in the day after having eaten. It’s been shown in studies that fat is utilized up to 3 times more when cardiovascular exercise is done on an empty-stomach.

Finally, after having strained and shocked the body to its limits with a grueling HIIT workout it’s necessary to get the nutrition required for starting the recovery process. This meal should be relatively easy to digest, and might come in the form of a shake. It should include both a source of quickly absorbed sugars for refueling and proteins to help rebuild muscle tissues. The easiest way this is done is probably to use some simple sugar like honey and a type of whey protein powder.

Trying out a HIIT program is highly recommended for anyone not satisfied with their current progress in fat loss using steady-pace cardiovascular exercises. A procedure done over the course of 20 weeks with 17 subjects showed that average subcutaneous fat loss with HIIT was more than 3 times greater than with regular endurance training.

However, the benefits don’t stop there. The short duration of the workouts associated with interval training prevent the body from entering the catabolic state that can happen with extended steady-rate cardio. This most often occurs when activities are prolonged and the body starts breaking down muscle tissue to use as fuel. Because it may also increase the production of many anabolic hormones, HIIT is the perfect method for losing fat while retaining muscle mass.

High intensity interval training has not only been shown to be superior to other forms of training, but it’s also a way to escape the tedium of long, boring cardio sessions. Many of us do not have the time for such nonsense, while those that do often find themselves weary of the mindless task. HIIT provides a greater challenge, requiring greater resolve and concentration to complete.

Athletes may also benefit greatly from a HIIT workout program. Because of the explosive intervals of effort, sports performance will definitely show improvement. A great deal of sports require excellent agility and quickness. These characteristics should be more easily maintained throughout games and matches with the increase in an athlete’s maximum oxygen uptake made possible through HIIT.

Despite the wide range of benefits that have now been made obvious, there are some people who may not find HIIT as acceptable as other training methods. Because preventing injury should always be first priority during any type of training, those whose weight makes it awkward to perform sprints may want choose some other cardiovascular method. Particularly obese or large bodybuilders may want to forgo HIIT in order to prevent the unnecessary injury that may occur as a result of a clumsy sprinting technique.

Furthermore, those with medical conditions like heart problems, diabetes, or respiratory problems might find it difficult or even dangerous to attempt the levels of intensity required by interval training. If any condition does exist, it’s always recommended to consult a medical doctor before trying a new training program or technique.

The last kind of person who may want to think twice before starting a HIIT routine is the avid weight lifter. Recovery from an intense HIIT workout can tax the body’s resources, so it is recommended that they be performed on “off” days from weightlifting.

For those who have weightlifting splits that span the majority of the days of any given week, these “off” days are not frequent enough to get the full results of the ideal HIIT workout program. So, those who do not want anything to interfere with the weightlifting component of their training may find it better to incorporate a less intense cardiovascular activity that is easier to recover from.

There are a multitude of great results to be gained through HIIT, and nothing could express them more clearly than these bullet-points:

A better body composition. HIIT’s short duration prevents catabolic states from arising and consuming muscle tissue, but at the same time elicits a strong fat burning effect. This ultimately means less fat and more muscle.
Those new to this type of training will possibly find themselves with better eating and sleeping habits as their body adjusts to the demands of the workout.
The quick and explosive method of a short HIIT workout can often lead one to feel more energized rather than drained. Overall a HIIT trainee may find themselves with a better mood and feeling more energetic.
Bouts of intense work effort that are associated with HIIT will better sports performance, with quicker and more agile movement.
An increase in VO2 max, or the maximum oxygen uptake that one has. This spells better anaerobic capacity for those who are interested in more than just a lean physique and want the ability to back it up.
Metabolism can be increased for the next 48 hours, helping to burn 50% more fat overall than steady-state cardio.
Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC): oxygen is consumed in greater amounts for a certain period of time after HIIT. This causes up to 9 times more fat being burned while in a resting state.
Anabolic hormone production may increase, allowing for gains in muscle mass.
Not only has HIIT been proven more effect at fat reduction than steady-state training, but it actually overcomes some of the downfalls related to extended duration cardio. The shorter duration of an interval training workout effectively prevents the body from entering a catabolic state where the body starts to use up existing muscle to help fuel the effort. HIIT may even promote anabolism and lean muscle tissue growth.

When it comes to other training methods, their duration is often extensive in an attempt to keep the body in the “fat burning zone” for a longer period of time. It’s a shame that this same zone often ends up, at some point, being a “muscular breakdown zone” as well.

The biggest downside to HIIT is that it may take longer to recover from than less intense and slower, steady-state cardiovascular exercise. Even though the benefit of the HIIT intensity lies in its ability to increase metabolism and fat burning potential during periods of rest, some may not want to compromise their ability to fully recover. These would be the individuals that are heavily involved in other activities like competitive sports, weight-lifting, and bodybuilding.

When these types of physical expenditure are present and a priority, regular HIIT may become an undesired drain on performance and recovery abilities. If fat loss is a goal, but recovery time is also an issue, a walking workout program is the best remedy.

For walking at a pace that elevates resting heart rate, 85% of calories spent come from fat stores, and the workout is not difficult to recover from at all.

In general, it’s our natural mentality to want better results in less time. Unfortunately many marketing gimmicks play upon this desire and fool decent people. It’s good to know that HIIT is not one of these cases. The methods of intervals training have been researched and studied, with results that are tried and true. Showing greater benefits in the areas outlined above than other techniques, HIIT is a solid way for anyone to achieve their fitness goals – so go out there and give it a try, what have you got to lose?


About futurewave

Certified AAFA & NETA Fitness Exercise Instructor/Trainer, CPR/AED. Licensed to teach ZUMBA specialty classes, RIPPED - One Stop Body Shop, SILVERSNEAKERS, ENHANCED FITNESS. Middle Eastern Bellydance Instructor/Performer since 1999. email futurewavebellydance@gmail.com
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