HomeCardiovascular exerciseFast Weight Loss: High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) Workout

Fast Weight Loss: High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) Workout

HIIT workout planIf you want to up your game, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is an exercise strategy that will improve your performance. HIIT is fantastic for anyone wanting to lose weight, including those who have been working out and have seen little/ no results or those pressed for time and want to achieve a lot in a short space of time. If you’re looking for ripped abs and toned arms, interval training can help get you there – especially if you throw in some weight training sessions. If there is such a thing as a magic bullet for weight loss, then HIIT probably comes closest to it! If your current “steady-state” aerobic exercise regime isn’t working for you, it is probably worthwhile to try HIIT.

HIIT FOR WEIGHT LOSS

HIIT improves performance through short exercise sessions and involves alternating short, fast bursts of intensive exercise with slow, easy activity.  An HIIT session involves a warm-up interval, followed by several short, maximum-intensity efforts separated by moderate recovery intervals, and finally a cool-down interval.

Studies have shown this method to be more effective at burning fat and maintaining muscle mass than long periods of lower intensity aerobic workouts. Some studies state that HIIT burns 9x more fat than traditional cardiovascular exercise. HIIT burns a lot of calories during the workout, but where it differs from traditional cardiovascular exercise it that your metabolism stays elevated for more than 24 hours afterwards! This means that you keep burning calories after you have finished exercising. Therefore, don’t bother looking for an HIIT calorie calculator. It is difficult to calculate the calorie burn from HIIT training directly, as much of the effects of HIIT do not take place during the workout, but for hours after. HIIT does not simply instigate weight loss by burning calories, but acts via a complex series of physiological mechanisms (e.g. nervous and endocrine systems) to lower insulin resistance, improve glucose tolerance, increase exercise and post-exercise fat oxidation, and decrease appetite.

Researchers at an Australian University found people who cycled for 40 minutes at a steady pace lost an average of two pounds. A second group cycled just 20 minutes, but alternated between 8 second sprints and 12 seconds of slower riding. They lost an average of six pounds.

However, if you can complete only a short HIIT workout, it may be that you are better off with moderately high intensity cardio that you can sustain steadily for a long time period.

BENEFITS OF HIIT

  • Burn more calories
  • Metabolism stays high AFTER workout
  • Fat burning increases during and post workout
  • Shorter workouts
  • Increases power
  • Increases speed
  • Increases endurance
  • Decreases appetite

HIGH INTENSITY INTERVAL TRAINING: HOW TO DO IT

The key to HIIT is that it does not allow your body to get used to what you are doing, i.e. by changing your pace and pushing yourself through each interval. No matter what your fitness goals are, HIIT can be one of the best methods to help you achieve them. HIIT is a great technique for those who get bored easily and are already active or those who have reached a fat loss plateau.

The variations of HIIT are infinite. You can adjust the training parameters (e.g. ratio of exercise to rest, number of intervals) to make the workouts harder or easier. Generally longer intervals provide better results. The four parameters you can manipulate when designing your interval-training program are:

  • Intensity (i.e. speed) of work interval
  • Duration (i.e. distance or time) of work interval
  • Duration of rest/ recovery interval
  • Number of repetitions of each interval

You can also use any type of exercise for your training, including cycling, sprinting, any cardio machine (stationary bike, cross-trainer, treadmill, stair-master, elliptical machine) hula hoping and jump rope.

HIIT TRAINING GUIDELINES

  • Warm up before you start.
  • Assess your current fitness and set training goals within your ability.
  • Start slowly. (E.g. walk 2 minutes/ run 2 minutes).
  • Keep a steady, but challenging pace throughout the interval.
  • Increase the number of repetitions over time.
  • Bring your heart rate down to 100-110 bpm during the rest interval.
  • To improve, increase intensity or duration, but not both simultaneously.
  • Make any changes slowly over a period of time.
  • Circuit training as a form of interval training.
  • HIIT should last 12 – 20 minutes (does not include warm-up and cool down).
  • If you have a heart rate monitor – great. If not, as you can see from the table below, it is easy enough to use the RPE (rating of perceived exertion) scale. It is probably easier for beginners to start by using this scale and if necessary you add the use of a heart rate monitor later.
  • The best way to use this method of exercising is to mix it up with traditional cardio.
  • As with embarking on any exercise program, it is advisable to clear it with your doctor first.

HIIT is a difficult and challenging workout. If you have been leading a sedentary lifestyle it is best to start with a less intense activity. 

HIIT WORKOUT

You need to design your HIIT program around your own fitness level. You need to know your target heart rate (THR)/ training zones or understand the rating of perceived exertion (RPE) or use the heart rate calculator for convenience. The table shows an example:

Minute
Interval
RPE
Intensity
THR
Interval
 
5 min
Level 3
Very low
 
Warm-up
1
1 min
Level 4
Low
50%
Rest
2
1 min
Level 7
Mod/ high
75%
Work
3
1 min
Level 4
Low
50%
Rest
4
1 min
Level 7
Mod/ high
75%
Work
5
1 min
Level 4
Low
50%
Rest
6
1 min
Level 7
Mod/ high
75%
Work
7
1 min
Level 4
Low
50%
Rest
8
1 min
Level 7
Mod/ high
75%
Work
9
1 min
Level 4
Low
50%
Rest
10
1 min
Level 7
Mod/ high
75%
Work
11
1 min
Level 4
Low
50%
Rest
12
1 min
Level 7
Mod/ high
75%
Work
 
5 min
Level 3
Very low
 
Cool down

 

Below is an excerpt from an article written in the LA Times about HIIT.

“… a study published in December in the Journal of Applied Physiology and conducted by a team at Canada’s University of Guelph found that just two weeks of alternate-day interval training increased moderately active 22-year-old women’s fat-burning ability by 36%.

“Ironically, you can’t do the same intervals all the time – you’ll stagnate,” says Drozd, the Santa Monica trainer. “You need variation – for your body and your mind. For best fitness, mix short intervals and long intervals. Whatever you choose to do, do it hard.”

The New Zealand study showed cyclists’ performance gains plateauing after eight to 12 interval sessions. “To keep increasing your fitness after six weeks of intervals,” says OnFitness’ Grassadonia, “be creative: push it even harder or longer, add hills, stairs, cross-training. I’m a 55-year-old big-wave surfer, but I can hang with 20-year-olds because I do very intense 10 mph sprinting on the treadmill, all-out sprints in the pool – constantly mixing it up.”

19 comments

  1. how often should someone do Hiit?

    • Hi Alex. HIIT can be done two, but generally no more than three, times per week if you’re fit and healthy. HIIT workouts should be on non-consecutive days, as you need to allow your body time to recover.

      • Hi! I was just wondering..If you have the energy, why not do HIIT on consecutive days? Why is it so important to let your body recover since the workout is so short (I have done HIIT in the past but gave it up after a while due to lack of motivation, but now I’m planning to start again)

  2. It’s funny, I just started this today, and plan to use hills with interval training too. Long hills, short steep hills, and flat road intervals are good to mix it up as well. I remembered this from cross country days… Thanks for the article!

    • Hey Sue! Thanks, glad you liked it! HIIT is intense, but the rewards make it worth the extra effort. Your workout plan sounds really great. You definitely won’t get bored!

  3. Hello,
    I was just a little confused. Is this supposed to be done on a treadmill? Or how?
    Thanks!

    • Hi Paige,
      You can do HIIT on the treadmill, elliptical machine or on the stationary bike, or you can do it outdoors running. The basic premise of HIIT is to alternate intense bouts of exercise with periods that allow you to recover. So you’re alternating high and low intensity bouts of exercise. You can apply this to pretty much any cardiovascular activity.

  4. Hello
    On the days that you don’t do HIIT, is it okay to run slowly (jog) or should you stick to walking? What about resistance training?

  5. I plan to do HIIT in the form of interval training. The problem is with high impact exercised, I have a lot of shin soreness. I gained a lot of weight during pregnancy since I was not able to work out. What are some suggestions for exercise on non-HIIT days?

    • Hi Sarah,
      Interval training does not need to be high impact. You can do interval training on the elliptical machine or on a bike for example – it’s not just limited to running. In terms of what to do on your non-HIIT days, it really depends on your goals and what type of exercise you like to do. If your main goal is fat loss you might want to focus on doing more cardio, but of the steady-state kind (i.e. maintain approximately the same level of effort throughout the workout). This could be power walking, swimming, biking or using cardiovascular equipment in the gym for 30 to 40 minutes (or more depending on how much time you have and how fit you are). Just make sure to allow for at least one rest day to allow your body to recover, repair and grow stronger! Hope this helps! :)

  6. Does keeping at the same resistance level but increasing the RPM count as HIIT? On the example both increase at the same time so wanted to know if it matters. Thanks

    • Hi Chris,
      Yes, you can increase the resistance, instead of speed. Basically, the intervals are about increasing difficulty. So you can increase speed, resistance, incline or anything else to increase difficulty.

  7. So, canIjust run for 2 minutes very quickly then rest for two minutes and repeat? Will I get results?

    • Yes you can do that and you’ll get results. As you get stronger, you can decrease the rest intervals or increase your pace to keeping getting results.

  8. This is not HIIT. This is Interval training, HIIT is much more INTENSE and if you can ‘sprint’ for longer then 30 seconds then you are not going hard enough.

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