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Last Updated: July 16, 2023
You’ve probably heard of HIIT, but maybe you’re not sure what it is, how to incorporate it into your fitness routine, and are unsure of all the benefits. Well, I’m going to give you the rundown on everything you need to know, so you can start reaping from all these amazing benefits of HIIT.
What is HIIT?
HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training. It’s when you work out at a high intensity for a short period of time, and then follow that up with a period of low-intensity recovery. You continue alternating between the high-intensity work and rest periods throughout the duration of your workout.
Think of it as sprinting for 30 seconds, and then walking for 1 minute. The pace of the run is going to be up to you and your fitness level though. Ultimately, your goal is to move at a pace that is difficult for you. If you have a heart rate monitor, you can monitor your intensity this way by aiming to get your heart rate up to 80-100% of your max heart rate. An easy way to calculate your estimated max heart rate is by taking 220 and subtracting your age. If you don’t have a monitor, you can go off of your RPE (rate of perceived exertion). Basically, during each running interval, you want to feel like you can’t maintain the pace for long. I know when I do HIIT workouts, I’m always thankful for the rest periods, even if they’re brief.
Depending on your fitness level and goals, you can increase or decrease the length of your high-intensity and low-intensity intervals. This way you can make your HIIT workout, work best for you.
8 Benefits of HIIT
There are many benefits to HIIT training. Here are 8 reasons why you should incorporate it into your workout routine.
1. Can be used with or without equipment
One of my favorite aspects of HIIT is that you can do this type of training on a wide variety of equipment, or just use your body weight. Here at Treadmill Review Guru, we do HIIT training on treadmills, exercise bikes, air bikes, rowers, and more. We even incorporate it into our strength training workouts with weights, as well. HIIT workouts are usually incorporated into our testing process when we review fitness equipment.
It’s great if you have any of this equipment on hand, but HIIT can also be done anywhere by just using your body. So, you can whip out some push-ups for 20 seconds at a time followed by a period of rest, or swap the push-ups for jump squats. You could even alternate between the two by completing the push-ups for 20 seconds, resting, and then performing jump squats for the next 20 seconds, and so on.
2. It’s flexible and offers a variety of training options
The great thing about HIIT is that there are many different ways to do it. Tabata, for example, is one type of HIIT training where you work at a high intensity for 20 seconds and rest for 10 seconds or vice versa. HIIT can be broken up into longer intervals, as well. As mentioned above, it all depends on your fitness goals and how in shape you are to determine what ratio of high-intensity work to recovery you should incorporate in your workout session.
It might even look like an AMRAP or EMOM, too. An AMRAP (as many reps as possible) is where you complete an exercise or series of exercises for a specific period of time, repeating the exercise(s) as many times as you can until the designated time is up. An EMOM (every minute on the minute) is where you complete a specific number of reps for one exercise or a group of exercises over the course of a minute. If you finish all the reps before the end of the minute, then you get to rest until the next minute starts.
HIIT comes in many forms and is very versatile.
3. Great for all fitness levels
HIIT training can work for pretty much everyone. Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, advanced, young, middle-aged, or in your golden years, HIIT can be tailored to work for you. Of course, consult with your healthcare provider if you’re starting a new workout routine or have just recovered from an injury before getting into HIIT training.
Since you can do this type of training on equipment or off, you can pick which activities work best for you. So, if you have joint issues and need to do workouts that are low-impact, you can use equipment like an exercise bike, elliptical, or rowing machine. Some options for bodyweight only or with minimal equipment like dumbbells could be squats, planks, or static lunges. HIIT workouts can be designed to work for you.
4. It’s great if you’re short on time
A HIIT workout can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour or less. So, even if you only have 10 minutes to squeeze in for exercise, doing a HIIT workout is a nice option. It’s efficient and effective. Since you’ll be getting your heart rate up high, you might find that a few minutes is the perfect amount of time. 10 minutes might only be as long as you can stand especially if you’re a newbie, or if it’s just a really hard workout.
5. HIIT can help improve your health
Exercise, in general, is proven to be beneficial to our health, but HIIT training specifically has some perks that you’ll benefit from if you add it to your workout routine. Since you’ll be increasing your heart rate during the hard intervals, your cardiovascular system will strengthen and deliver more oxygen to the body. This can help improve your circulation and lower your blood pressure and blood sugar. HIIT can also help to reduce your heart rate as your heart becomes stronger and requires fewer beats to effectively pump blood throughout your body.
It can also help to build muscle, burn fat, and improve your mental health. HIIT does require concentration so it can help improve your overall focus, as well.
6. It improves your performance
Whether you’re supplementing your workouts with HIIT to perform better in a sport, or just to be able to keep up with your kids and grandkids, it’s great for improving your overall performance. Since HIIT varies your training intensities from high to low, it works your aerobic and anaerobic systems.
The aerobic system is responsible for using oxygen to sustain long steady paces of exercise like marathon running. Anaerobic exercise involves working at intense, short durations where your body doesn’t use oxygen to produce the energy required to do this. Your anaerobic system can help improve explosive movements like jumping and sprinting. Both can help improve your overall fitness.
7. Burns calories (even after your workout)
By working at a high intensity for a short amount of time, you’ll be able to burn a lot of calories in that short amount of time. It’s been found that HIIT training can burn 25-30% more calories than other kinds of exercise. You might even be able to burn more calories in a 15-minute HIIT session than you can during an hour-long workout at a lower intensity.
HIIT training can also help you burn more calories AFTER your workout. Ever heard of the “afterburn effect”? Working out increases your muscles’ need for oxygen to give you energy. When you work out at higher intensities, your muscles require more oxygen which can encourage excess post-exercise oxygen consumption or EPOC (aka the afterburn effect) to take place even after you’ve completed your workout. EPOC can last for 24 to 48 hours after a HIIT workout. Meaning your body could be burning more calories for up to 2 days after 1 of these training sessions.
8. HIIT is challenging
I’m sure you’ve already figured out by all of this information, that HIIT training is challenging. To quote fitness expert Fred DeVito, “if it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.” This is absolutely true in fitness. If you want to improve your fitness level and see changes in your body, you have to challenge yourself. HIIT is an excellent way to do this.