What is HIIT, and why does it work? BONUS: 3 common HIIT mistakes!
To see an example of a HIIT workout, click here.
HIIT is short for High Intensity Interval Training, and the simple way to describe it is that HIIT consists of incredibly intense workout sessions, with very short breaks, until too exhausted to continue working out. HIIT workouts often take less than half an hour to complete (and if they take more than half an hour you're either a seasoned workout veteran or you're not doing it right), meaning that with the right recovery techniques (resting, stretching and eating) you can have worked out your heart and muscles and be recovered within the hour.
Before you continue reading this, you have to be in the right mindset for HIIT workouts. You have to be prepared to really push yourself above and beyond your comfort zone. It will only be for about 20 minutes, but it will be tough if you decide to start doing HIIT workouts.
Now that that's out of the way, why does it work?
Why does HIIT work so well?
One of the keys to the effectiveness of HIIT workouts is actually what happens after the workout itself. During a normal cardio workout, let's say an hour run, the body burns some fat to keep itself going during the run BUT, recovery time is quite short and not much fat is burned when the workout is over. The difference in cardio vs HIIT workouts is that due to the intensity of HIIT, the body not only burns fat during the workout, but also after the workout for many hours. This is obviously much more than the standard cardio workout.
The reason why HIIT workouts are so intense lies in your breathing. It's much harder to catch your breath while doing such intense exercises. Oxygen consumption in workouts is linked to how many calories are burned, with a higher oxygen consumption meaning more calories burned. Due to the heavy oxygen needs of the muscles during HIIT workouts, and the strong beating of the heart and heavy breathing that comes along with that, HIIT workouts are the ideal calorie burner.
BONUS: 3 common HIIT mistakes!
These are some of the most common, and easily remedied mistakes of HIIT workouts:
- Working out too often with HIIT
2-3 workouts a week will do you with a HIIT regimen, maybe 4 if you want to push it. You shouldn't be working out with High Intensity Interval Training every day of the week. The intensity of HIIT workouts means you'll destroy your muscles if you do it too much. Everyone in the fitness world knows; don't overtrain. Give yourself at least one day of rest between HIIT workouts, it's not too much to ask for and it will work wonders.
- HIIT workout sessions lasting too long
HIIT workouts shouldn't go more than half an hour, and never longer than a full hour. The whole idea of HIIT is that your workouts are short and hard. You'll lose the benefits of a high intensity workout if you spend too much time doing it. This only applies to the workout portion, not to the warmup or warm-down (if you choose to do a warm-down) part of your session.
- Your breaks between exercises are lasting too long
15-30 seconds, that's it. Tell that to yourself before you start your workout and stick to it. Your breaks shouldn't be going longer than 30 seconds and, if you genuinely can't start working out again after you count to 30, then your workout's finished. The point of HIIT is short bursts of exercise and short rests for a short period of time, all 3 of those are equally important.
I may have hyped it up in this article, but for some, HIIT just isn't their style and that's fine. I urge every reader, however to try at least a couple of HIIT workouts themselves. I used to get my cardio from running and I hated it, I enjoyed getting outside and everything but now I get that from going on walks. When I discovered HIIT it was a blessing, and now all of my workouts are full-body HIIT workouts, and I couldn't be happier.