Four years ago was the time when I discovered one of the most effective training styles ever. Well, not discovered as in, I’m the Columbus of high intensity interval training (HIIT). It was more that I first found out about it back then. What is HIIT you’re asking me and how do I need to use it?
High intensity interval training is, what the name suggests, very intense and makes use of intervals. It is a training style that is rather advanced and can be used in various ways. During a HIIT you alternate between high intensity exercises and low intensity exercises or recovery periods. After a short 5 to 10 minute warm up you perform one exercise or activity using a high intensity (i.e. giving it all you’ve got). Then you take a period of active or passive rest. Active rest means you perform that very same activity at a low intensity. Passive rest is where you actually take a break. You bend over to pant or you sit on a chair to prevent you from fainting (a bit exaggerated, yet rather accurate).
Let’s say you’re a runner that wants to do interval training. After running with a low up to moderate intensity for 5 minutes as part of your warm up, you go for a sprint. With this sprint you’re giving almost all you’ve got (I’d say 80-90% of your maximum potential). Obviously you won’t be able to maintain this speed very long and soon you’ll be fatigued. It’s time for a break. In case of the active rest you could jog on a low tempo or even walk, which essentially is an active break. Resting passively involves you collapsing on the floor panting as if you ran the marathon (without training that is). Of course a milder approach such as walking to a bench is the preferred method of passive rest. Right after taking that break you’ll go back to the sprint and again take rest afterwards. Repeat this for a given amount of times.
There are a whole lot of variations of this type of training. I’m talking about how to divide the intensity. You can choose to make the periods of high intensity rather long. A 60-90 second sprint is a good example of this. However, the problem with this is that you cannot possibly sprint all out for that long. The time taken to rest also varies depending on the intensity and duration you used for this phase. If you choose to go for a 60 seconds sprint it’s obvious that you cannot take a break of only 30 seconds of jogging. That’s not enough to partly recover. Therefore the amount of rest taken and the intensity and duration of the active phase should always be adjusted to each other. I could talk about this for many more hours, but it’s probably more useful for you to actually see some workouts as an example. On my website you can see examples that are ready to use: http://www.jeromefitness.com/hiit-routines/
Heart Rate Zones And Target Heart Rate
So how do you know what intensity is high enough? You can determine that by using the heart rate zones or target heart rate. This target heart rate is rather simple to determine. I already mentioned that you should give about 80-90% of your maximum effort with each high intensity bout. This comes down to an equal percentage of your maximum heart rate. Let’s use 85% as the standard for our next calculation. The formula we need to use is as follows:
Target heart rate = maximum heart rate X intensity percentage
To determine your maximum heart rate all that has to be done is take your age of the number 220. I’m 23 years old so my maximum heart rate would be 197 beats per minute. My target heart rate then is easy to follow.
Target heart rate: 197 x 0,85 (85%) = 167 beats per minute.
Hence, during the high intensity bouts I should try to reach those 167 beats per minute. During the breaks you obviously want to try to get your heart rate down properly again.
It’s inconvenient to constantly feel your pulse while running, so I don’t recommend you to do that. Instead you could consider getting a heart rate monitor. There are these special watches, but most of them require you to put some sort of strap around your chest. Personally that was always something that made me dislike heart rate monitors like that. However, the miCoach Adidas FIT SMART measures your pulse at your wrist, so there’s no chest strap needed. That’s really convenient I think. By the way, I didn’t get paid to say this. It’s just that I find their strapless way of measuring the heart rate during exercise a big pro. I did make a paid video about it on YouTube, which actually inspired me to write this post.
Dangers of HIIT
Raising the heart rate that high can be dangerous for the untrained athlete. If you’re not capable of performing longer duration exercises with low to moderate intensity, then you definitely should not even consider using HIIT! That’s why I never recommend this style of training to beginners. It’s difficult to set a standard for people who want to do this type of workout. Some people who have only been working out for 2 months could safely do it if they’re in good shape, whereas others may require one or two years of training before being able to safely perform this training. Besides that, running fast increases the risk of injury if compared to slow running. There’s a bigger chance to trip and fall when being tired or at least, you’ll fall way harder when you sprint then if you jog 3 miles/hour. Do NOT perform this training type if you are familiar with heart disease or basically any other illness, condition or disease that may interfere with a positive outcome. Get professional guidance and also make sure to get yourself a physical (sports) exam by a physician to see if it’s safe for you to use high intensity interval training.
‘Regular cardio’ Vs. HIIT: An Athletes perspective
Lastly I would like to cover the effectiveness of HIIT compared to steady state cardio (like running a longer distance at low to moderate speed). I go into great detail on this topic regarding weight and fat loss in my eBook ‘The Complete, Not So Giant Book Of Six-Pack Abs’. To let you in on the secret here’s a little giveaway. HIIT is compared with regular cardio in multiple studies and if trying to lose weight without decreasing your strength, high intensity interval training is a winner. Or should I say loser as it is a great way to burn more fat. Exactly how this works is written in my book. I shouldn’t spoil it for those who are interested in reading that.
Anyhow, other than its fat-burning capacities, HIIT is definitely a great way to improve endurance as well. Multiple studies show that this type of training is as good as, if not, better than steady state cardio. I definitely recommend already decently trained athletes to incorporate a high intensity interval training in their workout regime. That is, I would replace some steady state cardio training with this alternative. I often see kickboxers and boxers go for a long distance run on low intensity. Then I ask myself, what’s the point of that? Sure, some general endurance is pretty useful, but in most martial arts you’ll have short bouts of high intensity activities followed by a short break. That much simulates HIIT hence I think they should focus more on that than running a few rounds around town.
Altogether this training style is a great choice for those who dislike running for a long period of time with minimal effects. Read more about HIIT in my eBook: https://sellfy.com/p/uN8P/.
For more general information on how to use high intensity interval training you can check out this link to my website: http://www.jeromefitness.com/high-intensity-interval-training-2/