High intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts are one of the most popular ways to improve overall fitness. These relatively quick, very intense workouts challenge the cardiovascular and respiratory systems along with most of the major muscle groups.
HIIT involves quick bursts of work (measured usually be heart rate or rate of perceived exertion) followed by a period of rest to allow the heart rate to return to a resting level. The work intervals can be any length of time, but the rest intervals are typically one to five times the length of the work interval so the body has enough time to rest. For example, 30 seconds of work could be followed by anywhere from 30 seconds to two and a half minutes of rest. The longer the rest interval, the more strength or power can be exerted during the work interval. Shorter rest intervals help improve overall cardiovascular fitness.
HIIT workouts can include cardio intervals, strength intervals, or a combination of the two. When paired with lower intensity, endurance-based work, a person can improve their ability to work at a high intensity for longer periods of time and then recover more quickly.
Burn More Calories in Less Time
When compared to low intensity, steady cardio like walking, jogging, the elliptical, or stair stepper, HIIT requires more energy because the work is done with greater intensity and activates more muscles, therefore elevating the heart rate to higher levels and burning more calories. For example, a 20-minute HIIT workout can burn the same number of calories as 45 minutes of lower intensity work. High intensity workouts tend to use carbohydrates as the main source of energy. While you burn more calories in a shorter amount of time, the amount of fat burned in the shorter workout is about the same as a longer, lower intensity workout.
Improve Heart Health
Making the heart work harder improves things like cardiac output (amount of blood pumped per beat) during the workout and regulating blood pressure outside of the workout. The more efficient the heart is at moving blood through the arteries and veins that connect it to your muscles, the better your overall fitness typically is. Anyone from a regular gym-goer to someone in a cardiac rehabilitation program can see the benefits of HIIT; the only thing that will vary is the relative intensity of the work being performed for the same benefits.
Improve Oxygen and Blood Flow
As your heart health improves, so will the blood flow to your working muscles. Blood carries oxygen to muscles and removes carbon dioxide so they can continue to work hard. Once the workout is over and the heart isn’t beating as heavily, the blood vessels stay dilated (opened wider), which allows blood to flow to all areas of the body, spurring the recovery process. Over time, blood vessels learn to relax when they are not working, which lowers resting blood pressure and helps manage blood pressure during the workout.
When you are short on time but still want to get a workout in, HIIT is the way to go. Just 20 to 30 minutes of high intensity intervals utilizing compound (multiple joints of the body) or full body movements can create a balanced workout that leaves you feeling good and gets your heart pumping. You will also have better mental clarity and improved alertness following a quick, intense workout when compared to taking a power nap or having another cup of coffee.
Keep this in mind to get the most out of your next HIIT workout:
- The “work” portion of the workout needs to be at least an 8/10 on the intensity scale.
- During the “rest” portion of the workout, your heart rate should return as close to your resting heart rate as possible.
- Avoid doing more than three HIIT workouts per week.
- Mix up your intervals and work-to-rest ratios so you utilize different energy systems.
Sample HIIT Workouts
Strength-based HIIT workout: Complete six reps of each exercise, then rest for 30 seconds. Repeat the circuit three to five times.
- Kettlebell Goblet Squat
- Dumbbell Push Press
- Kettlebell RDL
- Dumbbell Bent Over Row
Cardio-based HIIT workout: Repeat the intervals three to five times.
- Long: 5 minutes hard pace, 5 minutes easy/recovery pace
- Medium option: 1 minute hard, 2 minutes easy pace
- Short Option: 30 seconds hard, 1 minute recovery
Combination strength + cardio: Complete all the exercises, then rest for three minutes. Repeat three to five times.
- 10 squats
- 10 pushups
- 10 lunges
- Sprint 25 yards
If you don’t want to create your own HIIT workout or prefer working out with a group, STUDIO RED is a great option! With two cardio and two strength-based stations, the intervals will fly by as you get in a balanced, full-body HIIT workout alongside fellow VASA members and a certified Coach. Come in and check out a free workout today!