When it comes to exercise, there are generally two types of people in the world: Those that hate running for a prolonged period of time, and sadists who, for some absurd reason, enjoy running for hours at a time and seem to never get tired. Ok, that’s perhaps a slight exaggeration, and you are certainly not really a sadist if you enjoy running for a long time, but generally speaking, most people seem to hate running, and indeed, various other forms of endurance-based exercise, with an absolute passion. One of the main reasons why people run for prolonged periods of time isn’t just for the thrill of it, it is actually down to the fact that cardiovascular exercise has been proven to burn off a significant amount of calories and to assist with a fat loss a great deal. If you’ve ever been to the gym, however, generally, you’ll see people in the weights section, and you’ll see people in the cardio section, and it’s very rare you’ll see them combining the two forms of exercise. If you observe people in the cardio section, however, you’ll see that most of them will be exercising at a slow and steady pace, and will continue to do so for a prolonged period of time. Most people’s cardio sessions last around 45 – 60 minutes on average, and whilst there are benefits of steady-state cardio, that does not necessarily mean that it is the only form of cardio you should perform. HIIT training, for example, is now becoming more and more popular all across the globe, with many professional trainers now embracing this form of exercise and recognizing it for what it is – A brilliant method of training. But what is HIIT? Well, to help make things clearer for you, here’s a more detailed look at exactly what HIIT is, the different variations you can choose from, and why HIIT is considered to be so beneficial over other forms of cardio, and exercise in general for that matter.
First off, what is HIIT? – Before we go any further, we first need to take a look at what HIIT really is. HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training, and it is basically a method of exercise that requires the participants to alternate between periods of slow, steady, and gradual exercise for a set amount of time, and fast-paced, high intensity exercise for another set amount of time. A very simple analogy of HIIT would be for a person to walk for 30 seconds, sprint for 30 seconds, and repeat the entire process for several rounds. You will vary your speed and the intensity in which you perform the exercise, for the entire duration of your workout. Typically, HIIT sessions last around 20 minutes on average, and whilst that may not sound like much, as you are pushing your body so much, you can potentially burn off even more calories than you would do during a 60 – 90 minute gym session performed at a moderate pace.
Which types of HIIT can be done? – In reality, the great thing about HIIT is that you can incorporate it and apply it to a whole range of different forms of exercise, making it very broad and very versatile. As mentioned by Reda Elmardi from Thegymgoat.com, you could simply go out for a walk around your neighborhood, walk for 30 seconds, sprint as quickly as you can for 30 seconds, and repeat for several more rounds until your 20 minutes is up. You can hop on a treadmill or exercise bike and again, carry out the same process, or you could throw in some bodyweight exercises and perform a mini circuit of each one, taking 40 – 60 seconds of rest when you complete each round. Put simply, if you alternate between spells of slow and steady exercise, or even no exercise at all as you catch your breath, and spells of fast-paced, high intensity exercise performed at near 100% capacity and effort, you are not only going to obliterate body fat, you are also going to significantly improve your health, fitness, endurance, and stamina in the process.
What are the benefits of HIIT? – So, we’ve looked at what is HIIT? As well as which types of HIIT can be performed, now it’s time to take a look at some of the primary benefits associated with HIIT workouts.
Strengthens the heart – Cardiovascular exercise is so incredibly beneficial for the heart that the clue is in the name. The word ‘cardio’ is actually derived from the word ‘Kardia’ which was the ancient Greek word for ‘Heart’ so make of that what you will. If you’re like most people who perform cardio, however, you’ll perform steady-state cardio several times per week, going at roughly the same speed, tempo, and intensity, for 45 – 60 minutes on average. Whilst beneficial, it isn’t as beneficial for the heart as you may have hoped. You see, the heart is a muscle, and just like other muscles in our body, it can be strengthened via certain exercises. When we want to build our biceps, we’ll perform bicep curls and other similar exercises. Cardio, however, is the equivalent of the lifting of the heart. The problem with performing the same gradual cardio workouts day in and day out, however, is that after a while, they stop being beneficial. If you want to build your chest, you wouldn’t simply perform the same chest exercise with the same weights, for the same number of sets and reps, as after a while, it would become too easy and the chest wouldn’t grow. You change your exercises, reps, sets, and weights to grow your muscles, and the same applies to the heart. With HIIT, by alternating, you constantly keep the body guessing as it doesn’t have time to adapt to the changes in intensity. This results in a strong and healthy heart.
Saves time – Another fantastic benefit of HIIT, is the fact that it saves you a substantial amount of time, making it perfect for when you’re in a rush, or for people who basically do not enjoy performing cardio for long durations. On average, a typical HIIT session will last for just 20 minutes, and during that time, you will benefit from one heck of a workout. All you need is 20 minutes, 3 – 4 times per week, and you will quickly begin seeing and feeling very noticeable benefits.
Burns fat – In order for a HIIT session to be effective, you really do need to push yourself during the high-intensity periods, as you should ideally be sprinting at near 100% of your max capacity. By the time you’ve finished, 20 – 25 minutes later, you will have burnt off as many calories as you would have burnt off in one hour of steady-state cardio, but the benefits don’t stop there. HIIT increases oxygen consumption post-exercise, which causes what experts call an ‘afterburn effect’. This temporarily increases your metabolism, so that, even in a rested state, your body will be burning more calories than usual, so you will literally become a fat-burning machine. The afterburn effect lasts around 12 – 24 hours on average, and during that time, you can potentially burn off a great deal more calories than usual. For people looking to burn body fat, HIIT is fantastic.