When I first heard of HIIT, I had no idea what it was all about. I just knew it as the new fad that everyone was doing. I wanted to dig deeper and figure out why HIIT has been all the rage lately. Turns out, it has so many benefits and anyone can do it! HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training and can be explained as short bouts of maximal effort exercises followed by a short recovery, or low-intensity period, in between each exercise. This pattern of high and low intensity can vary by 30 seconds to 2 minutes for each exercise, depending on your goal.
Some examples of HIIT include running, swimming, biking, or even using body weight. If you were running, you would sprint with an all-out effort for up to 1 minute, lightly jog for about 2 minutes, and then continue with another minute of sprinting, and so forth. If you were using bodyweight, exercises like push-ups, mountain climbers, pull-ups or burpees would be a good start. With body weight, you would do that of similar to running; do as many push-ups as you can within a minute, take a short rest, and continue on with that pattern. Tabata is a great example of a HIIT workout. You work with maximum effort for 20 seconds, take a 10 second break, and continue this pattern about 8 times or for 4 minutes for each exercise. Since this is a high-intensity workout, it’s not recommended to do this type of workout for more than 2-3 days/week to allow your body some recovery time.
Now that I’ve explained what HIIT is, let’s talk about the benefits. The biggest benefit is the efficient utilization of carbohydrates and fat during your workout. During aerobic exercise, carbohydrates and fat become more available for our body to use. This allows for carbs and fat to be used as fuel and meet the energy demands of your workout.
In order for this to make the most sense, it’s essential to explain the science behind this. Glucagon is a hormone found in the liver that changes glycogen (stored form of glucose) to glucose. This is important because glucose is our body’s most readily available form of energy, especially during workouts. With short bouts of exercise, glucagon production is increased, making more glucose available. With more glucose available during a workout, fat breakdown is enhanced which allows your body to use fat as an energy source. This is a great reason why HIIT is beneficial for not only weight loss, but to ensure your body is going to work the most efficiently it can during a workout and at rest.
Another wonderful benefit to HIIT is that you don’t need to work out for hours at a time. Intensity vs. mode is what I’m referring to. Mode is simply the type of exercise you’re performing; swimming, biking, running, etc. Intensity is the effort and power you put into your workout. As intensity increases, so does the rate of calorie expenditure. We are always going to burn calories during a workout, but when we put all of our effort into that one exercise for a short period of time, calorie burning rate will increase. So it doesn’t necessarily matter what you’re doing, but how hard you’re working at it. If you work hard, so will your body, and it will churn through calories more quickly this way.
If this is new or foreign to some, it doesn’t mean you need a gym to do it. You can absolutely perform a workout like this at home. Using body weight can be just as beneficial for a workout. Your body will adapt by increasing muscle size or strength when using just body weight. Any variation of body weight exercise works. So long as intensity stays high, your body will continue to adapt regardless of mode or exercise. So if you’re reading this at home, thinking you can’t do this, think again! There are plenty of at-home HIIT workouts to be done, just do some research!
I’m hoping you know more now about HIIT then you previously did. I know, I sure learned a lot! Studying for personal training and learning more about the physiology of the body and how it works has been a treat for me. It’s so important to know why each workout mode is beneficial if you want to know what’s going to work best for you. So if you’re tired of the same old routine, try out a HIIT workout. See what gyms around you are offering classes, most will allow you to try a class for free on your first time. HIIT is nice because you give it your all-out effort in a short period of time, and it burns just as many calories if you were to moderately workout for an hour. You never know unless you try!