High Intensity Interval Training HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training…Explained

Posted on 31. Jan, 2008 by in Fat loss, Fitness

 What is H.I.I.T.??

Without getting deep into the exercise physiology of the thing, I will do a little back log into the WHAT, HOW and WHY of HIIT.

High Intensity Interval Training is just what it says it is, performing very high intensity, intervals for a short period of time. Why is it effective? To answer this question we need to backtrack a little and look at the more traditional type of training and the one that most people out there still do; Low Intensity Cardio training.

Traditional Low Intensity, Long Duration Cardio:

  • Walking
  • Jogging
  • Stationary Bike
  • Cross Trainer or Elliptical Machine
  • Low to moderate intensity Aerobics classes

Most people will perform any of the above for 30 minutes to an hour, day after day, with little or no progress. Also, with all of the time constraints, why do people still do this type of workout?

Some reasons:

  • It’s easy- This type of training is easy to get used to, and there is a very low or even zero chance of having the lactic acid build up that causes most people to quit. Why do you think almost any one with an average fitness level can hope on the elliptical machine and go non-stop for over an hour?
  • Its low risk – If you are way over weight, or have certain conditions, low intensity is safe and can be prescribed to almost anyone.
  • It has been pounded in everyone’s brain that the number one way to lose weight or burn fat is to perform aerobic training. Although this form of training can burn a higher percentage of fat than high intensity training, it doesn’t mean you will burn more fat by the end of the day. This is an outdated fat lose modality and doesn’t work very well at all long term!

Let me explain; In a nutshell low intensity training will help you burn a certain amount of fat and calories in the time that you are actually exercising and not much more than that. It has been documented that low intensity training burns about 50% of fat for energy while training. Not bad. High intensity training will use about 40% of fat for energy while training. Not much of a difference between the two.

As I mentioned above, low intensity training only burns fat calories for the amount of time you are working out. This means that as soon as you stop exercising, fat burning basically stops. In contrast, High intensity training will spike you metabolism and keep it spiked for the rest of the day, sometimes up to 24 hours! This means that you will continue to burn calories and fat all day long. With HIIT training, fat is not burned much during the workout, rather it is burned for the rest of the day. That is a powerful fat burning system and one that really works.

Not convinced yet? The best way to ramp up your metabolism for the long haul is to build lean muscle mass. Muscle will always need to burn more and more calories even if you are just sitting down. The more muscle you have, the more you burn. Low intensity cardio, especially any kind that lasts more than 40 minutes at a time, will set your body up for catabolism. Catabolism is responsible for the breaking down of muscle tissue. This is what you don’t want. You want to maintain your muscle tissue at all costs. HIIT will help keep that muscle tissue in ways that low intensity cardio couldn’t. The right kind of HIIT can even help build lean muscle tissue.

HIIT is not only great for fat burning but also has other great “side effects”:

  • Increased Lactic Acid Threshold – Lactic Acid is that burning feeling you get when you work out very intensely. Increasing this threshold means you will be able to do more work, at higher intensities, which means more fat burning and better results.  
  • Shorter Workouts – Which would you rather do, spend 30-60 min. working out while listening to your high energy dance mix MP3, or just 4-12 minutes of increased intensity while listening to AC/DC and then you are done? (AC/DC is not a requirement, by the way, but is a great addition to this kind of workout!)
  • Improved cardiovascular System - While trying to recover between interval bouts, your aerobic system has to work hard to overcome the oxygen debt caused by the lactic acid. This in turn helps to increase your aerobic capacity as well. Your over all cardiovascular system will be better off. So not only is your anaerobic system worked, but your aerobic system is as well. By the way, this is how most athletes train.

Convinced? I hope so. Now to the program guidelines.

You can perform intervals on almost any piece of cardio equipment (Elliptical, Bike, Stair climber, etc.) You can even do this with sprints while running.

Start with a warm up for about 3-5 min. Once you are warmed up, crank up the intensity on your machine to very high and then sprint as fast as you possibly can for 30 seconds. This means that during those 30 seconds you are going as fast as possible. Once the 30 seconds is up, turn down the intensity and “rest” for 1 minute. Now this rest is stopping your movement, rather just jogging very slow, or pedaling very slow at a low intensity. This will allow you to recover somewhat until the minute is up. Once the minute is up, crank up the intensity and go again for 30 seconds. Continue to do this for 4-12 minutes depending on your fitness level. WARNING: This is extremely difficult and you may feel like throwing up when you are finished. This is normal. You will be experiencing a lot of lactic acid your first few times, until you body adjusts. Don’t kill yourself in the beginning. Do what you can, and you will get better as time goes on. Most people can only handle 4-6 minutes in the beginning. Don’t go much over 15 minutes even if you are in great shape. You should be hurting after this workout.

I strongly recommend that you do the HIIT routine 2-3 times a week for the first couple of weeks and no more than 4 times per week once you are into the program. Mix this with a good resistance training program and a decent nutritional plan, and you will see results soon. 

This program is NOT FOR EVERYBODY. If you are extremely over weight, or have any kind of heart condition, DO NOT DO HIIT. Also, if in doubt, consult your doctor first. This is also not easy, and I never said it was. Just be warned that it will be very tough if done correctly. But as I tell everyone that starts this, it’s a quick 4-12 minutes and you are done. Hang in there and you will see great results.

If you need a program or system that will without a doubt help you melt that fat away, you must try Turbulence Training from Craig Ballentine. Craig’s system falls right in line with HIIT training and it’s guaranteed to get you fit and help you win the battle with your waist line.

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5 Responses to “High Intensity Interval Training HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training…Explained”

  1. Sue

    29. Mar, 2008


    What’s the difference between HIIT and plyometrics? The more I read, they almost seem to be the same except HIIT’s done on gym equipment like circuits, whereas plyometrics requires no equipment, and is higher impact on the joints.

    Can you clear this up?

  2. Rusty

    09. Jun, 2008

    I like to do HIIT for 10 minutes, rest 5 minutes, then do 20-40 minutes of steady state cardio at a low to moderate intensity level.

    The HIIT training followed by 5 minutes rest releases fatty acids into the blood stream. The steady state cardo then uses those fatty acids for fuel. It is kind of a “hybrid” approach to get the best out of both forms of cardio.

    This method is especially effective for reaching low body fat levels and targetting “stubborn body fat”.

  3. Nick

    15. Aug, 2008

    I have currently just switched to HIIT from steady state cardio.

    Its killer, but so much better than running on the treadmill for an hour or so.

    At the moment I do 3-5 mins warm up, followed by 1min rest/30sec all out intervals for 20 mins, then 5 mins cooldown. All is done on the elliptical trainer (saves joints and YOU control the speed, unlike a treadmill).

    Its not for everyone, but I initially started it because my knee was playing up from too much running, this type of exercise is less stressful for your joints (depending on the machine you use!).

  4. George - Gain Muscle Now

    28. Jun, 2010

    I love doing HIIT on the stepmill. It kicks my butt after just 10-20 minutes. After HIIT I like to do more of a steady cardio workout to keep the calories burning.

    I get the best results from doing it 4 times per week, but like you said you need to be careful to avoid over-training.

    -George D

  5. I like your aritcle. It rocks with useful content. I especially like the explanation of how HIIT keeps the fat burning hours after the workout is done.

    As a former boxer I learned early to warm up for 3 minutes then do 3 minutes of heavy,fast punching on the heavy bag then rest for 1 miute. just 3 -3 minute rounds can burn all day. A jump rope can also be a quick and fast Hiit exercise that can really work you out too.

    Terry @ threeminutefit.com

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