If you’ve been involved in the fitness world for any length of time you’ll notice that our use of acronyms has greatly increased. I’m not talking about LOL, IDK, ROTFL. I'm talking about LISS, MISS, HIIT, IIFYM or even EPOC. While the acronyms are far easier to use, not everyone understands what they mean or how they can be applied to their programming. We can get to the others later, but right now I’m going to touch specifically on HIIT.
HIIT, or High Intensity Interval Training, consists of short sprint intervals followed by a low to moderate intensity steady state. HIIT can be taxing on the body, however when implemented correctly it can greatly improve your performance in the gym.
For this HIIT session, I suggest you find a stationary bike or elliptical in order to minimize joint impact and delay in recovery. A stationary bike or elliptical can also offer increased resistance during the sprint interval, further facilitating muscle retention and calories burned.
Prior to starting the HIIT session, I recommend you warm up. This would include a 5-10 minute low to moderate steady pace. Following the warm up, you will begin your first interval. For this, sprint or pedal as fast as you can for 10-30 seconds. After you complete the sprint interval, move back into a low to moderate steady pace until you are ready to complete another sprint interval.
Benefits of HIIT
Now that we know what HIIT is and how to perform it, let's see how you can benefit from HIIT. From a physiological standpoint, HIIT has been proven to be a more effective form of cardio compared to LISS (Low Intensity Steady State). Studies have shown that leg-driven HIIT caused hypertrophy in the lower body. When your caloric intake is set to allow for weight loss, muscle retention is crucial. The more muscle you have the higher your metabolic rate.
Another benefit of HIIT is the time that it takes to burn calories. One of the most common reasons people are not performing cardio, is they do not have enough time. While this may be an untrue statement for most, HIIT will offer you the chance to burn more calories in a much shorter time frame. Also, the sprint intervals offer you a challenge. Cardio now becomes something fun and is far more engaging than running in place at a steady pace on the treadmill.
Keep in Mind
HIIT should be treated like a training session. Schedule your session intelligently during the week, away from a lower-body training day. HIIT does have many positives, but it is also an additional stressor. Depending on where you are with your nutrition or your current body composition, you will want to ensure you are not doing too much HIIT each week.
Finally, never perform HIIT on an empty stomach. Having as much fuel as possible prior to performing HIIT will greatly improve your performance. Perhaps this is another topic for a later discussion.
– By Brian Devins, ACE, CPT, Coach/Founder of Upstate Empire Fitness, LLC