What is HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and Why You Should be Doing More of It?

Most clients come to me with similar goals – get fitter and slimmer. So here we go…trying to explain that these two goals are in fact a by-product of cleaning up your diet and incorporating exercise that encourages fat loss and metabolic conditioning. Enter HIIT training. Say what? HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training or Circuit Training. Now that sounds hard. What is HIIT and why do I need to do more of it?

I personally have a love hate relationship with it. But in short, HIIT training is made up of short periods of high intensity exercise followed by a period of recovery. There are different types of HIIT workouts which are usually performed for no longer than 25-30 minutes at a time due to the intensity of the workout. The duration of the workout comes down to the types of exercises you are performing but also your performance goals.

If you want a leaner and stronger body, then add a few HIIT workouts to your training plan. It will maximize your results in minimum time. Add extra resistance to the workout either through using equipment like dumbbells, barbells, slam balls, kettle bells, sand bags, ropes, tyres, TRX. The options are endless and that’s what makes it fun, challenging and never boring!

So here’s the 411 on HIIT workouts and why you should be doing more of them:

#1. HIIT workouts enhance your heart and lung capacity

HIIT workouts are designed to push your heart rate for short bursts which in fact trains your heart and lungs more effectively. The idea is to get your heart rate up to within 75-85% max HR for a seasoned exerciser. For those starting out, aim to reach between 60-70% max HR in the first few weeks or simply dial down the types of exercises performed or perform shorter bursts of work. To find your max HR, simply subtract your age from 220. Therefore, if you are 37 like me then your max HR is 220-37 = 183 beats per minute. 85% of max HR = 0.85 x 183 = 156 bpm and 60% of max HR = 110 bpm

If you want a leaner and stronger body, then add a few HIIT workouts to your training plan. It will maximize your fat loss results. Of course, you also need to be eating healthy options to shed excess fat and tone up. But give it time and stick to the plan and always practice good form.

#2. It’s a Total Time Saver

No need to hit the treadmill for hours to get the same calorie burn. You can effectively burn similar calories to an hour of steady state cardio (like a jogging at a light pace for an hour) as you would in 20 minutes of HIIT style training. Caution: don’t do too many sessions in one week. Keep it to 3 at a maximum as HIIT can be quite fatiguing on the body if done on the regular and don’t forget to hydrate and eat well after a training session to replenish glycogen stores for muscle recovery.

#3. You’ll get stronger faster

Using your body weight to perform exercise is no mean feat. Try doing as many push ups as you can – with proper form in 40 seconds. Not easy and will leave you gasping for breath. In a good way, of

course. HIIT work outs can be catered to all fitness levels. You can add weights during HIIT intervals to also enhance strength and utilisation of accessory muscles to stabilise the weight. Or you can stick to body weight exercises and other apparatus to train your upper body, lower body or total body. The options are endless and fun.

#4 You don’t need any equipment and can do HIIT anywhere at anytime

Yes that’s right, there are so many exercises in the exercise library for HIIT training that only use your body weight. Other equipment can be used if you have it available like a skipping rope, dumbbells, barbells, slam balls, kettlebells, resistance bands but bodyweight exercises are just as effective and give you a banging body too. It’s all about the intensity.

Below is a beginner program and an advanced program using only your bodyweight – no equipment required. I have put together a beginner workout video that would be useful for anyone getting back into fitness after sometime, or a newbie who is ready to start their journey. Click on the link below. Try it and tell me what you think.

Ready, set go!!

Beginner – 30 seconds of work, 30 seconds of rest. Repeat circuit 4 times and that’s 20 minutes.

1. Superman modified push ups – performed on knees, reach forward, then place hands next to chest, take an inhale then exhale and push up
2. Modified burpees – no jump at top of movement, step out into plank and step feet outside hands, no jump
3. Step ups on bench – step up with same leg for 10 reps. Then alternate leg for another 10 reps.
4. Reverse lunges - keep hands on hip, feet together, shoulders back, chest forward, tummy engaged and draw belly button in. Step one foot back, bring knee down on back leg, push off front heel and step feet together. Repeat on other leg and keep going.
5. High plank Mountain climbers - assume high plank position, bring knee to elbow, slow and controlled, swap sides and keep repeating

Advanced - 40 seconds of work, 20 seconds of rest. Repeat circuit 4 times and that’s 20 minutes.

1. Push ups on toes – bring hands close to sides of chest
2. High knees – place elbows at side of body, palms facing down, lift knees quickly to touch palms, keep on toes throughout the movement
3. Full burpees - jump back into plank, step feet in either side of hands or jump feet in and jump up
4. Alternating split squats/jumping lunges – keep hands on hip, shoulders back, chest forward, tummy engaged and draw belly button in, perform alternating jumping lunges focusing on bringing back knee down and pushing up through toes when jumping up
5. Forearm mountain climbers - assume plank on forearms, bring knee to elbow, slow and controlled

Enjoy! With love