If you need a good cardio workout in a short period of time, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is the practice you should try. Primarily reserved to Athletes, it gradually has been used by anyone who wants to improve his general fitness. Why? For many reasons, let me explain you what this HIIT is all about.
This year, I worked for 6 months in a fitness gym leading the Versaclimber HIIT training. I discovered how to create and lead this specific type of activity. HIIT is basically a short cardio workout, alternating short periods of intense anaerobic exercise with limited recovery periods. It exists 3 main sorts of interval training: short, moderate or long.
- Short HIIT focus on improving strength and power capacity. It implies max intensity short interval 90% Vo2max* and longer work to rest ratio 1:3-1:6s. Ex: 15s sprint with 45s full inactive rest (1:3).
- Moderate HIIT focus on delaying onset fatigue, you can exercise faster longer. It implies a high intensity medium interval at 80% Vo2max with a work to rest ratio 1:2 seems reasonable. Ex: 30s with 1 min active or inactive rest (1:2).
- Long HIIT focus on aerobic function, your capacity to hold a good pace for a long period of time. It is a medium high intensity interval at 70% Vo2max lasting more than 2 min with an equivalent work to rest ratio 1:1. Ex: a 2 min run with 2min of active rest at 40% Vo2max (1:1).
For any kind of intervals you choose, you will need to repeat and alternate at least 3 times the work and rest period and maximum 8 times. If you do less the training is inefficient and if you do more it becomes a classic long cardio workout, we don’t want any of them. Generally interval training should last 20-40 min max.
Myself practicing HIIT on Culver City stairs.
Now that you know what is HIIT and how to perform it, I would like to present all his benefits:
- First HIIT requires an enormous amount of energy, which basically means: it burns a lot of Calories in a minimal time. If you are looking for fat loss, it is an amazing way to reach your goal. According to different studies, HIIT even induces after-burn effect; your metabolism is still extremely active post exercising.
- Second it improves anaerobic and aerobic fitness. Your Vo2max will increase, your heart will grow stronger, your resistance to fatigue will improve and your all body will get more muscular.
- Third it will decrease fasting insulin and increase insulin sensitivity, which means, your body will manage better his stock of carbohydrates. It is a good way to limit or delay the apparition of diabetes.
When you think about it, this training looks amazing, isn’t it? Yes but you still have to be careful and avoid any overtraining. HIIT put a large stress on your body and you should avoid doing more than 2 session per week. If you are a beginner, start by doing 1/week focusing on aerobic preferably. For example alternate 2 min walk and 2 min run at 70% of your Vo2max on the treadmill 3 times and then increase the number of repetitions. The best way to get better is to increase your training slowly, respecting and resting enough your body to adapt to the new situation.
Now you that know all about it, it is time for you to give it a try. It will cost your 20 min of your time and a good mental to get trough it. Are you ready? 3, 2 , 1 … go!
Here is a chart provided by ACE (American Council of Exercice). Explaining how to program your HIIT training. They use exertion level instead of Vo2max to make it simple, but the principle remains exactly the same.
Vo2max: The maximum or optimum rate at which the heart, lungs, and muscles can effectively use oxygen during exercise, used as a way of measuring a person’s individual aerobic capacity.