High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) For Dummies!

9 05 2012

(I know we’re not REALLY dummies, my fellow gymgeeks!  I just put that up there so you know there will be very little medical jargon for this post.)

I’ll be blunt: I…loathe…long distance running.

Picture says a thousand words…most he probably can’t say right now…

I detest, despise, hate and even disregard it’s mere existence!  Even as a kid, I would run a 12 minute mile, be completely exhausted and never want to run again.  Then I’d stop running by any means necessary and we’d be back at square one, with no incremental improvements on my time or cardiovascular health.  I kept thinking there had to be another way!

If you’ve been following along with my posts, you’ve probably heard me talk about my High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) routines that I go through on my cardio (non-lifting) days.  In simple terms, it means to do a cardiovascular workout with short intervals of high intensity, followed by an extended period of medium-to-low intensity, and repeat as many times as you can.

What this does is make your body have to work harder to figure out your metabolic rate.  That’s the problem with static running:  once your body figures out how to efficiently burn your energy (calories) it plateaus off and you see no improvements.  With HIIT, the “WTF” shock of quick-to-regular running (or whatever activity you choose to do…more on that in a second) makes your body have to work overtime to burn energy.  This makes for a more efficient routine, as you can burn the SAME amount of calories with 20 minutes of HIIT as you would in about an hour of static cardio.

Here are just a few of the activities you can incorporate into a HIIT routine:

  • Running
  • Elliptical Machines
  • Biking
  • Boxing
  • Jump Rope
  • Body Weight Circuit Training

Now, shorter doesn’t mean easier, gymgeeks.  In fact, the first time I tried doing training like this, I was gassed in less than 15 minutes.  To help you learn from my mistakes, here’s a simple routine you can do on a treadmill.

  1. First, set your machine to 3.4-3.5 MPH on a 1% incline and warm-up for five minutes.
  2. Next, bring up the speed to about 6.5 MPH on that same incline and jog for three minutes.  This will give you an idea of where your middle ground is for a spirited jog.
  3. If that speed is right for you, continue at it for another two minutes.  If you found it a little easier or harder, adjust as necessary.
  4. After those two minutes are up,  ramp up the speed to 3 MPH higher than you are currently and sprint for 30-45 seconds (depending on your ability level).
  5. Once you’re done with the sprint, return BACK to your middle ground for another two minutes.  This is one interval.
  6. Repeat as many times as you can!  For beginners, anywhere from three to five sprints is damn impressive!  If you’re a little more advanced, you can toy with your speed, incline or time.

The idea here is efficiency.  You want to get in the most amount of work in the least amount of time.  Countless studies have shown this to be the most effective way to do cardio (unless, of course, you’re training for a long-distance race of some sort).  For fat loss, I recommend a HIIT routine two or three times a week on NON-LIFTING DAYS.  I can tell you that if you’re doing your weight training properly, you will not have the energy necessary to pull this off after.  More importantly it’ll be counterproductive to your muscles rebuilding, as it’ll only leave more tissue damage to repair overnight.

Hopefully this’ll get you on your way.  Let me know how you do with it!

Jonathan.

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