Should You Switch to a HIIT Workout?
By Jake Boly
High-Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, has grown in popularity over the last few years and continues to do so. This type of training encompasses short bouts of intense exercise set for a certain amount of time. Intervals can last anywhere from 15 seconds to 2 minutes and will vary depending on the HIIT workout being performed. There have been multiple forms and types of HIIT workout created, which make them a viable option for a wide variety of the workout-focused population.
This article will dive into what HIIT training actually is, and the benefits that come from this style of workout. HIIT workouts are often more intense than a regular gym session, so it’s always recommended to seek a medical professional before performing any form of intense exercise.
What Exactly Is HIIT Training?
If you regularly work out, then chances are you’ve seen a fair share of HIIT-focused gyms or HIIT classes. This form of workout by nature provides the body with an intense stimulus for a short duration, which in turn is supposed to produce muscle growth, improve one’s total fitness, and burn fat.
For many, HIIT is all about the fat-burning benefits, as it’s often considered an effective, time-saving way to do so. Additionally, HIIT workouts are often focused on working towards a time limit, or set amount of intervals. This is ideal for those who want to stay in shape but don’t enjoy working out for long periods of time. The fat-burning benefits of this style of workout come from the intense bouts of exercise that cause the heart rate to elevate past a resting, or steady state, which can elevate metabolism and burn fat.
An ideal heart rate to aim for in HIIT training is relative to one’s experience, and I normally advise aiming for a training heart rate between 70-90%. If you’re new to this form of workout, then you’d aim for the lower end of the percentage, and vice-versa for someone experienced. To find your maximum heart rate, check out the equation below.
220 - (Your Age) = Max Heart Rate (Beats/Min)
Then to find your goal training heart rate based on the above percentages, you’d use something like the two examples below.
Max Heart Rate x .8 = Goal of 80% Training Intensity Heart Rate
Max Heart Rate x .9 = Goal of 90% Training Intensity Heart Rate
Benefits of HIIT Training
1. Time Saver
These workouts rarely last longer than 30 minutes and can be performed almost anywhere depending on what equipment and exercises you choose to use. In a recent study from 2016, researchers analyzed two group of volunteers who each worked out for either 30 minutes or 50 minutes for a week. These two groups performed either 10-minute total bouts of sprint interval work or 50-minute sprint-focused workouts. Researchers found that both groups improved similarly with their peak oxygen uptake, which is a major indicator of cardiovascular fitness and aerobic power. Peak oxygen uptake is our body’s maximal ability to take in and utilize oxygen at any given time.
2. Easy-to-Program Goals
The easy-to-track goals that come with HIIT could be time or a certain amount of sets you must go through. Workouts that encompass a clear goal tend to fare better for a wider audience of gym-goer. To this point, a workout with a clear goal can enable gym-goers of all levels of fitness to clearly define what they’re working towards. For example, if a workout has a set time limit, then it’s easy to strive for better performance by decreasing the amount of time it takes to complete the workout.
3. Health Benefits
As we elevate our heart rate and perform multiple resistance movements in a set, fast-paced manner, then overall fitness will improve. Whether it’s a cardiovascular-oriented workout or strength routine, fitness and health will improve with the heart rate fluctuation of calculated working sets.
4. Variety of HIIT Workout Styles
We discussed this briefly above, but HIIT comes in multiple forms. Many think of HIIT workouts as primarily sprint work, and while this style of workout can be HIIT, it’s not the only way to do it. For example, this 2016 study looked at biking intervals versus sprints for HIIT benefits. They found that biking workouts performed in a HIIT-style workout format offered similar benefits compared to sprints. This information is useful because biking is much more of a low-impact exercise, which can benefit people that may not be able to perform traditional sprint work. These are only a few examples of what could be used in a HIIT workout:
- Workout circuits
Supplements to Support a High-Intensity Workout
There are many supplements that could benefit those who regularly do HIIT-style workouts. These supplements can support performance, along with aiding recovery. One supplement worth looking into for post-workout recovery is a quality protein powder. A good protein powder will be packed with muscle-aiding ingredients to support workout recovery. Additionally, amino acids could be beneficial during and following a workout for recovery support.
HIIT workouts continue to grow in popularity and are a go-to choice for a wide variety of gym-goer. They’re a great way to improve overall fitness, burn fat, and save time. Possibly the best part of HIIT workouts are the endless options of workout formats. This makes them a great choice for someone who may be limited in certain areas of fitness.