HIIT is kind of like the miracle cream, the quick fix, the chocolate slab that makes you skinny… You may be tempted to dismiss it as yet another fitness fad – but wait! It’s actually been around for years. Plus it actually works. I am still stumped as to why more people aren’t doing it.
High Intensity Interval Training is a form of exercise that developed as an off-shoot of what has become known as the Tabata Protocol. Dr Izumi Tabata conducted an experiment which, if you have time, you can read more about here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8897392, or you can just let me put it into English for you.
Basically our esteemed doctor got a few willing folk to train at a maximum intensity for 20 seconds, followed by 10 seconds of recovery and then repeat that eight times, amounting to a total of 4 minutes.
Before you pooh-pooh the idea and say, how can a 4 minute workout do any good…? I would like to pose a challenge. Find your nearest hill or treadmill (set it to a decent incline). Set it to your maximum flat-out sprint speed. You should probably warm-up a little… Now sprint at 100% maximum pace for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds and repeat, as per the protocol, 8 times. Tell me if you can keep up that maximum speed to the very end without feeling like you are losing the will to live? Or possibly vomit! Having said that, weirdly, after you have picked your lungs and heart up off the floor and managed to shove them back where they belong – you feel pretty good about yourself. That happy feeling is called “endorphins”. It’s the body’s response to extreme pain or exertion. Soon you will become addicted to that endorphin rush and you will become fanatical about Dr Tabata.
Is there a point to it all though, besides a satisfied rush at the end?
Want to get fit faster? Want to get stronger? Need to lose the beer belly or muffin top? Well, well, well… You have come to the right place!
Obviously Tabata is incredibly intense and you would like to do something that doesn’t involve a possible trip to the nearest emergency unit to find your missing lung. There you have HIIT! It’s a slightly less intense version of the Tabata Protocol which can be structured to include differing work versus recovery times. It also allows for differing training modes – you can incorporate it into cardio or resistance programmes, with just a few tweaks.
HIIT has been shown to be extremely effective in body weight resistance style workouts. It accelerates your fitness and weight loss results, in half the time. Also, don’t forget about those endorphins, you can’t help yourself, you’re going to have fun (eventually!).
Remind me, why do I want to do this to myself?
So remember those willing folk that Dr Tabata had slaving for him? They performed these workouts for 6 weeks. The control group, in comparison, were doing steady-state cardio i.e. cycling for an hour, 5 days per week.
As opposed to 4 minutes of interval training, 5 days per week.
Versus one whole hour in the control group.
After 6 weeks, the results were in. The 4-minute interval training group had improved their anaerobic capacity by 28% over the control group! The control group had not shown any significant improvement in the same amount of time.
But wait, there’s more!
We can see by the study that their fitness gains were tremendous. However, I know you… You’re thinking, “Blah, blah, blah… Yeah, it’s great to be fit but I also want to fit into those size 34 pants again.”
I would love to think that we all train for world peace but it’s a fact that we would also like to look fantastic and when we walk into a club, totally slay! Here’s the good news… High Intensity Interval Training is the most effective way to activate the EPOC effect. This is the very thing that causes you to continue to burn body fat for 24-48 hours after your workout.
EPOC stands for post-exercise oxygen consumption. In laymen’s terms, it’s the natural physiological effect of a tough workout which results in an oxygen debt to your muscles. EPOC is the amount of oxygen required to restore your body to its normal, resting level of metabolic function and to restore your muscles. During EPOC, the body uses oxygen to restore muscle glycogen and rebuild muscle proteins damaged during exercise. This process requires energy and burns calories.
EPOC is your body’s way of burning calories long after you’ve finished your workout. BONUS!
This is the science: A tough workout with short recovery intervals increases the demand on the anaerobic energy pathways during exercise, which yields a greater EPOC effect during the post-exercise recovery period. Voila!
The magic of this way of training is that you can efficiently exercise for a shorter period of time – as long as you really, really, really make an effort in that time – and you will get fitter, stronger and burn more fat.
FAST WORKOUT – FAST RESULTS
Think it’s only for cardio workouts? Nope. Read this study below that demonstrated that using HIIT in resistance workouts resulted in better muscular gains and improved exercise performance.
More muscle = increased metabolism = increased fat burning.
Remember, muscular definition is also what creates a toned and beautiful physique. How much or how little is entirely up to you.
Struggling with weight loss or insulin resistance? HIIT has scientifically shown to improve glucose and fatty acid oxidation.
HIIT really is the magical cure-all. Due to its ability to improve fitness gains in a short period of time, and its excellent association with functional training, it serves as a superb cross-training discipline that will enhance your performance in any other sport.
I have personally trained with numerous athletes who swear by the positive impact that HIIT has had on their competition times and on their overall level of endurance or strength. Disciplines that range from mountain biking, tri-athletes and even swimmers.
All that it requires of you is to commit to a few HIIT sessions every week!
Remember that HIIT can do all this for you, around 30% faster than any other workout:
- Increased fitness
- Increased weight loss
- Improved muscular definition
- Improved insulin sensitivity
- Fit, happy and fabulous!
Bersheim, E. and Bahr, R. (2003). Effect of exercise intensity, duration and mode on post-exercise oxygen consumption. Sports Medicine, 33, 14, 1037-1060
LaForgia, J., Withers, R. and Gore, C. (2006). Effects of exercise intensity and duration on the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. Journal of Sport Sciences, 24, 12, 1247-1264.