Most people who claim they do high-intensity interval training often focus more on the ‘interval’ part than on the ‘high intensity’ part. Let’s get one thing straight – there’s nothing wrong with regular interval training. You do the exercise for a period of time, then rest and repeat the exercise again, thus forming intervals that are great for your heart health, circulation, and overall conditioning. But doing exercises with high intensity is where the magic happens.
Most people are drawn to HIIT because it’s short and it’s a type of cardio that doesn’t require any equipment at all to have a good total body workout. The question is, how do you know you’re doing HIIT right? Well doing HIIT on your own is very difficult and most people will never achieve the right intensity so a much more effective way is it under the guidance of a qualified Metafit coach or personal trainer.
What qualifies as high intensity?
After each interval, you should be out of breath, drenched, and thinking to yourself “Thank God it’s rest time, I couldn’t go on any longer”. Your body will treat that rest time as a quick recovery, giving you the chance to steady your breath and gather just enough energy to perform the next interval. To illustrate how hard you have to work in those short intervals (that usually last anywhere from 15 to 45 seconds), it’s worth noting that some researchers doubt that the general population could successfully adapt to the extreme nature of HIIT. However, in Metafit we challenge that belief. The general population can absolutely achieve the right intensity (90% + MHR) with expert coaching, correct programming (exercises, work to rest, duration) and determination.
Don’t underestimate the rest periods
This is such an important thing to note because people usually think that if they push themselves harder and harder with no breaks whatsoever, they will somehow achieve better results. Wrong! The rest periods are what makes HIIT work! In order to really perform at your maximum intensity, you have to give your body a chance to recover! If you just go on doing something so extreme for long, your body will slowly decrease the energy levels, which can lead to serious injuries and won’t help your fitness goals in the long run. The whole point of the rest period is to allow your body to tap into the energy supplies it has, and ‘produce’ the amount of energy you need for your next interval. Without that break, you’re not giving your body a chance to regroup and prepare itself for the hard part. Remember, it’s called high-intensity interval training, and not just high-intensity training for a reason. By going through those high cardio – low cardio intervals, you’re making the most out of your workout, whether the goal is to lose fat, increase explosiveness, or simply improve your general health.
Longer is not necessarily better
Now that we’ve established that your workout should be rough and leave you breathless and sweaty, there’s another aspect of this exercise regimen you should take into account when planning your workout – it’s length. If you’re really making your body go through intense energy bursts where you’re giving it your all, it’s impossible to perform those intervals for longer periods of time. There isn’t a professional athlete in the world that could or would want to do HIIT for an hour. You’ll come across various 45, 60, or even 80-minute ‘HIIT’ workouts on the internet that deserve a healthy amount of suspicion, to say the least (these are NOT HIIT workouts).
The ideal length you should go for is anywhere between 6 and 25 minutes, no more. If you do it right, you’ll give your body and excellent, fat-torching routine that will leave you feeling energized and oh so alive! The easiest way to choose the optimal length is to simply listen to your body and find what feels good for you.
Which exercises to choose
It’s not only the way you do it but what you do that counts. You should aim for bodyweight, explosive, full body moves that simultaneously engage most of the main muscle groups in your body to get an optimal result. Giving the limiting length of the intervals, it’s hard to imagine an average person being completely out of breath by the time they finish 20 seconds of squat pulses, triceps dips or crunches. Try doing burpees, squat jumps and sprints movements and you’ll see that you’ll pretty much max out at about 20 seconds or so.
You might think that your typical HIIT workout focuses too much on the lower body, but don’t be fooled! One, quads and glutes are the largest muscles in the body, therefore they will burn the most calories when being trained, and two, in order to do a high-intensity burpee or jumping lunge the right way, you need to activate your core to keep you balanced and safe. Don’t worry, you’ll be doing a total body routine, without even noticing it or focusing on specific abs or arm exercises. That’s the beauty of HIIT.
Less is more
Falling in love with HIIT is easy. It’s quick, effective, and the results start to show fast – really, really fast. You might love it so much, in fact, that you’ll find yourself trying to fit the fourth or even fifth HIIT in your week, in order to achieve even faster results. Don’t do it! Aim for 2 or 3 HIIT workouts per week, max. Even 1 quality HIIT workout per week will do wonders for your athletic performance. Your body needs time to recover properly; you should cherish it and work with it, not against it. Feel free to do some weight lifting, yoga, pilates or light, steady-paced cardio on your off-days. This will compliment your HIIT routine perfectly, and keep you safe from injuries and stress. If you overwork your body, it will likely recover slower than usual, causing you to have less energy to begin with, so you won’t be able to make your intervals intense and brutal, which will render your whole HIIT routine useless, not to mention the probable muscle tears and Achilles tendonitis that often go along with lower performance!
In the end, HIIT will make you appreciate what your body can do as well as boost your overall health and wellbeing, as long as you do it right. Find a Metafit class near you and maximise your HIIT effort and results. Ready, set, HIIT!