Mar 9, 2024


A major hype within the fitness industry is the talk about High Intensity Interval training, which is referred to as HIIT. HIIT methods has been an essential part of athletic training programs since the early 19th century due to how closely connected it is linked with specific sporting intensities. HIIT training programs can be easily modified to suit people of all fitness levels and can be performed in just about all exercise modalities, including but not limited to running, cycling, cross training, body weight and free weights. HIIT training is continuing to grow in its popularity due to a number of reasons. It seems simple but science is proving that incorporating a couple of HIIT sessions into your training routine can have major health benefits. HIIT is a training technique, which involves intense bursts of high intensity exercise followed by varied periods of low intensity or complete rest. When developing HIIT programs the relationship of both the work and recovery interval is extremely important. We must consider the duration, intensity and frequency of both work and recovery intervals. The intensity during the work period should be greater than 80% of estimated max heart rate (the higher the better – should feel like you are exercising “hard” to “very hard”). The intensity of the recovery period should be less than 50% of estimated max heart (rest or active recovery – prepares you for next working interval).

The length of HIIT programs can range from 30 min all the way down to 4 min (commonly known as Tabata Training). You must consider the ratio of work to rest. Remember the key is to work as hard as possible during working phase and recover as best as possible before the next working set. If you do not allow yourself to recover and decide to take shorter rests periods you could limiting the effectiveness of this training method (EPOC – explained in detail below). A few variations can include work : rest ratios of 1:3, 1:2, 1:1. It all depends on how long and how intense the session is. To benefit from training long gone are the days where you do not have time to exercise. HIIT workouts may be very short however they are more exhaustive then steady state exercise. Therefore, a longer recovery period is often needed before starting your next session. If you are fatigued and not fully recovered you will find yourself not working as hard in the session. Research recommends two HIIT sessions a week making sure you spread both workouts throughout the week. If you are complete beginner consider starting with one and when you feel ready add a second HIIT for a greater challenge.

Each year HIIT is becoming an increasingly recognized and well liked method of training.  If HIIT training is incorporated into a well-balanced program it can optimize the development of numerous health and fitness goals. Below is a summary of some major benefits of what one HIIT session could do for your:

  • Burn more calories in least amount of time – 10 min HIIT vs 45 min steady state walk. Which would you prefer? (Get more results and train for less amount of time)

  • Quick and convenient – super efficient HIIT session can be ideal for a busy schedule (fit more in your day)

  • Increased metabolism for short period of time – burn more calories in less time (refer to EPOC effect in next paragraph)

  • Both aerobic and anaerobic fitness gains

  • Increased cardiovascular health

  • Increased insulin sensitivity – helps exercising muscles use glucose for fuel to make energy (using glucose for fuel during exercise is key to training harder and burning more fat at rest – again refer to EPOC)

  • Lower cholesterol 

  • Lower abdominal fat and weight loss

EPOC – Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption 

A HIIT workout (training “very hard”) increases the body’s need for oxygen during the working phase. This then causes your body to ask for more oxygen during recovery. Understand if you can increase the amount of oxygen during and after a workout, you can increase the amount of net calories burned. This is what is called the EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption) effect and is the main reason why intense exercise in short bursts will help burn more calories (especially fat) then your regular steady state exercises. Due to the vigorous nature of HIIT workouts generally over a 2hour period after exercise you can be burning 6-15% more calories to your overall workout energy expenditure. The EPOC effect can also speed up your metabolic rate for up to 48 hours after a HIIT session. How long after the workout all depends on how hard you work with each working period.

If you were told that you are able to train for less amount of time and get greater results, what would you say? Remember that the relationship of both work and recovery is extremely important to maximize your results. HIIT training sounds too simple to be true however science doesn’t stretch the truth. HIIT training could be great way to kick start your fitness goals by jolting your body into hyper drive. If you want to learn more about how to incorporate HIIT into your own routine, don’t be afraid to book in a free consultation or send us an email and HBR Personal Training will be happy to get you on the right track.

CTA Background Image 6