Hit your fat zones with HIIT training
The excitement about High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), in the sports and fitness world is as high today as it’s ever been. That’s because it is an effective training method for burning extra calories, zapping fat and improving your cardiovascular health. The added thrill factor is that it takes less time than a traditional cardio workout with a typical HIIT session only requiring 20-30 minutes of your time.
I must be honest and say that it is called high intensity for good reason, it is hard work and I only recommend that only avid exercisers give it a try. You need to be used to working out at a higher threshold requiring maximum effort. Fast results requires hard work but you definitely get a good pay off.
What does HIIT involve?
HIIT training simply put is a workout with 2 distinct phases:
Phase 1 requires a short bout of maximum intensity/maximum effort exercise followed by phase 2, which is an active recovery exercise at a lower intensity. This type of two-phase training accomplishes does two things: you get to work in both the aerobic and anaerobic zone and, because you are pushing your body to its upper limits, you will burn extra calories post workout to enable your body to recover efficiently.
To train effectively using the HIIT method, timing is an important factor. I have said many times before in previous blogs “that fitness training is not a one size fits all situation, it is important to get to know your own body so that you can get the most out of each session”. There are several guidelines established for true HIIT workouts Let me share 2 of my personal favorites.
1. Traditional 2:1 ratio training.
Using this traditional method your high intensity/maximum effort bout of exercise would be twice as long as your recovery. As an example; using a running workout you would sprint for 30 seconds then jog for 15 seconds. You would do this continually for 8-10 reps.
2. Tabata Method
The Tabata method is similar to the 2:1 ratio training but the protocol uses a set time frame and set number of cycles for each exercise. Using squats as an example you would do jumping squats for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds of marching on the spot for a full 4 minutes . This means you would put eight cycles of effort totaling 32 minutes of total exercise. You can use any combination of moves but you must do each one for a full 4 minute round.
What does ‘intense’ really mean?
I’m sure by now many of you are asking the question; “what exactly does high intensity mean?” So, let me answer in two ways:
1. The recommended and most efficient way to monitor intensity is to use a heart rate monitor. You should be working in a zone of 70-85% of your maximum heart rate.
Here’s a little math for you if you are new to using a heart rate monitor and want to know what your max HR is. This is a standard estimate known as the Karvonen method:
220 – Your age = A A/100×70 = 70% HR MAX
A/100×85= 85% HR MAX
2. If that’s a little too complicated or high tech for you then this second method is also tried and tested: on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being ‘100%, absolute maximum, I can’t do any more or I might pass out’, you should be working at a scale of 7-9 out of 10.
How much rest is ‘recovery’?
It is important to let your heart rate recover for a two reasons, first is to get the most out of each maximum burst of effort and, secondly, so that your anaerobic system can replenish itself before you need to use it again in your next set.
If, after the designated amount of recovery time, you feel that you need more time to get your heart rate down it’s ok to rest for longer - just ensure that you adjust your ratio to accommodate your current fitness level and work up to it.
During your recovery your heart rate should be at about 60-70% of max HR.
Don’t confuse high intensity with high impact!
Many people are put off the idea of HIIT because they think it must involve high impact exercises. Impact refers to the stress put on your joints with a given exercise, jumping, sprinting and any exercise that involves having two feet off the floor at one time is considered high impact. The truth is that you can use the HIIT method using low impact exercises such as cycling, pushups, and balance drills, etc.
The key to getting results is pushing yourself to your upper limits then recovering and doing it again. Fun is a priority for me with all activity, and the excitement factor, sweat and results are what keep me motivated and coming back for more.
If your fitness level is not quite ready for the intensity of HIIT, you have something to work toward! And, for avid exercisers, my advice is that if you can think of an exercise, you can use it in a HIIT format to maximize your time and effort and blast your extra fat.