Get better results in less than half the time? Sounds to good to be true doesn't it? Well fortunately, more and more research is pointing favourably towards high intensity interval training as the cardio training method that we should all be doing.
These days we live in a busy world, we're always rushing around and our time is limited. Even if we do have time, the thought of slogging it out on the treadmill for 45 minutes is hardly appealing. So what if we told you there was a way you could cut you cardio down by almost two thirds, and STILL get great (maybe even better) results?
There is a slight downside to HIIT, it's true that it can be done in 10-30 minutes, BUT it works on the principal of using bursts of high intensity - and I mean HIGH intensity - followed by a short period of low intensity or total rest. So it's not something for beginners or the unfit. However it's well worth training yourself up to be able to perform this type of cardio. It can massively help to transform your body and improve your health.
Lets take a look at the benefits of HIIT!
1. HIIT Burns More Fat Than Normal Cardio Methods
After an exercise session the body needs to take in more oxygen and burn more calories to restore the body's metabolic state. This is sometimes referred to as the 'afterburn' effect. HIIT has been shown to increase the body's EPOC (excess post exercise ogygen consumption) effect after you finish a workout, meaning that not only are you burning fat and calories whilst training, your body will actually continue to take in extra oxygen to burn calories for a good few hours AFTER your HIIT session.
2. It Improves Your Overall Health
It doesn't just help you stay lean, performing HIIT is great for improving the health of a range of people with various conditions. This includes things like diabetes and heart disease. In fact research has found that after performing HIIT for 12 weeks it helped type 2 diabetics control glycemic levels, body mass and abdominal fat.
It was also found to reduce blood pressure, arterial stiffness, cholesterol levels and resting heart rate. So it doesn't just help you look hot, its great for your overall well being.
3. HIIT Is Great Even If You're Trying To Build Muscle
Research has also shown that traditional cardio can cause muscle catbolism - aka the breaking down of your muscle tissues. This can carry on happening up to 7 days after cardio has taken place. HIIT has a smaller catabolic effect on the muscles and much less than standard cardio. It wont help you BUILD muscle, but if you're goal is to get a lean, athletic physique without losing too much muscle mass, HIIT is the one for you!
4. Its More Efficient
Probably the most popular reason this type of training has become so popular. Research has show that you can burn the same amount of calories during just 20-30 minutes of HIIT as you would during 50 minutes of steady state cardio.
5. You Can Do It Anywhere
The great thing about HIIT is that you don't need any equipment to do it! As long as you're getting that itensity nice and high and really getting the heart rate up you can do it with equipment or just with body weight exercises.
HOW TO DO IT...
So lets take a look at how to do HIIT training.
First of all you need to get the intensity correct. In fitness we use something called the RPE scale which stands for 'rate of perceived exertion'. This refers to how much we are exerting ourselves when training. Take a look at the chart below. Steady state cardio would probably place you at level 4 or 5 on the RPE scale. When it comes to HIIT you need to be at a level 9..... Yep I told you it was tough.
If the last paragraph part of this section hasn't put you off and you can deal with the intensity, the next thing to look at is your interval periods. This is where there is some good news because even though its tough, you only actually exercise in bursts of around 20-30 seconds.
With HIIT you exercise at a high intensity for say 30 seconds, during this period your heart rate will be hugely elevated, after the minute is up you rest for 20 seconds then go back and do it again. Repeat this as many times as you can in 20 minutes.
When your starting out you'll probably need to make the 'rest' periods longer than the 'working' periods, but you should aim to gradually increase the work periods and decrease the rest periods. Try a plan like this:
Week 1 - 30 seconds on : 30 seconds off
Week 2 - 30 seconds on : 30 seconds off
Week 3 - 20 seconds on : 30 seconds off
Week 4 - 20 seconds on : 20 seconds off
Week 5 - 20 seconds on : 10 seconds off
Like I mentioned above the great thing about HIIT is that you can do it anywhere, with or without equipment. It could be as simple as sprinting on the treadmill or rowing on the rower. You can do a perfectly good HIIT session with bodyweight exercises, or you can use equipment.