For many of us, we dread the thought of long, boring cardio sessions. However, if I were to tell you that you could burn 9 times more fat doing a cardio workout in a fraction of the time, would you do it? Getting more results is about doing less. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is exactly what I’m talking about.
What is HIIT?
High Intensity Interval Training is an exercise strategy alternating periods of short intense anaerobic exercise with less-intense recovery periods. The idea is to cram as much running and intensity in as little time as possible.
You may think that enduring the never-ending torture of the treadmill, bike or elliptical is sufficient enough to burn those excess pounds. You’re wrong. You need to do HIIT. When you do HIIT, you are training at a very intense level. Your body will spend the rest of the day expending energy to recover from such a beating. This is commonly referred to as EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). This means you consume more oxygen recovering from the exercise than you would if you’d done a steady-state cardio workout. According to a study performed by Angelo Tremblay at Laval University, high intensity interval training burns 9 times more fat than steady state cardio.
The Benefits of HIIT
Besides reducing the time you spend training, HIIT provides plenty of other benefits. Your VO2 Max will increase more from doing HIIT than steady state cardio. Your VO2 Max is defined as the maximum amount of oxygen that your body can take in, deliver, and use in one minute. This is one of the best indicators of aerobic fitness. A higher VO2 Max means more oxygen is delivered to the muscles and the faster or longer you run and train. In addition, HIIT is associated more with building lean muscle mass as opposed to steady-state, which can actually cause you to lose muscle mass. Running for long periods of time releases cortisol, a catabolic hormone, meaning it breaks the body down. This is associated with muscle wasting, and over time, can actually break the body down. When doing high intensity training, you actually build more muscle. Look at sprinters. Sprinters maximally contract their muscles, which requires a lot more work from their bodies than a slow, staggered, constant run. In addition, testosterone and growth hormones are released in greater amounts with short maximal energy bursts. These hormones are anabolic in nature, meaning they build the body up. That’s where the term “bodybuilding” essentially originates from. When you do HIIT, you use primarily fast twitch muscle fibers, which are thicker than slow twitch muscle fibers and continually grow in size with the right training. It’s all about power and high energy output for short duration of time. HIIT will reduce body fat and strengthen you more than long distance running due to the maximal recruitment of muscle.
A HIIT Routine
You should properly access your fitness levels before starting any HIIT routine. Remember, HIIT is very taxing on the body and it should not be performed everyday, regardless of your fitness level. You should perform a HIIT routine no more than 3-4 times a week. Make sure you are going as hard as you can to maximize the benefits of this type of training. Check out the following graph for your personalized HIIT routine depending on your fitness level.
Photo from Intervaltraining.net
H.I.S.T. – The NEXT Best Thing
Now let’s compare the bodies of a sprinter and a marathon runner. Think of those who perform HIIT and those who do steady-state cardio. The sprinter certainly has the more attractive physique than most, and it’s the idea of intensity that provides that difference. Volume trainees are the marathon runners, going for long periods of time in the gym using minimal weight throughout their routine for a longer period of time. The intensity training guys are the sprinters, compacting an incredibly intense session in a shorter period of time. Powerlifters take a similar approach. If you look at powerlifters, their method of training allows them to get stronger every single week. Their sole purpose is to increase the poundages that they can handle and that means dealing with maximal weights, mainly in the rep range of 4-6 reps through each of their sets.
Most professional 200 pound powerlifters, who do not partake in performance enhancing drugs, can lift more weight than 300 pound bodybuilders who are at significantly lower body fat percentages. Most people who lift regularly very rarely increase their strength week-to-week, yet powerlifters do it on a week-to-week basis. This type of training works to help you grow stronger without the use of performance enhancing drugs or steroids. A lot of professional bodybuilders perform volume training, but when you have anabolic steroids doing a large portion of the work for you outside of the gym, practically the slightest form of stimulation will work. It is true that most powerlifters that you are thinking of don’t have the bodies of a sprinter. Nevertheless, there is a recognizable difference here that creates the difference in physique between powerlifters and sprinters: Body fat percentage. Powerlifters have just as much muscle mass as their counterparts. However, A) their diet is not conducive to staying lean, and B) their training consists of intense sets, but not intense workout sessions. H.I.S.T. or High Intensity Stimulation Training combines the intense training of a powerlifter and sprinter. It takes the best of both worlds and replicates a modification of a sprinter’s intensity workout and a bodybuilder’s volume stimulation workout together in one to provide awe-inspiring results in the shortest period of time to build strength and power while getting you ripped in the process.