What is High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and does it Work?

Some people, like me, excessively research articles about fitness to make sure that they are doing the ‘right’ thing. If this is you and you have researched HIIT and already know about it, you can skip to the next paragraph. For those that don’t know what HIIT is, you are in luck because the next couple sentences will explain all about it. HIIT training was first used in the mid 1900’s by athletic coaches. This particular type of training involves performing an exercise, most commonly running and cycling, at a very high intensity (hence the name high-intensity) for a short period of time. The high-intensity ‘interval’ is then followed by a short period of rest. This intense-rest pattern is then repeated for an extended period of time. When stretched to its limit, the human body does some incredible things to try and adapt, among which is burning a lot of calories. The problem is that we can only physically push ourselves enough to stay at this extremely high intensity level for short periods of time. That is where the HIIT training strategy comes in. By adding short periods of rest in between, you can continue reaching this level. After a couple of repetitions, your total time at the High Intensity level will have accumulated to a couple minutes, which is huge. One thing about HIIT training that makes it so appealing to people that are trying to lose weight is that your body continues to burn calories long after your workout. Due to the amount of stress that your body was put through, it works hard afterwards recovering and rebuilding itself to prepare for the next time it is in a similarly intense situation. Research shows that you can burn up to twice as many calories hours after a HIIT workout as you would on a regular day. Along with the calorie burn, high intensity training is one of the most time efficient workouts you can perform. Just a 10 minute workout is equal to walking for 30 minutes at 4 mph. So “I’m too busy” is no longer a valid excuse.

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Now for the people that don’t trust the facts, here is a testimonial from none other than…me! When I first joined ROTC, I was not at a physical level in which I could pass the fitness test. For those of you that don’t know, the Army Physical Fitness Test, or APFT, consists of 2 minutes of push-ups (do as many as you can in 2 minutes), 2 minutes of sit-ups, and a timed 2-mile run. I was doing 60 sit-ups, and running a 14 minute mile which were okay, not great, but I could barely do 30 push-ups without hitting muscle failure. I knew that I needed to improve or I was going to be at risk of dropping out. I desperately started searching the internet, and that is when I came across Tabata. Tabata is a type of HIIT training in which you perform an intense exercise for 20 seconds, then rest for 10. It was first implemented by Olympic Speed Skating Coach Izumi Tabata, who it was obviously named after. In the previous paragraph I said that HIIT training was commonly used with running and cycling. But it can be used with resistance exercises as well. In my case, I started using it with push-ups. I would do as many push-ups as I could do in the 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds. I repeated this 8 times and by the end, I could barely do 5 during each 20 second interval. I would do this at the end of my weightlifting workouts 3 times a week and I would be sweating for 10 minutes afterwards. What this did is push back the point at which I hit muscle failure during my PT test. Within a month, I was doing 60 push-ups in 2 minutes and after 2 months, I was at 80. With how much success I saw with my push-ups, I started using HIIT with my sit-ups and running and saw similar results. After a month, I raised my sit-ups to 85 and dropped my running time to 13:10. I went from at risk of dropping out to maxing my PT test and making the PT competition team. The results I personally saw from implementing HIIT training into my weekly routine is why I 100% recommend that everyone try it out. You can use it with any exercise you choose, as long as it is at least mildly intense. Now go out there and do some HIIT!

Click here for some Tabata ideas.

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