Everything You Need to Know About High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Hey Angels & Alphas!

Today, I want to talk about a topic very dear to every athlete’s heart.

In recent years, High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been one of the most talked about topics in the fitness community!

More and more people are starting to add forms of HIIT to their weightlifting and cardio sessions, because of the various fitness benefits it has.

From fitness gurus to runway models, it seems that everyone is talking about how powerful and practical it is. And with good reason!

It helps you burn fat rapidly, makes noticeable changes to your body in a short amount of time, and completely shatters the “I don’t have time” excuse, allowing even the busiest people to squeeze in a productive, effective workout.

But remember – it’s no shortcut to fat loss. Instead, a powerful component will let you get there faster.

Today, we are going to learn all about the definition, benefits, and application of HIIT – from the perspective of both professional athletes and everyday gym-goers.

By the end, you’ll be fully equipped with the knowledge necessary to create your own HIIT program and jump right into it, even if you’re just a beginner.

So if you’ve ever wondered if high-intensity training is worth your time…

You’ve come to the right place!

(Short answer: it is.)

Without further ado, let’s dive in.

Defining High Intensity

To begin, we need to understand one thing: High-intensity interval training is not just a form of cardio. It’s the act of working your body to a near-maximum heart rate, be it with cardiovascular exercise or strength/resistance training.

This means working out at an intensity that gets your heart beating at around 80-85% of your maximum heart rate. Many doctors and experts say you can calculate your maximum heart rate really easily – just subtract your age from the number 220.

If you’re 25, your MHR would be 195.

To do HIIT, you should aim for a workout intensity that gets your heart rate at around 160 – 170.

This is performed in short, quick, explosive bursts that strive for maximum energy and power output followed by optimal recovery periods.

I saw this study a while back in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research that concluded that the best working out/resting ratio for HIIT is 2:1, but that really varies. Your fitness level, the type of workout, and even the weather around you could play a massive role in your work-rest ratio.

But to put it short, you’re aiming for a quick workout that really pushes you to your limits in the shortest amount of time possible – be it cardio, strength training, or your favorite sport.

Safety Note

One of the best things about HIIT is that even beginners can see tremendous results really quickly.

However, this comes at a price. Working out at a higher intensity always means a higher risk of injury, and seeing how attractive HIIT is to beginners, I have to give a few safety warnings!

Low leg injuries and back pain are among the most common-reported HIIT-related injuries, but there are things we can do to prevent them.

It’s true – you don’t need to be an expert to start with high intensity. But if you’re new to HIIT, choose a couple of basic exercises and do them with weights that are more than comfortable. Keep doing this for a few weeks, until you have the confidence to step up to moderate loads.

That, along with an engaging pre-workout warmup and post-workout cooldown, will minimize your risk of injury and set the right foundation for your high-intensity training.

But keep in mind – the level of intensity takes some time to get used to.

THE Five Components of the HIIT Workout

We can’t possibly define all the various HIIT workouts that people are doing nowadays, but we can set a few ground rules you can follow when creating your own high-intensity regime.

Let’s take a look at the five must-know components of the high-intensity workout!

  1. Intensity Level

As we already said before, exercise intensity should aim to reach 80-85% of your maximum heart rate.

  1. Work:Rest ratio 

The general rule of thumb given by experts is 2:1. That means 30 seconds of rest for every 1 minute of top-intensity exercise. HIIT methods like the Tabata also suggest a 40 second – 15-second ratio, so you can play around with the 2:1 ratio and pick a sweet spot for your method of training.

  1. Duration

Your exercises shouldn’t last more than 60 seconds. And your whole workout should be up to 40 minutes long. Any longer than that, and you wouldn’t be able to keep up with the intensity.

Remember – you can train long, or you can train hard, but you can’t train both.

  1. Recovery

HIIT is performed at work and rest rounds, and your rest periods are just as critical as their counterpart.

During your rest rounds, you work on actively preparing yourself for the next, you don’t just sit around waiting for a timer.

Allow your heart rate to drop to a resting state, then attack the next round with the energy you collected.

  1. Volume

How many times should you HIIT per week?

Depending on your fitness level and physical activity, the answer can vary.

If you’re looking to get the most out of HIIT and you’re not engaging in other forms of training, you can do it up to 5 times a week. A group class is also an excellent option for the people who want to get started with HIIT, as you’ll be able to learn and get a feel for your body way more quickly.

However, if you are, for example, a gym-goer who wants to use HIIT to build more endurance and burn more fat, you should do 2 or 3 sessions a week on low-intensity days.

That being said, you now have the perfect foundation for creating your HIIT regime.

Whether it’s your first training method ever or just the latest addition to your program, these five components are everything you need to keep in mind when choosing the best HIIT method for your goals.

The Benefits of HIIT Training

  1. Burn more calories.

Activities that raise your heart rate up to the fat-burning zone will trigger a lot of calorie burn. That zone equals around ~70 of your max heart rate.

By working out at 80, or even 90 percent of your max heart rate, you’re tapping into your body’s maximum fat burning potential.

You’re not going to bore your body with low-intensity, slow cardio. You’re going to reach the peak amount of intensity possible, simply blowing the results of traditional cardio out of the water.

The studies show it – when it comes to fat loss, HIIT is better than running, biking, spinning, you name it!

By reaching this amount of intensity, HIIT also provides you with the “afterburn” effect that it’s so famous for. It substantially raises your metabolic rate post-workout, so you’re going to burn calories for the rest of the day after your workout is finished. Now that’s a benefit.

  1. Gain muscle?!

In addition to aiding fat loss, HIIT has also been shown to help some beginners quickly develop muscle mass.

Especially in individuals who haven’t been very physically active recently, the change is often visible and pretty drastic.

HIIT is also generally known for its ability to change your body composition quickly, and help you develop a strong foundation in the body parts you use most often (usually the legs).

However, some research in active individuals shows no significant increase in muscle mass. So although this is a major benefit, it’s more guided toward beginners.

If your goal is to build muscle, you know nothing beats weight training. However, HIIT will definitely support that goal by helping you burn more fat and push your muscles to the limit.

  1. Develop physical and mental resilience.

It’s no secret to anyone – HIIT is NOT easy.

The whole idea is to take your body to its maximum healthy intensity, so obviously, it takes more out of you than regular resistance training sessions or low-intensity cardio.

HIIT helps you develop the physical resilience to stay at that intensity for more extended periods of time, adding to your endurance, willpower, and consequently, the rewarding feeling you get when you’re finished.

And it’s not just physical!

A study published in the Neuroscience Letters journal concluded that HIIT also helps you release stress and develop better memory and mood.

After all, there’s nothing more physically and mentally fulfilling than reaching your body’s limits and then slowly seeing yourself surpass them.

  1. It’s super time efficient!

This is a big one for all the busy peeps!

Honestly, you can reap all the benefits of HIIT in a super short amount of time – technically, that’s the whole point of it.

There’s a study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology that gives us some remarkable insights!

They revealed that even one minute of HIIT performed a couple of times a week for 5-6 weeks massively improved the aerobic capacity and blood sugar levels of the study participants.

People achieve visible results with HIIT in a matter of a couple short sessions, so it straight up shatters the ”I don’t have time for training” excuse.

If you’re an athlete that’s already used to high-intensity training, you know that’s the beauty of it – short, explosive bursts that push you to the max and leave you crawling out the gym in less than 30 minutes. 

  1. Reduces blood sugar and blood pressure levels!

A couple of studies have also pointed out that high-intensity training helps people balance their blood sugar and blood pressure levels faster than traditional training methods.

One study, in particular, gives us a few interesting insights.

The first group included physically active people who were put on a training regimen of four 30-minute long workouts every week.

The second group had inactive people put on a training regimen of three 20-minute HIIT workouts every week.

Both groups had high blood pressure. Both groups achieved the same result – reduced levels of blood sugar and blood pressure, and improved insulin resistance.

To conclude…

High-Intensity Interval Training is a staple in your training regimen.

Whether you’re a weightlifter, a bodybuilder, a marathon runner, or a ballet dancer, HIIT is going to impact your performance massively.

It’s already in the workout programs of most professional athletes, and it can even help those who live a very sedentary lifestyle very quickly develop more energy, better endurance, and better muscle tone.

It can be done at home. At the gym. In the park. Anywhere.

So whether you’re a top athlete or a busy gym-loving mum, don’t miss the chance to find out more about this super-effective training method and learn how to HIIT the gym the right way!