High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has attracted a lot of attention over the last few years. There’s good reasons for this, too, folks, as research as shown that when done right, you can see more benefits in less time!
For HIIT, it’s all about efficiency. The idea is doing everything you can during a workout to maximize the intensity you experience. It’s this very intensity that allows you to have shorter workouts yet still experience fat loss, muscle building and the cardio improvements you’d normally see with longer workouts.
However, if you are not setting your workouts in a way that will keep your intensity high, you’ll start to reduce the benefits from HIIT.
The typical HIIT workout
There are many programs available, but a HIIT workout is usually characterized by going hard–such as a lot of weight reps or heavy weights–then resting and repeating. What makes this type of training effective is its exercise-to-rest ratio. Many other training protocols are, based on the research currently out there, somewhat backward on this ratio. This leads people to train for too long and not rest enough.
Generally, for the all-out effort, you want to rest for about five to six times more than you spent working out. When you train for more time than you rest, your training ends up becoming more of a cardio challenge. This is fine, of course, if that’s your goal, but with HIIT, you’re supposed to keep the intensity up, and you can’t do that if you’re training for too long and not resting enough.
Some good HIIT workout guidelines are 10 seconds of work followed by a 50-second rest, 20 seconds of work followed by a 100-second rest and 30 seconds of work followed by a 150-second rest. Some more common intervals, such as 20 seconds of work followed by a 40-second rest, also work, but you must lower the intensity in your later sets or make sure you do fewer total sets so you can keep the intensity up.
If you haven’t yet tried a HIIT workout, it’s time to consider it. Since it takes longer to recovery from HIIT training sessions, you should limit them to one to three times per week and factor in your other training. If, for example, you weight train four to five times weekly, you’d respond best with adding just one or two HIIT sessions into that routine. Otherwise, you’ll struggle to recover properly and this will hurt your progress.