What’s a HIIT Workout and Does it Really Work?
Wouldn’t it be great if you could reap the same benefits of spending 60 minutes on the treadmill in half the time?
If your answer is yes, then you’ll understand why HIIT workouts have become so popular. HIIT workouts help you improve your endurance, heart health, and muscle tone in less time than traditional cardio exercises.
The catch? It’s intense.
Read on to learn all about HIIT and why it has spread like wildfire through gyms across the country.
What’s a HIIT Workout?
HIIT — which stands for high-intensity interval training — is a cardio workout that alternates between short bursts of very hard work and even shorter periods of rest. It can be done with almost any exercise or a combination of different exercises: running, cycling, burpees, squats, pushups, you name it. What defines a HIIT workout is the pacing.
In HIIT, the bursts of activity typically last between 20 and 90 seconds, during which you should push yourself to your limit, working at at least 90% of your capacity. You should not be able to hold a conversation or say more than a few words at a time.
The level of intensity can take some getting used to! But because they are so intense, HIIT workouts tend to be short, lasting no more than 30-45 minutes.
Rest is just as important as the activity bursts in a HIIT workout. If you’re not resting, you’re not doing it right! HIIT forces your body to acclimate between two different states repeatedly, which provides great cardio conditioning. Rest isn’t just a feature of the workout — it’s the point!
The most common HIIT ratio of work to rest is 2:1. For example, you would work for 60 seconds, rest for 30, then repeat. The Tabata Protocol is probably the most well-known kind of HIIT workout. To do Tabata, you work for 20 seconds and rest for 10 for a total of 8 rounds (4 minutes).
HIIT beginners can start with a 1:2 exercise-to-rest ratio. As your aerobic capacity improves, switch to a 1:1 ratio, then 2:1.
What are the benefits of HIIT?
HIIT is an awesome way to optimize the time you spend working out.
Research has shown that with 15 minutes of HIIT, you can achieve more progress than in an hour on the treadmill. According to one study, two weeks of regular HIIT workouts can improve your aerobic capacity as much as 6-8 weeks of endurance training.
Some of the other benefits of HIIT:
HIIT burns fat and boosts metabolism. High-intensity workouts create an oxygen shortage, which causes your body to consume more oxygen during recovery. This “afterburn effect” is called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), which helps burn more fat and calories than regular aerobic exercise. It also boosts your metabolism for up to 48 hours after you’ve completed the workout.
You can do it anywhere. Because you can do HIIT with almost any type of activity, you can do it anywhere — at home, on the road, or in the gym. No equipment needed!
It can help you get shredded. Whether you’re doing bodyweight exercises or adding dumbbells, kettlebells, or medicine balls to your workout, HIIT tones your muscles while spiking your heart rate.
HIIT is scalable. HIIT workouts can be done at any fitness level! Push yourself to your personal limit during the bursts of activity. It’s not a competition.
Want to get a feel for HIIT? You can do it in 4 minutes! Try doing Tabata with your exercise of choice: Work at 90% capacity for 20 seconds, then rest for 10, for 8 rounds.