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Unlocking the Power of HIIT: Benefits, Misconceptions, and Precautions


High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a popular method of exercise though, it is often misunderstood as to what qualifies as HIIT. There are many benefits to training HIIT, but it is important to understand the science behind HIIT before implementing it in exercise classes or your own training.

HIIT involves short bursts of intense exercise followed by periods of rest or low-intensity exercise. This cycle of high and low intensity is repeated for a duration that typically ranges from 20 to 30 minutes. The key is to push yourself to near-maximum (80-90%) effort during the intense intervals.

Here are some examples of HIIT  training:

Sprinting: 30 seconds of sprinting followed by 1 minute of walking, repeated for 20 minutes.

Cycling: 20 seconds of all-out pedaling followed by 40 seconds of slow cycling, repeated for 25 minutes.

Bodyweight Exercises: 30 seconds of burpees followed by 1 minute of rest, repeated for 20 minutes.


Common Misconceptions About HIIT:


A common misconception is that any workout is HIIT. True HIIT requires the alternation of maximum effort and rest periods. Simply performing high-intensity exercises without structured intervals doesn't count as HIIT. It is also important to note, that most “HIIT” classes with free weights aren’t actually HIIT because the HR is not reaching near-maximum before muscle fatigue sets, in addition to sub-optimal rest periods. In these classes, people end up not training strength or endurance substantially.

Another myth is the longer the session, the better. Longer sessions can lead to overtraining and diminish the effectiveness of the workout. Quality and intensity matter more than duration in HIIT.

A legitimate HIIT protocol consists of:

4 mins x 4 repeats protocol

4 phases, warm up, intervals, relief, cool down

Warm up 10 mins increasing intensity as you go to around 60% Max HR

4 mins at 85-95% Max HR (adjust workload to achieve heart rate)

3 mins at 60% Max HR

Repeat a total of 4 times

5 minute cool down to 50% Max HR

The total workout time is 40 minutes being; 10 min warm up, 25 mins intervals, 5 min cool down. This protocol can be referred to as a ‘Long HIIT’ protocol due to the work period being close to the time required to reach VO2max.

Some populations may feel discouraged to try HIIT because they believe it is only for those with great athletic capabilities. HIIT can be modified to suit all fitness levels. Beginners can start with shorter intense intervals and longer rest periods, gradually increasing intensity as fitness improves.

 

Science Behind HIIT:


HIIT increases your metabolic rate through a process called Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC). This means your body continues to burn calories at a higher rate even after the workout is over.

Research shows that HIIT improves cardiovascular health by increasing VO2 max (a measure of aerobic endurance) and enhances fat loss more effectively than steady-state cardio. HIIT also helps in preserving muscle mass while reducing fat.

Compared to steady-state cardio, HIIT is more time-efficient and provides greater benefits in terms of cardiovascular fitness, fat loss, and metabolic rate enhancement.


Cautions:


It is important to consider potential risks associated with HIIT workouts. If you push yourself too close to your max, or train at your max for a longer duration than what is recommended, you could be at risk for overtraining and injury due to the high intensity of the workout.

Because HIIT is more demanding for the heart than regular weightlifting, there is an increased risk for individuals with pre-existing health conditions, such as heart disease. Consult with your physician especially if you have any chronic health conditions.

One way to reduce the risks associated with HIIT is to gradually Increase Intensity: Start with lower intensity and shorter intervals, then progressively increase. A proper Warm-up and Cool-down is essential to prepare your body for intense exercise and prevent injury. It’s crucial to pay attention to how your body responds. Pushing through pain or excessive fatigue can lead to burnout or injury.

Many people can benefit from this style of training. For athletes, training at intervals of near-maximum levels, enhances performance by improving endurance and speed.

For those that have kids, long work hours, or tight schedules, 15-30 minutes is enough time for an efficient workout. This can greatly improve consistency in the gym for those that would not normally be able to prioritize their health.


Final Thoughts:


HIIT training can be a valuable workout method that offers many benefits when done correctly. It is important to understand what HIIT involves, recognize common misconceptions, and be aware of risks and precautions. With the right approach, HIIT can be adapted to suit various fitness levels and goals. If you’re not sure where to start, or how to utilize equipment in your gym for a HIIT session, begin with asking a Certified Personal Trainer! Hope this helps!

 

Thanks for reading!

 

Additional Resources:

Reach out to us with any questions or for personalized guidance. Email: casey@fitnessbeyondtraining.com

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Sources:


1. Healthline: [What is HIIT? Benefits and Workouts](https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-hiit)

6. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine: [HIIT and EPOC](https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5924956/)

7. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: [HIIT vs. Steady-State Cardio](https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2015/11000/High_Intensity_Interval_Training_and_Moderate.18.aspx)

11. National Institute on Aging: [Exercise Precautions](https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/exercise-physical-activity)

12. Johns Hopkins Medicine: [Listening to Your Body](https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/exercise-wisely)

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