Sometimes it’s easy to feel stagnant when running through weightlifting and cardio workout regimes day after day, week after week, and month after month. Even if you’re making steady, incremental progress sometimes it can feel like you’re barely progressing.
This is exactly where High Intensity Interval Training can accelerate your athletic progress and help you climb to new plateaus in all areas of fitness.
The idea behind High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, is to alternate between short periods of intense anaerobic exercise with recovery periods that still involve light to moderate intensity. What’s awesome about this type of training is its efficiency. A HIIT workout can be as short as 4 minutes and still deliver significant results in cardiovascular health, athletic conditioning, and improved glucose metabolism.
Sounds tough, so why the popularity?
The reason HIIT is so popular is that it is versatile. It can be applied to any sport (cycling, running, swimming, etc.) and adjusted for individual fitness levels. Also, in terms of calorie expenditure, HIIT workouts are more efficient than continuous aerobic workouts. More calories are spent during the post-workout phase, called the “EPOC” (excess post exercise oxygen consumption) because of the vigorous nature of these specialized workouts.
What exactly is happening during in our bodies during a HIIT workout?
To understand what is happening inside of our bodies during a HIIT workout, first it is good to know what happens during a normal workout where intensity is ratcheted up to a high level. Take, for example, what would happen if you were to try to sprint for as long as you can:
First 20-30 seconds: During the first part of your sprint, you are probably feeling pretty good! The fuel source being used right now is phosphocreatine, which is a high-intensity energy source.
After 20-30 seconds: The phosphocreatine is running out and your body is now switching to anaerobic glycosis, which is the transformation of glucose to lactic acid. Lactic acid is now your body’s fuel source, and you are likely breathing very hard and starting to struggle to maintain speed. If you aren’t in good shape, then you’ll likely be stopping at this point or soon after. Your blood pH levels are changing and this could make you nauseous if you’re really out of shape. If you’re a very conditioned athlete you might make it to 10 minutes of sprinting but then you’ll be forced to stop.
The above example is our anaerobic metabolism at work, which allows for our body to get the energy it needs quickly for short, intense bursts.
In a long walk at a leisurely pace, oxygen is used to break down carbohydrates and fats. Our bodies are very good at sustaining this type of energy consumption for long periods of time, but the activity level can’t be intense. This is our aerobic metabolism at work.
HIIT requires the use of both types of metabolisms during a workout:
- The intense periods of a HIIT workout create a demand on the metabolism for long-term fat loss and conditioning.
- The lower intensity periods of a HIIT workout allows your body to recover, using the aerobic metabolism.
This use of both types of metabolisms is what makes HIIT so effective. However, another important process is taking place in your body during intense exercise: hormone release.
VO2Max is the measure of the maximum amount of oxygen an athlete can use. Also, the percentage of VO2Max used in a workout is a great measurement of its intensity. When you’re using 80%+ of VO2Max then a corresponding increase of some very key hormones takes place:
- Growth hormone
- Epinephrine (adrenalin)
The increase in these key hormones have beneficial effects on body composition. In other words: they harden your physique.
Of course, you’ll achieve a higher intensity, greater percentage of VO2Max, and more motivation for your HIIT workout by priming your system with the ultimate in Performance Sports Nutrition, Spear Performance Elite Performance Package, with NeuroVolt, NitriGen, and Clarifene.
Examples of HIIT Workouts and Resources
There are hundreds of variations of HIIT workouts, for beginners through professional athlete-level workouts. If you’re new to this type of exercise, then start off with something basic and build on that.
A great example of a simple HIIT workout is:
- 45 secs Work / 15 secs Rest. (Repeat for 5 Rounds)
- 15 secs Pushups
- 15 secs Body Weight Squats
- 15 secs Forward Lunges
- 15 secs REST
Here are some great resources for HIIT workout ideas: