HIIT has been the craze for some time now. And there are so many offering of HIIT to choose from. Don’t get me wrong, any training that gets people moving consistently and exercising is better than not doing anything. But for years it has been touted as the way to go to “burn fat and build muscle.” I’ve even made those declarations, again due to the latest info we had in the industry. But here I am again to keep you, my listeners, followers, clients and friends, as well informed as possible. And HIIT ain’t it. Not exactly. If you’re not familiar with what it actually means it stands for ‘high intensity interval training.’ That is where most fail to live up to it. Most HIIT workouts are watered down versions of what they should be, lacking in key components that make it, well, HIIT and are more likely, MIT, moderate intensity training ( again not a bad thing.) So here are some reasons why HIIT ain’t it:
  1. Most get it wrong– the first words in the style of training are, high intensity, which is where it goes wrong. Even the best trained athletes will struggle to perform “all out high intensity” for 40-60 seconds of work. This is why I don’t refer to my style of workouts at MAC Fitness as HIIT. Your body’s most explosive form of energy is its stored ATP, which only lasts for 10-20 seconds max. A better way to program to actually be referred to as HIIT would be 15-20 seconds of work and 40-50 seconds of rest. And that tends to be a hard sell for most fitness classes where most clients think they have to sweat and never rest in a workout.
  2. Lacking a cardio base – a strong cardiovascular base, or high conditioning level is required for HIIT to work properly. And just like having a strength base is important in lifting weights, a cardio base is required for HIIT. Few people can go ALL OUT for 20 seconds continuously to generate the actual benefits of this style of training. And by all out, I mean “bent over, hands on thighs, gasping for air” after only 20 seconds of work. In all the training I’ve done, most lack that level of intensity. That isn’t a knock on the clients or trainers, but an observation after years of training, that the intensity isn’t there to experience the benefits of a true HIIT workout.
  3. No “afterburn”– The big selling point of HIIT was that you would burn “as many, or twice as many calories” after the workout, making it appealing to anyone; workout for 30 minutes burn calories for hours after. Thats sounds great. They were selling the idea of EPOC, excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. EPOC is a real thing and is an important factor to consider when exercising. It’s just that high intensity workouts do require more energy from anaerobic (without oxygen) pathways generating a higher EPOC effect, thus leading to more energy expended post workout. If it’s not all out high intensity, you’re not truly experiencing these benefits.
  But to the point of the entire blog, the lack of actual “all out intensity” greatly reduces the significance of EPOC because the intensity required can be extremely challenging. So what are you to do? Not go to anymore HIIT workouts? No, I’m simply trying to educate you on what HIIT actually is and how to get the most from it, while also offering some alternatives to try, like strength training. One way to increase your intensity in your HIIT workouts is to increase the weights you’re using. Another would be to look for classes that are shorter in work duration, meaning 10,15, or 20 seconds of all out work, followed by adequate rest periods. I would also recommend building up your cardiovascular base gradually versus just going all out into a HIIT class without the proper cardiovascular health. For example, you can start by doing 5 seconds of all out high knees, then gradually build up to being able to go 20 seconds all out, or you can do this through a gradual progression increasing your work time/load on something like an assault bike or ski erg. I will start clients on a 5/25 work rest ratio and gradually build their cardiovascular systems up increasing to 10/20, 12/18, 15/15 and so on until they can handle 20/10. Its a process, but thats what it takes when done correctly. The other downside to HIIT, is that it isn’t something that should be done 4-6 days per week. 1-2 HIIT classes is plenty for the average gym goer when performed as HIIT should be. Recovery is required for all training, especially one as explosive at a HIIT workout. Nothing wrong with HIIT, its actually an effective way to train and add into your training regime. It just shouldn’t be the only way you train, and it must be done correctly to elicit the type of benefits they say you’re getting from their training. As with anything, the more you know, the better equipped you are. I hope this made sense and you got some value from it. And if you’re not already a client of MAC Fitness, come see what it is we do here. And don’t forget to do more of WHAT you love with WHO you love. Peace, Love & fitness, Matty C.

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