How Does High-Intensity Interval Training Work?

High-Intensity Interval Training athletes

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a form of exercise that has become very popular in recent years. It involves short, intense workouts with long recovery periods. This enables you to increase your workout intensity while decreasing the amount of time it takes to get results. During a HIIT workout, you push yourself hard for a short period of time, and then rest while recovering. This is typically a 1:1 or a 2:1 work-to-rest ratio.

Let’s learn a bit more about what HIIT is and how to integrate it into your training.

So, What is HIIT?

HIIT workouts are quite intense and should only be done by people who have been exercising for at least 6 months. It’s also important to speak to your doctor before beginning any new workout program. Because of the intense physical demands of this type of exercise, HIIT workouts should only be done a few times per week.

When you’re doing a High-Intensity Interval Training workout, your body uses oxygen to produce energy in your cells. During low-intensity exercise, such as walking or jogging, your body can use fat and glucose for energy because there is an abundant supply of oxygen in the body. But when you go all-out during a HIIT workout, your muscles can’t get enough oxygen to produce energy fast enough. This forces your body to shift into anaerobic metabolism, meaning that it uses stored glucose (in the form of glycogen) for energy, without any oxygen.

Guidelines For Proper HIIT Training

When developing your HIIT program, it’s important to understand that it’s not just about intensity. A study in the January 2010 issue of the “American College of Sports Medicine” reveals that intensity is only one factor when it comes to increasing your fitness level. It also depends on volume, or how long you exercise at a certain level of intensity and recovery time, which refers to how long you’re resting.

It’s best to start out with three sessions per week of about 20 minutes each, then gradually increase your workout volume as you get fitter. This allows your body to adapt to the amount of training stress and makes it more efficient at using oxygen during exercise.

HIIT workouts should be done at an intensity near maximum. This means that you have to give it 100 percent effort. It’s acceptable to work at a level of 85-90 percent for the first 10 minutes, but by halfway through the workout your intensity should be as high as possible.

Why Is HIIT So Popular?

Here are some reasons why HIIT is becoming so popular: It’s shorter than a regular workout. With HIIT, you don’t have to spend hours in the gym to get results. A 20-minute workout is considered a long workout with this type of training program because it’s so intense. You can also fit a HIIT session into your schedule during lunch break or before work in the morning, making it truly time-effective. It’s more efficient than regular workouts. You get fitter, stronger, and healthier in less time with HIIT.

It burns more calories than a regular workout. The Journal of Obesity published an article in July 2012 showing that people burned significantly more calories during HIIT workouts compared to endurance training (walking). And when you burn more calories, you lose more fat.

It increases your resting metabolic rate. Studies have shown that HIIT workouts cause a greater post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) than regular exercises. When your body starts to recover after an intense workout, it needs to burn calories to get the blood pumping again (referred to as ” EPOC”). This means you burn more calories and fat, even after the workout is done.

HIIT increases your metabolism for up to 24 hours! Your body has to work harder to replace depleted oxygen stores, deliver nutrients, remove waste products, and recover from intense bouts of exercise. This causes an afterburn effect that can last for up to 24 hours. You keep burning calories and fat even after the workout is over.

Examples of a HIIT Workout Plan

Here’s a High-Intensity Interval Training workout plan that you can do with basic equipment, either at home or at the gym.

Warm-up for 5 minutes: Start out by jogging slowly for five minutes to warm up. You can also perform some light exercises such as jumping jacks, stretches, and squats. Do this until your body feels warm and loose.

Stretch for 5 minutes: Follow the warm-up with some static stretches to cool down. These can be performed at any time during your workout, but it’s important to do them at the end when your muscles are warmed up. Static stretches involve holding a position to achieve a gentle stretch in your muscles for 30-60 seconds.

Jog for 1 minute, sprint for 30 seconds: Jog easily for one minute to warm up your muscles. You can either perform this at an easy pace on flat ground like a track, or you can use the treadmill (if it’s available). Then put on some music and start running as fast as you possibly can for 30 seconds. Sprint as fast as you can, but don’t overdo it and hurt yourself. After 30 seconds, slow down to a jog for one minute to allow your body to recover. Repeat this cycle for 20 minutes or about 10 sprint/jog cycles. Cool down with 5-10 minutes of light jogging.

You can perform this workout 3-5 days per week, but make sure to take a day off in between each HIIT session to let your body recover.

Find some more of our HIIT workouts here as well as some ideas to use a jump rope for HIIT.

Final Thoughts

HIIT workouts are more efficient than regular exercises because they require less time, produce higher post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), and increase your resting metabolic rate. 

HIIT is becoming so popular for these reasons which include its shorter workout times, increased efficiency in burning calories, and afterburn effect that last for up to 24 hours. If you want the best results with a minimal amount of effort during an intense 20-minute session 3-5 days per week, then High-Intensity Interval Training may be right for you!

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