hiit exercises

In the post-quarantine world, many of us came out with a renewed passion for fitness. In fact, 38% of Americans tried to lose weight during the pandemic, and hopefully, nobody is ready to give up just yet!

Well, there’s one type of cardio routine that’s very popular among personal trainers and fitness fiends, and that is HIIT training. Luckily, you can start benefiting from it today. Let’s talk about why you should try adding HIIT exercises into your workout routine.

What are HIIT Exercises?

High-intensity interval training is a popular type of exercise in which you vary your movements at a high intensity for a shorter period of time. Most exercise sessions involving traditional cardio are supposed to last between 30 and 60 minutes, whereas HIIT will only last between 10 and 20 minutes.

There are thousands of different combinations you can add into your HIIT intervals, but most commonly, it will be some type of sprint, a jog, and a walk. This could be done on the treadmill, on the street, on a track, or in your yard.

While sprinting, jogging, and walking are easy and common movements to throw into your HIIT workouts, they are not key components, and you can even eliminate all 3. You can incorporate plyometric movements, strength training, upper-body movements, or anything that can be performed at a high intensity.

Because you’re doing intervals, adding stationary or isometric movements into your routine is acceptable for your lower-intensity movement. Movements like a plank, handstand hold, L-sit, leg lift, wall-sit, etc.

The best thing about these workouts is that they can be done at the gym, at home, in group fitness classes, or wherever you want.

HIIT is still adapting in the fitness industry, as it’s relatively new. This form of cardio has been around for a while, but it wasn’t until 2014 that it made ACSM’s list of fitness trends, and it’s remained popular ever since.

Benefits of HIIT

HIIT offers some similar benefits to cardio, but there are plenty of reasons why people choose it over traditional cardio. There are many benefits to HIIT that a traditional cardio session just can’t offer, and here are a few examples.

Muscle Growth

If you’re a distance runner or if you were in a past life, you know that cardio is not a friend to bodybuilding. In fact, with most types of running, the only muscle that makes any gains is your calves while everything else widdles away.

Well, with HIIT training, especially involving sprints, you can actually receive an anabolic effect (muscle-building). Your fast-twitch muscle fibers will engage directly in these workouts, and if you’re putting maximum effort into each step, it can stimulate growth.

This is one of the main reasons why HIIT made it into the mainstream back in 2014. Bodybuilders discovered that they don’t have to sacrifice their gains to get shredded.

Now, keep in mind that diet will always play a major role in this. However, if leg day and cardio are the things you tend to skip the most (yes, I’m talking to you), then you can at least combine them and get some benefits in one training routine. It’s not a substitute for a proper leg day and nutrition, but it’s something.

For those who are trying to get shredded, high-intensity sprint intervals can actually help you prevent muscle loss while you maintain your calorie deficit. Keep lifting weights with the same intensity and substitute your traditional cardio with HIIT for these benefits.

Metabolism

Say whatever you want about CrossFit, there’s a reason that their workouts are called “metabolic conditioning” (metcons for short). When you train in high-intensity intervals on anything, it provides a major boost to your metabolism.

After a HIIT workout, your post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) increases dramatically, meaning that you’ll be burning more calories throughout the day, which many call the “afterburn” effect. This effect is much higher with HIIT than with traditional cardio.

Versatile for Any Goals

What are your physical fitness goals? Everybody has different goals at the gym or on the track, but if it’s one of the most common ones like:

Even if it’s to run a marathon, a Spartan Race, to hike a mountain, any combination of these goals, and more, HIIT can help you reach your goals. There are few exercises that can do just as much for a 40-year-old woman looking to lose 20 pounds, a 20-year-old male bodybuilder, and a 15-year-old distance runner at the same time.

Even for niche activities like improving your box jump, improving your football combine scores, and more, HIIT really offers a lot of benefits to everyone.

Versatile for Exercises

If you hate going to the gym and doing the same things every time, you’re not alone. It’s a common reason for failure to adhere to exercise programs. It gets boring to do the same things over and over again.

Well, HIIT doesn’t have to be the same every time. You may alternate between a 10-second sprint, 30-second jog, and 20-second walk every minute one day, but you can switch that up to just about anything you want the next day. You can change the duration, change the movements, and change the mode at any time.

Since these exercises are so flexible, you can even try to scale them to make them progressively harder as you go, within the workout, or within the month.

For example, you might start out with a 10-minute workout on your first day and work up to a 20-minute workout with increasing intensity in a couple of months from now. The possibilities are endless, but you should try to stick to functional movements.

Efficiency

As we mentioned, HIIT workouts are shorter and they only help you burn more calories throughout the day. What you achieve in a 20 minute HIIT workout will be similar to what you achieve in a 40-minute traditional cardio workout.

In terms of burning calories, HIIT blows traditional cardio out of the water, burning an average of 15 to 20 calories per minute, compared to 10 with traditional cardio. That’s not even mentioning the afterburn effect.

Also, it’s easy to start. If you’re a runner already and you have a shorter run coming up on your schedule, you might try picking up the pace every minute for just 10 seconds and then slowing back down to your jog.

Improved Health

We are not suggesting that traditional cardio doesn’t improve your health, because it absolutely does. Any exercise performed with correct form and consistency will have plenty of health benefits.

However, HIIT does seem to offer some amazing health benefits that are worth looking into. For example, research suggests that HIIT training will help your body regulate blood sugar levels, which can prevent or aid with diabetes.

Over time, you will notice increased cardiovascular health, including endurance, improved blood pressure, and a decrease in abdominal body fat. Believe it or not, one HIIT session will also provide you with the same psychological benefits of traditional running for an hour.

Again, the HIIT field is still finding its home in the fitness community and science is trying to catch up. However, the research that has been performed is extremely promising, which makes sense when you think about it.

Even Harvard University agrees that the consensus is growing that HIIT has enormous cardiovascular and other health benefits.

Your body can adapt to running far or running fast. It can adapt to an entire workout routine at the gym. However, when you mix constant variables into your routine and perform them at high intensities, then your body will constantly feel the need to adapt, which is the goal of any exercise program.

Examples of HIIT Exercises

Now that you know some of the key benefits of HIIT exercises, you may be interested in adding them to your workout routine. If so, you really should consider it. The benefits are enormous.

If you want an idea of what HIIT training looks like, here are a few example workouts. You can add these into 3 workouts in a week and then try to make them progressively more challenging as the weeks pass by.

You don’t necessarily have to change the workouts every week to make them progressively more difficult. You may just need to push harder. However, feel free to change the times or exercises if you prefer more structured progress.

The one downside of HIIT is that it’s more difficult to track than if you’re keeping one consistent pace over the course of several miles. However, a newer treadmill at your gym or Map My Run on your phone should still allow you to see progress.

Workout #1

Let’s say this is Monday. You head to the gym for chest day and you finish up with your legs still in perfect shape. You head over the treadmill to get started.

Let’s say you kick the treadmill up to 13 mph for your sprint. When your 10 seconds are over, drop that speed down to 5 or 6 mph, and then drop it to 3 or 4.

You may think that 30 seconds of walking is too much, but don’t start with speedwalking in the earlier rounds. Give your body a little bit of time to catch itself. Those sprints will hurt after a while.

Workout #2

Okay, it’s Wednesday. You just finished shoulders, you haven’t touched your legs at all, and you’re still feeling your coffee or pre-workout. Head outside and find a spot that’s around 100 yards, which is the length of a football field. Start on one side and have clear end markers in mind.

For this type of workout, time yourself to see how you progress in similar workouts in the future. If you’re actually trying to walk fast on your back and forth, then you should see progress over time.

If you have a personal trainer (which you should), ask them to help you track your progress, and tell them that you want to start adding HIIT into your routine. You’ll make their day.

Workout #3

It’s Saturday. Thursday was your rest day and then you put leg day off an extra day, so now you’re in an overcrowded gym. You managed to find a squat rack but you refuse to wait in the line for the leg press machine, so you go home, but you feel guilty for leaving, so you decide to do some HIIT.

The great thing about HIIT on leg day is that you can do your cardio before or after your strength training and it won’t destroy you. When you choose to do it will only depend on your goals.

It’s good to have a couple of runs throughout your week, especially if running is a goal or a weakness of yours. However, there’s nothing wrong with throwing in some completely different movements once a week to keep your body confused and prevent it from adapting completely to your routine.

Stay Fit!

Now that you know the benefits of HIIT exercises and how to get started, there’s no time like the present to start incorporating them into your routine. The sooner you do, the sooner you’ll start seeing those benefits. Stay up to date with our latest news in health and fitness and feel free to contact us with any questions.