HIIT Will Make You Super Human, Right?

High intensity interval training, or HIIT, is gaining a lot of attention these days. And not for nothing. The duration of the whole workout ranges from 4 to 20 minutes and can yield some impressive results. This method involves incredibly intense bursts of exercise followed by brief rest periods.

Some stats that might catch your attention:

Build Muscle: 2.5 hours HIIT = 10.5 hours endurance training

A 2008 study showed that biomechanical muscle adaptations were equivalent for men who performed 2.5 hours of HIIT to those who performed 10.5 hours of low intensity cycling over the same time period. (1)
That makes those of us logging our “long runs” question our time management!

Lose Fat: 20 min HIIT > 40 low intensity cardio

Women in a 15 week program lost significantly more subcutaneous fat on a HIIT program than those on a longer duration low intensity program. HIIT has proven to be a very efficient fat burner. (2)

The list goes on. Google “HIIT benefits,” and a lot comes up. But here’s the thing: HIIT sucks. A true HIIT workout makes you question the meaning of life, and leaves you lying on the floor wondering what you did in the past life to deserve this. Which leads us to an important point about a fitness routine: Adherence. If you don’t like it, you won’t do it. If you’re a masochist, and want to save time, HIIT is perfect for you. But if you’re like everyone else, you’re going to take this concept and use it as an excuse to exercise for 4 minutes 3 days a week, and see few of its touted benefits. It’s very hard physically and psychologically to push your body to its limits over and over again, even for an athlete, let alone somebody out of shape.

So how can HIIT concepts benefit you? Try to spike your heart rate IN ADDITION to the exercise goals you currently have. Given most peoples’ sedentary lifestyles, I hesitate to suggest replacing 40 minutes of movement with 4 minutes (the length of some HIIT protocols). Here are some ways to integrate some interval training into your workday:

– On a day you don’t have time for a jog or a trip to the gym, try sprinting up your stairs at work a few times. It will make a big difference for you over the long haul if you do this regularly.

– Right before lunch do 30 seconds of squat jumps, 30 seconds of pushups, and 30 seconds of mountain climbers without rest in between. Repeat for 2 or 3 sets. This is a great heart pumping circuit.

– Burpees Burpees Burpees! If everyone did 30 burpees a day this world would lose a lot of weight. When your eyelids are feeling heavy around 2:30 in the afternoon, step away from your desk and do 3 sets of 10 burpees. It’ll wake you up more than that 5th cup of coffee and you’ll gain some benefits from spiking your heart rate as well.

When pursuing the perfect workout routine, utilizing the efficiency of interval training is a must. Just don’t use it as an excuse to exercise less.

References:
1. Short-term sprint interval versus traditional endurance training: similar initial adaptations in human skeletal muscle and exercise performance
http://jp.physoc.org/content/575/3/901.short

2. High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2991639/