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HIIT Training

by Steve Theunissen
HIIT Training


Walk into most gyms and you’re likely to see dozens of people slogging away on treadmills and elliptical machines. The majority of them will be moving at a steady, manageable pace. But, you’re likely to see one or two who are pumping it out like crazy.

What you’re witnessing is the expression of two opposing cardio methodologies:

·     Low Intensity Steady State (LISS)

·     High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

For a long time, the experts were divided on which was better for fat loss. Recent studies, however, have put the answer beyond doubt . . .

HIIT cardio trumps LISS every day of the week!

In this article, we lift the lid on High Intensity Interval Training to discover what it is, why it works and how you can build it into your workout program.

What is HIIT Training?

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) was ‘invented’ by Japanese Olympic Speed Skating Coach Azumi Tabata in the mid-2000s. Tabata had his athletes perform eight rounds of a workout that involved twenty seconds of sprint work followed by a ten-second recovery on a stationary cycle. When the athletes were tested after 8 weeks on this program, it was found that all of their health parameters had significantly improved. Take a look at the key findings:

·     Using HIIT workouts, athletes were able to burn more calories in 4 minutes than they had previously been doing in 30 minutes.

·     Athletes were training close to their VO2 max during high-intensity periods.

·     The participants increased their VO2 max, a great measure of cardiovascular fitness, by 28% – that is a huge increase, especially in top athletes.

·     The HIIT workout plan turned on an ‘afterburn effect’, which increased athlete’s post-training metabolism. This allowed them to burn more calories for the next 24 hours.

·     Overall aerobic fitness improved by 28%.

When these findings were published, trainers all over the world began to take notice. Over the last decade, there has been an explosion of interest in HIIT training. The promise of a more efficient and effective way to meet one’s fitness goals is very attractive. Tabata’s original protocol has morphed in many directions. Yet, at its core, the HIIT program involves alternating short periods of high intensity, all-out exercise with short intervals of rest or active recovery.

Can You Burn More Fat With HIIT?

Yes, you will burn more body fat with a HIIT routine than if you were following a low intensity, steady-state cardio program. The actual calorie burn, while you’re doing the workout will be about the same (of course, your HIIT workout will be much shorter). However, with HIIT, the afterburn effect will kick in.

To get the most effective results, try to eat low-calorie food from an 1100 calorie diet plan.

The afterburn effect is officially known as Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC). The intense demands of a HIIT circuit require the body to increase its oxygen intake for up to 24 hours following the workout. This requires a greater calorie to fuel this process. You do not get this effect with LISS training.

HIIT – The Proof

A number of recent studies have confirmed the supremacy of HIIT over LISS. In one study, subjects did HIIT workouts for 3 weeks. The extra calories burned after the workouts averaged 200 calories per day.[1] In another study, maximal oxygen uptake increased by 6%. All cardiovascular markers, including blood pressure, were also significantly improved after three weeks of HIIT workouts.[2] An Australian study suggested that HIIT style workouts could significantly improve the symptoms of coronary artery disease and obesity-related conditions.[3]

Who Is HIIT For?

HIIT will help anyone to lose body fat and improve their aerobic fitness. But that doesn’t mean that it should be used by everyone. As you may have already deduced, HIIT is hard work. It is an intense, demanding fitness protocol that is not suitable for some people.

If you have a history of cardiovascular issues, suffer from joint problems or are prone to lower back pain, HIIT may be too intense for you. If you’re over 50, we suggest consulting your doctor before begin a HIIT program.

What Are Some Effective HIIT Programs plan ?

Tabata Training

[1] Journal Strength Conditioning Research, 26:138-145, 2012

[2] Physiological Reports, 1 , 2012

[3] E00131, 2013 British Journal of Sports Medicine, published online October 21, 2013

HIIT is a great way for athletes to improve their performance. The following workout is the most researched method. It is the original protocol used by Professor Tabata.

Tabata training involves 20 seconds of maximum intensity training, followed by 10 seconds of either rest or low intensity. That is repeated eight times. This will give you a workout that lasts for a mere 4 minutes. That 4 minutes, though, will annihilate you if you do it to full intensity. The best exercise options for Tabata training are simple movements that you can really push yourself in. Cycling, sprinting and rowing are great options.

Sports Specific Interval Training

Sports Specific Interval Training is ideal for most sports. For other sports, such as long-distance running, steady-state cardio is best. If you’re a rower, a great HIIT program involves doing 250 meters on the rowing machine followed by 20 push-ups on the floor right next to the machine. Going back and forth for 8 rotations will give you an amazingly sharp, short workout.

Fast Fat Loss Training

The majority of people who are simply looking to shed body and belly fat at the fastest possible rate should follow a protocol that looks like this:

o   A 4-minute moderate-intensity warm-up

o   30 seconds maximum intensity

o   4-minute recovery

o   30-second maximum intensity.

 This pattern should be continued until you have completed a 30- minute workout. The 4-minute recovery period may seem like a long time, but it will enable to fully recover so that you can give absolute maximum intensity to every 30-second bout.

The above routine was used in a Canadian study recently. The participants were training alongside a group that were doing steady-state cardio for 60 minutes. At the end of the study, the HIIT group, that were training for half the time, increased fat loss by 200%.

Of the three routines above, a beginner HIIT workout should generally start with the third one and then progress through them at intervals of six months.

HIIT Weight Workouts

When combined with weight training, HIIT can get you to your fat loss goals even faster. If you’re training with weights to build muscle, then HIIT weight workouts will not be effective. They are designed to maximize calorie burn to increase your fat-burning potential.

The best weight training exercises to use for HIIT are full bodyweight workout involving compound moves that burn the most calories. Here are the top 3:

·     Squats

·     Deadlifts

·     Kettlebell Swings

The focus will be on high reps and perfect form, so you need to ensure that you know how to do the exercise correctly. Also, choose a weight that will allow you to use proper form even as fatigue sets in during the later rounds. This may be as little as 50% of your normal training weight. 

You can follow the Tabata protocol by doing the exercise for 20 seconds, and then resting for 10 seconds. Continue until you have completed eight rounds. Alternatively, you can do tens sets of ten with a 30-second rest between each set.

You can also perform a HIIT workout at home using bodyweight exercises such as squats, burpees, and jumping jacks.

 Commit to HIIT

Throughout this article, we’ve established that HIIT is a far more effective method of fat burn than LISS, So, why do you still see more people in gyms doing steady state cardio rather than its high-intensity counterpart?

The answer is that HIIT is hard work. It is both physically and mentally challenging. The reality is that most people would rather do something comfortable than something hard but effective – even if it requires far less time commitment.

HIIT requires a lot of determination to sustain the level of output required to succeed. You will ache, you will want to give up – and you may even occasionally fall short. The key is to stay focused on your goals and power through.


HIIT Training is by far the most effective method to get in great shape and shed body fat. It may not be easy, but it certainly is effective. So, don’t you think it’s time that you HIIT it?

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