High Intensity Impact Training (HIIT)
There are a lot of fancy named crazy cardio classes emerging in the gyms these days. Move over dance and muscle musical routine hour. The trend now is high impact; fast paced classes that can make you puke. They include what is referred to as High Intensity Impact Training (HIIT). This is a more intense interval training routine designed to make you push yourself to perform at a maximum rate in short bursts with short recovery in between.
What I like about these classes is that the exercises are generally easy and mindless. Those who feel uncoordinated are happier performing basic moves where they don’t have to worry about staying on beat or remembering a sequence of moves and strict form. Or if you’ve had a stressful day you can avoid having to think much as you follow along doing jumping jacks and push-ups.
What you might not like about these classes is you have to push yourself. Hard. The exercise might be basic but you must perform them with full enthusiasm driving your heart rate up and your breathing to a hard pant or you’re not doing it right.
In our high-tech, drive-through, give-it-to-me-now culture we want everything quicker. It’s no wonder there’s a rise in these classes that offer more in less time. Happily the research supporting these shorter workouts is impressive.
In a nutshell, scientists found that HIIT works.
For example several sets of 30-second sprints followed by four minutes recovery, saw faster improvements in the athletes’ performance, heart and body strength and fat burning. They found 30-minute HIIT workouts three times a week brought on the same benefits as endurance training, for example 45-60 minute steady lower rate activity, five times a week. If you live by the clock that’s great news! You can work harder in less time and receive the same or sometimes better results.
This is a result of a few things that are happening with HIIT training.
- First, the heart gets stronger adapting to the challenge and pumping blood more efficiently. When the heart is efficient you can work harder or longer.
- Next, the cells of the body increase their number of mitochondria. These are elements in the cells that break down carbohydrates and fats for energy. More mitochondria mean more energy available for the skeletal muscles to work harder and longer. Research also shows a shift to burning more fat sooner from consistent HIIT workouts.
- Plus, it leads to greater post-exercise energy expenditure. That means burning more fat after you stop working out.
Let’s be clear, these results are still achieved through the usual method of endurance exercise. The HIIT method is great for people who want it in a hurry, the standard recommendation of running, walking or biking and elevating the heart rate for 30-60 minutes six days a week is great. It’s easier and more obtainable for the average population.
I must admit I too am impatient. When I want to lose weight I look for a fast track method. As a fitness professional and active person I exercise a lot already so it’s hard to increase my calorie expenditure by doing more exercise.
Instead I have to change my routine, make new goals or work harder. Before learning of the benefits of HIIT, I saw results by changing a few of my workouts or adding interval running. Sometimes I do it on the treadmill alternating between light jogs and sprints. It makes the monotony go faster. I prefer to join an Ultimate Frisbee league where I’m running in intervals with a purpose of playing the game. Since I’m committed to the team I don’t miss the workout and look forward to it. Within a few weeks I’ve melted away several pounds. (I should also mention when wanting to drop weight I make healthy eating choices and watch my portions.)
As I always advocate, find something you like and that will help motivate you to stick with your workout routine. After all in order for any exercise regiment to be effective it requires consistency.
Here are some HIIT classes or routines I recommend.
One of the more popular HIIT workouts developed by a Japanese researcher. It includes eight rounds of super high-intense exercises for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds recovery. It takes only four minutes to complete but you must push your body to the limit. You can do one exercise or mix it up with several. Some gyms offer 30-minute classes using this technique that probably include a warm-up and cool down stretch.
This is a truly insane workout developed by the fitness super star Shaun Thompson (Shaun T). These are series of high impact moves, some simple, some more complicated which are performed for 1 minute each. There is little recovery time built in (so some might not agree it’s in the HIIT category but it’s just as intense). You can buy this workout to do at home or it’s now offered at gyms in 30, 45 or 60-minute classes.
This is one of Australia’s Les Mills classes (I instruct its Bodypump class). Same idea, high impact moves and short recovery, but it uses toys like weights and steps. It’s a 30-minute class that will leave you drenched.
Before beginning, discuss any exercise program or changes first with your doctor. Inform your medical professional about your medical conditions and medical history; your doctor can prescribe the best program for you based upon your medical history.
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