In this article we are going to talk about HIIT training.
Do you know why?
Because even though we all know that exercising is necessary to be healthy: We all have trouble finding the time to train.
Furthermore, when you find the time, it’s very frustrating when later you don’t see the results of your effort.
As a solution to these difficulties, in the last few years, a training methodology has emerged that stands out from the rest when it comes to obtaining results with the least amount of time dedicated.
And this methodology is exactly the high intensity interval training, or HIIT.
This this article we will talk about:
- What is HIIT
- What are the benefits and risks
- How to start a HIIT Routine
- How to optimize the training if you are already an expert
- The best HIIT exercises
- A sample HIIT routine to start
What is HIIT?
HIIT, or high intensity interval training, is defined as the performance of short sessions (between 4 and 20 minutes) with series of 20 seconds to 4 minutes of high intensity exercises (high intensity, not maximum intensity), interspersed with periods of recovery or low intensity.
Are you surprised that the sessions are so short?
This happens because the body cannot maintain the optimal activity level for a HIIT session for a long time.
Today HIIT routines have earned the reputation of being the most effective trainings, both for people who want to burn calories and for athletes who are looking for better performance.
But not all short sessions can be considered a HIIT.
This type of training requires a special mental attitude.
You have to be willing to give everything and endure a high degree of fatigue in a very short time and this attitude and mental strength, like any other capacity, you have to train.
The first time you do a HIIT routine the feeling of fatigue will come long before your body is really tired.
This is normal and will generate very fast progression in the first days of training. Although the body is not stronger, your mind will tolerate the intensity better.
To optimize the training, it is advisable to do exercises that mobilize a large number of muscular groups and that demand high energy consumption. They are what we call HIIT exercises.
For example, practicing golf, it is not a HIIT exercise.
At the end of this article we will provide you with a list of exercises so that you can start training.
What are the advantages and risks of HIIT trainings?
HIIT routines provide many advantages both at a technical and health level, so they are an option that must be taken into account when you schedule your training.
That’s why I’m going to list what are the most important benefits:
1) It helps you to optimize your performance: HIIT trainings are very effective because they directly affect how we manage our energy.
To understand this we have to get a little technical:
When we train at low intensity we use aerobic respiration, using oxygen to produce energy. This is a very efficient method, but it limits the intensity to which we can work.
On the other hand, when we train at high intensity we use two sources of energy.
During the first moments of physical activity our cells use the energy they have available in the form of ATP and phosphocreatine. It’s fast and explosive energy, but we have little saved ATP, and after 20 seconds it runs out.
We save little because it takes up a lot.
The weight of ATP molecules needed to run a marathon is 70kg!
When the ATP ends, the body tries to bring enough oxygen to the muscle to generate the necessary energy.
The respiratory rate increase, the pulse accelerates, and we begin to breathe very intensely, until we gasp!
But high intensity training is not enough and we have to draw from anaerobic glycolysis, a less efficient but faster way to generate energy.
But this source does not last long either
An elite athlete can maintain this pace for a maximum of 10 minutes. A normal person lasts less and then the moment of the FAILURE arrives.
Therefore we have two complementary systems: aerobic metabolism, efficient but that only allows us to work at low intensity, and anaerobic metabolism that gives us fast energy but that is exhausted quickly.
What would happen if we could combine the 2?
This is exactly what we get with HIIT sessions.
Alternating cycles of high intensity and rest optimize our energy management and we can maintain higher activity levels for longer.
As you know, to improve physically we have to take the body to the limit, break many muscle microfibers and generate a recovery response and overcompensation.
HIITs allow you to go further than a normal workout.
In addition, HIITs activate hormones that are not generated in lower intensity training.
When you spend 85% of your maximum capacity your body starts to generate testosterone, growth hormone, endorphins, adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol.
In summary, a HIIT session stresses the body so much that it is forced to adapt.
2) It speeds up your metabolism: If the HIIT training is complemented with an adequate diet, it accelerates the caloric expenditure and the metabolism.
This discovery is great news!
Metabolic acceleration can mean burning more calories not only during exercise, but once it is finished: it is estimated that you can burn up to 15% more calories in the 48 hours following the completion of a HIIT session!
For this purpose, it is called EPOC (“excess post-training energy consumption”) or the afterburn effect.
3) It is an ally of our cardiovascular health: Continuing with the previous point, this increase in metabolic rate and the burning of calories not only shapes our image, but also brings innumerable advantages to our cardiovascular health.
Specifically, HIIT training lowers blood pressure, increases cardiovascular health, and helps in lowering cholesterol.
4) Increase your musculature: To improve your muscle proportion you need to generate a stimulus that clearly indicates to the body that we lack muscle.
As this study shows us, intensity is one of the key factors in this regard.
5) Improve your sugar management: HIIT training makes your muscle much more efficient at capturing sugar, which is why it is considered both a preventive intervention and a treatment for type 2 diabetes. You can go deeper in this article.
But like everything in the world, there are not only positives!
It is clear that there is no perfect training and HIIT routines are not perfect.
Let’s see what are the main risks and mistakes made in this training.
1) You are not training at sufficient intensity: As we have already mentioned, to carry out a HIIT training, it is necessary to take the body close to its limit.
Achieving this level of intensity is not easy, requires training and the ability to tolerate a feeling of extreme fatigue.
It is very common to perform HIIT workouts below the required intensity. In these cases the expected results will not be achieved and this can generate frustration.
The solution is simple: Do not kid yourself.
You must decide if you want to focus on getting results and accept the discomfort of training at high intensity or prefer to have pleasant sensations without suffering too much, but with less improvements.
2) High risk of injury: HIIT routines, although they are very short, have a high impact on our body.
If you perform them without being physically prepared you will have a high risk of injury.
In addition, it is very easy to abuse them.
Do you remember that I told you about the EPOC effect? Well, even if you have recovered your breath, your body needs to recover at a chemical level.
Therefore, although it is very tempting to train only 20 minutes a day every day of the week, the reality is that with 3 routines HIIT a week is enough.
In case of over-training, you will see dreaded injuries.
The most common are in the soft tissues of the joints:
- The ligaments
- The tendos
- The muscles around the joints
In the long term, you could damage your joints themselves.
To avoid injuries it is important to incorporate breaks in your training.
Alternate days of HIIT training with active rest days, for example with a smooth run.
To prevent injury, it is also very important to have anti-inflammatory nutrition and to help the tissue regenerate. I recommend you follow the Paleo Diet.
3) It is not a good workout for your body to adapt to endurance sports: HIIT training is not ideal for running a marathon if you do not combine it with sessions of less intensity.
It has been shown that HIIT training sessions despite being so short have an impact on the levels of metabolic resistance.
But the same thing does not happen on the muscle tissues!
To run a marathon, your muscles, tendons and joints must adapt to the impact of running for example for 3 or 4 hours in a row.
In any case, HIIT routines are a good complement to increase your rhythm since they raise the anaerobic and aerobic thresholds, but they cannot replace long training sessions.
How to start a HIIT routine
Beginning HIIT training is easy and recommendable for all healthy people with a moderately acceptable fitness level.
However, you have to be careful if this is not your case: if you have not exercised for a long time or you have never been accustomed to exercise or sports routines, doing HIIT routines may not be suitable for you.
Performing such an intense exercise can suddenly lead to injuries, fatigue, and unpleasant sensations that make you abandon your fitness plan.
And I want you to know that the sensations in physical activity is one of the most important factors that divide those who train constantly with those who train two or three times and stop.
If this is your case, I recommend you to start with more moderate exercises, which involve a transition and adaptation and, after a short time, switch to intense exercises, we can all do it without problems!
When marking your HIIT routine, it is very important to take into account the periodicity of the exercises.
It is recommended to train 3 times a week on alternate days at high intensity, more days can lead to overtraining problems; think that the benefits offered by this type of training are based on generating great stress to the organism that impels you to improve but if you abuse it can cause an overexertion for the joints, muscles, and the central nervous system.
As always, it depends: it is not the same for an athlete who is accustomed to the requirement than a sedentary person so guide yourself by your bodily sensations and look from less to more.
A possible entry into the world of HIIT training can be a routine like the one we propose at the end of this article or using a personalized training service like Mammoth Hunters.
I am an expert, how can i optimize my HIIT training?
Once you have a handle on this type of training, there are some recommendations to get better results.
1) Varies the intervals: It is not the same 20 seconds of activity and 10 of rest that 1 minute of activity and 15 of rest. The more variability less adaptation to effort and more long-term benefits.
2) Monitor the intensity: The HIIT workouts must be done at full power with a final push at the end. If not, they lose their effectiveness.
Think that the price paid to train so little time is to always PUSH TO THE MAX.
It happens often that although one improves on a physical level, one continues to conform to the results of a session a month ago. This is an error.
You should always end this session with the feeling that you could not have gone any harder.
3) Choose the exercises well: If you do sequences of exercises use them to further increase the variability.
Combine days when all the exercises are from the same muscle group, days for different muscle groups, and days that add global exercises that demand a lot from the cardiovascular system.
4) Rest: Rest is part of training. When you train you destroy muscle, when you rest you build muscle.
If you do not allocate quality time to rest, it is very likely that your results will stagnate.
The best HIIT exercises
For an exercise to be suitable for a HIIT session it has to take you close to your failure threshold.
In many cases, this only depends on the intensity that you put in the execution, but there is a compromise between intensity / speed and correct technical execution.
There are exercises in which, by its very nature, it is difficult to apply enough intensity. For example Lunges: the execution time itself makes it difficult to put enough intensity without compromising good technique.
Here are some exercises that will quickly take your body to the intensity levels required in a HIIT training routine.
Global HIIT Exercises
Alternating Mountain Climber This exercise is simple to execute, but you will be surprised at how fast it makes you pulse up. It is ideal for training lactic acid resistance.
Mountain Climber: Harder version of the previous exercise.
Star jump: Combine a jump with an arm extension. You will improve your posture!
Burrol: Global exercise opposite the Burpee. It does an intense work of the abdominals and requires a good hip mobility.
Lower Body HIIT Exercises
Jumping lunge: Intense version of the Stride. The addition of a jump greatly increases the intensity. It is important to maintain a good technique, especially in the kneeling position to avoid injuries.
Jumping Squat: Intense version of the Squat. It is important to carry out the entire squat. The jump does not have to be very high, with taking off the feet from the ground is enough.
Box Jump: If you have a stable surface on which to jump and you have no neighbors to bother this exercise will allow you to perform a very powerful leg work. Keep an eye on the reception desk so that you do not carry your knees.
Upper Body HIIT Exercises
Push-up: Classic among the classics. This exercise will take you to the muscular limit of your upper trunk.
Hindu push-ups: Hardest version of the normal push-ups. They add very good mobility job for your shoulders.
Pull-ups: Another of the basic exercises to master. It is very hard and if you are not in good shape it will be difficult to do a single repetition. In these cases use rubber bands or a support for the feet to reduce the intensity.
Core HIIT Exercises
Plank: This is the basic exercise to work your abs. It may be that soon you fall short by not requiring movement in its execution. If this is the case, go to the next exercise.
Spider Plank: Did you want a plank that takes you to the limit? You only need to incorporate a knee bend and you already have it.
V sit-ups: Very hard abdominal exercise. Only suitable for trained athletes. It is very important to maintain a good technique to avoid lumbar injuries.
Example of a HIIT routine
There are many types of HIIT routines. You can see a description of some of them here. aquí.
Here is an example of HIIT training for a beginner level.
If you are looking for something more personalized we recommend you try our training APP. It’s free!
Total training time 19 minutes. 12 minutes of activity and 7 minutes of rest.
Perform 8 sets of 20 seconds of activity with 10 seconds of rest between each series for each of these exercises.
- 8 x (20s + 10s rest) of Plank
- 1 minute of rest
- 8 x (20s + 10s rest) of Knee Push-ups
- 1 minute of rest
- 8 x (20s + 10s rest) of Squats
- 1 minute of rest
- 8 x (20s + 10s rest) of Semi burpee
The HIIT is a type of training that provides many benefits for our body and our health, so it is mandatory consideration for all fans of sports and exercise.
The most advisable thing is to consult an expert to perform an effective and safe HIIT routine; can recommend practices that are better suited to our situation, thus obtaining much better results.
The Mammoth Hunters APP incorporates HIIT training in its customized program adapted to the level of each person, from a beginner to an experienced athlete.
And the most important thing: you do not have to rush, it is very important to properly adapt to HIIT training and rest and not to do more in less time and get in better shape.