High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been a common household name to most exercise enthusiasts for about a decade or so now for benefits that stack through the roof. Still so popular that the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has ranked HIIT as the 3rd most popular fitness trend entering 2016 (wearable technology and body weight training (which is a common theme in HIIT routines) were ranked #1 and #2 respectively). We view it on our televisions through popular infomercials, read about it on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, take part in our favorite HIIT classes at the gym, or blog about it when we have a couple of spare minutes to kill (who would ever do such a thing?..). It is literally everywhere! But, just like all original good concepts related to fitness, the purpose of most HIIT routines have become dismantled by the fitness industry and turned into just another workout without a purpose. During your next HIIT workout, try to focus on these 3 main principals and get the true value out of your routine without the extra "fluff".
1) Focus on HIGH intensity during your work to rest ratios. HIIT is defined as any workout that alternates between intense bursts of activity and fixed periods of less-intense activity or even complete rest. The level of these intense bursts should be high, very high. We're talking between 80% and 95% of your estimated maximal heart rate. For periods of "rest", your heart rate should be between 40% and 50% of your estimated maximal heart rate.
Don't know your heart rate zones? No problem, use this: on a 1-10 scale where 1 being you are almost asleep and 10 being your feel like your heart is going to burst out your chest, you should be between an 8 and 9.5 during intense bouts of exercise and a 4-5 during "rest" (FML, right?, yup).
2) Make sure you time your intervals just right. This is where most HIIT routines fail to stay truly classified as "HIIT". HIIT only works when you stick to your work-to-rest ratios and not the opposite (i.e. when you perform an intense set, wait around until you feel better, then try to do it again). No, you need to set a timer and that time needs to have a purpose. It needs to be your "fire alarm" to your workout.
If you are a beginner, try a less intense routine by using a 1:4 minute ratio (1 minute of high intensity, 5 minutes of "rest") for 15 minutes total. If you are a raging workout fanatic, try a more intense ratio such as a 1:1 (1 minute of high intensity followed by 1 minute of rest) for 20 minutes.
3) Add in body weight training and/or cardio exercise. Reaching limits as high as 95% of your estimated maximal heart rate can get pretty tough with weights and can also increase the chances of some major injuries. Mainly because the rate at which you need to move those weights is fast and moving fast with resistance is not always a recipe for success, especially if you have bad form even without resistance. This is why we recommend no resistance for some, most, or all of your HIIT exercises. Body weight exercises such as push-ups, mountain climbers, or burpees or cardio exercises such as 200 M sprints or hill sprints can be performed at very fast rates, can be done almost anywhere, and are very cost effective.
Try to add in exercises that target the full body or break up into upper and lower body splits for maximal results.
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