High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is one of the most effective ways to burn more calories with less effort.
But what are HIIT workouts and how do you incorporate them into your exercise routine?
If you’ve ever embarked on a fitness regimen, you know how frustrating it can be to push yourself in the gym and eat all the right things…only to see no results whatsoever.
We all know that food contains calories and exercise burns those calories off. The problem is that an average 30-minute aerobic workout only burns around 200 calories. That’s the equivalent of a single snack! Your only options are to increase the length of your workouts (who has time for that?), increase your intensity (which can be hard to sustain over 30+ minutes), or try a HIIT workout.
HIIT workouts can help you build muscle and burn hundreds of calories, without spending an extra hour on the treadmill. So what are HIIT workouts and why do they work so well? Let’s take a look.
What Are HIIT Workouts?
HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, is an exercise method involving short bursts of high-intensity movement followed by periods of relatively low-intensity and/or rest.
Any type of exercise can be done according to the HIIT method, but it generally involves a mixture of resistance training and cardiovascular activity.
The key to HIIT workouts isn’t just alternating intervals of work and rest, it’s “high-intensity.” To get the maximum benefit from your workout, your heart rate should be at least 80% of your heart’s maximum capacity. What does this mean? You should be out of breath and should break a sweat after a few minutes. Anything less than that and you likely won’t see the results you’re hoping for.
What Makes HIIT Workouts So Effective?
Science isn’t sure yet, but it looks like HIIT workouts works on a number of levels.
The first is simply that high-intensity activity burns more calories and HIIT allows you to incorporate smaller bursts of high-intensity that aren’t sustainable over a 30-minute period.
The other reason HIIT works so well is that the alternating intervals of exercise “trick” your body into raising its metabolism. Your body sets its metabolism—the baseline rate that your body burns calories—based on the level of activity it expects. You start running, and your body starts burning extra calories to fuel you. You slow down, and your calorie-burning rate does, too.
But with HIIT workouts, the intervals confuse your body, so that it’s never quite sure when a burst of energy will be needed. Such a huge amount of effort takes a long time to recover from. As a result, your body keeps burning calories after your workout is over.
This is known as “afterburn.”
What Is Afterburn?
Wait…are you saying I can keep burning calories, even after I leave the gym?
The average HIIT workout may only be 20-30 minutes, but burns more calories than a moderate-intensity workout of the same length. If you have a busy schedule (and who doesn’t?), high-intensity interval training can be a great way to ramp up your workouts without taking up more time.
What Does a HIIT Workout Look Like?
HIIT workouts can vary, depending on the type of exercise you’re doing (jogging vs. weightlifting, for example) as well as your current fitness level.
As always, start with a 5- 10-minute warmup. Your high-intensity intervals should last at least 15-30 seconds, with a 60-second rest period. Alternate through these intervals for a total of 20-30 minutes (and don’t skip the cool down).
Don’t discount your current fitness level, however. If you’ve been sitting on the couch for the last 10 years, 15-30 seconds might be fine. But if you’re a marathon runner who’s looking to try something new, you might try a full minute of all-out running followed by two minutes of jogging.
It can be difficult to find the right exercise routine. But HIIT workouts are challenging, effective, and quick, so they’re easy to add to your already busy schedule.
No matter what your current fitness level, Ludus Actius wants to help you reach and even exceed your goals. Our trainers have worked with a variety of people—from professional athletes to high school students—and our classes incorporate multiple exercises so that no two workouts are the same. You get a workout regimen that’s unique to you.