When it comes to weight loss or fat-blasting exercises, HIIT is the most effective workout. HIIT workout burns more calories than any other form of workout strategy in a short span of time. The best thing about HIIT is that your body will be burning fat even after the workout is over. Research states that 15 minutes of HIIT session burns more calories than running on a treadmill for an hour.

To get in shape, we sometimes tend to fall prey to the shams of the health supplement companies. However, it has been found that most health supplements cannot provide you with the body that your heart desire. Moreover, the weight loss achieved by these pills or powder is not permanent and can have side effects as well. If you are looking out for a comprehensive solution to losing weight quickly, then HIIT is the best bet for you. HIIT is not merely a weight loss exercise, it also boosts metabolism, improves respiratory endurance and cardiovascular health.

What is a HIIT Workout?

High-intensity interval training is a form of workout that alternates between repeated short intervals of high-intensity exercise and low-intensity exercise or complete rest for a fixed period. Although HIIT burns fewer calories during the exercise than normal cardio exercise, it has been found that the HIIT session helps reduce more fat than normal cardio exercise overall does. The reason being that HIIT session helps build muscle which keeps metabolism elevated for more than 24 hours. Hence you burn calories throughout the day.

The High-Intensity Interval Training will not allow your body to keep restricted to the same activity; rather it challenges your body with each bout by changing the pace at every interval. This technique ensures that you don’t get accustomed to the same boring workout schedule. For example, run at maximum intensity for 30 seconds and then jog for 1 minute at 50 percent low intensity. Carry out both exercises with same intervals for 5-6 times.

There are a lot of ways through which HIIT can be performed. You can create your workout strategy as per your requirement and physical fitness. As a beginner you should start with easier and low-impact exercises, gradually you can move on to harder workouts. Keep in mind that longer the intervals, better the results.

Four Parameters of HIIT Workout:

1. Intensity of High-Intensity Intervals

Research shows that you benefit from an HIIT workout when you reach 90% of your VO2 max during you intense bout and stay there as long as you can. VO2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen that your body can use while exercising at your maximum capacity.

2. Duration of Work Interval

As a beginner start with 12-15 minutes of HIIT session. Gradually increase your workout length to 25-30 minutes once you start noticing that you can perform your HIIT intervals with ease. However, this doesn’t include your warm-up and warm-down time. Before moving to your intense zone, start with 2-3 Man and woman Rope jumping HIIT workoutminutes of low-impact warm-up and after completion do 2-3 minutes of light warm-down exercise. Keep in mind that warm-up and warm-down exercises are as important as HIIT interval itself.

3. Recovery Interval

Initially start your HIIT workout with a 1:2 or 1:3 high-intensity interval: recovery interval depending on your fitness level. That means you will take twice or thrice the time to complete your recovery period compared to high-intensity work interval. As you continue, your body becomes accustomed to your training, and you will observe that you need less recovery time.

Gradually bring down the ratio of the high-intensity period and recovery period to 1:1. As your abilities improve, you should focus on either decreasing the rest period or increasing the high-intensity period, but don’t do both at the same time. Studies suggest that an active recovery interval is more beneficial than a complete rest. An active recovery interval helps you reach Vmax during your high-intensity interval: do low-intensity exercise during your recovery period.

4. Number of HIIT Sessions per Week

At most you should not do more than 3 HIIT sessions per week. HIIT workouts are so intense that if you do it multiple days in a row, you are most likely to harm yourself than reap benefits out of HIIT.  After each HIIT session, you need to give your muscles adequate time to recover. Otherwise, you will not be able to perform your workout at full intensity. You should have at least 48 hours gap between each HIIT session to recover completely.

Mythbusters: HIIT is for everyone

You must have heard, read; online or in your favorite magazine that anyone can do HIIT. But the fact is HIIT is the most intense form of exercise. Therefore, you need to keep few things in mind before you start practicing HIIT:

  1. Consult your physician and have a complete health check-up
  2. Do some cardio training for 2-3 months before practicing HIIT workouts
  3. You don’t have an existing injury
  4. You don’t have cardiovascular diseases or inflammatory condition
  5. If you are pregnant HIIT is not for you

What are the Benefits of HIIT?

Burn More Calories: HIIT burns more calories than normal cardio in a short period because it pushes you to your limit through alternate repetitions of quick, high-intensity bouts and recovery time. Even if you go for a long race, you will not be able to burn as many calories as you will burn through HIIT workout.

Fit woman doing triceps dips

Less Weight Equipment: You don’t necessarily need to pay gym subscription fee and go to gym from your home or office. You can practice your structured HIIT workouts at home with zero or very few types of equipment. From sprinting, jumping jack, push-ups, squats, burpees, etc., everything goes with the HIIT workout. Moreover, adding weights makes your HIIT program less efficient as weights target particular muscle group whereas with HIIT your aim is to get your heart rate up to its maximum capacity.

It Will Enhance Your Metabolism: HIIT program boosts your metabolic rate for 24 hours as it makes your body consume a higher amount of oxygen even after the workout is over. This phenomenon is called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption or EPOC. Additionally, HIIT increases production of human growth hormone by 450 percent within the 24 hours of your workout which means your body continues to burn calories even after the workout is over. It also helps in slowing down the aging process. Hence, you look radiantly younger than your age.

Workout Anywhere: One of the benefits with HIIT is that it keeps you from excuses. You can perform HIIT workouts anywhere; you can do it in the comfort of your home, in a room, park, gym, at the office in your lunch break, etc. All you need is a little space and 20-30 minutes of time and most importantly well-structured HIIT program.

Lose Weight Not Muscle: The traditional cardio workout can cause muscle breakdown. However, your body continues to build muscles for next 24 hours after the HIIT session as it helps in burning more fat than a steady cardio activity.

The Heart Is Healthy With HIIT: Practicing HIIT improves the flexibility of arteries and veins. As a result, your blood circulates quickly through arteries, reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. HIIT helps you to reach aerobic zone through alternate repetitions of high-intensity bouts, followed by rest intervals. To build cardiovascular fitness, you need to bring your heart rate up to 60%-70% and as your fitness improves gradually move up to 80%. You can use a wearable heart rate monitor to stay in your aerobic zone.

Note: If you are suffering from any heart disease or high blood pressure, you should consult your doctor before starting HIIT.

HIIT Workout Tips for Beginners

Warm Up & Cool Down Exercise 

Before you start with HIIT activity, make sure you do 2-3 minutes of warm up exercise. Warm up exercise prepares your body to carry out the high-intensity activity by raising body temperature and increasing muscle flexibility. It also helps reduce the risk of injury during an intense workout. Similarly, do 2-3 minutes of cool down exercise after your HIIT workout is over. Cool down exercise allows your heart rate and body temperature to come down to the pre-exercise state gradually. If you stop suddenly, the blood flow drops quickly, your brain doesn’t receive enough blood and oxygen, and you could lose your consciousness.

Start at a Slower Pace

As a starter, you should focus on increasing the endurance rather than speed and time. For a couple of months do short intervals of low-intensity interval training. As you continue, you will observe the increase in your fitness level and your body’s ability to perform harder workouts. Gradually increase the intensity and length of your workouts.

Last your HIIT task within 15-30

An ideal HIIT session length could be between 15-30 minutes depending on your fitness level. If you think more is better, then you are wrong. Moreover, if your HIIT session lasts for more than 30 minutes; it means you are not staying in your intense zone long enough as you should.

Mix the HIIT with the Traditional Cardio

There is a lot of debate and lack of consensus among the trainers between the HIIT and steady state cardio. Since you perform high-intensity workouts during the training session your body requires enough time to recover. The fact is that it is the mix of both HIIT and steady state cardio that will give you the desirable weight loss result. Although both forms of workout strategy provide great weight loss results on their own, a mix of HIIT and traditional low-intensity steady state cardio is ideal workout strategy to draw maximum benefits from weight loss.

You should not practice HIIT for more than 2-3 times a week. Since you perform high-intensity workouts during the training session, your body requires enough time to recover. Moreover, you are likely to pick up injury doing exercises regularly at such high intensity. On the other hand, traditional cardio is performed at low-intensity which puts less stress on the body; reducing the chance of injury and helping you recover for your next HIIT session. That’s why it is advisable to do HIIT and traditional cardio on alternate days.

Set Training Goals According to your Fitness Level

HIIT workouts are an intense form of exercise which pushes your body to its maximum capacity. Keeping this fact in mind, you should set your goals that are realistic in accordance with your current fitness level. If you have been inactive or have a medical condition, you should first get a medical clearance from your doctor. And consult an exercise therapist to help you set up and strategize a regular exercise program that gradually improves your fitness level.