High-Intensity Interval Training: A Beginner’s Guide

In the world of health and fitness, many trends come and go. After all, fitness is a competitive market that also brings along a short attention span for many of its consumers. People want to lose fat, tone their arms, and get a six pack as quickly as possible.

With this in mind, there have been numerous types of exercise programs that have had this particular end goal in mind for its users. However, nothing has stood the test of time as HIIT has. If you work out, you’re most likely familiar with some form of HIIT. With that said, let’s dive further into HIIT.

What is HIIT Training?

If you ask the everyday person what is HIIT, they will most likely associate it with lots of sweating, burpees, shortness of breath, and rest periods.

People take HIIT at face value and assume that it’s all super intense and difficult. But that isn’t the case. Here’s a brief origin story about HIIT.

HIIT Stands For High-Intensity Interval Training

High-intensity training is simply a combination of interval training plus cardiovascular work alternating between short periods of intense anaerobic exercise and less intensive periods. While many think that you have to keep doing this until you’re exhausted to the max, that’s simply not the case.

In fact, there isn’t a universal ruling on how long a HIIT session should last. A typical session is completed in under 30 minutes. One of the biggest signals that you’re effectively doing high-intensity interval training correctly is the intense feelings it should bring upon your body.

You’ll have to push yourself with typical sets lasting between 20 to 90 seconds. For those that love long distance cardio activities, this is both a mental and physical shock to their current way of going about things. The big reason why is that there isn’t a rationing of energy.

With that said, there is a plethora of misinformation about high-intensity interval training which often leads people astray. High-intensity interval training is an effective method to workout and to radically transform your body. High-intensity interval training isn’t just an effective system because people say so, there’s also a plethora of scientific reasons.

HIIT Has Many Scientifically Backed Benefits

Doing a HITT program is highly effective due to the physical effects such as improving the shape of your body and toning of muscles. But also, HIIT improves the overall physiological processes of the body starting with improved glucose metabolism. High-intensity interval training has research dating back to the mid-1990s with studies showing improvement involving fat loss.

In fact, there was a Canadian study comparing the fat-loss effects of interval training versus traditional long and slow duration cardio. The traditional regimen burned twice as many calories as the interval regimen. But that isn’t telling the entire story. Those who train with intervals lost more body fat.

Performing high-intensity interval training helps you lose body fat, but it also stimulates the production of your human growth hormone (HGH) by up to 450 percent. The reason why human growth hormone is of benefit is that of it boosting your metabolism and also slowing down the natural aging process.

Why is High-Intensity Interval Training so popular?

Many workout trends come and go, but HIIT has remained a mainstay because it helps numerous types of health and wellness issues. Whether you’re looking to improve your overall fitness, lower your risk for cardiovascular disease along with other chronic illnesses, lose body fat, or strengthen up your skeletal muscles to help fight against osteoporosis—a few minutes of HIIT satisfies all of those things and is great for fat burning and weight loss.

With that said, here are a few more specific reasons in detail why HIIT is effective and popular.

It’s Great for Shedding Fat Without Losing Muscle

Traditional steady state cardio is effective for building up your endurance, but often times proves to be a detriment to those looking to maintain their muscle mass while losing body fat.

In fact, a study appearing in the International Journal of Obesity found that HIIT reduced body fat and increased muscle mass more effectively than traditional steady-state exercise. Also of note in this study was the substantial reductions in abdominal and trunk fat.

HIIT is Good For Your Heart

High Intensity Interval Training

Perhaps the top benefit to high-intensity interval training is the positive aspects it has on your heart and overall cardiovascular system. From a surface level perspective, most people probably aren’t used to pushing themselves and will feel their heart beating fast along with being out of breath. While it may seem scary, this is beneficial and is leading to a stronger and more efficient heart.

In a 2006 study, after 8 weeks of HIIT workouts, the subjects were able to cycle as long as they could before while maintaining the same pace after participating in the study. Also worth mentioning to those who may not be young or full of vibrant health at the moment, HIIT is beneficial to you as well.

Individuals with heart disease in a study conducted found that HIIT improves cardiorespiratory fitness nearly twice as much as long stretches of moderately intense running, cycling, or various other aerobic exercises.

It’s Easy To Learn And Doesn’t Take Up Too Much Time

One of the biggest barriers to people consistently exercising is time and having to head to the gym along with busy professional lives. However, high-intensity interval training is picture-perfect for those with a busy schedule. Taking 15 minutes of focus training during your lunch break or immediately after work three times a week will provide huge dividends.

High-intensity interval training is also beneficial since it’s easy to pick up and tailor to your specific fitness level.

High-Intensity Interval Training Workouts at Home or Anywhere Else

Working eight hours a day, sitting in traffic, and then the hassle of heading to the gym is a burden too many men and women which leads them to skip working out altogether.

However, with HIIT, you can perform it anywhere and at any time. This is one of the most adaptable styles of training around which is critical when you’re in a time crunch or aren’t motivated to trek to the gym.

Anyone Can Benefit From Some Form of HIIT

Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced trainee, HIIT will please your particular exercise appetite. Whether you favor running, biking, jump roping, weights, or even rowing—you’ll be able to apply the HIIT principles to it.

The Formula for High-Intensity Interval Training workouts

High-intensity interval training is a favorite and a consistent staple in the fitness world due to its short list of rules. A typical high-intensity interval training workout generally starts with a warm-up period, followed by the main portion of the workout, and concluded with a cool down period.

With that said, the meaty portion of the HIIT session is simply executed under the philosophy of “work hard, rest for a little, and then proceed to push yourself again.”

The Exercise Must Be Truly “High Intensity”

There’s a reason it’s called high-intensity interval training and that’s because you need to be placing yourself under intense conditions. With such a short amount of training time, it’s imperative that you approach your sessions with the right intensity and focus.

For those new to this training, there will be some getting used to the adequate amounts of intensity needed. A simple way to gauge your intensity is to rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 10. 10 is going to be equated to maxing out and giving it all you got while 1 is barely even working out.

The harder your work requires more oxygen intake and that equates to more calories being burned.

The “Interval” Part is Also Very Important

While we mainly have been discussing intensity and pushing yourself past levels you didn’t even know existed, you can’t forget about rest and recovery. This is the less glamorous aspect of high-intensity interval training, but nevertheless, a critical piece of the puzzle.

When you don’t rest, you’re not performing HIIT appropriately. You objective with HIIT is to force your body to repeatedly acclimate between two totally different states which over time greatly builds up your cardio conditioning.

Workouts As Short As 10 Minutes Are Still Effective

No more marathon workout sessions are needed thanks to HIIT. There’s a common myth that to get optimal results requires you to stay inside the gym and workout for hours. This isn’t the case at all. When it comes to HIIT, it’s about quality over quantity along with favoring intensity over duration.

Since that’s case, you can get a highly effective training session in only 10 minutes with the proper exercises selected.

What Are The Best High-Intensity Interval Training Workouts?

The key to getting the most out of HIIT is keeping a heart rate above 80% during your sessions. If this seems undoable right now, that’s perfectly fine since it’s something that can be built up too.

High-Intensity Interval Training For Beginners

If you are brand new or not as adequately conditioned, then a good goal to set your sights on is a 1:2 ratio of work to rest. What this means is to perform a particular activity for 30 to 60 seconds for example and then rest for twice as long as the set was performed before starting back.

Your long-term goal brings it down to a 1:1 ratio which would be 30 seconds or work and then 30 seconds of rest.

Advanced High-Intensity Interval Training Exercises

For those who are a little more advanced, then including things such as sprints into your programming is a great way to challenge yourself. With sprints, you can sprint as hard as you can for 20-30 seconds and then recover for four minutes by walking or slowly jogging.

As you improve here, bring the rest time down.

What’s The All-Time Best HIIT workout?

While putting all the HIIT workouts into a particular order is a nearly impossible feat, there is some consensus on what’s the best HIIT workout. A leading candidate for that is the Tabata’s.

What is Tabata

This was originally developed by Dr. Izumi Tabata with the sole purpose of training Olympic speedskaters. Tabata’s are simply 20 seconds of crazy effort followed by 10 seconds of rest which is repeated eight times for a grand total of four minutes.

Each four-minute period represents one complete Tabata. Training in this manner forces your body to work overtime, which is beneficial from a caloric burning perspective.

How to Find a Tabata Timer

High Intensity Interval Training

The standard Tabata session consists of eight rounds of 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest. However, this structure isn’t rigid by any means. Feel free to switch up the number of Tabata’s along with the types of exercises you include in the sessions.

All that matters is that you’re working hard and sticking to the prescribed rest and work periods. Speaking of time, it’s imperative that you keep track of this and this can be executed by simply downloading this Tabata app.

Does High-Intensity Interval Training Deserve a Seat at the Table?

Whether your focus is on fat loss, muscle gain, or improving your general cardiovascular systems, HIIT definitely deserves a spot into the specific program. High-intensity interval training is unique and has long-lasting beneficial results due to it being malleable to any sort of programming out there.

As you look into your fitness programming, including HIIT is a no-brainer. The question comes down to how much of it will you use in a given week which will solely be determined based on your unique goals, lifestyle, and fitness levels.