The Ultimate Fat-Burning Exercise: HIIT Explained

The Ultimate Fat-Burning Exercise: HIIT Explained

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) sounds like a dream workout, doesn’t it?

You only have to work out for 5-8 minutes. You should only do it 3 times a week. You get at least twice as many rest periods as exercising periods.

So why isn’t everybody doing HIIT?

If you’re at all familiar with the fitness world, you’ve watched the meteoric rise of high-intensity interval training over the past 5 years. It’s now hit the mainstream fitness world and you can find examples of it in every program and routine.

But what is it? How does it help you? What sort of results can I expect? Is it safe?

In this article, let’s break down what HIIT is all about. We’ll tear apart the myths and misunderstandings of this new exercise routine and discover if it’s worth the hype. (Spoiler alert: It is.)

We will also steer you away from some of the bad advice out there about how to do a HIIT routine. There are some risks involved, but as long as you’re cautious about taking on this new routine (as you would with any new exercise) the rewards far outweigh the possible issues that it raises.  

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What Is High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

High-intensity interval training is your new best friend. At least, it should be after you come to understand what it’s all about.

It’s an exercise style where you perform cardiovascular exercises for short bursts, operating within 80-95% of your maximum heart rate.

These short bursts of maximum effort are followed by repeated breaks, or intervals, which allow the participant to perform at a higher level of effort for a longer period of time.

HIIT enables you to sustain a greater workout intensity throughout by using intervals rather than a continuous

The key is that you have to perform at maximum effort. This isn’t for the weak-minded.

Setting Up Your Maximum Effort

How do you know you’re performing at your maximum output? You can determine your maximum heart rate by using this chart. As you age, your safe maximum heart rate decreases - you need to push yourself hard, but pushing too hard is not going benefit you.

So for a healthy, normal 30-year-old person, the maximum heart rate would be around 190 beats per minute. Your maximum output should be around 171 bpm. That is extremely high, but remember that it is an extremely short burst of that output.

Why Choose HIIT?

The benefits are enormous for those who practice this high-intensity training. By spending excessive amounts of time near your maximum heart rate, you’re taking advantage of the fat-burning zone that few people reach.

When you’re operating way above the “fat burning zone”, you can burn WAY more fat without excessively depleting your stored energy. Your body targets the stored energy in your fat cells almost exclusively, without drawing from glycogen energy reserves.

The Afterburn

After a HIIT workout, your body maintains an elevated boost of afterburn called Excess-Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption, EPOC for short.

EPOC can last up to 24 hours after your workout, burning calories and elevating your metabolism.  Compare this to a simple jog, which has no measurable afterburn effect at all once you’re done.

Studies suggest that, of the calories you burn as a result of a HIIT session, up to 95% of those calories burnt occur after you’re done.

You Don’t Need The Gym

A big benefit to HIIT workouts is that, for the most part, they can be done anywhere.

While some HIIT workout routines may include free weights, resistance bands, and other light equipment, you can easily find a routine to take with you on the road or at home with no equipment at all.

They’re Huge Time Savers

While some HIIT workouts are structured around a 30 minute routine, it’s very common for these workouts to be fairly short. The intensity of these workouts allow you to burn up to 30% more calories than traditional workout styles.

How To Safely Do HIIT

High Intensity Interval Training is not to be taken lightly. If you try to do it every day, you can significantly increase your risk of injury. Your body needs the time to recover after an intense workout in order to refuel and repair your muscles.

You also put your body at risk of overtraining which can actually result in losing muscle mass reducing your performance ability.

The goal of HIIT is to perform it to your best effort. If you row as hard as you can on the rowing machine for 30 seconds, you want your level to be that you couldn’t manage to row 31 seconds. HIIT is meant to be uncomfortable.

So if you’re striving to do it every day, there is a risk you aren’t doing it properly. If you’ve given everything you have in the tank, your tank should be empty for the next day.

2 Sides of HIIT

When you do practice high-intensity interval training, you aren’t limited at all by what you do.

You basically have two options: Anaerobic and Aerobic exercises. They both produce the same result and give you the freedom to change up your routine so you don’t get bored.

Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic means “with oxygen”. It’s a much lower intensity exercise that doesn’t put your muscles at oxygen withdrawal. Think of exercises like jogging, biking, or long-distance swimming.

You can start a HIIT routine using aerobic exercise to ease you into the program. HIIT is generally an advanced form of cardio exercise, so it’s best to work up to it. But you can also use aerobic exercise when you’re an advanced HIIT user.

It works like this:

Let’s say you are jogging. Spend 5 minutes in a warm-up at a normal, even-breathing pace. After that 5 minutes, do a 30-second sprint, and then slow down to your jog again. After 60-90 seconds of jogging, do another 30-second sprint.

In aerobic HIIT, you don’t stop altogether but maintain that aerobic exercise pace.

Anaerobic HIIT

Anaerobic: Without oxygen.

It’s when your exercise causes your body to need more oxygen than you can provide it with simple breathing. Your body breaks down the stored energy in your fat because there isn’t enough oxygen to properly oxidise the glucose.  

Anaerobic exercises include heavy weight lifting, all types of sprints, jump rope, or any burst of exercise activity. This is where you will perform most of your HIIT routine, using movements that require anaerobic movements.

As an example, you could do as many deadlifts as could for 30 seconds, take a 60-second rest, then do another 30-second burst of deadlifts.

Or you could create a circuit. You do 30-seconds of deadlifts, rest for 60 seconds, and then move on to do 30-seconds of burpees, followed by another 60-second rest, then move on to the next burst of high-intensity exercise

Including HIIT in Your Routine

No exercise routine should be strictly about cardio. Strength training is an essential part your total body health. But if you’re looking to dramatically improve fat loss, consider high-intensity interval training as turbo-charged cardio workout

Two to three times a week is more than enough to see results quickly. As long as you give yourself that 24-hour recovery in between sessions, your body can adapt and repair itself to be ready for the next training routine.

HIIT will be uncomfortable. HIIT will be a challenge. But won’t it be great to see those results after a short amount of time?

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