You can’t read an article about fitness today without seeing something about HIIT training. What is it? Is it good for you? Do you have to do it? Lets take a look.

HIIT stands for high intensity interval training. Basically it’s the concept that you do shorter periods of work but at a much higher intensity. Then you rest and repeat. There are several protocols to choose from but some common ones include 30 seconds of work with 30 seconds of rest, 20 seconds of work with 10 seconds of rest (Tabata Style Training) or 60 seconds of work with 60 seconds of rest. You get the idea. The typical HIIT workout lasts about 30 minutes. The key is that your work periods are at a higher intensity than if you were to just sustain exercise for 45-60 minutes.

HIIT Training - though surging in popularity is not new. It’s been around since the 70’s and has been used by elite athletes for decades. Like many things in fitness, the concept is being recycled with the growing popularity of Cross Fit, Bootcamps, and Small Group Training. The benefits of HIIT Training are real and when compared to longer steady state exercise include:

  1. Shorter, more efficient workouts.
  2. Improved Cardio Vascular Fitness.
  3. 2X Increased VO2 Max (Cardio Vascular Capacity)
  4. Decreased Insulin Resistance which significantly aids in weight loss.
  5. Increased Body Fat Oxidation
  6. Increased Cognitive Function.

Sounds pretty good right?! So the conclusion many fitness experts are coming to is that everyone should be doing HIIT Training. But should they? The benefits are undeniable but there are risks to be considered as well.

Beginners or people just returning to exercise have shown an increased risk of coronary events (heart attack or stroke) due to high intensity exercise. There is also increased risk of musculoskeletal injury due to the intensity of the exercise. All exercisers, new and experienced, should receive physicians approval prior to beginning a HIIT protocol - or any exercise routine for that matter.

One of the factors that is not spoken about often enough is the enjoyment of the exercise. Studies tell us that if we are to achieve long term adherence to any exercise program then we have to enjoy it. One of the risks of HIIT Training is that, due to the difficulty of the training and the discomfort experienced by many exercisers, they just don’t enjoy it. In general most people simply don’t want to work that hard and many beginners who start a HIIT Training routine too soon, simply quit.

So the best recommendations seem to be this: Develop a baseline fitness level and exercise routine. This would include 3-5 sessions per week of 30-60 minutes doing activities you enjoy. Yes it’s important that you elevate your heart rate and include all components of fitness (Strength, Cardio, and Flexibility) but the key in the beginning is to establish routine. It’s easier to do this with activities you enjoy!

Once you have done this and exercise is becoming a regular part of your life, start with one HIIT Session a week. Work up to 2-3. Keep in mind that due to the increased intensity of the work, your recovery time increases as well. Make sure you give your body adequate time to rest in between HIIT workouts (generally 48 hours). Employ some active rest - lower intensity workouts and some actual rest - no workouts!

In a later post we will discuss some of the common HIIT Protocols but for now keep it as a PART of your fitness routine. At The Abs Company we believe that Fitness Changes Lives. It will only change your life if you do it! So find what you enjoy, make it a habit and then experiment with different types of exercise and training routines. Remember - there is no BEST way to train. We are all different, physically and mentally, so you have to find what works for you. We are here to help….. just ask!