High Intensity Interval Training

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High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a popular method of cardio and it is something that I build into almost all of my clients training plans. Part of why HIIT is so popular and why it works for so many people is because it can be modified to anyone’s fitness level and can preformed anywhere and without any equipment. Any aerobic exercise can be modified into a HIIT training program, including the treadmill, step mill, rower, bike, and elliptical – machines that are in pretty much every gym you go to, making it easy to do even if you are traveling or somewhere away from home. You can also run sprints outside or on a track or swim, so if you aren’t near a gym or don’t have access to equipment you don’t need to worry!

So, what are the benefits of HIIT cardio and why should you incorporate it into your training program? Well…

  1. IT’S FAST! Because you are training at such a high intensity, you don’t need to spend a lot of time doing cardio. I recommend each HIIT session being about 20-30 minutes. When you’re doing HIIT, you should be pushing yourself to the max, so doing it for longer is unrealistic.
  2. IT’S CHALLENGNG! You are pushing yourself to the limit and taking on a new challenge, so when you are done you will feel extra accomplished! Taking your intensity up a notch each week will not only increase your physical fitness, but it can help your self-esteem knowing that you improving with every HIIT session.
  3. YOU KEEP BURNING CALORIES! Even after you finish your session, your body continues to burn calories for up to 2 hours! Because your body is working so hard, it takes a longer time to recover and your body continues to use energy in order to make that recovery happen.
  4. YOU’LL BE HEALTHIER! By this point you know HIIT cardio improves your overall fitness level, but it has many more benefits than that! It can improve high blood pressure, lower cholesterol, improve overall cardiovascular health, increase insulin sensitivity (which helps your muscles use sugar/carbs for fuel during your workouts), and helps you lose fat while maintaining muscle mass.

In order to get the most out of your HIIT sessions, there are a couple things to know. When doing the “high intensity” part, you should be aiming to get your heart rate >80% of estimated maximum heart rate. During “rest periods”, your heart rate should be 40-50% of your estimated max. To calculate your maximum heart rate, just subtract your age from 220 J You’re active and recovery phases should either be similar in length or have a recovery phase slightly longer then the active phase – an example of this is sprinting on the treadmill for 20 seconds, followed by 40 seconds of recovery.

Lastly, an important part of incorporating HIIT cardio into your training program is to stay safe while doing it. If you aren’t used to such high intensity training, start slow and build more HIIT into your plan as your body continue to grow stronger. Start with one session a week and after you feel comfortable, add another. Remember that your body will need more time to recover, so you don’t want to be doing HIIT every day of the week. I recommend keeping HIIT to 2-4 times per week, depending on your goals and fitness level.

Overall, HIIT cardio is a great type of cardiovascular activity to add into your plan. You will see multiple benefits and it is a fun way to switch up your training!




American College of Sports Medicine. (2014). ACSM Information On: High Intensity Interval Training [Brochure]

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