Interval Training – What Is it and How You Can Benefit
High Intensity Interval Training, also known as HIIT, is not a new concept, but it seems to be all the rage recently. Interval training has been around for decades, stemming back to the days of Arthur Jones. Interval training uses periods of high intensity exercise combined with rest periods. The rest periods can vary between resistance training, active or low activity rest periods, or no activity rest periods. The route you choose should be dictated by your specific goals and fitness level. There are also a number of other ways you can vary your high intensity interval training such as work-to-rest ratio and effort level during work periods. The key is to find the best HIIT program for you. Another great benefit of HIIT is that it can be made with all body weight.
The are numerous advantages to HIIT over the standard do a set then rest combined with steady state cardio. First off, you can burn the same or more calories in much less time. By combining exercises into sets known as supersets or compound sets, you do twice as many exercises in half the time. Secondly, high intensity interval training serves and possibly builds more lean muscle. During steady state cardio, people often lose muscle mass as they jog or run for 45+ minutes. Not only is that BORING, it does not promote muscle growth. This is why you can do steady state cardio 5 days a week for an hour per day, and still not achieve that toned look. High intensity activity also has hormonal benefits. Steady state cardio induces stress which increases cortisol. High amounts of Cortisol can lead to increased hunger and cravings. If you run on the treadmill for 60 minutes, then want to smash some chips, candy or other unhealthy snack later, that does not do much good as far as fat loss goes. High intensity exercise also increases Cortisol, however, it increases catecholamines as well. This combination helps BURN fat without causing an increased level of cravings.
There has been an ongoing dispute between the effectiveness of High Intensity Interval Training and Steady State Cardio. Many professionals are saying that the days of steady state cardio are numbered. I, personally, encourage all my clients to use interval training if they're physically able to do so. There are always exceptions. Some people actually enjoy 45-60minutes of jogging or cycling outside, so I'm not going to discourage them from exercising in a way that they enjoy. People with physical limitations like serious knee problems should also be careful exercising at maximum intensity. Aside from exceptions such as those, I encourage everyone to move to HIIT. When it comes to comparing HIIT to steady state cardio, numerous studies have found that high intensity interval training increases cardiovascular capacity (aka VO2 Max) as much or more than steady state cardio. Interval training was also found to burn more calories, increase muscle mass, and decrease body fat in less time than steady state cardio. A good HIIT program can be done three times per week for about 30 minutes, rather than 4-5 days per week for 60 minutes with steady state cardio.
So, on to the burning question, what makes up the best high intensity interval training routine? The best HIIT programs are the right combination of work and rest. Depending on what your specific goals are, you'll want to alternate between maximum intensity exercise and either resistance training, low-activity periods, or no-activity periods. Use ratios such as 1: 1 or 2: 1 for example. In other words, 1: 1 would be 30 seconds at maximum intensity coupled with 30 seconds of a rest period, then repeat.