Yes, there's already a new HIIT training technique.
I know the entire concept of high intensity interval training is fairly new in and of itself, but things change quickly – hopefully not as frequently as new iPod models, or you may be changing techniques three times before you're even warmed up!
There are already several variations of HIIT, but the changing variables tend to be either the duration of the intervals or the different equipment / methods (exercise bike, sprinting, elliptical machine, etc.).
You do not have to completely abandon your "old school" HIIT training, because let's face it: any technique is better than none. In fact, the old way is still amazingly effective, and you may actually prefer it, but I've absolutely fallen in love with the "new school."
HIIT Training 2.0
This new technique is most effective and easiest to perform on an exercise bike, which just happens to be my weapon of choice for my HIIT workouts. You can adapt this method to sprinting or ellipticals as well, but I've always liked the exercise bike, because I can use it anytime right here at home (none of those "I do not have time to drive to the gym excuses" !).
Ok, so keeping with the exercise bike example, I, along with most other HIIT'ers, would (back in the old days of about two weeks ago) pedal along at a high intensity pace (100-150RPM) for a certain amount of time (30-60seconds), followed by a low intensity pace (50-75RPM) for a bit, then rinse and repeat.
As I said, these works wonders for anyone who can really keep up the intensity for a relatively short amount of time. Most HIIT sessions take only about 10-20 minutes; If you're thinking longer than that, then you probably overlooked the "high intensity" portion of HIIT
The only problem I was having, as my endurance increased and my intensity got higher and higher to keep up, during my high intensity intervals, I was topping out over 160-170RPM (rotations per minute).
Not only did this make me look like a bouncing, schizophrenic lunatic, it put unnecessary stress on my knees and hips.
But, how can I keep up the intensity without continuing to increase my RPM?
Viva La Resistance
Resistance. So simple, yet I never thought of it, until I was browsing and read an article by Craig Ballantyne.
Craig knows his stuff, so the idea really intrigued me. He writes for several health and fitness magazines, including Men's Health and Men's Fitness, and he creates some excellent workouts for everyone from beginners to elite athletes (Heard of the Bodyweight 500? You can thank Craig for that one as you struggle to pick yourself up off the floor).
So, by keeping the RPM constant and adjusting the resistance up and down for each interval, you get the same benefits of high intensity vs. low intensity, but without the potential joint stress.
If you're already doing HIIT on a regular basis, try it out as a change-up to your regular routine. For the first-timers, be sure to read the original HIIT article for more background on the training method itself, then try out both techniques.
HIIT By The Numbers
We're all at different fitness levels, but I'll give you my numbers as something to compare to if you need to figure out how your current RPM technique will convert to the resistance technique:
"Old School" (adjusting RPM)
- Low intensity intervals: 70RPM on resistance level 5 for 30 seconds
- High intensity intervals: 150RPM on resistance level 5 for 30 seconds
Here's what I do now to achieve the same level of intensity and work while keeping the RPM constant:
"New School" (adjusting resistance level)
- Low intensity intervals: 100RPM on resistance level 3 (out of 10) for 60 seconds
- High intensity intervals: 100RPM on resistance level 8 (out of 10) for 60 seconds
Again, you can play around with the numbers since everyone's body and equipment is going to be different, as long as you stick with the basic idea of adjusting resistance levels while keeping RPM fairly constant.
Adapting To Other Methods
If you usually do cardio on another type of machine, like an elliptical for example, then adapting this technique to your workout should be fairly easy, as most exercise equipment has an option to digitally or manually increase resistance.
For example, on a treadmill, rather than increasing the speed, you could increase the incline during your high intensity intervals, then bring the incline back down during the low intensity intervals.
If you're not part of the pasty, digital-world bundle, and you prefer to actually run out in the real world, things get a little bit trickier.
When you're using running as your HIIT method, your high intensity intervals are going to be significantly shorter, because not many people can maintain a true sprinting pace for 30-60 seconds.
You can always experiment with those attractive running parachutes to increase resistance, but you may find them to be a bit impractical with the shooter intervals, in which case you can just keep it "old school."
No matter what method, technique, or variation you choose, you simply can not go wrong with any type of HIIT training .