Contributed by: Michael Devon, NASM-CPT
High Intensity Interval Training, also known as HIIT, has many been shown to be an effective form of exercise with many benefits. For all you busy bodies out there, HIIT training burns a lot of calories in a short amount of time. It also helps develop quickness, speed, and endurance, as well as power and explosiveness…all of which are necessary for optimal athletic performance. High intensity interval training consists of short timed intervals performed at a maximum effort followed by timed rest intervals in order to recover before performing at maximal intensity again. The total duration of the workout, including adequate rest intervals should be performed for 8-20 minutes. The high intensity portion of the intervals should last between 10-30 seconds at a maximal effort followed by 15-120 seconds of rest or light movement, depending on your fitness level. As you progress, the high intensity portion of the intervals may increase while rest or active recovery time decreases, and the total duration of the entire workout increases.
Sprints are extremely efficient for athletes, however interval training is not limited to a certain type of exercise, there are endless exercises that can be used or combined for an effective HIIT workout even if you are not a competitive athlete. Hitting a punching bag is a great high intensity upper body workout and works well for those that have lower body injuries or limitations. Tire flips can also be used for the high intensity bout and places an emphasis on total body explosion and power as well as cardiovascular conditioning. Sled drags are yet another effective conditioning for the athlete, power lifter, or fitness junkie that wants to take their training to a higher level of performance. Battle rope training can also be used to get the heart rate up and it focuses on increasing your strength, power, and endurance. Some common battle rope movements include: waves, rope slams, or jumps. With each of these exercises, you will need to create a solid base by planting your feet in a shoulder width stance and stabilizing your core (just think of an athletic stance). You’ll quickly discover that these exercises engage not just your arms and shoulders, but your entire body.
Kettlebell swings have also become a great HIIT activity; these will activate your posterior chain because swings stimulate your glutes, strengthen and stabilize your back muscles, engage your anterior core muscles and also help with explosion and power. Burpess, mountain climbers, box jumps, and jumping rope are additional movements that can be added to your HIIT circuit. If you suffer from joint limitations or your fitness level won’t allow you to safely perform the above HIIT exercises try working with a personal trainer that will modify some of these movements so that you can start slow and gradually progress in a way that will work around some of your limitations. You can pair power walking with light jogging intervals, or even a seated march. Your trainer will work with you to get creative and listen to how your body responds.
You have to build your tolerance and get conditioned for these types of workouts and the more you do it and push yourself, the more your threshold will improve. With that in mind, every body will respond differently to certain things, start with the least amount of work needed to achieve your intended effect and slowly challenge yourself by increasing the time or intensity and decreasing the amount of rest as your body progresses and remember; you must start somewhere.