WHAT IS HIIT TRAINING?
A lot of people have heard of this term, and some may even know that HIIT stands for “High-Intensity Interval Training”. But where does it come from? How to do it, what are the benefits, and why did it get so popular?
In essence, HIIT training is doing an exercise of high intensity or at a person’s max capacity for a short period. Then the person would rest for an even shorter time before doing it again. The exercises are supposed to be dynamic and or compound exercise. Dynamic means an exercise that is explosive like sprints or box jumps and compound, meaning an exercise that involves multiple joints/parts of the body like a burpee or a deadlift. It should not involve isolation exercise like bicep curls, triceps extension of calf raises.
High Intensity Interval Training is a style of training but the protocol in which its executed can vary. The same way Intermitting fasting is a protocol of eating, it’s not a diet, the diet would be what you eat in the intermitting fasting window.
ORIGINS OF HIIT TRAINING
HIIT Training the term or name has been around since 2001, it kind of coincided with the CrossFit revolution. But the method of training itself has been around for centuries. Here are some documented examples of people doing High Intensity Interval Training.
- 1914 – Even in some memoirs from World War 1 soldiers have mentioned having to do hill runs with all their gear and sprint training.
- 1924 – Olympic games Paavo Nurmi, a finish athlete, used interval training in his preparations leading into the games where he won several gold medals.
- 1930 – We saw the creation of fartlek training from Swedish coach Gosta Holmer. Fartlek was a different type of interval training but still had very similar principles in that it allowed individuals to work at higher intensities.
- 1970 – Sevastian Coe used interval training as part of his preparations. He would perform 200m runs with only a 30second rest before repeating.
- 1996 – More recently, and probably the most famous protocol which sold HIIT to the industry was the creation of Tabata training in 1996 by professor Izumi Tabata. Performed initially on Olympic speed skaters. Tabata would have athletes working flat out (170% VO2 max) for 20seconds, followed by 10 seconds rest. This would be done for 8 rounds (4 minutes).
DANGERS OF HIIT TRAINING
When we talk about High Intensity Interval Training, we are not talking about circuit training. Although similar, the main difference would be the intensity and perhaps difficulty of the individual exercises. I would never suggest or do HIIT Training with a client who is in the categories below, Why? Because HIIT increases the chance of injury even to regular fitness enthusiast. You will need to address this issue first. Even then, there are still risks to HIIT training.
New to Exercise
If you have an utterly untrained body, then the risk of injury is higher. Pulling a muscle or burning yourself out by doing too much too soon. You also do not know your body well enough to know when its time to stop and slow down a bit. Before doing HIIT training, I would recommend at least 2 months of training prior. Work on overall body strength and stability. Perfect form on fundamental movement patterns and mobility exercise.
Recovering From Injury
The intensity and high impact exercises associated with HIIT training can place a lot of extra stress on your muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints. This increases the risk of injury and or reinjury.
History of Heart Conditions
All exercises will increase the heart rate so it can supply the much-needed oxygen to the muscles. This is actually what makes the heart stronger and healthier. But HIIT can cause the heart to work harder then it should and possibly triggering a cardiac event. If you are a smoker, have high blood pressure, or history of heart disease, the risk increases.
One of my common issues is clients walking in the gym exhausted. Hard day at work, zero sleep night before, stressed to the eyeballs. Training in this condition can be counterproductive. Especially if you going to do a HIIT workout. There is no faster way to push your body into adrenal fatigue than to train tired consistently.
One of my favourite sayings, “You have the mobility of a block of wood”. If you haven’t gathered by now, HIIT training is a more advanced way of workout. Like building a house, you don’t start with the roof, you start with the foundations. Fixing any major postural issues or muscles imbalances like overly active, tight muscles and underactive weak muscles would be more of a priority. Training with these imbalances will only emphasise the imbalance.
BENEFITS OF HIIT TRAINING
Now on to the good stuff. There are numerous benefits to HIIT training. However, a lot of them coincide with the same benefits you would get from any regular workout. So, I won’t bother wasting your time writing about them. These benefits below are somewhat unique to HIIT training itself.
“Say whaaaaaaat?” Yes, one of the cool benefits of High-Intensity Interval Training is that it’s an anti-ageing workout? I’m not talking about Benjamin Button type of anti-ageing. But as we get older, we produce less and less anabolic hormones. Things like testosterone, HGH, IGF-1 etc. These hormones are like the life force in our bodies. They give us energy and vitality. A good HIIT training workout triggers what we call a Neuroendocrine Response that asks the pituitary and adrenal glands to produce more of these hormones.
Burn More Calories
High Intense Interval Training can burn more calories during the workout than a regular workout. Studies from Pubmed show extensive research that found that HIIT training burned 25-30% more calories. On top of that, HIIT training increases your metabolism for extended periods after the workout. One studies showed that 2 minutes of sprints increase a person metabolism for over 24 hours.
Helps Build Muscle
Besides that fact that exercising normally builds muscle, the Neuroendocrine Response, as mentioned above, increase the anabolic hormones needed to increase muscle mass further. Crossfit founder Greg Gassman suggests that High Intense Interval Training can increase a persons testosterone to simular levels as taking steroids but without the negative side effects.
Among the hormonal responses vital to athletic development are substantial increases in testosterone, insulin-like growth factor, and human growth hormone. Exercising with protocols known to elevate these hormones eerily mimics the hormonal changes sought in exogenous hormonal therapy (steroid use) with none of the deleterious effects.
Can Be Done Without Equipment
Surprisingly, for such an advanced method of training, it can also be done at home with no equipment. All you need is a couple of bodyweight exercises that are dynamic and compound, then a method of execution. Example lets take Tabata as the protocol. 20 seconds on 10 seconds off for 8 rounds. Let’s take just 2 exercises to keep it simple. Sprint for 20 seconds, rest 10 then do Burpees for 20 seconds, rest 10 and sprint again. Continue this until you have done 8 rounds of 20 seconds. Then rest a minute or so and repeat. Each set of 8 rounds is 4 minutes of work, do this 4 times, and you have yourself a little 16-minute high intensity workout.
So that pretty much sums up “What is HIIT Training” if you have any questions, feel free to DM me on my Instagram. That’s the quickest way to get my attention. And if you find this article was useful to you, then please feel free to share it so others can learn and understand from it as well. It helps a lot.
Krix Luther is a Health and Fitness Specialist and one of Asia’s leading Personal Trainers. He is an Ex Professional Muay Thai fighter and Avid Free Diver. At the same time, he is very active, has a passion for gaming, and has his own Twitch stream. You can contact him via his Instagram if you have any questions.