Together with the busy schedules that modern life throws at us, a sedentary lifestyle can be a real challenge to maintaining an exercise routine. So, when you squeeze in time for your workouts, you want every minute to count. Here comes High-Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, that aims at delivering maximum health benefits in a minimal amount of time.
You might have heard the term before, as it's become a trend in recent years. We've cut through all the hype and compiled a list of 10 awesome benefits of HIIT + 5 turbo-charged HIIT workouts for insane results to get you started.
What Is HIIT Training?
First things first, what do we mean by HIIT training? The abbreviation might make the whole thing seem like rocket science, but actually, the concept is pretty straightforward. It's based on combining short periods of intense cardio exercise with even shorter cooldown intervals.
A single round can take you anywhere from 10 seconds to 5 minutes, depending on the nature of your training and goals. The aim is to reach 80% or higher of your heart capacity and maintain such aerobic benefits throughout the resting period.
Some programs throw in some simple, cooldown activities to prevent your heart rate from dropping down before you jump back to your next round of vigorous exercise. Furthermore, professional athletes can take HIIT to another level and push for 100% of their heart capacity to build even more endurance and stamina.
What Are the Benefits of HIIT Training?
1. Burning More Calories
The amount of calories you burn in a steady-state exercise, where your heart rate doesn't fluctuate that much, is the same as those burned during a HIIT workout. The main difference lies in the post-training period, as your body needs more calories to recover from the intensive stress that HIIT imposes.
Such a concept is known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption orEPOC for short, and it can change the way people track their calories. Fitness trackers don't usually put your EPOC calories into consideration, so you might end up underestimating your burned calories.
People trying to lose weight will start to notice faster changes than what they're used to with regular workouts. On the other hand, people using HIIT to become more shredded should account for these under-the-hood calories and modify their diet accordingly to see the muscle gains they're after.
Try This Treadmill HIIT Workout
You can start with a 5-minute brisk walk as a warm-up. Then, run for 1 minute at a speed of 7 mph followed by 2 extra minutes at 5 mph. Now that the first part of the workout is all done, walk for another minute to recover before moving to the next part.
Moving on, run at 10-12 mph for 30 seconds, then get the speed down to 4 mph for another minute. Finally, a 4-minute cooldown round brings you to the end of your treadmill HIIT workout.
2. Quick Fat Loss
In addition to increasing your metabolic rate and burned calories, HIIT shifts your body's metabolism towards getting its energy from fat rather than carbohydrates. This means you'll notice more significant drops in your waist circumference promptly, motivating you to keep going.
HIIT was shown to reduce visceral fat as well. This is the fat that surrounds our vital organs and has a role to play in diseases like diabetes and hypercholesterolemia. So, HIIT does both; it gives you a better body shape, in addition to keeping you healthy.
Try This Spin Bike HIIT Workout
Set your bike at a high-intensity resistance level and pedal as hard as you can for 40-60 seconds, then decrease the resistance and go for another 40-60 seconds. Keep alternating between the high and low resistance cycles for as many sets as you can.
3. Muscle Gains
Since HIIT programs involve different muscle groups in one comprehensive workout, you might start to see some gains in your muscle bulk. Your mileage might vary, though, as the intensive nature of HIIT can be enough to boost the muscle mass of newbies.
However, the all-body, non-focused approach won't be as effective on its own for people who’ve been working out regularly. It's also worth noting that the most gains will be in the trunk and legs, as these muscle groups are the core for many HIIT workouts. Nevertheless, your muscle power and overall endurance will see significant improvements, as shown by a2017 study.
Try This Weights HIIT Workout
Clean and press is a compound exercise that involves your core, legs, and shoulder muscles. Start with your dumbbells on the floor, and pick them up in a position similar to the start of a deadlift. Then, move the weights towards your mid-body and use your arms and shoulders to press the dumbbells overhead.
Repeat this movement for 30 seconds, then take another 30 seconds to cool down. Aim for 10 sets and adjust your workout according to your endurance and weights used.
4. Reducing Blood Pressure
Cardiovascular health is another area where HIIT delivers major benefits. The intensive workouts were shown to reduce blood pressure and heart rate more effectively than traditional workouts. Such results are especially evident in overweight or obese people at risk of heart diseases as per astudy published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
It's worth mentioning that there isn't enough evidence of similar gains in individuals who already have normal blood pressure with no significant risks of heart problems.
5. Improving Blood Sugar Levels
Continuing with the health benefits that HIIT delivers, researchers have found that the intensive workouts not only reduce blood sugar levels but also improve insulin resistance. The latter part is particularly important for people at risk of diabetes type 2.
This time around, both people with diabetes and healthy individuals maintain more controlled blood sugar levels following HIIT workouts compared to traditional training. This is such a big deal for long-term pancreas health, as shown by ameta-analysis published in the World Obesity journal.
6. Better Oxygen Utilization
No matter what your fitness goals are, cardio exercises are integral to your workout routine. Like all other muscles in your body, the heart is a muscle that needs training to become stronger and more effective in pumping blood to the other organs.
That said, people following HIIT workouts demonstrate benefits related to their cardiovascular health and blood flow. That's not all; the intensive training creates the perfect conditions that entices muscles to improve their oxygen consumption. This allows for better endurance and less fatigue.
To give you a better perspective, let's review astudy conducted on two groups, one going for steady-state training and the other following a HIIT program for 8 weeks. People from both groups showed up to 25% improvement in their muscle oxygen consumption; however, getting there was different for each respective group.
Subjects on regular training needed 120 minutes of exercise per week, while only 60 minutes of HIIT training per week were enough to pull off the trick. So, leading a busy life with a tight schedule is no longer an excuse to pursue your fitness goals.
Try This Rowing Machine HIIT Workout
Start by rowing for 3 minutes at a manageable pace, then exert maximum effort for 60 seconds. Take 60 seconds to cooldown by rowing at your base pace, and follow this by another high-intensity 60-second round.
You can repeat this workout as many times, depending on your fitness level and endurance. Beginners can start with 3 sets, while advanced players can aim for 10 sets.
7. Improved Blood Lipid Profile
In addition to helping you lose fat, HIIT workouts were shown to decrease, particularly the "bad" LDL cholesterol levels responsible for heart diseases. Furthermore, it also boosts the "good" HDL cholesterol responsible for preventing lipid collection in blood vessels.
Such benefits were shown in a study comparing regular weight lifters to lifters adding HIIT to their workout routine. The lipid profiles were more favorable in the second group. You can read morehere.
8. A Welcome Challenge
HIIT can bring in a new challenge to spice up things a little bit for people who have been working out for a while now, and their weekly exercise routine started to become boring. Although HIIT workouts are shorter than the traditional exercise session, they require more of your attention, and trust us; the payoff is totally worth it.
Seeing yourself conquering new grounds and pushing your body to the limits is a thrill that only HIIT can deliver. No two workouts are the same, as you're always trying to get better numbers and further boost your endurance.
9. No Equipment Necessary
There’s no limitation to what types of workouts you can throw into your HIIT programs. You've got plenty of aerobics to choose from, and many don't even involve any equipment. As long as you maintain the bursts of intensive activity followed by brief cooldown periods, you're free to experiment with different workouts.
Try This Bodyweight HIIT Workout
Burpees are perfect for getting your whole body moving. Starting from a standing position, go into a squat. Then, get to the ground into a plank position, followed by lowering your body to the floor and using the momentum to push yourself back up by jumping to the initial standing position.
Go for 20 or 30-second sets, followed by a 10-second recovery period. As you master the move, you can keep pushing your round time to add more challenge.
10. Exercise Anywhere
Since you don't necessarily need any special equipment to get started, you can take your workouts anywhere. Going to the gym is no longer a barrier to leading a healthy life, as you can exercise right from home. Given the current situation of the world, home HIIT workouts are more relevant than ever.
Furthermore, HIIT's versatility means you can modify your workouts according to your time and space constraints. So, basically, if you just have a clean, flat surface, you're good to go.
HIIT workouts remove a lot of the barriers that prevent many people from exercising. With less time investment, no need to go to the gym or have special equipment, and quicker results, HIIT allows you to pursue the ideal body shape with tons of added health benefits on top.