What is High-Intensity Interval Training?

The idea of getting into shape is a constant in most people’s minds. It’s a commitment of great magnitude, a way of life. Especially as you get older and your metabolism begins to decelerate. Experts say that it’s all in your diet and that you are what you eat. This is true, but if not coupled with an extensive workout/exercise plan, it can be difficult to maintain, and obtain that “dream bod” you so desire.

Looking to get shredded? One of the more effective types of training out there is High-intensity interval training or HIIT. It is also sometimes referred to as high-intensity intermittent exercise (HIIE) or sprint interval training (SIT).

In short, it is a cardiovascular exercise strategy which alternates short periods of intense anaerobic exercise with much less intense recovery periods. The training works in such a way that you do this to the point where you are too exhausted to continue. That’s when you know it is working. If you’re doing it correctly though, a session shouldn’t last longer than 10 minutes. More on this below.

What kind of exercise is HIIT?

High-Intensity Interval Training is a very strenuous, fervent type of exercise. Ever done burpees, over and over again? Exactly, it’s hardcore and you perspire a lot. There is, in fact, a lot more to high-intensity interval training than what its name implies. HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) refers to a very distinct form of training.

HIIT is a cardiovascular session which consists of multiple, remarkably short but effective bursts of extremely arduous work. The theory and reasoning behind high-intensity training is to maximise and increase your cardiovascular work.

How long is a HIIT session?

For your session to qualify as HIIT, you’ll need to give it everything, pushing your body to the limit with every single burst within a session. These bursts can last anywhere between 20 – 90 seconds in length, but as mentioned above, the entire exercise session shouldn’t last any longer than 10 minutes max.

According to Joey Thurman, author of 365 Health and Fitness Hacks That Could Save Your Life, you’re supposed to push your body as far as possible, otherwise, you’re not doing it right. He says the following:
“The idea is to elevate your heart rate for a brief period, followed by resting for a given period. You can train in a 1:1 work-to-rest ratio (sprint for 30 seconds, rest for 30), a 1:2 ratio (sprint for 30 seconds, rest for 1 minute), a 1:3 ratio (sprint for 30 seconds, rest for 1.5 minutes), and so forth.”

How many times per week should you do HIIT training?

According to many experts, if you are doing two to three HIIT sessions a week, you’re doing just fine. What is crucial though is to incorporate 24 hours of rest and recovery in between HIIT sessions.

Dalton Wong, author of The Feel-Good Plan: Happier, Healthier, and Slimmer in 15 Minutes a Day says that if your objective is to work out four times per week, then two HIIT sessions and two resistance training sessions will suffice.

Top three HIIT exercises

If you’re reading this article, it likely you’re just getting into HIIT, so we’ve taken the liberty of putting together our top three, most effective beginner HIIT workouts.

The Burpee Interval Workout

How it’s done:

It is imperative that you finish the following round 4 times, taking a 1-minute rest after completing the burpees in each cycle.

Repetitions: As many as you can in 30 seconds

Jumping Jacks
Repetitions: 60

Repetitions: 20

The Lower-Body Interval Workout

How it’s done:
It is imperative that you finish the following round 4 times, taking a 1-minute rest after completing the calf-raises in each cycle. You’ll need some space for this one, like a field, or even better, a beach!

Sprint your heart out for 30 seconds

Squat Jumps
Do as many squat jumps as you can for 45 seconds

Complete 20 X repetitions on each leg

Calf Raises
Complete 50 reps

This one’s intense, so make sure to get those rest periods in.

The Abs Interval Workout

How it’s done:
It is imperative that you finish the following round 4 times, taking a 1-minute rest after completing the half-burpees in each cycle.

Complete 50 X reps

Bicycle Crunches
Do bicycle crunches for 1-minute max

Complete 15 X sit-ups as quickly as you possibly can

Hanging Knee Raises
15 X repetitions

Oblique Crunches
Complete 20 of these on each side

Half Burpees
Finish off the cycle by doing as many half-burpee reps (AMRAP) as you possibly can in 20 seconds

To start with, you don’t have to go at High-Intensity Interval Training alone. It’s much easier when you’ve got like-minded people encouraging you and cheering you on. At Digme Fitness, we offer a varied range of authentic group exercise classes in an inclusive, community-focused environment. 

Hope to see you in the studio soon!

Geoff Bamber
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Geoff is Chief Executive Office of Digme Fitness. He is a former hedge fund manager and keen amateur triathlete. He has completed 10 Ironman triathlon races, including the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii.