HIIT training: Are you doing it wrong?

HIIT, or High Intensity Interval Training, is a huge buzz –word in the fitness world, but not everyone uses it correctly to reach their goals.  HIIT can help you lose fat, improve conditioning, or even help you get strong on a tight training schedule.  The thing is, you’d use HIIT a little differently to achieve each goal.  That’s especially true for athletes or the experienced trainee.  Just throwing exercises randomly into a training session, without purposefully designing rep schemes and rest periods might work for a novice exerciser, but you’ll soon stop making progress. Let’s take a look at how to effectively design a program for each goal mentioned above.  For our purposes, “Work” will refer to the amount of time (or number of reps) spent performing the exercise of your choice, during each set.  “Rest” will mean the amount of time spent at rest, between bouts of work.

HIIT for Fat Loss: In my opinion, strength training can even be considered a form of HIIT, when short rest periods are intelligently designed into the sessions.  It’s also a very effective way to improve body composition.  I like to use the German Body Comp. Method, pioneered by world famous strength coach Charles Poliquin with my fat loss clients.  You lift moderately heavy weights for sets of 8-12, with a slow tempo, and very short rest periods between sets.  You’ll design total body strength training routines using compound movements, and you’ll superset opposing muscle groups.  This creates a powerful hormone response, producing more Growth Hormone and encouraging fat loss.  If you have the time, try lifting weights with the German Body Comp. Method 3 days per week, and running sprint intervals once or twice per week. If you’re really crunched for time, you could do 5 minute rounds of more intense HIIT, with free weights and/or bodyweight movements.  Try 8-10 reps of work, followed by 20-30 seconds of an aerobic exercise.  A circuit would look something like this:

Work Rest
Upper body strength move 8-10 reps 1 minute between rounds
Cardio move 30 seconds
Lower body strength move 8-10 reps
Cardio move 30 seconds
Core strength move 8-10 reps
* repeat 3 rounds of 5 minutes each

HIIT for Conditioning: There are so many variables to consider when using HIIT for conditioning.  We’ll save the science lesson for another day, but basically your body creates movement using one of a few different energy systems.  Depending on how long the “work” will last, your body chooses the appropriate energy system.  So, when training for a sport, it’s important to know which energy system you’ll need to train in order to succeed.  Does your sport require short, intense bursts of explosion?  Maybe you should train your Alactic Anaerobic System- responsible for work under about 10 seconds in duration.  Is it important to put in maximum effort for up to a minute at a time in your sport?  You might need to train your Lactic Anaerobic System.  Or, if your sport requires you to pace yourself for a long, sustained effort, you should probably train your Aerobic system (Note-  it might be best to use lower intensity training, for a long duration, instead of HIIT training to train your Aerobic system).  In short, the duration of work and rest in your HIIT workouts will be determined by the specific demands of your sport. Don’t just throw a bunch of exercises together and call it a “met-con” circuit!  Design a HIIT session for your specific goals, and train smarter, not harder… well, OK- harder too 🙂 Here are a few super simple ways to train each of the energy systems I mentioned:

Alactic
work/rest
10 seconds explosive, sport specific movement (jump, cut, punch, etc.)
20 seconds “active rest” with low intensity cardio movement
Repeat for 3 rounds of 3-5 minutes
Lactic
work/rest
400 Meter Sprint (one lap around a track)
2 minutes rest
Repeat for 3 sets
Aerobic (NOTE*  This is NOT HIIT.  This is duration cardio)
10 minutes at the highest possible CONSTANT pace on a stationary bike
2 minutes rest
Repeat for 3 sets

If you’d like a custom designed HIIT program from a JoeToPro coach, or any other training program written personally for you, be sure to visit our Become A Member page today.  Train like an athlete.