A Consumer’s Guide to Practical HIIT Workouts

A Consumer’s Guide to Practical HIIT Workouts

“Easy does it!” was the theme of physical fitness in the 80s and 90s. Spearheaded by Dr. Kenneth Cooper, steady-state aerobic training was considered the single best type of exercise to lose fat, strengthen the heart, and improve your quality of life. Today we know better.

Aerobic training certainly has many benefits, but one of the problems with this form of exercise is that it makes the body more efficient. As such, that spinning workout which enabled you to burn 350 calories an hour when you started may now only burn 300. Let’s look at some research.

A 12-week study on the effects of aerobic exercise was published in 1998 in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition (IJSN). The group that did aerobic exercise lost an average of only 1.3 kilos (2.9 pounds), leading head researcher Alan Utter to conclude, “Moderate exercise training has a minor, nonsignificant effect on fat mass.” On a larger scale, in a review of 493 studies on aerobic exercise between 1969 and 1994, researchers found that 15 weeks of aerobic exercise typically produced a weight loss of only 3.3 kilos (7.3 pounds).

Fortunately, there is a better way to get in shape – a faster way. It’s called High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and involves alternating between bouts of high-intensity training (such as sprinting) with periods of low-intensity activities (such as walking).

An extensive review of HIIT training was published in 2006 in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. The review looked at 43 studies involving 3476 participants. As with the IJSN study, the researchers found that low-intensity exercise “resulted in small weight losses across studies.” However, they found that it was possible to increase “the magnitude of weight loss” by increasing the intensity of the training.

With that background in theory, let’s start by looking at some practical sprint training workouts using HIIT methods. Each workout builds upon the conditioning level of the next. For example, a beginner could perform this sequence: Level I, 3x week for 1 week; Level II, 3x week for 2-3 weeks; and finally Level III, 3x week for 2-3 weeks. Here are the workouts:

Level I (Introductory Workout)

A. 10-minute warm-up, walking
B. 4 minute running at 80-90 max heart rate
C. 5-10 minute cool down, slow walking

Level II

A. Warm up 10 min, walking
B. 4 minute running at 80-90 max heart rate
C. 2 minute walking
D. 4 minute sprinting at 85-95 max heart rate
E. 5-10 minute cool down, slow walking

Level III

A. 10 minute warm-up, walking
B. 4 minutes running at 80-90 max heart rate
C. 2 minutes walking
D. 4 minute sprinting at 85-95 max heart rate
E. 2 minute walking
F. 4 minute sprinting at 85-95 max heart rate
G. 2 minute walking
H. 4 minute sprinting at 85-95 max heart rate
I. 5-10 minute cool down, slow walking

From here, you could repeat each level and manipulate the loading parameters to make the workouts more challenging. For example, you could increase the number of high-intensity intervals or run uphill.

If sprinting is impractical or your have orthopedic issues that prevent you from sprinting, you can use HIIT protocols with a stationary bike, elliptical cycle, or a treadmill. Cycle sprints (consisting of 60 maximum sprints of 8-seconds with 12-seconds rest) performed 3 days a week for 12 weeks were shown to reduce body fat by up to 5 kilos (11 pounds) in those who are overweight while dramatically improving health markers. Here is a beginning/intermediate level program using intervals and unique movements on a treadmill:

Exercise Time Speed Incline

A. Walking (warm-up) 5 minutes slow flat
B. Moonwalk 3 minutes slow high
C. Walking 1-2 minutes slow flat
D. High Knee March 3 minutes med high
E. Walking 1-2 minutes slow flat
F. Sideways Shuffle 3 minutes* med med
G. Walking 1-2 minutes slow flat
H. Lunge Walk 3 minutes slow high
I. Walking 1-2 minutes slow flat
J. Crossover 3 minutes* med med
K. Walking (cool down) 5 minutes slow flat

*90 seconds each direction

Battle ropes are also a popular method of HIIT training and are often available in large commercial gyms. Here is a beginner/intermediate level workout that will get your blood pumping:

A. Walking (warm-up), 5 minutes
B. Double Wave, 2 x 10 seconds, rest 30 seconds
C. 2 minutes walking
D. Snake, 3 x 15 seconds, rest 30 seconds
E. 2 minutes walking
F. Alternate Wave, 3 x 20 seconds, rest 30 seconds
G. Slow Walking (cool down), 5-10 minutes

These are just a few examples. If you want to become a student of physical and athletic fitness, an excellent resource with numerous practical examples of HITT workouts can be found in Maximum Interval Training by John Cissik and Jay Dawes.

If you are committed to performing aerobics for its health benefits and you like to perform aerobics, fine. But if you are in a hurry to lose fat and get in the best shape of your life, consider the benefits of High Intensity Interval Training. We also have our Complete Guide To Sprint Training e-book available in the store.



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