HIIT workouts help burn fat, gain strength, boost brain power, and improve physical performance.
With benefits ranging from your appearance to your performance, HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) has been proven to give you the most results in the least amount of time. Since there are plenty of different HIIT workouts available to you, HIIT can always keep you from losing interest in working out. If you don’t like to do the same thing every day, this type of exercise is great for you.
Of course, you can stick to the same HIIT workouts for great results, too, if you want. The best part? It’s good for all levels because everyone is required to perform at full intensity for a brief period of time.
HIIT workouts are great for your body to:
- Burn Fat
- Gain Strength
- Boost Brain Function
- Improve Physical Performance
What is a HIIT Workout?
After one particular combat conditioning training session, my teammates and I sat on the ground covered in sweat. I looked around to see how the rest of the people in the class were doing. Exhausted, breathing heavily, and drenched in sweat.
Struggling to catch our breath, everyone seemed to agree that it was the hardest workout of the week. The craziest thing? This workout only took 25 minutes and consisted of eight different workout stations!
It was definitely shorter than our normal training sessions, and yet we felt more exhausted than if we had our normal hour and a half training. HIIT workouts are naturally short but still physically demanding.
So, how does it work? In a HIIT workout, you perform an exercise at full intensity for a certain period of time and follow it up with a brief rest phase. If you’re doing it right, the rest phase doesn’t feel like enough to fully recover (but is still essential).
These workouts tend to feel so intense that there really is no need to make a long training session out of them. That’s why my team was struggling to catch their breath after only 25 minutes.
High-Intensity Interval Training or HIIT gives you some serious bang for your buck. You’ll burn fat, gain strength, boost brain function, and improve your physical performance with a short workout. Of course, just because it’s short doesn’t mean that it’s easy! These workouts will feel very strenuous while you’re doing them.
Since full intensity varies from person to person, each person is still guaranteed full exertion in a HIIT workout, even if they’re doing it at the same time. This is one of the reasons why it’s so popular in CrossFit as well as strength and conditioning programs regardless of sport.
There are plenty of ways to get started with HIIT. First, it’s very useful if you get a timer specifically for HIIT. There are plenty of phone apps for this. If you’re already on a workout program, you certainly don’t have to abandon your current workouts either. You can finish off your workouts with a HIIT session that only lasts a few minutes!
To see a few examples of HIIT workouts and to learn more about eating before and after the workout, see this article:
Now that you’ve found workouts that barely take any time, being “too busy” to train isn’t a valid excuse anymore (especially since it improves your brain function). Are you getting your exercise in?
How to Burn Fat with HIIT
Research shows that HIIT improves insulin sensitivity, which helps boost fat loss. That means that HIIT is great for you if you’re trying to shed those extra pounds. When your insulin sensitivity improves, you become less likely to store food as fat. Because of this, insulin resistant people (such as diabetics) tend to have more trouble losing fat.
According to another study, HIIT also increases post-exercise energy expenditure or Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC). After a HIIT session, the body continues to consume oxygen and expend calories at an elevated rate for a longer amount of time, which leads to a higher and longer caloric burn after exercise.
So, you’ll continue to burn fat even after you stop exercising. Basically, your body burns more calories from HIIT than it would during a steady state cardio session over the period of an hour.
Ways to Improve Strength with HIIT
In addition to fat loss, a study showed an increase in strength when test subjects trained with HIIT as part of their programming. This does seem to make intuitive sense as you are putting full-on effort doing the working sets. This results in your body’s recovery response to increase your strength.
This type of strength also serves to have more endurance too, so you’ll be able to stay stronger for longer periods of time. This is extremely useful if you play a sport or have physically demanding hobbies.
You’ll also want to be sure to do exercises that make you stronger as you age. You need a strong muscular system to support your bones and live an active lifestyle.
How HIIT Boosts Brain Function
What’s also great about HIIT is the brain benefits. A study analyzed over 12,000 records from 39 studies of adults 50 years and over, and found cognitive functions improved in participants that participated in both aerobic and resistance exercise.
If you find yourself in an unproductive state of mind, some HIIT may be exactly what the doctor ordered. New research suggests that HIIT boosts memory as well. Personally, I’ve always found myself more productive after a good training session.
Another way to give your brain a boost is through eating the right foods. Read this article to see which brain-boosting foods you should add to your diet!
Improve Physical Performance with HIIT
HIIT, according to a study, significantly improves physical performance. Most activities and sports resemble HIIT more than steady state cardio exercise in that the intensity varies during the sport or activity instead of being a single light intensity for a long period of time.
A Few Examples of HIIT
Not all HIIT workouts are the same. You can completely customize the exercises to fit your individual needs and even the time periods that you exercise and rest.
Here are a few popular examples:
- Circuit training
- Every minute on the minute (EMOM)
- Running intervals (that can also be combined with bodyweight exercises)
Circuit training consists of multiple different exercises done one after another. You can choose to do a certain number of reps or to do the exercises for a certain period of time (e.g., 30 seconds) before going onto the next exercise. Some workouts have rest programmed into circuit training while other workouts use your walking time between different workout “stations” as the resting period.
The Tabata method of HIIT consists of 20 seconds of maximum effort followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated a total of eight times. One of these sets only takes four minutes total, but they sure are effective. You can do them with any exercise, but people will generally stick to one exercise for the whole cycle.
Every Minute on the Minute (EMOM)
In an EMOM workout, you’ll set a timer and start doing your exercise at the start of the minute for a specific number of reps. After you complete the reps, you use the rest of the minute to recover, and start over again on the next minute. This particular variation is great for exercises with heavier weights, but bodyweight exercises are perfectly fine for this, too..
Instead of long-distance steady state cardio workouts, you can implement HIIT into your runs instead. This usually involves sprinting or running at a fast pace for a set amount of time, then returning to a slower pace for the resting phase. Sports teams do this all the time.
HIIT sessions are always short and sweet. Advanced strength and conditioning programs still limit this type of interval training to roughly 15 to 25 minutes, with 30 minutes being the absolute maximum. They also always seem to spike your metabolism! I find that I’m much hungrier after doing HIIT workouts. It’s important to get at least 15 grams of protein within 30 minutes after your workout to refuel your muscles. Also, since HIIT workouts raise your heart rate and make you sweat, be sure to get electrolytes from trace minerals.