by Scott Tousignant · Filed Under: Cardio
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is an outstanding form of exercise to improve your fitness level, conditioning, and burn the fat from your body. This isn’t breaking news for many of our valued readers and fans. But HIIT has been around for much longer than the recent craze that’s been buzzing around the fat loss air waves over the past few years. It’s actually been an effective method of training for decades. It’s been all the marketing hype that’s created the widespread movement… and the controversy to go along with it.
If you’re not totally familiar with my fitness background, I received my degree in Human Kinetics with Honors in Movement Science from the University of Windsor back in 1999. A good chunk of my focus was spent on Sport Psychology and mindset, but a huge chunk of it was spent on Biomechanics, Anatomy, and Sport Physiology.
For extra credit we had opportunities to participate (be a guinea pig), in scientific research and studies. One of those studies that took place within one of my Exercise Physiology classes was on the topic of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). The test was performed on a special stationary bike and we were instructed to go “All Out!” for the speed portion of the interval followed by slow pedaling for the rest interval. At the end of the test a blood sample was taken from us and our VO2 Max was measured as well.
During the test most of us felt nauseous and some of us either passed out, puked, or both. Sounds like fun eh At least it boosted our marks a bit All kidding aside I learned a great deal from this experience.
Since my University days, I’ve spent a fair amount of time reviewing the latest research on High Intensity Interval Training… mainly to clear up a lot of the controversy and go beyond the marketing hype and claims.
Some of the research that I’ve come across has been based on sprint/walk intervals such as a study out of Australia, which found that a 6 second sprint followed by 12 seconds of walking produced desirable fat loss results in their test subjects.
Much of the research on HIIT has been done by using some form of stationary bike. The duration of the work/rest intervals has varied, but some research has shown that the shorter intervals produce greater results, such as a study performed by Professor Steve Boutcher, the Head of the Health and Exercise Science program in the School of Medical Sciences at the University of New South Wales, Australia. (I’m not sure why the Australian’s have performed so much research on HIIT, but it’s great to see that their keeping at it.)
Professor Boutcher’s research found that performing HIIT with a work interval of 8 seconds and a rest interval of 12 seconds produced the most desirable results in their test subjects.
I’m not one to read a single research paper and base all of my philosophies on that one training protocol simply because it was shown to produce the best results. When I perform High Intensity Interval Training I mix up the length of the intervals. For example…
The bottom line is that you too, should vary your protocol and see which strategies create the biggest impact on your body. With all this variety there is no reason for you to get bored with working out.
Since I brought up the word ‘boredom’, the thought of sitting on a stationary bike for 20-30 minutes may not be very appealing to you. It’s just about as appealing as running on a treadmill and staring at a wall. That’s why I love to perform a lot of my HIIT training on my outdoor mountain bike. It’s so much more invigorating for me to get outside, surround myself with nature, and feel the wind in my hair (oops… the wind over my bald head). I bring along a Gymboss timer to alert me for the interval splits. I set it to beep and vibrate just in case I don’t hear it when a car is passing by or the wind is too loud.
Unfortunately we get hit fairly hard by winter here in Canada and there are 4 months out of the year where I am forced to ride the stationary bike indoors. I don’t mind it too much. I pop in an educational audio in my mp3 player, watch part of a movie, or read a book. This makes it much easier and exciting to get on the stationary bike.
Stationary bikes are fairly inexpensive and you can program your desired intervals so it adjusts the resistance automatically. What I typically do is increase both my speed and resistance when I do the “working” interval on the stationary bike. This gives my legs a great pump.
Occasionally I perform running sprint/walk intervals, but running is very taxing on my joints and my body can usually only handle it twice per month. I do it for variety, but I truly love the bike intervals… plus, high intensity interval training on a bike has shown to be the most effective form of HIIT to burn belly fat.
In general, the HIIT methods that involve a great emphasis on the legs have produced the best results. So even walking up to the squat rack and performing High Intensity Intervals of Squatting/Light Marching can produce great results. Our Fat Loss Quickie members have performed a variation of this squat interval and they’ve had a lot of fun with it: 100 Rep Squat Cardio Challenge
A word of caution… be careful not to over perform these forms of HIIT. If you are performing your intervals on a bike or using exercises like squats and even sprints, your body will be taking a beating and you may not be giving it enough time to recover, especially if you are also performing a leg workout during the week. This is another reason for you to vary your intervals… to prevent over-training and injuries. The short sprint like intervals can be very taxing on your body and I don’t recommend performing them more than 3 times per week.
Ideally, Angie and I love to combine HIIT with long duration cardio throughout the week in addition to resistance training. As great as the claims are when it comes to HIIT, we find that some “Fitness Experts” get carried away and will prescribe that you only perform a 4 minute HIIT session following the Tabata protocol, just 3 times per week. They’ll go as far as saying that you are wasting your time if you train any more than that…
…well I don’t know about you, but speaking for myself, I need to workout a lot more than just 12 minutes per week in order to burn fat and sculpt my body.
Many of the studies that I have reviewed about High Intensity Interval Training have been performed over a 20-30 minute time period. So you’re basically looking at the same duration as you may perform a steady state long duration cardio session, but you are challenging yourself in a different way.
NOTE: Long Duration Cardio does not = Marathon
Angie and I love to perform quick 10 minute workouts, but our workouts are more frequent. We perform a 10-minute workout and a 10-minute HIIT session every weekday in addition to a few long duration cardio sessions. That’s what has produced the best results for us and it’s a small time investment.
This is what our Fat Loss Quickie program is based on… breaking your workouts into manageable 10-minute chunks. You can perform the quickie cardio and quickie workout back to back, but Angie and I, along with our members, have found that splitting up the workout and cardio session produces the most desirable results. For example, you may perform the 10-minute cardio session first thing in the morning and do the 10-minute quickie workout when you get home from work and before you refuel yourself at dinner. For optimal results you can add a few 30 minute bike rides or jogging sessions into the mix.
How Intense Is Intense?
That’s been a question that I’ve received frequently when I discus HIIT. As I mentioned above, when I participated in the research study we were instructed to go all out during the ‘work interval’. In other words, give it everything that you’ve got. The result… nausea, fainting, and puking. I don’t think that’s what you want to do after every HIIT session… correct?
For the past few years fitness professionals have been advising that you push yourself as hard as you can during the work interval, but not completely crazy all out where you are going to puke after. The harder that you push yourself, the shorter the duration that you’ll be able to last. That’s good news if you want to shorten up your workouts, but not everybody is willing to push themselves that hard.
New research has come about that has revealed that you don’t need to push yourself to the max during the working interval in order to produce awesome results. I must give credit to my buddy Tom Venuto for first bringing this to my attention in a well written article within his Burn The Fat Inner Circle.
Tom also published his insights to this research at on his Burn The Fat Blog, which I highly recommend you read: A Practical Model For High Intensity Interval Training
This was very welcome news for Angie and I as well as our Fat Loss Quickie members because the Fat Loss Quickie programs includes a mix of the Higher Intensity Cardio exercises such as jump squats and burpees, as well as cardio exercises that are not quite as intense, such as jumping jacks and skipping. Previously some “fat loss experts” shunned at the use of jumping jacks in a HIIT protocol because they are not intense enough. All that Angie and I knew was that it sure was working for us and our members and now there’s research to back it up.
Here’s two quickie cardio sessions that you can try out…
So, what is the best way to perform High Intensity Interval Training?
As I have mentioned, it appears that intervals on a bike produce the best results, especially while following a shorter interval protocol, such as 8 seconds of work followed by 12 seconds of rest for a total duration of 20-30 minutes.
But, the best way to perform High Intensity Interval Training is to vary it up and include activities that you really enjoy into the mix. Doing intervals on my bike outdoors in my #1 HIIT activity, but I also enjoy doing intervals on a small hill at a local park. Some of my friends really love performing stadium stair running as their intervals, while others love doing their intervals while running around a local high school track. Rowing is another exercise that you can perform HIIT with and it’s very effective.
There is a group of people in my town that enjoy performing intervals in groups. This is a HIIT method that my coaches had us perform on my high school cross country team…
We would run in single file and the person at the back would sprint to the front of the pack and set the new jogging pace. Then the next person at the back would sprint to the front and set the jogging pace. This is a really fun way to perform HIIT because it’s in a group setting with social support tied into it. Other members of the group will motivate you to push yourself and sprint to the front of the pack. If the pace that you set at the front is too slow, everyone behind you will encourage you to pick up the pace. If you were running on your own, you may experience some times when you want to slow down or stop all together. In a group setting you need to keep up with the group. It’s one way to force yourself to progress and step outside of your comfort zone.
Mix this up with some fun and not quite as intense exercises, such as jumping jacks, skipping, mountain climbers, hip rotations, shuffle steps, cross country ski movement (on the spot), and other low impact exercises, and you have a recipe for success.
Of course, it doesn’t matter how great your HIIT protocol is if you have poor nutrition habits. Following a detailed and precision nutrition plan such as Tom Venuto’s Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle or his more advanced Holy Grail Body Transformation Program will ensure that you are achieving the maximum results possible with your training program and produce the sexy physique that you desire to sculpt.
What’s your favorite way to perform HIIT? Angie and I would love to hear from you. Share your thoughts on HIIT in the comment box below and let’s get a great discussion going.
To achieving your limitless potential,