When it comes to blasting away those pesky layers of fat that just won't go away, traditional exercise may not cut it. Many people experience a plateau in their workouts where, although they gain muscle and endurance, they stop losing body fat. To combat this, fitness experts devised a special cardio workout called high intensity interval training, or HIIT. This article will explore the basics of this workout regimen, including its underlying principles and potential benefits for fat loss.
What is HIIT?
HIIT is a unique exercise routine that is intended to eliminate excess body fat. Unlike other cardio workouts that have longer, slower exercises, HIIT consists of quick bursts of intense exercise over a shorter period of time.
The principle behind this exercise method is that, because the body works so hard during the intense workout, it continues to expend energy even after the workout is complete. This is also referred to as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC. As the body uses up more oxygen after a workout, it burns up to nine times the fat that you might be burning if you had done a slower, longer exercise routine, according to AskMen.com. The principle is simple and tends to be very effective for most individuals.
A number of exercises can be incorporated into HIIT, but sprints are one of the most common. This can be done on a track, on the road or on a treadmill. Other options including cycling or using a stationary bike. According to AskMen.com, these bursts of exercise can be anywhere from 15 to 90 seconds in length depending on how fast you will be going and whether you are running or biking. In between each burst, a break should be taken for recovery. A total of 5-to-10 intervals, just two or three times each week is usually adequate. Talk to a fitness instructor or personal trainer to help determine the length and number of exercise bursts that is right for you to achieve maximum fat loss.
A few of the benefits of HIIT are very practical in nature. First of all, doing a shorter, faster workout saves a lot of time. Those who previously believed they didn't have enough time to work out find that HIIT allows them to fit an exercise routine into their busy schedule, even if it's only a five-minute workout. Furthermore, HIIT can save money. Many people find that they are able to complete they HIIT workout outside of the gym, either by using an at-home treadmill or stationary bike or by doing sprints at a local track. The convenience and time-saving opportunities with HIIT have made it a popular exercise choice.
There are several great health benefits associated with HIIT as well, including:
- Endurance: HIIT is great for improving cardiovascular fitness. The quick bursts of exercise increase the amount of oxygen you take in during physical activity, meaning you'll be able to last longer while running or playing sports.
- Burning calories: Individuals who utilize the HIIT principles find that they burn much more calories by exercising vigorously for short periods than they do by exercising at a moderate pace for longer periods. And, as mentioned above, those calories continue to be burned off well after the workout is complete.
- Building muscle: By doing HIIT exercises, you build your fast-twitch muscle fibers, which are the types of muscles associated with intense bursts of exercise. This builds muscle mass, whereas working your slow-twitch muscle fibers with endurance training can actually decrease some muscle mass.
- Improved mood and energy: Some believe that working out in shorter bursts results in an improved mood and increased energy when compared to longer, slower exercise. Though more studies are needed to confirm this, it's no surprise that those who use HIIT are less likely to get bored during their workouts since they are intense and quick.
Who Should Use HIIT
Because it involves such intense activity, HIIT is best suited for people for are already exercising regularly. This ensures a basic level of endurance and physical capability that fits with the HIIT regimen. Plus, it helps those individuals who work out often but have hit a weight loss plateau or who want to gain some muscle mass. However, if you are just starting to exercise regularly, you may be able to alter the HIIT methods to meet your needs. Talk to a personal trainer about how you can incorporate HIIT exercises into your routine if this is the case.
In addition to this, there are a few people who should not use HIIT exercises because of the risks involved, including those who have:
- Angina or chest pain
- High or low blood pressure
- Chronic muscle aches and pains
- A recent injury that is not fully healed yet
- Problems with obesity
If you have any concerns before starting an HIIT regimen, talk to your doctor about possible exercise options and whether this is a good choice for you for fat loss.