By Sammy Cusimano
Burn more calories in a much shorter amount of time while also increasing muscle tone – does this sound too good to be true? Not only is it possible, but also a much more effective and preferred method of exercising in the modern workout routine. It is High Intensity Interval Training is the new standard in cardiovascular exercise. Whereas traditional static, moderate intensity cardio of remaining at a steady pace and resistance throughout the entire workout is commonplace in many fitness clubs, High Intensity Interval Training (H.I.I.T.) is quickly becoming the new method-of- choice of fitness enthusiasts for a time-efficient, effective, challenging, and intense workout.
The advantages of H.I.I.T. far outweigh the increased intensity needed to complete the workout. Because of the bursts of intense exercise less time is needed to complete a H.I.I.T. workout. Rather than spending 30-45 minutes exercising on an elliptical machine, the same amount of calories can be burnt in a H.I.I.T. workout in a fraction of the time while also increasing the heart rate to a higher level in a shorter time as well. H.I.I.T. is also much more effective as a muscle toning technique than traditional moderate intensity cardio. A few rounds of high intensity blasts on an elliptical or stationary bicycle will feel very similar to having completed a few sets of leg extensions or leg presses. Muscles will very likely be sore the next day as if a weights workout was completed. This is a good sign. It means that muscles are growing and becoming stronger. As muscles grow metabolism increases. This will help pay off dividends for your fitness goals of not only losing weight but keeping weight from ever coming back.
So what is it that makes H.I.I.T. such an effective training method? In order to understand the positive effects of H.I.I.T. it is important to understand the basic anatomy of a skeletal muscle. There are 2 main types of muscle fibers: fast twitch and slow twitch. Fast twitch fibers are designed to help move the body when explosive movements are utilized. Anaerobic exercise (weight lifting and calisthenics) and plyometric exercise (box jumps and burpees) are dependent on fast twitch muscle fibers. They are the strength and explosion muscle fibers. During the high intensity segments of a H.I.I.T. workout, the fast twitch fibers are utilized to the maximum. This is the main difference between H.I.I.T. and moderate intensity cardio. H.I.I.T. will work out the fast twitch muscle fibers in a much greater amount than moderate or light intensity exercise. The other type of muscle fibers are the slow twitch fibers. They are the endurance and stamina fibers. When running or cycling for long distances the slow twitch muscle fibers are the engine propelling the body’s movements. H.I.I.T. is the perfect combination of both fast twitch muscle fibers and slow twitch muscle fibers. That is how it can be not only metabolic (burning calories) but also anabolic (building and toning muscle).
According to Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, a study was done in 2014 consisting of 29 sedentary males with varied levels of cardiovascular disease. One group of the males engaged in daily moderate intensity exercise while the other group of males exercised using a combination of moderate intensity exercise combined with High Intensity Interval Training for a 12 week period. At the conclusion of the study, “Relative VO2max increased 10.1% in the HIIT group” (Dalleck, Nolan, Roxburgh, Weatherwax 2014). This means that the males who used the H.I.I.T. method were able to increase the efficiency of their cardiovascular system. This leads to better performance and increased physical capacity for exercise.
The best way to start with a H.I.I.T. program is to begin with a basic fast/slow interval. Warm up for a minute or two at a very light intensity and then for 30 seconds, increase the speed to a sprint/high intensity pace. Then return to the light intensity speed again for a minute. Continue this basic rotation of 30 seconds high intensity/60 seconds low intensity for a total of 15-20 mins. The amount of calories burned in this session will exceed the amount of calories burned in a continuous moderate intensity cardio workout that may last 30-40 mins. Conclude the workout with a 2-3 minute very light cool down until breathing returns to normal again.
The beauty of H.I.I.T. is that the sky is the limit for possibilities of programs. It is an opportunity for you to be creative with your cardio workouts. Adjust the resistance on the bicycle and elliptical machines along with the changes in fast and slow intensity to take the workout to an even more advanced level. On a treadmill you can increase the incline for the higher intensity intervals if you are not able to sprint or jog. Alternate from walking on a flat level to an incline to create the high low/high intensity changes in the routine.
With the hectic schedule that so many people follow these days, time is everything. Now your workout will take less time and produce much better results. Use the High Intensity Interval Training basic low/high intervals to maximize your calorie burning capacity, cardiovascular ability, and muscle tone. It will always be a positive challenge that will take you to a new level of confidence and power in your fitness routine. H.I.I.T. is the new standard. It will revitalize your entire workout!