Time for Beast Mode: why HIIT is your new favorite workout

Time for Beast Mode: why HIIT is your new favorite workout

Looking to up your exercise routine to reach your goals? Feel like you’ve plateaued on your fitness journey? It might be time to add some more intense workouts to your fitness plan and kick it into beast mode! HIIT – or high-intensity interval training workouts – are a quick routine with increased health benefits compared to longer and more moderate intensity workouts.

If you’re looking to track your fitness journey and which workouts you’re loving or hating, these journals and logs can help you hold yourself accountable.

What is high intensity exercise?

A high intensity workout, also known as high-intensity interval training or HIIT, is a combination of short bursts of intense exercise with periods of rest or lower-intensity exercises in between. This can sometimes be a mix of aerobic exercises and resistance training, however most of the main health benefits are found when focusing just on a high intensity aerobic workout.

Benefits of high intensity interval training

Professional athletes have been experiencing the benefits that high-intensity interval training yields for a long time, and recent workout trends have definitely made HIIT into a gym and exercise class staple.

The most agreed upon benefit of HIIT exercises is the boost to cardio-respiratory health. It specifically improves the VO2 max, which is a measure of the maximum amount of oxygen the body can use during exercise. By increasing your VO2 max, you can improve your overall health and reduce the risk of heart related illnesses and stroke, improve your moods, and help you sleep better.

Another VO2 max-related benefit is the increase of the post-workout metabolic rate. This excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, also known as EPOC or afterburn, means that the body will continue to burn calories after you finish exercising. Increased calorie burning time means an increase in overall calories burned, aiding any weight loss goals you have.

Aside from the health benefits of high intensity cardio, a HIIT workout plan is shorter and more versatile than other types of routines. The point of high intensity aerobic training is to be intense and brief, so they’re easy to fit into your morning, lunch, or evening free time. Many suggested workout plans require little to no equipment, making them easy to do from anywhere. Sometimes all you need is as little as resistance or training bands, a single cardio machine, or just space to move around.

How often should you do HIIT workouts?

Doing a HIIT workout every day isn’t going to get you fitter faster than other types of exercises. Too much high intensity exercise can lead to burnout or repetitive strain injuries, setting you back on your fitness journey while you recover. Instead, you should aim for around 75 minutes of HIIT cardio in your weekly routine in order to get the maximum benefits with a minimal risk of overworking.

Mixing HIIT workouts with lower intensity exercises will work out your body in different ways, leading to a more balanced way of training. For example, alternating HIIT and strength training on different days will give different areas of your body time to recover and prevent avoidable damage.

Five HIIT exercises to include in your routine

Now that HIIT is a staple of many exercise routines, it is easy to find information on high intensity workouts for beginners, both online or in books. But be cautious of everything labeled HIIT, as not all workouts are created equal. The important aspect of HIIT is to workout the body almost to the max for short periods, followed by much lower intensity workouts or rest. Interval training can sometimes be labeled as HIIT, but interval training has longer workout periods than rest periods compared to HIIT. HIIT generally has a work-to-rest ratio of 1:1, or 1:2. The longer the rest time, the harder you’ll be able to push yourself in the work time.

It can be daunting to figure out what to do and what you want out of a HIIT workout. To help you narrow it down, here are 5 of our favorite routines that require either no equipment or just one machine.

1. Hill Sprint

Find a hill with a medium incline. Once warmed up, sprint uphill for 20-30 seconds, then walk back down to your starting position (this is the rest period.) Repeat 10 times.

man sprinting up stairs

2. Tabata squats

Once warmed up, do squats (without additional weights) for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds. Repeat 8 times.

3. 15-minute treadmill

First, warm up with a 3-minute jog to get your body ready, then immediately sprint as fast as you can for 15-20 seconds followed by a walk or gentle jog for 1 minute. Repeat 10 times.

4. Stationary bike

Once warmed up, put some resistance on the bike and pedal hard and fast for 30 seconds, followed by 1 minute of easy peddling. Repeat 10-20 times depending on available time.

5. 100-meter sprint

Set a cardio machine (treadmill, rower, ski-erg, etc.) to a 100-meter sprint. Finish as fast as possible, then rest until your heart rate drops to under 120 bpm. Repeat 10 times.

The cool down

There are definitely many more routines that trainers, gyms, and fitness experts have devised. Some can require more equipment than others and some are bodyweight based.

If you’re new to working out, starting with HIIT might be challenging. Working yourself up to that point through regular cardio or interval training will help set good groundwork for HIIT. However, if you have been working out for a while and feel like you’re getting bored, or your fitness levels have plateaued, adding in some HIIT workouts to your routine is a great way to push yourself back into beast mode once again.

Contributing writer: Primrose Tricker-O’Dell