I admit that I did not do any cardiovascular exercise when I first started doing weight training. For me that time, cardio was just too slow and too easy. I rather do another few sets of bicep curl or bench press than running on treadmill. Low intensity aerobic training was intolerable, worse than watching slow pace of golf on television. I wanted only action with more challenge.
However, like it or not, no matter how much weight I lift, to reveal the 6-pack abs, I realize cardio is still a must to burn the stubborn fat. In fact, the more I learn about cardio, the more I know about its importance. Cardiovascular exercise does not have to be done in only one monotonous way. Despite what I recommend you to try on low intensity cardio, today, let me share with you – high intensity cardio training with short intervals of rest in between (HIIT).
What Is HIIT?
HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. Some people call it Power Cardio. Instead of doing long hours of lower intensity of cardiovascular exercise, some studies have shown that HIIT actually burns more fat. HIIT is an exercise approach to improve performance with short training sessions with several intervals.
It increases the metabolism rate even after the exercise due to excess post-exercise oxygen consumption.
Why HIIT May Be Better Than Lower Intensity Training?
- In low intensity exercise (which your heart rate is about 65% of your max heart rate), assuming you burn about 100 calories for energy while training. Out of 100 calories, as much as 50% or 50 calories are from fat and others are from carbohydrates or protein. On the other hand, high intensity training will use about 40% of fat as fuel. Now, if you just want to burn fat, low intensity exercise appears to be a better choice with higher percentage of fat burnt. However, low intensity training burns fat calories only during the time you are exercising. As soon as you stop your workout, the fat burning stops. In contrast, high intentisty training will spike your metabolism and keep it at high level for the rest of the day, as long as 24 hours, even after you stop the activity. In other words, you continue to burn fat all day long and end up burning more fat. With HIIT training, the majority of calories burned will come after your workout. You consume more oxygen recovering from the exercise than you would have if you just did a low intensity steady state of cardio.
- While trying to recover between interval, your aerobic system (including your heart and lungs) work hard to overcome the oxygen debt. Therefore, your cardiovascular system will improve.
- Because you are doing high intensity exercise, you normally spend only about 15 minutes whereas you may spend 30 to 60 minutes if you are running or cycling slowly. Shorter workout period means you save time.
- If you only do low intensity for the past 1 year, your body may have gone into a steady to conserve calories. So, program like HIIT may give your body a “shock” and allows it to burn more calories.
- Not only HIIT burn calories, it increases your speed and endurance. That’s why athletes see better gains from doing HIIT cardio compared with traditional cardio. Sports like soccer, rugby, basketball or tennis have the moment that you need to change speeds.
How You Can Perform HIIT?
HIIT training can be applied to many activities, whether indoor or outdoor. You can try doing HITT on elliptical, stationary bike or stair climber if you are exercising indoor. However, HIIT will be more suitable for outdoor running or sprinting. As long as you can alternate periods of high intensity with periods of low intensity.
I will use running as an example, but the same concept applies to other cardio exercise.
- Start with a warm up jog for about 5 minutes.
- Once you are warmed up, increase your intensity by running at your top speed for about 30 seconds. During this stage, run as fast as you can and you should feel the burning sensation in your muscles.
- After that, slow down by jogging, then stop your movement totally. You should spend about 1 minute at this stage.
- Once the minute is up, run again at high speed for 30 seconds. Continue to do step 2 and 3 for 5 to 15 minutes depending on your fitness level.
- After you finish, cool down by doing some stretching.
Other HIIT examples:
- If you are on elliptical trainer or bike, change your speed and intensity level every 2 minutes or so, up and down, to challenge yourself. The concept behind this variation is to trick your body to burn more calories since it cannot achieve a steady state.
- Another option will be running uphill. Say, you take 20 seconds to reach the top, then you can walk down serving as your rest interval. Then, run up to the hill again. You can repeat several times before you jog back home as a cool down.
As of how often should you do HIIT, I would say 2 to 3 sessions a week is sufficient to produce significant fat burning effect. Just like other activities, do not overtrain or overdo. I normally do it during my weight training off days.
Avoid HIIT Cardio On Treadmill Though…
I have tried doing HIIT on treadmill and I found that it is impossible to do so. No doubt, running on treadmill is probably the most popular cardio but unfortunately it is not suitable for HITT. When you accelerate to your top speed in short interval and then decelerate to much slower speed after that, the changes of speed is limited by the treadmill. It is not able to go from 2.5 mph to 10 mph in short interval and vice versa. If you want to slow down from your top speed, you may slip and fall.
In fact, treadmill may be too slow for HIIT for some people. It may hinder your full capability to go for the highest intensity level which is necessary for HIIT.
Before You Try HIIT…
- If you are overweight or just started to do exercise, HIIT may not be suitable for you. Exercise at lower intensity is safer and easier for you. As a beginner, I do not recommend you to try something so challenging because you may not like it. If you do not like it, you will not stick with it.
- HIIT is tough. When you finish, you may feel like throwing up. So, do not aim for a 15-minute HIIT. For beginner, if you can complete 5-minute HIIT, it is good enough.
- Bear in mind that if you end goal is to slim down, you still need to eat right and do resistance training to see the result. If you eat more than what you burn, HIIT will not give you much improvement.
- No matter how good you think you are, always warm up to get your heart and muscles ready.
Though HIIT seems to be take less of your time, HIIT is not easy. It is physically demanding. HIIT is meant for people whose primary concerns are boosting overall cardiovascular fitness and fat loss without losing muscle mass they already have.
Also, you do not have to replace all your low intensity aerobic exercises with HIIT. A good balance, for instance, 2 sessions of HIIT per week with 2 sessions of low intensity cardio, is recommended.
For those who have tried HIIT, I would like to hear from you. Leave your comment here. Cheers.
Category: Other Fitness/Sports Articles
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