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High-Intensity Interval Training: Not Just Another Trend

by Sarah Joseph, M.S. Health Science

Normally, I’m very against the “I don’t have time to workout” excuse but in extreme situations, like mine as of late, I understand. What is the least amount of exercise that you can do and still get the health benefits?

Well my friends, sufficient activity is defined by the ACSM as 30 minutes of moderate activity 5 days per week, OR 20 minutes of vigorous activity 3 days per week, or some combination of the two. However, if you are already meeting these recommendations, MORE IS BETTER, to a point of course. So say you’re doing the 3 days per week 20 minutes vigorous, if you add a fourth day, you’re going to FURTHER reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease and other sedentary related diseases.

A great option for time effective workouts is high intensity interval training (HIIT). It’s been around for ages but has recently become more popular with exercise programs such as P90X, Insanity, and various other independent projects by fitness gurus. There is a reason why this type of training has become popular in highly motivated individuals and why you should try it too. You can google a list of reasons why you should try HIIT training but I’m going to try and give you some info that might not seem as obvious.

Even beginners can try HIIT. The point of it is to try and complete as many repetitions of a certain exercise as you personally can during a given time period. If you are a beginner and the exercise is particularly challenging, it is possible that you may only be able to complete one repetition. But that’s totally okay! The important thing is that you write down your score and try to maybe do two repetitions next time so you continue to progress and increase your fitness. DO modifications, DON’T quit.

How Effective Is HIIT?

So let’s take a look at what a few studies are saying about HIIT.

  • One study saw a significant decrease in body fatness in a chronic study on apparently healthy sedentary individuals. The decrease in body fatness was nine times greater in the high intensity interval training (HIIT) group in comparison to the continuous training (CT) group. The exercise program used was rigorous. The participants in the HIIT group completed both CT and HIIT five days per week. This method may be unrealistic for an obese population because of the exercise volume required. These results suggest that HIIT is a viable option for fat loss in an obese people if this population can sustain the high intensities, and if the population can to adhere to the exercise. [1]
  • Another study found 2.5 hours of HIIT training over the course of 2 weeks produced comparable muscular biomechanical adaptations to 10.5 hours of continuous training. [2]
  • A third study saw an increase in whole body fat oxidation with HIIT in recreationally active women in only two weeks.[3]
  • A fourth study found young women in the interval training group had an average fat loss of 4.3% which was significantly greater than the continuous group regardless of the lesser exercise time. [4]

As you can see, this is just a sliver of the magnitude of research that exists that says HIIT induces the same training adaptations as CT with decreased exercise time. In the busy world we live in, we need to save time where we can, but we also need to strive to be healthy. However, this type of training is hard. A lot of people do not want to do hard workouts. But if you can condition your body to understand that the difficulty of the workout is providing you with benefits in the long term, then you can begin to reap the toning and time saving benefits of HIIT training. Now let’s go do some burpees!

We’ve got about 60 HIIT and Tabata videos in the Moms Into Fitness studio (and adding all the time), including yoga HIIT, no equipment, low impact, barefoot, pregnancy, and lots of intense ones too! Try them for free. >>

HIIT Toning Workout

Beginners: perform 1 set of each exercise, repeat the whole series.
Experienced: perform 1 set of each exercise, then repeat it. Move all the way through. For more intensity, repeat each exercise 2x before moving to the next.
45 seconds exercise : 15 seconds recovery
Warm up and cool down on your own.

  1. Push-ups
  2. Squats (with heavy weights)
  3. Bicep curls (with heavy weights)
  4. Alternating reverse lunges
  5. Burpees
  6. Plank
  7. Triceps extension (with 1 heavy weight)
  8. Squat jumps

Your muscles need recovery, which is why toning is recommended every other day. The tension in the muscle, if not recovered, will continue to break down and give you a negative result. On the flip side, the “tension” is what creates a higher fitness ceiling and results! But this is why you need rest in between toning workouts — especially HIIT toning workouts.

Tabata Protocol

Tabata, a style of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) or HIIE (High Intensity Intermittent Exercise), is a short intense workout that burns mega calories. It can be used to train cardio, strength, pretty much anything. And the best part?  In 20 minutes or less you can get a complete total body workout. Tabata started out in 1996 with a speed skating study done by Izumi Tabata. The research proved a large gain in V02 max, otherwise known as your ultimate fitness ceiling. Unlike a HIIT style workout, Tabata has a protocol of 20 seconds on and 10 seconds off. This is repeated for a total of 4 minutes, then recovery. These 4 minutes are considered one round. And the rounds are manipulated to make the workout easier or harder.

Tabata Cardio Workout

To warm up, perform the exercises in the workout at a very low intensity, each for 1 minute

One round = 4 minutes total, 20 seconds of exercise : 10 seconds recovery (repeat 8x = 4 mins)
Each exercise should be performed at a fast pace, doing as many as you can in 20 seconds.

Round 1: run high knees in place
1 minute break
Round 2: jumping jack to tuck jump
1 minute break
Round 3: burpees
1 minute break
Round 4: side leaps
1 minute break

Cool down on your own.

Looking for something a little gentler? Try this Low-Impact Tabata Cardio workout. >>

  1. Tremblay, Simoneau, & Bouchard, (1994)
  2. Giabla, et al. (2006)
  3. Talanian et al. (2006)
  4. Trapp et al. (2008)