HIIT Workouts & Why They Work

By Todd Tampke, BSc. Exercise Sports Science
Inner Element Fitness General Manager

In our sedentary digital age, it is a pretty good guess that most people are not getting the exercise they need to maintain a healthy lifestyle. They might feel they don’t have the time to exercise, or they could be concerned about the amount of exertion required. That is why so many people now turn to the surprising benefits of HIIT, or High Intensity Interval Training. If you want to participate in this type of zone training for increased fitness and higher caloric burn, here are some things you need to know.

What is a HIIT workout?

HIIT is a scientifically proven form of training that produces many of the same health benefits as other forms of exercise, but in a much shorter period of time. Participants engage in various forms of exercise that build cardio, strength and endurance. The idea is to push your body for a relatively brief time interval, and then come back to a comfortable level. What we focus on here is the second “I,” or the interval part of the equation. The idea is to go up to an uncomfortable state, and then come back to a comfortable level. Your heart rate dictates and quantifies what is comfortable and uncomfortable for your body.

How is HIIT different from a typical exercise routine?

HIIT can be adapted to anyone’s goals, while exercises like lifting and running make it more difficult to meet goals. Running focuses on cardio, while lifting focuses on strength. HIIT pulls these all together with the right combination of strength, cardio, active rest, and recovery rest to help change the body. Most of a HIIT session at Inner Element Fitness (IEF) is spent in a fat-burning zone, but we incorporate at least 10-15 minutes in an anaerobic state as well. The body burns calories at a higher rate during the workout and is also being trained for higher caloric burn for the next 24-36 hours.

How often should you do HIIT?

Your personal performance in a HIIT workout is what really shows how often you should do it. If your heart rate does not spend more than four minutes in the red zone during a HIIT session, then your body should be capable of doing it 5-6 days per week. The key is to find the perfect timing to allow full recovery for your body without losing any of the gains you have achieved.

What are the benefits of HIIT?

Performance gains are related to the anaerobic threshold, the line between aerobic and anaerobic. What level feels comfortable should get higher as you become more efficient. For example, if jogging feels comfortable at 5 mph to start, then 6 mph will feel uncomfortable. As your body adapts, then 6 mph becomes the new comfortable, with 7 mph being uncomfortable. The physiological benefits are that you burn more calories and maintain a higher metabolism after the session has ended.

What makes IEF’s HIIT different from other gyms?

Our team is fully invested in the science of how to build the workout to ensure you don’t “redline” for too long, and instead lower your heart rate after an intense interval, so your body recovers appropriately. This reduces the possibility of injury while increasing your ability to perform at higher rates. Our functional training incorporates exercises that require core functions, and our separate strength area lets you slow down to focus on strength gains. We include all aspects of cardio, agility and strength while helping you to maintain proper heart rate levels throughout.

Heart Rate Monitoring During HIIT

Heart rate monitoring is used during HIIT to get into certain aerobic and anaerobic zones. We call these zones Ignite, Grind and Unleash, which correlate to comfortable, uncomfortable, and maximum effort or intensity. Ignite is the starting point of what should be comfortable. You should be able to come back to this point after Grinding, but not feel a need to drop below it to fully recover. Here you reach into your fat cells for energy and will come back to this point throughout the workout. Grinding is tearing up something for a longer stretch of time, typically in the area of three minutes. This process feels uncomfortable because you are pushing through it. The Unleash level is fighting through the Grind and digging even deeper to put maximum effort into performing at your highest level. The key to heart rate monitoring is not to obsess about the number, though, but to be aware of how you feel. Once you recognize whether your body is comfortable, uncomfortable, or maxed out, you will see that heart rate is simply a way of tracking performance in a more efficient manner.

Ready to get on track? Ask me for help defining realistic fitness and/or nutrition goals and designing the plans to achieve them.

DISCLAIMER Please recognize the fact that it is your responsibility to work directly with your physician before, during, and after seeking fitness consultation. As such, any information provided is not to be followed without the prior approval of your physician. If you choose to use this information without the prior consent of your physician, you are agreeing to accept full responsibility for your decision. 

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