by Skylar Morelli
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is an effective, fat burning form of exercise that has been scientifically proven to lower risk for many diseases. HIIT involves different stations of exercises, with each movement done in short, intense durations with brief breaks in between. HIIT has become one of the most popular and successful methods of training.
HIIT involves short bursts of numerous intense exercises that raise your heart rate within seconds. Each exercise is performed for less than 1 minute, with a 5-10 second break in between sets. After 2-3 minutes, you move on to the next station until you have completed a circuit of 10-12 exercises. Though the durations are short, you’re encouraged to push yourself harder than you normally would; lifting the heaviest weight possible, planking until you tremble, and jump squatting until your legs turn into Jell-O. Many gyms offer HIIT classes that usually last 45 minutes to an hour. HIIT workouts are great since they are effective and involve less time commitment than normal workouts—perfect for grad students!
While all exercise improves mental and physical health, when compared to forms of continuous moderate exercise (CME), HIIT takes the cake. An example of CME is a more standard workout of 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions that you take your time to complete. HIIT is more effective at lowering BMI, improving insulin resistance, lowering risk of cardiovascular disease, lowering risk of hypertension, and lowering risk of diabetes. HIIT torches fat, increases muscle tone, and leaves you with an endorphin high that lasts for days.
The Club, a boxing gym in South Boston founded by George Foreman III, offers classes that incorporate HIIT. The workouts are tough but also fun! Enthusiastic trainers blast music and encourage you to push yourself to your limit. I sat down with Cassie Brown, a HIIT-certified personal trainer at The Club, who explained the science of HIIT.
Q: What makes HIIT unique from other forms of training?
A: Scientific studies have shown that HIIT workouts 2-3 times per week can deliver results more quickly and dramatically than other approaches to training. HIIT trumps regular exercise regimes when it comes to gains in cardiovascular health and VO2 max, fat loss, and improved performance. VO2 max indicates a person’s cardiovascular and aerobic endurance by measuring the maximum amount of oxygen that a person can utilize during intense exercise – the more, the better. Another perk is that it speeds up your metabolism for up to 24 hours post workout, and up to 36 hours when heavy weightlifting is incorporated.
Q: What exercises are performed and for how long?
A: HIIT can include any form of exercise such as plyometrics (“explosive, powerful jumping”), kettlebells, running, battle ropes, TRX bands, weights, rowing, and cycling. Incorporating several movements into interval training allows you to switch muscle groups and still perform at a high level even with a short recovery period. The key is that “high intensity” should equal “short duration.” I find the days when I have the least time to get my workout in, I end up getting the best workouts. Working super hard in a short amount of time is what gives the best results to people who are looking to achieve general fitness and a lean physique. Most interval workouts are 20-45 seconds, with 10-15-second rests. Switching the movement and muscle groups is important so that you don’t get too fatigued or injured. A true HIIT workout should not last more than 45min.
Q: How does The Club capture the HIIT experience?
A: The Club best captures HIIT in our 45-minutes class, BOXFIIT 360. At The Club, George, a pro boxer, created his interpretation of HIIT, which he calls FIIT: Fight Intensity Interval Training. It’s a circuit with 10-12 stations, with 2 minutes at each station. Each exercise is performed for 20 seconds, followed by a 10 second rest. After repeating that cycle 4 times, you move to the next station. Stations involve boxing on different sized punching bags, moving battle ropes, suspension training (TRX), kettlebell and/or dumbbell exercises, and rowing. In less than an hour, you’ve done cardio, strength training, and boxing, and worked the hardest that you can.
Q: How long is the recovery, and what should one eat after?
A: For optimal fitness and a strong, healthy physique, HIIT workouts can be done 2-3 times a week, with 48 hours of rest in between. Recovery workouts like Yoga, Pilates, and Barre can help you recuperate properly; otherwise you will not see best results. Exercise is stress on your body, so if your refueling and recovery tactics are not sufficient, you will not see best results. After a HIIT workout, I’m always in the mood for salad with lots of greens, lean protein, or nuts, and squeezed citrus fruits like orange slices and lemon juice as the dressing. Any meal with a lot of vegetables is ideal. We all know we need protein post-workout, but that’s not all. For our body to properly refuel and digest the protein, we need the vitamins and minerals that allow our body to metabolize the food for recovery. Focus on veggies and fruits, and then eat your protein and complex carbs as a complement.
Q: How does one go about HIIT? With a trainer? Classes? And most importantly, can HIIT be performed on your own or at home? If so, can you please recommend some good websites or resources (especially for those on a college budget)?
A: HIIT can be done on your own! Download the free “Interval Timer” application, program your work and rest periods, set the number of rounds you’d like to work, and choose the sounds that cue your work and rest. It’s the same as having a trainer with a stopwatch yelling “stop!” and “go!” Of course, we all push ourselves harder when we are listening to someone else, so to bring real intensity (and safety) to your workout, working with a trainer is a great idea. HIIT is the best way to get an at-home workout that feels worthwhile and will totally kick your butt. Decide what movements you want to do and the number of rounds you’ll complete, set up your timer, and go for it!
Cassie did a wonderful job at covering everything there is to know about HIIT. If you’d like to try out a HIIT workout, your first class at The Club is free, and addictive! Check out http://everybodyfights.com for more info!
Skylar Morelli is a first-year Nutrition Communication student. Exercise and sunshine are her therapy.