If you’ve never tried HIIT workouts, you might wonder what all the fuss is about.
HIIT, or High-Intensity Interval Training, is a workout in which you give 100 percent of your effort in short exercise sessions, then you follow them up with short periods of recovery.
What’s the benefit of HIIT? Not only does HIIT boost your heart rate but it burns more fat in a short amount of time.
Let’s see what other benefits HIIT has and how this workout varies for men and women. We’ll also look at how you can structure your own HIIT workout to start reaping its benefits.
How Does HIIT Actually Work?
You might wonder how this type of workout actually manages to burn more calories.
Well, it’s as a result of how it boosts the body’s requirement for oxygen during exercise. It essentially produces an oxygen shortage so your body needs more of it during recovery.
This is referred to as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), and it’s the reason why intense workouts burn a greater amount of calories and fat than workouts in which you maintain a steady state.
Benefits Of HIIT Workouts
We’ve already talked about how HIIT helps you to burn more calories, but what else does it have to offer?
Here’s a rundown of some of its benefits.
It Eliminates Fat
Research has found that when people did HIIT three times a week for 20 minute sessions, they lost 4.4 pounds of body fat in just three months without having to make any changes to their diet.
In addition, they lost 17 percent of visceral fat. This is important because this type of fat surrounds the internal organs and is linked to disease.
It Decreases Blood Pressure
Having high blood pressure is linked to various health conditions, such as stroke. You can reduce your blood pressure by taking part in HIIT workouts.
A study found that they reduced heart rate and blood pressure in people who were obese and overweight.
Another study found that doing HIIT for eight weeks on a stationary bike lowered blood pressure as much as endurance training.
It Reduces Blood Sugar
Having high blood sugar for prolonged periods of time is dangerous to one’s health in many ways, such as by damaging the blood vessels that transport blood to organs.
This increases one’s risk of health conditions such as kidney disease, vision problems, and heart disease. An analysis of 50 studies found that HIIT workouts decreased blood sugar and improved insulin resistance.
Is HIIT Different For Men Vs Women?
You might wonder if women and men can partake in similar HIIT workouts.
They certainly can, but have you ever wondered what the differences are in how men vs women engage in HIIT?
In a study, researchers monitored eight men and eight women participating in high-intensity, self-paced interval training. They found that while the men chose a faster relative pace, the women exercised at a higher percentage of their maximum heart rate.
Interestingly, the women were found to put in more effort from a cardiovascular standpoint. That said, the study confirmed previous research that stated a 2:1 work-to-rest ratio is required during HIIT for both men and women.
How To Start Your Own HIIT Workout
There are many ways in which you can make the most of HIIT workouts.
In fact, you can do them in every exercise under the sun! This can, however, make it difficult to know how to build your own HIIT workouts, so here are some tips to bear in mind.
Use the right heart rate zone. HIIT makes use of high-effort and rest intervals. When you’re doing the hard intervals, you should aim to work at between 80 and 95 percent of your maximum heart rate. Then, during the rest intervals, you should be at between 60 and 65 percent of your heart rate. It’s easy to calculate your maximum heart rate – just subtract your age from 220.
Choose the ideal time for your workout. How many minutes will you be able to commit to the workout? A good HIIT workout can vary from 5 to 30 minutes, or be longer. If you’re a beginner, it’s good to start out on the lower end of the spectrum.
Get the right ratios. If you’re starting out with HIIT, you might not know how long to push yourself hard and how long to rest after the intervals. So, here’s a guide to help you out.
Week one: push yourself for 30 seconds, then rest for 60 seconds.
Week two: push yourself for 30 seconds, then rest for 45 seconds.
Week three: push yourself for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds.
Week four: push yourself for 45 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds.
How To Do HIIT Workouts On A Bike
If you want to use your stationary bike to do HIIT workouts, it’s easy to do. Here’s an example.
1. Start by warming up for between three to five minutes. You want to keep your bike’s resistance at medium.
2. Cycle for 30 seconds at high intensity, then do one minute of low intensity. Repeat this four times.
3. Cycle for 40 seconds at a high intensity, followed by one minute of low intensity. Repeat this four times.
4. Cycle for 30 seconds at a high intensity, followed by one minute of low intensity. Repeat this four times.
Note that the above is for people who are already fit. If you’re just starting out, you should try to cycle at a lower intensity and work your way up to a higher intensity, or cycle at a harder intensity for a shorter amount of time.
Here’s another HIIT bike workout to increase the intensity and fat-burning potential of your indoor cycling session. It’s a bit longer so it’s great for when your fitness is increasing and you want to commit to more HIIT.
1. (0-4 minutes): Start by warming up for up to four minutes. Use a light pedal stroke and medium resistance on your bike.
2. (4-10 minutes): Pedal at a higher resistance for 15 seconds when you reach 4 minutes. Make sure you put in your full effort. Then, pedal down at a lower resistance for one minute and 15 seconds. Do this for 4 rounds that consist of 15 seconds of hard effort followed by a break of one minute and 15 seconds.
3. (10-20 minutes): When you get to 10 minutes, pedal at a high resistance for 20 seconds at full speed. Follow that up by cycling at a lower resistance for 1 minute and 40 seconds. Your last 20-second sprint will occur at the 20th minute of your workout. You will then have six complete rounds of 20-second work with a 1 minute 40 second break.
4. (20-25 minutes): Now’s your time to cool down. Cycle at a low resistance.
Why Is Cooling Down After HIIT Important?
Cooldown exercises should never be skipped. They have many benefits, such as the following.
Cooling down after exercise starts your recovery process and it helps you to increase your flexibility.
By slowly cooling down, you ensure your blood circulates instead of pooling in your veins. This prevents dizziness and light-headedness.
Cooling down lets your blood pressure, heart rate, and body temperature go back to normal.
By stretching during your cooldown period when your muscles are still warm, you can decrease lactic acid buildup. This lowers your chance of experiencing muscle stiffness and cramps.
Stretching also helps to lengthen the connective tissues around your joints. This boosts mobility and range of motion.
Bottom line: Cooling down after exercise, such as after a vigorous HIIT workout, helps to increase your flexibility so you can reduce your risk of getting injured and perform at your peak.
When should you skip your HIIT workout?
HIIT puts stress on the body, which is good if you’re healthy but can be bad for you if you’re not up to it, such as if you’re tired, fatigued, or stressed out.
Should women avoid HIIT workouts during menstruation?
When you’re halfway through your monthly cycle, your body’s oestrogen levels are at their lowest. This makes the ligaments and tendons more brittle and therefore susceptible to injury. So, you might want to be mindful of this.
If you want to start adding HIIT workouts to your exercise routine to reap their weight-loss and health benefits, you might not know how to begin.
After reading this article, you now know more about HIIT and how to easily incorporate it into your life.
Billy Hughes is a fitness trainer based out of New York. She has registered success in training clients at multiple fitness centers and thus aims to establish her module relevant to the post-pandemic era. Her space, Cerevellum.com, is an attempt towards encouraging and educating more people on the scope of indoor fitness. She believes the power of fitness can transform attitude, personality, and way of living. She also finds it rewarding to help people achieve their goals and make their lives better.