Want to know what HIIT is but afraid to ask?

April 12, 2022

Keep seeing the term HIIT in magazines and on line chats and wonder what it is? Afraid to ask your friends just in case they laugh at the fact you’ve never heard of it, never mind tried it? 

Never fear, here is everything you need to know about HIIT.

HIIT in a nutshell

  • HIIT is High Intensity Interval Training
  • It involves repeated, exceptionally difficult, incredibly challenging rounds of work with periods of recovery in between
  • With HIIT, the rests are the important bit - not a thing you usually hear a Personal Trainer say! – as this is what provides all of the cardio conditioning benefits
  • During a HIIT session your body is breaking down glucose anaerobically (i.e. without Oxygen) to produce the energy you need
  • The energy surges are quick but short-lived, so your body cannot sustain the high level of activity for long

How do you know if you’re actually doing HIIT?

True HIIT is something which is used by athletes and those looking to improve in their sport at a highly competitive level. Done correctly, it allows the elite to maximise both their explosive performance and their speed (as well as regulating Oxygen use, controlling blood pressure and improving cardiovascular function).

For those training at this kind of level, the ratio of rest to work will be somewhere between 2:1 and 3:1 and work intervals will typically only be 20 to 30 seconds - which doesn’t sound like long but will feel like forever at such high intensity!

HIIT for everybody 

If you’re taking a class which is advertised as circuit training or interval training then, chances are, it’s probably not true High Intensity Interval Training. But that’s not to say it won’t be doing you good.

This more accessible version of HIIT usually involves longer, slightly less extreme work intervals. Be under no illusion however, these ‘HIIT light’ sessions will still provide excellent cardiovascular benefits, build strength and improve muscle endurance, not to mention aid weight loss if that’s one of your goals.

How do you know if you’re working hard enough? Well, your Personal Trainer can help your gauge that by looking at your Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE). Imagine a gentle warm up is somewhere around 1-2 and a windpipe-burning, breath-stealing exercise is 10, then your HIIT work intervals should consistently take you very close to an 8 or a 9.

What to include in an HIIT workout

If it’s a Cardio workout you are after, then stick with the staples which suit HIIT very well, namely running, rowing or cycling.

If strength is the area you want to focus on, then add weights, kettlebells or medicine balls, all of which will work your muscles at the same time as you get your Cardio fix.

The main thing to remember is the speed element, so any moves you include have to be suitable for fast, explosive bursts. Push-ups are great but bench-presses won’t lend themselves quite so well to the short intervals.

HIIT is a great addition to a training programme and by its very nature is suited to those times when you have to fit a workout in to a short period of time. If you have any questions about its suitability or where it should sit in your exercise hierarchy, simply get in touch and I can help you with a personal plan.