You may have set yourself a challenge of competing in a long-distance cycling race or running 5k in under 20 minutes, but that doesn’t mean that all your training should be cycling or pounding the pavements. The most successful training regimes include a variety of disciplines to build up key muscle groups and strength to support your overall goal. A very effective – and time effective – technique that can support all physical goals is hit training.

WHAT IS HIIT TRAINING AND HOW CAN IT HELP YOU ACHIEVE YOUR CHALLENGES?

1. WHAT DOES HIIT TRAINING STAND FOR? 

HIIT training is High Intensity Interval Training, which involves short bursts of high intensity exercise with minimal amount of rest, keeping your heart rate elevated for a prolonged period of time which then burns calories effectively. 


2. WHY HAS HIIT TRAINING BECOME SO POPULAR? 

The great thing about HIIT training is that the majority of the exercises require no equipment; you can do it in your home, you don’t need a lot of space and it doesn’t cost anything!  HIIT exercises are also very simple and you burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time; 20 minutes of HIIT training burns about the same number of calories as running for an hour. 


HIIT has become a real craze in the fitness industry; people see HIIT and automatically think fat loss BUT what they may not realise is that actually there is minimal amount of difference between the number of calories you will burn during HIIT and LISS (low intensity steady state) cardio, such running for an hour at a steady pace. 


So why have people gone crazy for HIIT?  Because it’s efficient and effective; you can burn the same number of calories in almost half the time, therefore it can fit into your schedule a lot easier.  But this is very subjective; some people enjoy taking an hour out of their day for lower intensity cardio training and will therefore stick to it.  But if you’re stuck for time, there isn’t much excuse for not being able to exercise for 20 minutes, three times a week.  


3. WHAT DOES IT INVOLVE? 

HIIT training involves a lot of plyometric (jumping) movements like squat jumps, star jumps and lunges.  The thing that transforms star jumps into HIIT training is combining them with other exercises into intense circuits with intervals in between; it’s these short bursts of exercise with little or no rest in between that delivers the intensity.  You can do any combination of exercises you want to focus on different bits of your body – it doesn’t matter if you do a circuit of 3, 4, 5 or 6 exercises – the key thing is the short rests in between each circuit.  For example, you could do a series of six exercises, 20 seconds of each one straight after each other (2 minutes total) with 20 seconds rest after each circuit of six, repeated four times.  You may only do this for 20 minutes, but the intensity means you’ll be very tired by the end.  


4. DOES IT WORK FOR RUNNERS? 

Interval of fartlek training can also be applied to running; sprint intervals with a short recovery time of walking or jogging can build both your strength and speed for longer runs.  A great way to start would be to jog for one minute and walk for one minute; you will notice an improvement each time you do it. You can develop this into jogging up a hill; as your stamina and recovery time improve, your speed up the hill will get quicker. 

You can then progress to sprint intervals.  Measure out 10 yards, 20 yards, 30 yards, 40 yards and 50 yards; sprint 5x 10 yards, 4 x 20 yards, 3x 30 yards, 2x 40 yards and 1x 50 yards, walking back to the start between each sprint.  When that no longer feels like a challenge, try doing the same thing up a hill! 


5. HOW DO YOU ADAPT HIIT TRAINING TO KEEP IT CHALLENGING? 

As your body adjusts and improves, a progression would be to start doing HIIT with weights; this will greatly increase strength, because there is a cap to how strong you can get carrying your own body weight.  Once you reach this limit, you will need to introduce weight training if you want to build your strength further.

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