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High-Intensity Interval Training: What is HIIT?

what is high-intensity interval training hiit

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) takes your cardio workout to a new level. Today, we’ll dive deeply into the intricacies of this intense and effective addition to your workout schedule.

HIIT: How it Works 

As the name suggests, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) isn’t for the faint-hearted; it will take most people out of their comfort zone while taking their cardio workout to a new level. 

HIIT incorporates several-ish rounds of exercise that alternate between several minutes of high-intensity movements to increase the heart rate to around 80% of a person’s maximum heart rate, followed by short periods of lower-intensity activities. 

HIIT can be incorporated with various cardio workouts, whether jump rope, running, rowing, or stair climbing machines. 

As you work up a fast sweat during the intense level, you’ll then back off for a slower recovery period and back to another round of high intensity. 

The HIIT approach has become widely popular for a multitude of reasons, and its strategy is excellent for people wanting to save time. You aren’t required to work out as long as you usually would when keeping a steady pace.

In addition, HIIT is great for weight loss, muscle building, and boosting your metabolism. Not forgetting the post-workout effects, as your body will continue to burn calories for around two hours following your workout. 

Professional athletes from countless sports include HIIT in their workout regimes. For example, Calgary Stampeders, the most popular team for the Sportsbooks in Ontario, have a strict workout routine that involves HIIT. If you aren’t already sold, look at the physique and cardio levels required to play in the CFL (Canadian Football League), and understand that HIIT has been a great workout addition for some of this league’s top teams. 

Canadian Football team uses HIIT

HIIT: Target Areas 

The work is a lot harder than a typical cardio workout. However, the intervals – which usually stem from 30 seconds to 3 minutes – allow a rest period. This will enable you to recover for the same amount of time or longer. 

  • Core: The workout doesn’t focus on your core. 
  • Arms: The workout doesn’t work on your arms. 
  • Legs: While it doesn’t specifically target your legs, cardio excesses like running will build leg muscle and flexibility. 
  • Glutes: The exercise can assist your glutes if the cardio exercise you choose focuses on this area, such as stair-climbing. 
  • Back: The workout doesn’t target your back. 
  • Anaerobic: 100%; HIIT is one of the most powerful cardio workouts. 
  • Flexibility: Technically, no, but HIIT can improve flexibility depending on your chosen cardio workout. 
  • Strength: HIIT can assist you with muscle building. If you decide that weight lighting will be your high-intensity workout, you’ll receive an extra boost in strength. 
  • Low-Impact: Not necessarily no, but if you’re using an elliptical trainer, it will lower the impact. 

Benefits of HIIT 

what is hiit and its benefits

Firstly, it costs nothing to implement HIIT into your workout schedule. And don’t be deterred by the language used, ‘high intensity’ doesn’t mean beginners can’t start with 3-4 intervals and then raise these at a later date. 

It can be achieved indoors or outdoors. You can take a run outside, jump on a bicycle, or use a stationary bike, treadmill, or weights from inside your home. Furthermore, you aren’t required to operate equipment unless you plan otherwise. 

However, knowing your limits and going at your own pace is important. This is what Physical Therapist, Ross Brakeville, had to say: “If you exercise regularly, HIIT is a great alternative to your routine. Plus, this high-intensity workout gets the feel-good endorphins flowing

HIIT isn’t for everyone. It would help if you had great motivation and physical stamina to push yourself to the limit. If you’re not used to this type of training, your muscles and joints may pay the price through sprains and strains.” 

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Head of Content at Better Triathlete

Experienced endurance athlete, pro cyclist, and sports writer, Tyler Tafelsky participates in long-distance multisport and cycling events. He competes in ultra-distance cycling races at the professional and elite amateur levels. Since starting Better Triathlete in 2014, Tyler has been the head of content and leads the site's editorial team.