HIIT - High Intensity Interval Training

Currently this is still one of the most popular fitness trends in the fitness industry, but in the world of athletics it has been around for over a century. It was referred to as Interval training or HIT (High Intensity Training), and athletes used it as a means to improve their ability to performance.

In it's current form of HIIT the intent and purpose is still the same - to bolster and improve performance and fitness. The benefits are undeniable, but like many things in life, it's important that you don't become obsessed with HIIT and neglect other forms of training.

Strength training, HIIT, SMIT (Super-Maximal Interval Training), and steady state cardio all have their unique benefits and limitations. Using only one of these methods is akin to having your cake but not getting to eat it! 

Athletes understand the science behind doing HIIT (or at least their coaches do), and have it programmed into their training schedules to coincide with their schedule of events they may be competing in. The general public on the other hand are not raining to perform and so don't really get the science bit as the fitness industry is busy telling them they should be doing it to "burn fat!" The upside of this is that it does yield results quickly and also makes the industry $$. The downside is you cannot do HIIT continuously for two reasons - (1) You will burn out and become injured, (2) You will get to a point where you will get no more benefit or improvement.

In pursuit of the almighty $$, the fitness industry often forgets or neglects to inform and educate the general public on certain "fads" or "trends" - (there are however a large number working to correct that and education of their clients is foremost). HIIT is a short-term workout used to bolster your fitness so that you can then take your training to the next level, or perform better at your sport, and should only be done 2-3 times per week. Your fitness provider should be incorporating HIIT as part of your complete training program and ensuring that you are still doing other forms of training - strength training, steady state cardio (swimming, cycling, running etc). If it becomes part of your training regime (referred to as periodization training) it has to be programmed in at specific times in your training cycle such that it adds benefit and compliments what you are wanting to achieve - eg run and complete an obstacle course, a lifting competition, run a sub 5min mile, or a sub 3 hour marathon.

Another point to take note of is not to go all out on a HIIT without first preparing yourself with low-intensity aerobic exercise. You should be  able to comfortably complete 30 consecutive minutes of low-intensity aerobic exercise at a moderate intensity. Just as you wouldn't go and run a marathon or half marathon without first training for it!

Keep in mind also that HIIT may not be for you - another reason not to jump straight into HIIT. What works for one won't necessarily work for you. Your program has to fit your needs, ability and goals so that you achieve the outcomes you want in the best and safest possible way - not the quickest.

Take away points:

  • If your current training regime feels like it's not yielding results then maybe you should consider putting some HIIT into your weekly program (6-12 weeks of 2-3 sessions).
  • If you are only doing HIIT - STOP! You're neglecting other important forms of training! You're obsessed!
  • Have variety in your training - shock your body every now and then with HIIT or SMIT, it will thank you for it and stop you getting into a rut or getting stuck on a plateau. It will also make your training more enjoyable.

Happy training. Change-Challenge-Achieve!

Martin McKone