ONLY GOT 10 MINUTES? LET’S HIIT IT!

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Physical inactivity has been identified as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality, accounting for 9% of premature mortality. This translates into more than 5 million deaths per year.1 According to the fact sheet of the World Health Organization (WHO) on physical activity, people who are insufficiently active have a 20% to 30% increased risk of death compared to people who are sufficiently active.2 Studies from EU countries showed that 6 in every 10 people above 15 years of age never or seldom exercise, or play any sports, and more than half never or seldom engage in other kinds of physical activity.3

One of the most common excuses for lack of exercise is a lack of time. According to the WHO, adults should have at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week. However, they state an alternative means to obtaining sufficient physical activity is to engage in vigorous-intensity cardiorespiratory exercise training for at least 75 minutes per week, preferably through performing at least 20 minutes per day, at least three days per week.

Training known as high intensity interval training (HIIT), that typically involves short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by a short period of rest or recovery (for example intermittently sprinting for 30 seconds, for example, during a moderate-pace jog), satisfies the vigorous-intensity requirement and has therefore been suggested to be a time-efficient alternative to regular moderate-intensity steady-state cardio. And that is why high-intensity interval training is the number 1 fitness trend in 2018, according to the annual Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).4

 

FAT LOSS FROM LONG CARDIO VS. HIIT

It may sound surprising, but aside from HIIT being a more time-efficient way of exercising, it may also produce superior improvements in cardiorespiratory and metabolic function compared to steady-state cardio.

A number of studies investigating the health and weight-loss effects of interval and steady-state cardiorespiratory training have been published, with some directly comparing the two. Previous meta-analyses have suggested that interval training might produce superior improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness compared to steady-state cardio.5, 6

A comprehensive systematic review concluded that higher training intensities, as with high intensity interval training, have a more favorable effect on body composition than lower training intensities common to steady-state. The review found that combining high-intensity exercise and low intensity exercise in a certain time interval (especially resistance training) as being more effective than diet, or diet with endurance training in reduction of body mass and fat mass while retaining of fat free mass. Researchers advised that for those who prefer endurance training, endurance training appears to be more effective when performed at higher intensity, or as an interval training style.7 They concluded that higher intensity training, such as interval endurance training, appears to be more effective at reducing inflammation and increasing insulin sensitivity than lower-intensity training such as steady-state cardio. 7

In another comprehensive review, researchers concluded that high intensity interval type of training might require ~40% less training time commitment, compared to moderate-intensity continuous training for similar improvements in body composition.8

HOW TO PERFORM A HIGH INTENSITY INTERVAL WORKOUT!

One of the biggest advantage of this training type, is its flexibility. Interval training can be performed on almost any cardiovascular machine, as well as almost any type of cardiovascular exercise (such as running, cycling, swimming etc.). You can use resistance type of exercises with barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, bands, or even body weight exercises, and all combinations of them.

  • Choose your length – You can complete a solid HIIT workout in anywhere from 8-30 minutes.
  • Choose your intervals (determine your work to rest ratio) – For your high intensity work intervals, you can set a time anywhere between 15-60 seconds. Start with 1:4 work to rest ratio (high-intensity exercise to low-intensity exercise or rest), and gradually increase the ratio to 2:1 over time.
  • Choose your moves – Choose your favorite moves and exercises and put them together. You can mix plyometric and strength moves, combine sprints with toning exercises, and have fun with it.

 

LET’S SEE A COUPLE EXAMPLES OF HIIT!

The standard types of HIIT are sprints! Simple, cheap and effective. Walk, run sprint intervals or the walking back sprint is probably one of the most straightforward and easy to incorporate variations of HIIT. In general, time is the easiest measure for intervals, but if you are exercising outside, you can also use distance as your guide. If you’re using a track, pick a distance to sprint for example 50m, 100m, 200m, etc. And after warming-up, sprint your selected distance, and then walk back to the start to recover. Repeat 4-10 times. If you don’t have a track, you can use a street length or pick two points in a park to sprint/walk between. Sprint to the end and walk back to recover.

But sprint interval training can be performed on almost any cardiovascular machine (including the treadmill, stationary bike, elliptical trainer, stairmaster, rowing machine etc.). If you’re overweight and sedentary, start with the safest option, for example with stationary bike sprints. Start with repeated 15-second sprints followed by 60 seconds easy pedaling, and gradually increase high intensity sprinting time to 30 seconds, and decreasing rest periods. For example:

Week 1-3 – Phase 1 (1:4 Work-to-Rest Ratio) – Total Time: 15 minutes

15 seconds – High-Intensity Exercise

1 minute – Rest or Low-Intensity Exercise

Total Number of Intervals: 12

Week – 4-6 Phase 2 (1:2 Work-to-Rest Ratio) – Total Time: 15 minutes

30 seconds – High-Intensity Exercise

1 minute – Rest or Low-Intensity Exercise

Total Number of Intervals: 10

Total Time: 15 minutes

Week 7-9 Phase 3 (1:1 Work-to-Rest Ratio) – Total Time: 15 minutes

30 seconds – High-Intensity Exercise

30 seconds – Rest or Low-Intensity Exercise

Total Number of Intervals: 15

Total Time: 15 minutes

Week 10-12 Phase 4 (2:1 Work-to-Rest Ratio) – Total Time: 15 minutes

30 seconds – High-Intensity Exercise

15 seconds – Rest or Low-Intensity Exercise

Total Number of Intervals: 20

Total Time: 15 minutes

Another basic type of HIIT, that you can do almost anywhere without equipment, consists of bodyweight exercises. Here is a sample program with 2 circuits:

1. Circuit:

Do each of these exercises at high intensity for 45 seconds followed by 15 seconds rest:

Air squats – 45 seconds

Rest – 15 seconds

Flutter kicks – 45 seconds

Rest – 15 seconds

Alternating Side Lunges – 45 seconds

Rest – 15 seconds

Bicycle crunches – 45 seconds

Rest – 15 seconds

Mountain climbers – 45 seconds

Rest for 60 seconds and repeat this one more time!

2. Circuit:

Do each of these exercises for 40 seconds followed by forearm plank for 20 seconds after each exercise:

Jump squats – 40 seconds

Plank – 20 seconds

Burpees – 40 seconds

Plank – 20 seconds

Alternating Jumping Lunges – 40 seconds

Plank – 20 seconds

Fast feet step toe taps – 40 seconds

Plank – 20 seconds

Jumping Jacks – 40 seconds

Plank – 20 seconds

Rest for 60 seconds and repeat this one more time!

If you’re fit but need to lose fat, try the Tabata protocol! Tabata workout is one of the best known HIIT protocols, that is based on a 1996 study by professor Izumi Tabata initially involving Olympic speedskaters.

The Tabata protocol consists of 8 repeats of 20 seconds at high intensity period with 10 seconds rest, repeated continuously for 4 minutes (8 cycles). Tabata is best for those who are already fit and are looking for a workout that requires very little time.

You can use almost any types of cardiovascular machines. To implement the Tabata Method, try the following. Start with a three-minute warm-up, then sprint for 20 seconds. Rest (walk) for 10 seconds, then repeat the sprint/walk cycle for a total of eight cycles.

The Tabata Method can also be performed with strength training movements. It doesn’t matter what space or equipment limitations you’re facing, you can use barbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, or your own bodyweight. Choose your weapon!

Traditional Tabata protocols contain only one exercise, such as squats, and repeating that same exercise throughout the entire Tabata interval, you also can chose 2 different exercises performed 4 times each, or 4 different exercises performed 2 times each, or even 8 different exercises each performed once within a Tabata workout.

 

Here is an example for bodyweight Tabata with 4 exercises:

  • 20 seconds Speed Squat
  • 10 seconds rest
  • 20 seconds Burpees
  • 10 seconds rest
  • 20 seconds Mountain Climber
  • 10 seconds rest
  • 20 seconds Flutter kicks
  • 10 seconds rest
  • 20 seconds Speed Squat
  • 10 seconds rest
  • 20 seconds Burpees
  • 10 seconds rest
  • 20 seconds Mountain Climber
  • 10 seconds rest
  • 20 seconds Flutter kicks
  • 10 seconds rest

 

Build up and perform 2-4 blocks of Tabata and you’ll have a highly effective 8-16 minutes fat-blasting workout!

 

Caution

If you are new to interval training, follow these guidelines before starting and progressing to high intensity training workouts:

  • Get your physician’s clearance and know your limits.
  • Don’t forget to warm up your muscles well before performing intervals!
  • Start slowly with simple walk / jog intervals, and build up your intervals gradually! Increase either work-to-rest ratio or duration, but not both in one workout.

 

EXERCISE GUIDES

Air Squat:

Stand with your feet a little wider than hip-width apart, your toes turned out slightly your arms resting at your sides, while keeping your chest up and your abdominals braced. Begin the movement by swinging your arms up towards your shoulders, and at the same time, bend at the knees and drive your hips back like you’re sitting in a chair. Once your upper thighs are parallel with the ground reverse the motion until you return to the starting position.

Flutter kicks

Lie on your back on a towel or on a gym mat with your arms by your sides and your palms down. Extend your legs and lift your heels about 15 to 20 cm off the floor. Keep your legs straight as you rhythmically raise one leg higher, then switch. Move in a fluttering, up and down motion. Focus on having your midsection do all the work and keep your abs contracted throughout the exercise.

Side Lunges

Stand with your feet parallel and shoulder-width apart, and the head and chest up. Take a big step to the side and, ensuring you keep your torso as upright as possible, lower until the knee of your leading leg is bent at around 90 degrees, but keeping the other leg straight. As you lower into the lunge, lift arms to shoulder height in a front raise. Pause for 1-2 seconds at the bottom, and then step back to center, slowly lowering arms, and repeat on the other side.

Bicycle crunches

Lie on your back on a towel or on a gym mat with your hips and knees bent 90 degrees so that your lower legs are parallel to the floor. Put your hands beside your head, but be careful to not strain with the neck at any point during the exercise.

Lift your shoulders and head off the floor and hold them there, with your lower back pressed flat into the floor. Twist your upper body to the left as you pull your left knee in until it touches your left elbow. Simultaneously straight your right leg. Return to the starting position and repeat to the other side.

Mountain climbers

Start in a plank position with your hands about shoulder-width apart, back flat, abs engaged, and head in alignment. Lift your right foot off the floor and raise your knee to your chest. Touch the floor with your right toes. Then jump your right foot back to the starting position while simultaneously bringing your left knee to your chest this time. Continue to switch knees. Be sure to keep a straight line in your spine and don’t let your head droop at any point during the exercise.

Jump Squat:

Stand with your feet a little wider than hip-width apart, your toes turned out slightly your arms resting at your sides, head up, and back straight. Bend at the knees and drive your hips back like you’re sitting in a chair until your upper thighs are parallel to the floor. Quickly reverse the motion, jump upward as high as you can while swing your arms overhead. As you land, gently bend your knees, squat down and jump again.

Burpees

Stand with your feet a shoulder-width apart. From a standing position, drop into a squat with your hands on the ground just in front of your feet. Then kick your feet back behind you, keeping your arms extended so you are in a raised plank or push-up position. Jump your feet back towards your hands to the starting position, and then jump up with your hands in the air. Then do it all again.

Alternating Jumping Lunges

Get into a lunge position with your right foot forward and your left foot back, knees at a 90 degrees angle. Jump up with an explosive motion and switch legs in the air so the opposite foot is in front on the landing. Land softly back and repeat the movement. Be sure to keep your body upright during the motion and keep your forward knee in line with your ankle.

Fast feet step toe taps

Stand in front of a box, stairs or ledge. Begin to quickly tap the ball of your foot on the top of a step box or first step of the stairs, one at a time in a running-like manner and then change on to the other foot, as you bring the first foot back down before repeating.

Jumping Jacks

Stand with your feet together and hands resting on thighs. In one motion jump your feet out to the side, wider than shoulders and raise your arms above your head. Immediately reverse that motion by jumping back to the starting position.

 

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