The safe and effective HIIT workout
Brendan Rolfe, DipA, PTS, NWS
Toning muscles and burning calories in as little as four minutes? Yes, it’s possible. This HIIT workout is fast and fun, and you can tailor it to your fitness level.
High intensity interval training (HIIT) sounds like a concept spawned from the cold, calculating minds that brought you Ivan Drago’s gym, situated behind the Iron Curtain of icy Soviet Russia. Rocky references aside, this form of training provides unparalleled results and efficiency.
Why HIIT? Studies have shown that low volume, high intensity interval training is far more effective at stimulating cardiovascular and muscular improvements than high volume, moderate intensity training.
What this means for you: less time in the gym and more results for your money. Plus, HIIT has even further reaching health implications. Exercisers who perform regular HIIT workouts have faster blood pressure recovery rates than those who perform moderate intensity cardio.
As further proof, one test group of prediabetic seniors was put on a HIIT treadmill program, which had participants train three times per week. After 16 weeks, 46 percent of subjects doing the HIIT workout no longer met the criteria for prediabetes, compared to 37 percent of those who did sustained moderate intensity workouts.
If that’s not enough, a Montreal study indicates that high intensity workouts may elevate cognition. A group of obese, middle-aged individuals were put through a series of cognitive tests. Interestingly, those who participated in the HIIT program produced significantly better scores.
Now that you know why you should do HIIT, try the following safe and effective exercises in the gym or at home. You can use these exercises for any of the interval training methods detailed in the “3 Leading Types of HIIT” sidebar. Keep in mind that a thorough warm-up—for example, five minutes of dynamic stretching or light jogging—is critical before every HIIT workout.
Tabata is ideal for exercisers who have a base level of fitness and are looking for a workout that requires as little time as possible.
This method is for exercisers with a moderate level of fitness.
This type of training, which combines high-weight and low-rep strength training with high intensity cardio, is ideal for exercisers with a high level of fitness.
Muscles targeted: chest, triceps, deltoids, core
Beginners may want to perform this exercise from their knees rather than their feet.
Muscles targeted: glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves
This exercise is typically done without pause. But if you want less intensity, step sideways instead of jumping.
Muscles targeted: abs, obliques, deltoids, quadratus lumborum (lower back muscle)
To safely incorporate HIIT into your routine, you should know proper form for any exercises you complete. Never sacrifice form and safety for speed and increased weight. While you may want to jump right in without pause, listen to your body. If you’re feeling dizzy or lightheaded, take a break until the feeling passes. Given the high intensity of these workouts, be sure to stay well hydrated.
Muscles targeted: deltoids, rhomboids, trapezius, erector spinae (back muscles)
Muscles targeted: abs, obliques, deltoids
To increase the difficulty (and the cardiovascular benefits), complete this exercise at a running pace.