High intensity interval training or HIIT, is the most difficult type of cardio which consists of work and rest intervals. First let's compare it with other types of cardio exercises.
Walking is the most basic type of cardio, jogging is a step above it, while fast paced cardio is on a whole another level. Although HIIT and fast paced cardio are very similar, HIIT is a monster of its own.
Due to intensity, it is not suited for everyone and it shouldn't be done on a regular basis unless you are a top level athlete.
If you are up to it, some kind of timer will be required to help you measure duration of work and rest intervals. However, a simple wristwatch will do just fine.
Don't do high intensity interval training, if you have some kind of injury, no matter how small it may be. As always, you can do hill sprints for added intensity but with this kind of training, it's really unnecessary.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HIIT AND FAST PACED CARDIO
During fast paced cardio, you are elevating heart rate to the max which is followed by couple minutes of rest. By doing so, the pulse falls down, close the resting heart rate values.
However, during HIIT training, the rest times are measured in seconds which keeps the heart rate up, throughout the workout. Rest intervals can last as little as 10 seconds up to 40-60 seconds, max. However, max rest times are utilized by those people that have improved their conditioning through jogging and sprinting and are just starting with HIIT training.
Parallel with that improvement, rest intervals get shorter and shorter. Overtime, the heart muscle, overall cardiovascular system and lung function adapt to the increased intensity.
WHEN SHOULD YOU DO IT
Since high intensity interval training is extremly difficult type of workout, it is not suited for everyone. Actually, some people will never be able to do it, while others shouldn't do it at all.
However, I can't tell should you do it or not. You must be your own judge and assess your abilities and level of cardio, objectively.
If you feel like you reached plateau with slow paced and fast paced cardio workouts, then you are probably ready for another step. Besides that, these two should seem kind of easy, at this point in time which is usually a good sign to step up the intensity, by doing HIIT training.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU DO IT
If you have progressed to this levels, then you can do it for about month or two, 2-3 times per week. This should be enough for you to experience the benefits since results of high intensity interval training are noticed very quickly.
After that, you don't need to do it regulary. Once per week or 2-3 times per month should be enough, in order to keep this level of cardio. In between, perform less demanding cardio. However, slight reduction in your performance will be seen after couple of months.
When you get to this point, you can do it again for about month or two, 2-3 times per week to get back to the top. I mix jogging and sprinting throughout the year, while doing HIIT every now and then.
Actually, I do only HIIT training 2-3 times per year for about month or two. This helps me keep my heart function at its best, while staying in shape all year round.
HOW LONG SHOULD THE WORKOUT LAST
Workout usually lasts from 10 to 25 minutes, due to high intensity. Let's say you do high intensity interval training for 15 minutes. I personally like to do 30 seconds sprints, followed by 30 seconds of light jogging or I simply walk. This means fifteen 15 sprints and 15 rest intervals.
Maybe some of you think that 15 minutes is nothing but wait and see. You will leave your guts out, the first time you try it. Also, the times can vary.
If you can't sprint for 30, you can do 10 second sprints, followed by 40 to 60 seconds rest intervals, in the beggining. As your cardio improves, the length of the sprint drills will go up, while rest times will go down.
I personally like to do one month of HIIT training before the summer, one month after the summer and during the first month of the new year. This way, I perform them in equal intervals, up to three times per year.
While the weather is great before and after the summer, here in Croatia, preforming HIIT during the first month of the new year can be hard and sometimes impossible.
It tends to be very cold. What I am trying to say is that you should take weather into account, considering the place of your residence, if you are performing it outside, as I am.
Besides the cardiovascular benefits that HIIT training provides, it is also fenomenal for fat burning, especially before the summer. Although sprinting is the best suited for high intensity interval training, other exercises can also be used, if done with high intensity and short rest intervals.
This includes jumping rope, cycling, rowing, swimming, plyometrics jumps and even weight training. At the end of the day, you will have to find out what works best for you and be your own coach.
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