If the thought of pounding the pavement for an hour is about as pleasing to you as doing your taxes, we have great news for you! Interval training, such as HIIT or Tabata has been proven time and time again as a better method for fat loss than long duration cardio. Studies show that just 15 minutes of performing sprints with full recovery in between has a greater benefit on your metabolism than 60 minutes of jogging. In addition, interval training increases your VO2 max, improves cardiovascular, ATP, and CP systems, and increases stamina, strength, and explosiveness!
Elite athletes have been using these training methods for years, but recently, interval training has hit the mainstream fitness world. Unfortunately with popularity comes a lot of misinformation and unhealthy practices. Elite athletes are highly skilled and are prepared for high intensity programs. Athletes are also supervised by trained coaches and educated staff members. With that being said, interval training CAN and SHOULD be used by everyone (after doctor approval, of course!) Education is the key to success, so before you jump into the next HIIT program you see on the internet, let me inform you how to best incorporate interval training into your fitness routine.
HIIT, or high intensity interval training, consist of alternating bouts of hard effort exercise with periods of recovery. Studies show an ideal ratio is 1:3, meaning the rest/recovery interval should be three times longer than the intervals of hard effort. Many programs out there switch this ratio around leading to overtraining and improper muscle recovery! Do your body a favor and avoid these uneducated programs!
Tabata, named after Dr. Izumi Tabata from the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo, consists of 20 seconds of high intensity exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated continuously for 4 minutes. This method is the shortest in duration and the highest in intensity of interval training programs. Tabata is whole different beast when it comes to interval training. It throws the ideal hard effort/recovery ratio out the window! Many have be known to call it high-INSANITY training. Research suggests it would take up to five times the amount of moderate cardio to match the calories burned in a 4 minute Tabata! Due to the lack of recovery in this method, you should work your way up to this program. Try less taxing exercises, such as squats rather than squat jumps, or increase the recovery time until your body adapts.
For optimal results:
- Include HIIT or Tabata training in your workout regimen NO MORE than 2-3x a week and NEVER on consecutive days.
- ALWAYS begin with a warm-up and end with a cool-down.
- The intervals of high intensity should be around 2-4 minutes and the entire workout should be under 20 minutes.
- ALWAYS keep proper form. NEVER sacrifice quality for quantity! If you notice your form slipping, increase your recovery time or decrease your intervals of hard effort.
- HAVE FUN with your training and mix it up. Interval training is highly adaptable and can be performed using basic exercises (squats, push-ups, etc.), sprinting, swimming, cycling, jumping rope, sparring a punching bag, etc.
Follow these simple suggestions and enjoy the numerous health benefits of this time-efficient approach to exercise! You GET what you GIVE!
Freese, E. C., Acitelli, R. M., Gist, N. H., Cureton, K. J., Evans, E. M., & O'Connor, P. J. (2014). Effect of Six Weeks of Sprint Interval Training on Mood and Perceived Health in Women at Risk for Metabolic Syndrome. Journal Of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 36(6), 610-618.
Herodek, K., Simonović, C., Pavlović, V., & Stanković, R. (2014). High Intensity Interval Training. Activities In Physical Education & Sport, 4(2), 205-207.
Tabata Training Proves Effective. (2013). IDEA Fitness Journal, 10(8), 15.