I recently assisted a journalist in coming to a conclusion, and below are the results and below again are my thoughts about this particular system of training.
On the Spin Bike: 2 min warm up + 20 seconds HIIT followed by 2 minutes recovery slow pedal X 3 + 3 min cool down pedal (so 10 minutes in total):
• Biceps & Triceps circumference: 1 cm loss • Super Illiac (belly area): 5 mm loss • Sub Scapular (below shoulder blade): 4 mm loss • Hips: 1.9 cm loss • Waist: 3 cm loss • 4% reduction in BF • Vo2 (aerobic capacity): 80% improvement! • Complexion: Is fresher: The heart beat is stronger, pumping fresh blood and oxygen and nutrients around the body / to the skin
Q. Are intense workouts (such as HIIT) as effective at torching fat and boosting fitness than longer more leisurely ones (aka LSD)?
A. Yes, relatively speaking, it’s better at torching fat in all clients but not all clients can take HIIT. For example: An obese or out of condition person won’t be able to safely push themselves to a ‘High Intensity’ without serious risk of injury, so for these categories, it’s better to build up fitness via more slow – moderate aerobic exercises: Walking, cycling…
Q. Why are short, sharp HIIT workouts becoming more popular?
A. Due to people’s tight budgets and busy lifestyles there has been a definite shift towards short bursts of high-intensity interval training. Research and studies a plenty have shown a multitude of positive results from such training methods: Including improved aerobic capacity and carbohydrate metabolism (HIIT uses carbs more than fat for energy but it’s the EPOC and other changes, bullet pointed below, that cause a higher long term fat burn) and insulin sensitivity – which basically means you utilize your energy a lot more efficiently and burn more calories post workout (EPOC) than with LSD (Long Slow Duration) types. You don’t need a gym or equipment really, just your own bodyweight (Squats, jumps, lunges, sprints etc) which is why I do this with pretty much all my clients. For example: 8 exercises for 30 seconds HIIT with 10 seconds rest in between, three times over! The variety of exercises within the circuit means you’re be using every muscle and the way you roll from one move to the other with minimal rest keeps it a super cardio calorie burner, making sure your heart and lungs are kept in good nick too.
Then, from a capitalistic angle: Gyms can run more classes in a short period of time…
Q. What are the benefits of HIIT?
A. As above: • Increased resting metabolic rate for upwards of 24 hours after exercise. • Improved insulin sensitivity in the muscles. • Higher levels of fat oxidation in the muscles. • Spikes in growth hormone levels (which aid in fat loss) and catecholamine levels (chemicals your body produces to directly induce fat mobilization). • Post-exercise appetite suppression.
Also, because of the intensity of the exercise, it pushes your perceived limitations, then expectations, then ambitions! The ripple effect of this quickie success will likely encourage the same ‘gritty determination’ in other aspects of your life. That’s what achievement does – it increases confidence and ambition.
Q. What is / Who is HIIT best for? What are its limitations?
A. HIIT is best for people who are time short… don’t like typical “boring cardio” aka LSD (long slow duration)… want to exercise at home as it’s doable in small spaces) and you don’t need equipment… want to improve their muscular endurance and VO2 capacity (how long you can go without blowing!)… Want to lose inches (ignore scales!)… keep body fat down… It’s shown to be best for those who’s goal is ‘big muscle’ because long bouts of cardio is shown to hinder muscle growth (can also encourage the body to want to store fat) whereas HIIT actually promotes muscle growth because it’s better at boosting HGH (human growth hormone) – it’s many bodybuilders choice of cardio these days: http://bbcom.me/1GZHERL but, I’m aware however that many of my body building buddies still prefer the LSD aerobic activity (such as a 45 mins jog) and as it works for them, so all studies aside, they’re fine sticking with it. Ultimately, HIIT is a great addition to anybody’s regimen. You just need to be injury free and relatively fit first.
Q. Does HIIT benefit women more than men?
A. The benefits are the same (in my experience) although it is said that women do better because lo-and-behold: they work harder during their intervals! You could also say that, as a woman is prone to burning fat easier than carbs, she will reap the fat burning benefits more. At the end of the day, both men and women will, in the long run, burn more fat with HIIT. (Obviously, one HIIT session per week is not enough aerobic activity and does not trump 4 x 45 minutes jogs)
Q. So, HIIT Vs LSD?
A. I think LSD is great if you’re practicing for a marathon – you generally train for the sport you’re in so you need to mimic what you’re going to do as well as possible before you do it. However, everyone will benefit from maximal exertion of HIIT.
Q. Does LSD trump HIIT in any way?
A. Personal / Exercise satisfaction is obviously a subjective thing: Some people find a gritty HIIT session a good stress relevant and others benefit more from a paced jog which takes them in to a trance like state. LSD and HIIT both boost endurance capabilities but so does strength training (stronger muscles to carry you) so you see that all exercise disciplines help ‘get you there’ in the end. Leisurely workouts are good for those who are out of condition, obese, have joint issues, health issues…
Q. So, is 60 Seconds HIIT enough – alone?
A. No. Protein is good for you but you can’t survive on it, and it alone. You need your carbs, your fats, vitamins, minerals etc There are five main pillars of fitness that mimic the physicality’s of everyday life: Strength, Endurance, Speed, Proprioception and Flexibility. You’ll be more functional by incorporating all these. For all the reasons I’ve detailed, it’s a great and highly beneficial addition to your exercise regime and if you’re lacking in motivation and feel like you’re lacking a sense of satisfaction when it comes to exercise: The short duration of this type of exercise will give you a quick sense of satisfaction, spurring you on to do more. Hopefully!
Here is an example of HIIT training (20 Seconds HIIT + 40 Seconds Static Recovery x 8) at home with my Reebok Easy Tone Step:
…but you could do this without by doing Fast Feet then dropping down to do Mountain Climbers. Other moves you could dabble with: