What is HIIT? Let’s dig into the question and look into why it’s a huge debate in health and fitness. We’ll also be debunking some common myths that surround high intensity interval training or HIIT.
The concept of HIIT emerged when Dr. Izumi Tabata conducted an experiment back in the 1990s. To make things simpler, let’s take a look at the most crucial facts regarding this discovery:
- He had elite athletes participate in the experiment that involved cycling on an ergometer
- Half of these athletes worked at a moderate-intensity while the other half worked at high-intensity.
- The moderate intensity was measured as 70% of the athletes’ VO2 max. Whereas, the high intensity workout numbers went up to 170% of their VO2 max.
- Moderate intensity pedaling lasted for 60 minutes with the same intensity and pace (70% of their VO2 max)
- High-intensity training involved cycling for 20 seconds initially at 170% of their VO2 max. This was followed by a rest of 10 seconds. The process continued for 30 minutes, giving you a total break of 4 minutes in between 8-9 intense sessions.
- The experiment lasted for 6 weeks, with each athlete working out 5 days per week.
- Results of the experiment indicated that athletes working out at high intensity burned more calories than the other group.
[Content Image: HIIT vs Traditional Workout] [two athletes working out on different paces]
Public Perception: What Counts as HIIT?
The notion of high-intensity training spread across the world as if it was the biggest breakthrough in the history of health and fitness. People who were having troubles with the long hours they had to put in for their workouts saw this as a chance to achieve their goals. The idea of applying more intensity appealed to almost everyone as it was much easier than maintaining a regular and consistent routine.
Although different people developed variable understandings about the notion, the turnout remained the same in the majority of the cases. For most people, hopping on any gym equipment and giving it their all for 5-10 minutes meant they’re engaging in HIIT. Similarly, HIIT at home became doing anything hard and fast enough to get your heart racing until you can’t continue anymore. Whereas, only a certified professional can tell you how many HIIT workouts you should do per week.
The problems that resulted from this misconception were twofold. Firstly, this new idea of going all-in on your workout was normalizing the notion of exhausting yourself which isn’t necessarily a measure that ascertains a good workout. Secondly, this was causing physiological problems that were inevitable as HIIT wasn’t as easy as people thought.
We can easily trace back the root of the problems to the misguided or mistaken understanding people derived from Dr. Tabata’s research. The most crucial part that people were obliviously disregarding was that Dr. Tabata was experimenting with “elite” athletes. Even recent research indicates that HIIT requires a certain level of strength, muscle mass, stamina, energy and other factors that contribute to the overall progress.
Compared to normal people who don’t qualify as even normal athletes, it was impossible even for the latter to achieve the same level of VO2 max as the elites. One can only assume how it turned out for the average Joe who didn’t even bother hiring a professional trainer. Even if we set aside the fact that they were not cut out for HIIT, this exercise requires the utmost precision in every manner.
Myths Surrounding HIIT:
What counts towards making the situation worse involved the mixed-up pieces of information people mistook as benefits of HIIT. For instance:
- You can go at a high intensity workout on any exercise and you’ll be amplifying the effects of the specific exercise on your body.
- Working out at an intense pace for longer durations will result in better results.
- One can neglect diet intake if they include enough HIIT in their regimen.
- Investing in equipment for HIIT will help you work out in an improved and efficient manner.
- Getting yourself enrolled or registered for HIIT classes that last for 30-60 minutes will improve your workout.
- You don’t need to work out on specific parts of your body after HIIT.
- You can target specific parts of the body once you’ve engaged in HIIT.
- HIIT is the ultimate alternative to cardio workouts.
As you can probably tell, all these facts can be put to the test and we’ll see how false all these notions are. Regardless, a large number of people still continue to remain ignorant to the facts of the research that formed the basis of their incomplete logic.
Wrong answers to questions like, “Does HIIT make you lose muscle?” are very common. The only right answer is yes but it comes with a presupposition that the exercise you’re engaging in is indeed HIIT.
An effective workout plan for HIIT will involve sit-ups, running lunges, jumping jacks, goblet squats, burpees, Russian twists, leg raises, etc. What works for you will depend upon your individual situation.
People consider running out of breath to be a sign of achievement in regular HIIT workouts. However, this isn’t cause for celebration as you have no proof of it being effective. While it may bring you some doses of satisfaction, it is inevitably not in your best interest to keep exhausting yourself every day.
Common Mistakes People Make When Engaging in HIIT:
Right off the bat, consider your workout goals, routines, and specific parts of your body that you’re targeting. There are many more efficient ways to get things done than putting your body through HIIT on a regular basis.
If you still prefer going for HIIT because you like it or you’re focusing on burning calories, avoid the following:
- Skipping your warmup or break sessions. Your body will need equivalent amounts of rest for the induced effects of a high intensity workout.
- Thinking that you can avoid a proper diet and still achieve your goals is as foolhardy as running on a treadmill while juggling kettlebells. It won’t help you one bit and you’ll end up hurting yourself.
- Becoming too engaged to lose sight of your form and posture while working out. This, more often than not, results in an injury.
- Resting too long in between intense workout sessions. Try maintaining a 1:2 ratio, meaning you work out as hard as you can (70-80% of your VO2 max) for a minute and take 2 to rest.
- Taking longer breaks or going too soft on your consecutive sessions as this will ultimately render your hard work useless.
- Doing too much because HIIT will start adversely affecting your body.
- Working out without proper equipment, including machinery, types of weights, fitness wear such as women and men’s workout shorts, joggers, hoodies, etc.
Following the advice above, you can safely set off on your HIIT routines so long as you consider your specific situation. Make sure to factor in your goals, preferences in terms of exercises and routines, your current and anticipated diet, and most of all, consider hiring professional trainers.
With concepts like HIIT, you really don’t want to beat around the bush because you can’t afford mistakes. There is no denying that Dr. Tabata’s and contemporary studies have proved how HIIT can work. However, doing it wrong, too much or even quitting at some point can become likely causes for severe problems. Therefore, it’s mandatory that you consider professional supervision.
When all is said and done, you’ll find that HIIT can indeed work for you, even if it’s in certain situations. However, it’s not for everyone and certainly not for beginners. Instead of considering yourself as insufficient or incapable, consider getting consultation before trying anything out.