The Lowdown on HIIT Cardio
Nov 15, 2016
THE BASICS: What is HIIT Cardio?
HIIT cardio is rapidly gaining popularity in the fitness industry and among exercisers of all levels as the “IT” cardio to do! HIIT, aka "high intensity interval training," is any workout that alternates between intense bursts of activity and fixed periods of less-intense activity for recovery. HIIT cardio is considered to be more effective than steady state cardio because you are able to simultaneously increase both your aerobic and anaerobic endurance capacities while burning more fat than ever before.
Because the training is that much more intense, you are able to accomplish a larger work load in a shorter period of time – and who doesn’t want that?!
Who can benefit from HIIT Cardio?
Someone looking to burn as much fat as possible during a cutting phase, someone looking to minimize fat gain during a bulking phase, or someone looking to significantly increase their aerobic and anaerobic endurance for increased athletic performance.
Why is HIIT Cardio better than steady state cardio for the avid weight lifter?
The shorter duration of HIIT cardio workouts prevent the body from entering the catabolic state that occurs with extended steady state cardio. With prolonged cardio sessions, the body starts to break down muscle tissue and uses it as fuel.
Clearly, this is not the goal of someone looking to either increase or maintain their muscle mass. HIIT can also potentially increase the production of many anabolic hormones, making it the perfect method for losing fat while retaining that coveted muscle mass.
TIPS & TRAINING: Layout for a HIIT Cardio Workout
Typically, HIIT cardio workouts encompass all out bursts of intense exercise lasting anywhere from 10 to 60 seconds, along with brief recovery periods of anywhere between 30 seconds and 2 mins at a low to moderate intensity.
The work/rest ratio can vary depending on your starting fitness level and your fitness goals (i.e. sport specific performance such as 10 sec sprints down a soccer field).
An example of a common HIIT work/rest ratio would be 30 secs high / 60 secs low, repeated 10-15 times. Each HIIT session should last 15-20 mins, incorporating a 5 min warm up, to prime the body for the intense physical activity, and a 5 min cool down to clear the lactic acid from the muscles.
Using a heart rate monitor is a great way to ensure you are working within the proper intensity ranges. During the high intensity intervals, your heart rate should be upwards of 90-95% of your maximum heart rate, and during the recovery periods it should be between 65-75% (your maximum heart rate can be calculated by subtracting your age from 220).
Sample Track or Treadmill HIIT Cardio Workout
5 min light jog/brisk walk warm up
30 secs all out sprint (90-95% of your maximum heart rate)
60 secs light jog/brisk walk (65-75% of your maximum heart rate)
Repeat 10-15 times
5 min light jog/brisk walk cool down
Then, I sip on 1 scoop of Raspberry Lemonade AminoJect throughout my HIIT cardio session to enhance muscular endurance and assist with recovery post training.
Tips Regarding HIIT Cardio Training
- Changing the duration of your intervals is a great way to keep your workouts challenging. If you start out with 30 sec sprints on a treadmill, after a few weeks increase the duration of your intervals to 45 secs, and then 60 secs. Alternatively, you can change the duration of your rest periods. Initially, it’s a good idea to give yourself a lot of rest time. Take 90 secs to recover at first, then decrease your rest time to 60 secs, and so on. As your fitness improves, you’ll be able to sprint for a longer period of time and recover faster.
- If your goal is to reduce body fat, perform your HIIT cardio workouts in the mornings on an empty stomach. Studies have shown that fat utilization can be up to 3 times greater when performed in a fasted state.
- Always begin your HIIT cardio workouts with a 5 min warm up and end with a 5 min cool down. Both of these will help to reduce the risk for strained muscles, prevent dizziness or nausea, and reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) post workout.
- HIIT cardio training can be performed 1 - 4 times per week, but be aware this can put an intense amount of strain on the body and should be gradually incorporated in to your training regimen to reduce any overuse injuries. Also, consider varying the type of cardio performed to minimize the risk for injury and incorporate different equipment options like the bike, arc trainer and stair mill.
If you are feeling frustrated and in a rut with your fitness progress, try out a HIIT Cardio program to bust through your fat loss and/or aerobic capacity plateau! But be prepared – it’s not for the faint of heart!
Related Article: 4 Reasons to “HIIT” It Hard and Burn Fat - HIIT Cardio 101