Looking to take your cardio to the next level? Drop the jog and instead go for High-Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT. Think about a normal cardio routine on a treadmill – plug in your speed, break out a sweat, and go for as long as you can. While this is better than nothing, HIIT has been proven to better enhance physical performance vs. normal, steady state cardio and has the added benefit of burning more fat as well. So what is HIIT? HIIT is a training technique where you give 100% effort in short bursts of exercise (we’re talking targeting 90% of your HR Max), followed by short recovery periods. The name of the game is to go all out, rest as short as possible, and keep your heart rate high. Lets run through the three main benefits.
Have a busy schedule? HIIT has efficiency ingrained in its DNA and is nearly guaranteed to save you time vs. normal cardio. The benefit comes from HIIT’s ‘all-out’ approach – you train at 100% for a short period of time, followed by an ‘active’ break (aka you never stop moving). Research shows that 15 minutes of interval training, done 3 times a week will be more effective than jogging on the treadmill for an hour. All in, a HIIT workout should probably last 8-15 minutes, while a normal cardio workout will probably last 30+ minutes.
2) Boost your Cardio
I’ll just throw some facts out for you: 1) According to a 2011 study, completing just 2 weeks of high-intensity intervals improves your aerobic capacity as much as 6-8 weeks of endurance training, and 2) One study in 2006 found that subjects could bike twice as long as before, after only 8 weeks of HIIT training. How does HIIT accomplish this? Operating at 100% puts you in the anaerobic zone, where your body is basically training without oxygen for short periods of time. You will know this as that amazing place where you can hardly breathe and it feels like your heart is trying to jump out of your chest.
1) Lose Weight, Keep the Muscle
Saving the best for last. HIIT serves a one-two punch – boosts calorie burn AND preserves muscle. After training at high intensities, your body goes through a process called Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC). Basically after a strenuous workout, your body needs a certain amount of oxygen to return to normal – the more oxygen used, the more calories burned. So not only are you likely burning more calories during your workout, but your body will continue to burn more after you are finished. Finally, weight training and HIIT workouts have been shown to allow dieters to keep their muscle mass, while losing weight from fat stores, while steady state cardio encourages muscle loss.
So there you have it. HIIT may be your ticket to ditching the jog, cutting down your workout time, and improving your fitness results. Want a quick HIIT? Try doubling your normal jog speed for one minute (you should be out of breath), followed by a 1-2 minute ‘break’ at half your normal speed. Repeat for 3-5 sets and you’ll have an amazing ~10-15 minute cardio workout.
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