HIIT: What is High Intensity Interval Training?

High intensity interval training, or HIIT, is an exercise program that alternates short, intense exercise with recovery periods that are less intense. It tends to be shorter than typical cardiovascular exercise because the benefits of the intensity make up for the shorter time. Most HIIT workouts last less than 30 minutes, with some lasting less than 10 minutes.

Those who perform HIIT find that their aerobic and anaerobic capacities are greater, their stamina is increased, and they are able to burn fat more easily than they did with longer periods of exercise due to using more muscles than in typical aerobic exercise. In addition to the benefits in stamina and aerobic capacity, HIIT increases the resting metabolic rate for a full 24 hours after exercise. HIIT is also useful for highly conditioned athletes to continue to improve their athletic performance.

A typical workout consists of a standard warm up followed by fewer than 10 cycles of high-intensity exercise and a medium intensity recovery period. At the end of the workout, you’ll want to do the typical 5-minute cool down. Various versions of HIIT include the Tabata method, which is 20 seconds of high intensity exercise with 10 seconds of rest, repeated for 8 cycles that last 4 minutes total. The Gibala method employs a three-minute warm up, 60 seconds of intense exercise, and 75 seconds of rest for 8–12 cycles. The Timmons method is three repetitions of 20 seconds of intense cycling followed by two minutes of slow pedaling.

The HIIT method can be applied to any exercise, from weight lifting to running. The principle is the same, and the benefits are greater than the traditional form of that exercise. Speaking of form, should you decide to adapt your current workout using HIIT principles, it is vital that your form is correct and consistent. Exercising intensely with incorrect form can lead to injury, but the benefits from using HIIT can be incredible and long lasting.