HIIT (high-intensity interval training) might be one of those exercise fads with staying power. Why? Because with a workout that can span anywhere from five to 15 minutes, the results are the same, if not better, than a traditional one-hour workout.
High-intensity training has many benefits that go beyond the time you save doing the exercises. Not only will you burn fat more efficiently, but you’ll also get a total body workout you can customize to your goals. Don’t have access to a gym or weights? Do HIIT. Need a quick warm-up session tailored to your chosen sport? Do HIIT. Want to combine cardio and strength training? HIIT may very well be your answer.
How to Do It
A good HIIT program will include exercises that target multiple muscle groups at once to maximize your training. A routine could easily consist of a high intensity cardio workout like: high knees, sprints, or jump roping for a minute followed by another minute of an exercise like weighted split squats, Spider-Man push-ups, or triceps dips. The goal is to alternate the minute of high intensity with a minute of low-intensity workout that allows you to recover while concentrating on other muscle groups.
Why Quick Bursts Work
As for why these quick workouts burn so much fat, consider the science. Phosphocreatine is the high-intensity energy source you use in the first 10 to 20 seconds of any high-intensity exercise. 20 seconds in, the phosphocreatine wears off, and anaerobic glycolysis in the form of lactic acid takes over. Your body uses the lactic acid as its next source of fuel. Unfortunately, despite the high level of fuel and calories being burned, our bodies can’t maintain that intensity for an extended amount of time – not even if you were a highly trained Olympic athlete. Why? The energy source of phosphocreatine and anaerobic glycolysis, is meant to be used by our bodies in high-stress situations. Usually, we have adrenaline to combine with this anaerobic metabolism to keep us going. This isn’t designed for long-term use.
The Perfect Mix
What it boils down to for your body in terms of weight loss and exercise, are these two different metabolic states, each with their advantages and disadvantages. The aerobic metabolism takes over when you’re doing a less intense exercise like a brisk walk or even lifting weights. This energy is for long-term use and endurance. The anaerobic metabolism fires up when you exercise at a higher intensity with moves such as high knees or jumping rope. The anaerobic metabolism burns the most fat, but since no one can sustain it effectively for long periods of time, it can’t be counted on solely for weight loss. However, if you mix the two, your body gets a chance to blast fat, recover, and blast fat again.
Another factor of weight loss that’s often overlooked is hormones. Many people, especially women, encounter fat trouble spots they can’t seem to lose. The answer may be hormones. If your body overproduces a specific hormone or doesn’t use what it makes, it will store it in fat. Love handles could actually be an estrogen storage tank. That tiny pouch of fat beneath your belly button? It could be because of testosterone. Having your hormone levels checked by your physician is one step in the right direction, but HIIT might also be another resource. When your body approaches 85 to 95% of VO2 max (maximum volume of oxygen your body can use), many hormones can increase that affect a body’s composition and anabolism.
If spare time is a rarity for you, look at HIIT’s most intense program, the Tabata workout. Within four minutes, you’ll perform an exercise at maximum intensity for 20 seconds, and then either rest for 10 seconds or do a lighter workout for that time. In the end, your body can accomplish a 28% increase in anaerobic capacity and a 14 % of VO2 max. No traditional workout can beat that and still save you that much time.