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In the past year or two, High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has seen a big surge in popularity, largely due to its versatility and its claims to higher levels of calorie burning. HIIT is a method of training that involves repeated sessions of maximum intensity exercise typically sustained for 30 seconds, followed by a rest interval lasting about 90 seconds.

What’s all the fuss about?

  1. HIIT has been shown to decrease blood pressure and cholesterol levels and increase aerobic and anaerobic fitness.
  2. It can be used to improve power, endurance, and speed.
  3. You can do it anywhere since there is little to no equipment needed.
  4. It’s fast, convenient, and a time-saver.

What’s the best way to get started?

Ideally there should be a good base level fitness before trying HIIT. See your doctor first for a fitness assessment, particularly if you have led a sedentary lifestyle or are in the master’s athlete category.  HIIT should only be used as a supplement to regular training; begin slowly and work your way up to higher levels of physical activity.

Typical HIIT exercises can include: stair climbing, jogging/sprinting, cycling, skipping rope, or swimming.  When engaged in a HIIT exercise program it’s important to understand how to assess and perform the resting intervals, use a timer on your watch or phone so to keep you on track. For the best results, the activity you choose should be performed the highest rate of perceived exertion (RPE), i.e. you would not be able to keep up the pace for more than a minute.

What are some of the common pitfalls?

Training too long – With HIIT, less is more. Ideally, training sessions should be short and divided into tiny chunks – an effective workout can take anywhere from 10-20 minutes. Anything longer than 30 minutes is unnecessary and can lead to injuries.

Training too often – Since HIIT training is so short it can be tempting for beginners to add it in everyday. When worked hard, muscles need time to heal and rebuild, keep HIIT training sessions to twice a week, three maximum.

Performing an adequate warm-up – The intensity of this type of workout means your muscles need to be warmed up before beginning. Do some basic dynamic stretches or a light jog.

One of the best things about HIIT is that it is short and can easily fit in an already busy schedule.

When designing your HIIT program, customize it so it works for your current fitness level and goals, start small, keep it simple, and above all, have some fun with it.

References:

Gillen J. Low-Volume, High-Intensity Interval Training: A Practical Fitness Strategy. Wellspring. August 2012;23(4):1-4.

Is High-Intensity Interval Training HIIT-ing the wall?. Men’s Fitness. June 2016;32(5):12.

Kravitz L. Peripheral Heart Action Training: “What’s Old Is New Again”. IDEA Fitness Journal. May 2016;13(5):14-17.

Langdon J, Joseph S, Kendall K, Harris B, McMillan J. Motives for Physical Activity and Physiological Variables as Predictors of Exercise Intentions Following a High Intensity Interval Training Protocol in College-Age Females. International Journal Of Exercise Science. April 2016;9(2):121-135.

Pilianidis T, Mantzouranis N, Kyriklidis K, Zafiridis A, Kellis S. The Effects of High-Intensity Interval Training In the Aerobic Performance of Young Soccer Players In Competitive Season. Physical Training. March 2013;:2.

About the Author: Michelle is an information management specialist with many years focusing on sport and fitness research and education. Michelle has been sharing her expertise with SIRC for over 3 years.



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