Have you ever heard of the term HIIT? If you haven’t you have likely been living under a rock, or don’t have social media at all, which kind are both the same thing I suppose. If you don’t know what it means, let me catch you up!
HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. This form of exercise has been very popular for the past 10 years. It can appear in many forms but the general idea is to ramp up the heart rate through a high intensity circuit or one simple movement, take small bouts of rest/recovery and repeat them as long as the workout demands. It is an amazing way to get the most of your training without spending hours in the gym each day for great results. The reason this form of training became so popular is really due to the birth of “class” atmosphere in gyms across the world. Most people have an hour to train, and in the group setting it is easiest to create stations to rotate people through, or have them execute timed intervals right where they stand of body weight, free weight or monostructural modalities on an erg (bike, rower, ski, ect.). CrossFit is even a form of this type of training and while very different in execution, so are F45, Orange Theory and many other boutique fitness style classes you can take.
The question that is proposed in this write up is, is it still the best way to train? The physiological benefits of HIIT style training are increased lean body mass, increased anaerobic and aerobic capacity, muscle stamina, muscle strength and decrease in body fat. What is not to like about this form of training? Nothing! In fact when it comes to saving yourself time and still getting the most out of each training session there is nothing that really compares! Our alternative is to train strength in sets that allow for a lower heart rate and more rest and then to train our endurance through long slow bouts that can build up to hours at a time. That is what body builders did (and most still do) for many years. Because we used to view health and fitness as synonymous actions with what body builders once did, we simply followed their lead. Now we know different.
We are aware that body building is an amazing feat of discipline, genetic gifts and life style commitment but it’s not what everyone wants or needs to be healthy, or to simply look good and feel good. We all need to move, but we dont’ have hours to spend in the gym. Most of us hope to spend most of our time with family and friends making memories so the less time we can spend in the gym and the more time outside of it the better!
So what should you do? I wish I had the time to give you all the answers but in short I’ll do my best. Select movements with barbells or dumb bells or kettlebells that use both the upper and lower body (compound movements), learn to execute them safely and well. Combine those movements with body weight exercises (learn new ones as often as you can) and monostructural movements like running, rowing, biking and swimming, jumping rope as much as you can and in as different ways as possible. Sometimes train for only :30 as fast as you can with 1:00 of rest and other times go for 40 minutes without stopping. The goal is to constantly be switching up your routine and what you ask of your body. The end goal is to physically challenge yourself and to keep the intensity as high as you can through each session and movement. It’s better to keep bouts shorter with more intensity and simply sprinkle in longer, more steady and easy moving workouts throughout your weeks or months.
You won’t get specialist results training this way. So if you have specific goals like playing in the NFL or making it to the olympics or being a pro powerlifter or strongman then you must simply find coaching and train for what the sport will demand of you. But, if your goals are to simply look good, move well, be healthy and get fit then yes, HIIT is still it.
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