HIIT, otherwise known as high intensity interval training, is one of the hottest new training methods in the fitness world due to its ability to burn large amounts of calories, with only a small time period of effort.
Research indicates that HIIT training is quite effective for burning calories and fat for a long time during the day, while only exercising briefly. Many people, including researchers, have found success with this style of exercise in as few as 10 minutes or less per day (1,2).
Surely, it’s no wonder why this style of exercise has made headlines as the hottest new training trend.
Despite its popularity, many people don’t fully understand what is necessary for HIIT to be effective. Further, many are misled by the notion that you have to sprint or have to ride a bike for it to be effective.
Fortunately, you don’t have to simply run or ride a bike for HIIT to be effective. Additionally, there are some methods you can use to supercharge your HIIT training, to make it fun, effective and actually interesting.
HIIT Training Identified
HIIT training, otherwise known as high intensity interval training, is basically performed exactly as its name suggests. You choose an exercise, use it at a very high intensity for a short amount of time and then repeat, at regular intervals.
The catch with HIIT training is that you’ll need to train at a really very high intensity. No, this isn’t a simple jog and then run, style of intervals. To effectively use HIIT, you’ll need to go close to the brink of exhaustion and then do another set.
In essence, HIIT training isn’t easy. It’s a combination of high intensity exercise and short rest periods, ensuring that you’re working very hard. That being said, here are a few of my tried and tested methods for supercharging your HIIT training for maximum calorie burn.
Don’t Burn Yourself Out Too Soon
As I just mentioned, HIIT training is very high intensity which it needs to be, in order for it to actually be effective. Unfortunately, many people take that to mean they need to go all out, on the first set.
While you’ll certainly need to work hard, you shouldn’t completely burn yourself out on the first set, since doing so will mean less total work being completed.
For example, imagine you have a HIIT session, comprised of 5 x 15-second sprints.
When using HIIT, you’re under the assumption that you should work as hard as possible. Normally this would be the case, but you need to consider the entire workout, rather than one single set.
When you’re completing HIIT, exercising at around an 8, on a 10-point scale with 10 being impossible, will likely suffice in terms of effort and return from that effort.
Consider for a moment, which of these two scenarios will be more beneficial in terms of long-term weight loss:
- Completes 2, 15–second sprints, but too exhausted to continue, or
- Completes 5, 15-second sprints
If you chose number 2, you’re likely correct. By working hard, yet easing the intensity back to begin with, it’s possible you’ll be able to complete more sets, which will be more beneficial, long term.
Rather than burning out after 1-2 sprints, dial the intensity back slightly to allow for more volume and faster progress.
Use Your Favorite Exercises
HIIT training doesn’t need to be boring. In fact, there are many different methods you can use to accomplish a HIIT style of exercise. Further, I always suggest picking the form of exercise that you actually enjoy.
By choosing exercises that you actually enjoy doing, it’s more likely you’ll complete the workout and it’s also more likely that you’ll be more enthusiastic about the process of actually doing it too, which could lead to putting in greater effort and a more consistent approach going forward.
I like to think of picking exercises like picking a diet. If you love carbohydrates, then why would you choose a low carb diet? The same concept holds for HIIT. If you hate running, find another way to do HIIT like cycling, rowing, battle ropes, prowlers and, as I’ll touch on shortly, even lifting weights.
By choosing your favorite methods of exercise, it’s more likely you’ll actually do the workouts and you’ll likely put forth greater effort, allowing for bigger returns.
Vary Your Sets & Duration Of Sprints
One of the main reasons people either don’t work out or stop working out is boredom.
We’ve all been there before, dreading the monotony of what’s to come at the gym, due to consistently doing the same thing over and over again. If you find yourself in this position, why not try to change things up? Not to mention, doing so is an easy way to ensure you’re practicing progressive overload.
Even if you’re using the same exercises all the time, you still have the ability to adjust the number of sets you complete, and the duration that you’re sprinting for. Occasionally changing up the number of sprints you do and their duration may spice things up enough to keep you interested.
When adjusting your HIIT sets, here are some general guidelines:
- If you increase the durations of your sprints, you’ll probably need longer rest periods in between sets or will need to complete fewer sets as long sprints can be exhausting. In this situation, first increase rest and if necessary, reduce sets.
- If you decrease the duration of your sprints, you should generally increase the number of sets you complete and then potentially decrease rest times. If your sprints are shorter, they’ll need to be of higher intensity and in greater amounts.
By occasionally changing the number and duration of sets you complete, you might just turn your dreaded HIIT session into something you enjoy and something that actually works again.
HIIT With Weights
HIIT training doesn’t need to be completely cardio based. In fact, many resistance-training exercises can actually be turned into HIIT, just by adjusting rep amounts and rest periods.
For example, the back squat is the most obvious choice for turning resistance training into HIIT.
As a barbell back squat would normally be completed for 10 reps or less, you can also reduce the weight and up repetitions to around 30, which will likely take you around a minute to actually complete. In essence, you’re turning a traditional strength-based exercise into a full body, fat-burning one.
Front squats into overhead presses, otherwise known as squat thrusters, are also an amazing exercise that can be turned into a full body, high intensity variant that incorporates many joints and muscle groups.
Here are some examples of turning traditional resistance exercises into HIIT workouts:
Exercise: Back Squat
- Complete 30 reps without stopping.
- Rest 2 minutes.
- Repeat as many as possible in 15 minutes.
Exercise: Squat Thruster
- Every minute, on the minute, complete 5 squat thrusters.
- Repeat for 10+ minutes.
5 Techniques to Supercharge Your HIIT Workouts
While HIIT training is the hottest new fitness trend, it doesn’t need to be boring, especially when there are great ways to supercharge your training.
Choosing the appropriate forms of exercise while ensuring that you don’t burn out too quickly is essential for progress. Further, changing the exercises, set amounts and durations of your sprints can allow for a refresher, while ensuring continued progress.
By using these techniques, you should be able to take your training to new heights and your body weight to new lows.
- Di Blasio, A., Izzicupo, P., Tacconi, L., Di Santo, S., Leogrande, M., Bucci, I., … & Napolitano, G. (2016). Acute and delayed effects of high intensity interval resistance training organization on cortisol and testosterone production. The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness, 56(3), 192-199.
- Tremblay, A., Simoneau, J. A., & Bouchard, C. (1994). Impact of exercise intensity on body fatness and skeletal muscle metabolism. Metabolism, 43(7), 814-818.