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Pros and Cons of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)


As current and past clients of mine will agree, I am a strong advocate for High Intensity Interval Workouts, commonly referred to as HIIT. Whether a client's goal is fat-loss or to increase muscle mass, HIIT will play some part in their training schedule with me. Below I explain what HIIT is, who the best candidates are, and then finally the pros and cons of HIIT.

What is HIIT?

HIIT is a workout that combines multiple short intervals of cardio, resistance, and strength-based exercises. A HIIT workout often involves functional, multi-directional, and compound exercises such as lunges, squats, burpees, and box jumps. Each exercise is performed for a short period of time following a short recovery period, then onto the next exercise. The participant's level of fitness will determine the work-to-rest ratio. For beginners, I would suggest a 1:2 work:rest ratio – for example: 30 seconds work, 1-minute rest. For an intermediate level, aim for a 1:1 work:rest ratio, and for experienced individuals, a 2:1 work:rest ratio. HIIT sessions should involve around 8-10 exercises, and at least 2 rounds should be completed for it to be most effective. Because you are exercising for short periods of time, each exercise should be done with near maximal effort. This makes for an awesome workout!

Who are the ideal candidates for HIIT?

HIIT training isn't suitable for everyone. It is a strenuous workout and you fatigue a lot quicker than if you were completing a regular cardio or strength session on its own. The risk of injury also increases due to the increased fatigue levels you will experience. So, who are the ideal candidates?

Ideal candidates should have:

-          A basic level of strength and fitness

-          Body awareness and knowledge of their physical limitations

-          Know how to perform each exercise correctly and safely

-          No common or recurring injuries such as back, knee, or shoulder injuries

-          No knowledge of any cardiovascular problems

What are the pros?

There are many pros to HIIT; below I name a few of the most common ones.

-          For those who are short on time, HIIT is perfect. A HIIT workout should last no longer than 45 minutes. If you are new to this format, I suggest starting with a 20-minute HIIT workout, making sure you warm up and cool down sufficiently

-          As HIIT workouts are so intense, they create something called an EPOC effect (Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption). EPOC occurs as your body is recovering, so you'll keep burning energy throughout the day!

-          Little or no equipment is needed! An effective HIIT workout can be conducted with just bodyweight exercises – perfect for on holiday

-          If your goal is to decrease body fat but increase muscle mass, HIIT could be your answer. A mix of cardio and strength exercise means HIIT can kill two birds with one stone

-          Due to the variety of exercises used in one workout, HIIT is an effective complete body workout

What are the cons?

As to any type of workout, there are some potential cons. As mentioned in the beginning, I am a big advocate of this type of workout, but I will admit there are some considerations to be made for this style. 

-          Potentially higher risk of injury due to the intense nature of the workout

-          Not suitable for those who do not have a basic level of fitness to begin with

-          It can be hard to motivate yourself to work at a high intensity for the whole workout, so a training partner is recommended

-          Doing too much too soon can lead to increased muscle soreness. Take it slow and work your way into HIIT workouts

-          Your mat or floor gets covered in sweat!

To conclude, HIIT workouts can be very effective and help you attain you goals quicker than your regular cardio or strength workout. I would not recommend this type of workout to a complete beginner, but if you like the sound of HIIT, ask a professional to show you through it first.

Over the next week I will be posting some examples of HIIT workouts on my Facebook and Instagram for you to try. Give me a follow and let me know how it goes!

Facebook and Instagram: @bodiesandbeyondpt

Huw Grundy, Bsc (Sports Science)
Bodies and Beyond Personal Training

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