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High Intensity Interval Training

Take Your Fitness and Fat Loss to the Next Level
  -- By Dean Anderson, Fitness & Behavior Expert
If I told you that there was a way to burn more calories, lose more fat, and improve your cardiovascular fitness level while spending less time doing cardio, you’d probably reach for your phone to report me to the consumer fraud hotline, right?

Well, this is one of those rare times when your natural it’s-too-good-to-be-true reaction could be mistaken. If you want to take your fitness and fat loss to the next level—without spending more time in the gym—then high intensity interval training (also known as HIIT) could be exactly what you're looking for.

Before getting into the details, notice that I didn’t say HIIT would be easier, just that it would take less of your time. In fact, the HIIT approach to cardio exercise is very physically demanding and isn’t for everyone. If you have any cardiovascular problems or other health concerns that limit your ability to exercise at very intense levels, or if you are relatively new to aerobic exercise or not already in good shape, HIIT is not for you—at least for now. If you have any doubts or concerns about whether it might be safe for you, check in with your medical professional before trying HIIT.

What It Is and How It Works
HIIT is a specialized form of interval training that involves short intervals of maximum intensity exercise separated by longer intervals of low to moderate intensity exercise. Because it involves briefly pushing yourself beyond the upper end of your aerobic exercise zone, it offers you several advantages that traditional steady-state exercise (where you keep your heart rate within your aerobic zone) can’t provide: The key element of HIIT that makes it different from other forms of interval training is that the high intensity intervals involve maximum effort, not simply a higher heart rate. There are many different approaches to HIIT, each involving different numbers of high and low intensity intervals, different levels of intensity during the low intensity intervals, different lengths of time for each interval, and different numbers of training sessions per week. If you want to use HIIT to improve performance for a particular sport or activity, you’ll need to tailor your training program to the specific needs and demands of your activity.

General HIIT Guidelines A Sample Progressive HIIT Program
Please adhere to the general HIIT guidelines above for this program. To maximize fat loss, maintain an intensity level of 60-70% of your maximum heart rate (RPE of 5-6 on the 10-point scale) during warm up, cool down and recovery intervals.

 Week   Warm  up  Work Interval (Max Intensity)  Recovery  Interval
(60-70% MHR)
 Repeat Cool
 down 
 Total 
 Workout  Time
 1  5 min.  1 min.  4 min.  2 times  5 min.  20 min.
 2  5 min.  1 min.  4 min.  3 times  5 min.  25 min.
 3  5 min.  1 min.  4 min.  4 times  5 min.  30 min.
 4  5 min.  1.5 min.  4 min.  2 times  5 min.  21 min.
 5  5 min.  1.5 min.  4 min.  3 times  5 min.  26.5 min.
 6  5 min.  1.5 min.  4 min.  4 times  5 min.  32 min.
 7  5 min.  2 min.  5 min.  3 times  5 min.  31 min.
 8  5 min.  2 min.  5 min.  4 times  5 min.  38 min.

After completing this eight-week program, you can continue working to increase the number of work intervals per session, the duration of work intervals, or both.

You can adjust this training plan to accommodate your particular needs and goals. If you find that this schedule is either too difficult or too easy for your current fitness level, you can make adjustments to the duration and/or number of high intensity intervals as necessary. For example, if you want to train yourself for very short, frequent bursts of maximum intensity activity, your program could involve sprinting for 20 seconds and jogging/walking for 60 seconds, and repeating that 15-20 times per session.

You don’t need to swap all of your aerobic exercise for HIIT to gain the benefits. A good balance, for example, might be two sessions of HIIT per week, along with 1-2 sessions of steady-state aerobic exercise. As usual, moderation is the key to long-term success, so challenge yourself—but don’t drive yourself into the ground. Get ready to see major changes in your body and your fitness level!