A HIIT workout (or high-intensity interval training workout) makes for one tough training session. They are not for the faint hearted!
I’ve incorporated these into my routine for a while now, and have grown to love them. Unless I ever get injured, or get to old, I think I’ll always add these types of sessions into the mix.
I even have friends who perform them up to 4 times per week! But I stick to 2 (and occasionally 3) so that I can do other sport and exercises as well. The thing is, these workouts are so intense that you need your recovery time afterwards.
The real good thing about a HIIT workout is that they can be so versatile. Whatever your sport, as long as it is aerobic in nature, can incorporate the HIIT principle.
The HIIT Workout Principle
As the name suggests, these workouts are performed in intervals of very high intensity exercise.
As a gauge, your level of intensity for all intervals should be around 90% of your absolute maximum. And this is why HIIT sessions never last more than 20 minutes (usually 15 minutes). If you are able to perform more than 20 minutes, then obviously you aren’t working hard enough during your intervals. Your level of intensity is very likely below the 90% level required for you to enjoy the benefits of Interval training.
You need to perform between 6 and 10 intervals for the full effect of this type of high intensity training. This might be a BIG ask initially, but you will soon build up to this. (You see the results of HIIT training very quickly.)
The intensity level of the rest periods between your intervals should drop to about 50% of you maximum. You still want to be working, but you need to be able to recover so that you are ready for the next interval.
Also, your rest periods should equal the length of your high intensity interval, which should be around 1 minute or more (and sometimes less!)
HIIT Training Progression
Having said that . . .
If you want to progress, there’s a few things you can do to increase the intensity.
You could shorten the length of your recuperation periods. Knock off 5 seconds from your rest intervals. Then after a few weeks of this, knock off another 5 seconds when you get even fitter. Or lengthen your high intensity interval by 5 seconds. Same as above, after a few sessions, as you become fitter, add another 5 seconds to the interval.
If you started off with 6 intervals, add an additional interval every few workouts until you get to 10 (so long as you remain within the 20 minute timeframe).
Or, if you only train once or twice a week, add another entire session to your weekly routine. But never perform these more than 4 times each. In fact, like I prefer, do a maximum of 3 and then do some other type of exercise.
Example HIIT Workout
Take a look at the example running workout below. It’s quite self explanatory, so I won’t elaborate too much.
Thorough warm up
60 second steady jog at 50% of maximum effort
60 second sprint at 90% of maximum
60 second steady jog at 50% of maximum
Repeat for 6 to 10 high intensity intervals
Cool down and carry out stretch routine
As I mentioned above, these sessions are so versatile. You don’t have to perform them with running sprints. You can do HIIT training whilst cycling, swimming, rowing, cross-training, and so on.
For a list of these interval sessions, see the list of free workout plans and find one that matches your ultimate goal or modify them to suit.