High intensity interval training: The fast track to fitness results

Here’s how to use HIIT to improve your fitness, strength and fat burning in just 30 minutes.

Written by Colette McShane
Portrait of fitness young woman with cell phone outdoors in the city

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is one of the biggest fitness trends of the moment, and it’s easy to see why.

Quick, efficient and fantastic for strength, fitness and weight loss, this style of training alternates short bursts of intense exercise with periods of rest. Just 30 minutes of HIIT can be the equivalent of a much longer steady state workout.

Studies have also shown that interval training is one of the best ways to lose weight and burn fat – especially stubborn belly fat (visceral fat). That means in a world where everyone is busy, HIIT allows us to fit in training that gets real results, with only a few hours a week.

How to do HIIT

At The HIIT Factory, we recommend three HIIT sessions per week, and combining this with running, weights or whatever form of training you enjoy. Fitness with HIIT improves at a crazy fast level and people kick fat loss goals in no time at all.

For HIIT to be effective, the two most important words are intensity and intervals. A session is only HIIT if you are working at a super high intensity – more or less your max heart rate and intensity – with the short intervals allowing you time to recover before you go again.

"Anything with explosive movements works well in a bodyweight HIIT session and will help you build muscle."

The Tabata method

A popular method of HIIT is Tabata training. Each session lasts four minutes, and it’s ideal for explosive exercises like squats and burpees.

In a four-minute Tabata session, you’ll do:

  • 20 seconds intense work
  • 10 second rest
  • Repeated 8 times

To create a fantastic 20-minute HIIT session, you can combine five Tabata sets back to back, with a 30-60 second rest in between.

Some popular exercises to use in Tabata training include:

  • Squats
  • Squat jumps
  • Tuck jumps
  • Burpees
  • Mountain climbers
  • Lunges
  • Push ups (and variations)
  • Triceps dips
  • Crunches
  • Side planks
  • Skaters
  • Running on the spot

Anything with explosive movements works well in a bodyweight HIIT session and will help you build muscle at the same time. It's important to note that you need to work to a full range of movement. Slow it down and get the form right and really explode out of the ground on your reps.

There have been many scientific studies to show that a four-minute Tabata set is as effective as a 20-30 minute steady state cardio workout such as stationary bike or jogging. This is due to the EPOC effect – excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, as well as maintaining muscle with strenuous plyometric style exercises.

"The fitter you get, the more you will be able to push through your intervals, and you will revel in the buzz of the afterburn."

HIIT variations

Another great HIIT session format uses longer intervals. For example:

  • 3 minutes warm up
  • 30 seconds intense work
  • 60 seconds at a moderate/easy pace
  • Repeat 10 times
  • 2-3 minutes cool down.
  • A session like this is ideal with things like running (think sprints on the treadmill), using a spin bike, or even a rower.

Getting the most out of HIIT

When doing HIIT, I would recommend you wear a heart rate monitor so that you can really keep track of how close to your max you are working. You will of course be out of breath and have a really great understanding of how fast and hard you are going, but adding in the evidence on the monitor will really confirm how intense you are working.

After a HIIT session (and often during the rest periods), you will find yourself absolutely floored – but the fitter you get, the more you will be able to push through your intervals, and you will revel in the buzz of the afterburn. An effective HIIT session results in your body continuing to burn fat for hours post session!

Get more HIIT tips and inspiration at thehiitmum.com.au

Written by Colette McShane

Colette McShane, AKA The HIIT Mum, runs The HIIT Factory Fitness and specialises in no-equipment bodyweight interval training.

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