High Intensity workouts or waste of time?

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At first glance, you probably only see one question above but actually, it’s two. Do you get it? Don’t worry I will explain it below.

HIIT’s (High-intensity interval training) background:

Before we start let’s have a look at the history of high-intensity workouts or interval training in general.
High-intensity workouts have existed for a long time. Probably even longer than you imagine. When we were still living in caves and hunting our food we utilised the exact same method. Think about it. Slowly sneaking towards our prey and then a sudden attack – probably repeated several times. Sounds a bit like interval training, right?
Moving fast forward – we have the English doctor, Bannister who started to do interval training on his journey towards beating the existing world record for running 1 English mile. With only 30 minutes training available a day, he still managed to beat the record in May 1954. Also, the Swedish running coach Gøsta Holmer utilised interval training when he developed his famous “fartlek” back in the 1930’s
So HIIT isn’t  the new kid on the block but it’s the last 10 years that it have really gained fame. The introduction of CrossFit was part of the sudden popularity and today you can find endless videos and app’s with 5/7/8/10 minutes workout. But why has it become so popular?

HIIT works!

Yes exactly! The short version is that it works extremely well. The benefits have been proven over and over again in many studies. Let’s look at some of the many advantages.
  • Time efficient: High-intensity workouts will normally be carried out in less than 15 minutes and as lack of time is the number one excuse for not working out this is a big advantage.
  • Improved cardiorespiratory fitness: Compared to steady aerobic sessions hight intensity workouts have proven to improve the cardiorespiratory fitness level much more efficient.
  • Better blood sugar control: High-intensity workouts increases the production of mitochondria which are the cells power supply. One of the many benefits of a healthy and good production of mitochondria is, a better control of the blood sugar which again can help to avoid problems like obesity, cardiovascular diseases, dementia, diabetes and several forms of cancer.
  • Lower blood pressure: Again high-intensity workouts have shown to have a higer impact than steady aerobic workouts.
  • Efficient fat burning & weight control: Probably this and the time factor is the major reason why everybody wants to do high-intensity workouts. On the simple site, HIIT has shown not to higher the appetite as long aerobic sessions normally do. However what is even more interesting is that HIIT produces high amounts of adrenaline and noradrenaline which also goes under the name catecholamine. High levels of catecholamine will boost your metabolism even when you rest and interesting enough catecholamine seems to be good to burn the fat around your belly.
So it seems obvious why high-intensity workouts have become so popular. Who doesn’t want to get all these benefits and at the same time cut down on the time spent on the actual workout? And talking about time.

How does an HIIT workout look like?

As mentioned earlier a normal HIIT workout is done in less than 15 minutes and quite often even below 10 minutes. Some of the most famous schemes are:
  • Tabata: 20 seconds hard work, followed by 10 seconds rest. Done 8 times.
  • Gibala: 30 seconds hard work, followed by 4 minutes rest. Done 4-6 times.
  • Bannister: 1-minute hard work, followed by 2 minutes rest. Done 10 times.
These are just some examples and there exists endless of ways to split up the intervals. Question is, are some of the schemes better than others?

How to split the intervals?

In order to answer this question, you need to answer another question first. Are you already a bit fit or not fit at all?
  • Not fit at all: Don’t worry so much. What is most important is that you get started to workout. Probably it’s better to get started with some aerobic and strength training and then after some weeks add some HIIT workouts.
  • A bit fit: Studies show that most kinds of well performed HIIT have a good impact on your health, fitness level and metabolism. However, it seems that the shorter intervals of maximum 30 seconds work or the longer intervals of 3-4 minutes work are a bit more efficient than the ones in between.
As a general guideline for selecting intervals, you can say that if you can push yourself to the absolut maximum effort for shorter but more often intervals then select that option. However, if you are more for longer intervals of 3-4 minutes with close to maximum effort and then longer brakes. Well, then select that. Or even better – mix it up.
Talking about the maximum effort it’s time to touch upon the most important and often misunderstood aspect of HIIT. Pay attention now!

How hard do I have to push myself?

A lot 🙂 – Here is one of the downsides of HIIT. In order to get the benefits from HIIT you have to push yourself really hard and I mean hard.
As a recommendation for the shorter intervals your heart rate should be around 95-100% of max heart rate and for the longer intervals around 90% of max heart rate. One way to check this without actually measuring your heart rate is that you are only able to speak single words when you reach that level. Going below the 90% will result in less or non-benefits from HIIT – in short, you won’t be doing HIIT
This also explains the breaks that are part of High-Intensity Workouts. Without the breaks, it would be impossible to keep the high effort.
Ok, we now understand most parts of HIIT. But how often should this kind of workouts be done and should everybody do them?

How often & and is it for everybody?

As discussed above if you are complete beginner it might be a better idea to wait with HIIT. Not because it will hurt you or not help you in any way. However, as a beginner, you will benefit from any kind of exercise. And as High-Intensity Interval Training is extremely hard there might be a risk that you mentally are not ready for the tough efforts. Said in another way, it’s better you get a working routine with fewer efforts than starting out hard, just to give up after some weeks.
When you then are ready for High-Intensity Interval Training it might be a good idea to keep it to 2-3 times a week and the simple reason for that is that you want to get variation into your workout.
Now do you remember the two questions in one?
HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) or a waste of time?

What I mean is:

Do you do High-intensity workouts? If not, you could be wasting your time as HIIT has shown to be extremely efficient compared to normal aerobic workouts and that with workouts that only last for few minutes. So if you are ready for High-intensity workouts, do it!
Do you really do HIIT? Everybody want to do short workouts and who haven heard about the 7/8/10/12 minutes workout? But as explained above HIIT is not just to jump around for 7 minutes with some resting in between, just to get sweaty. HIIT is extremely hard and should be done with heart rate at minimum 90% of max heart rate. So if you don’t do that you are probably wasting your time with short aerobic workouts that will give you very little benefits.  Therefore do real high-intensity workouts with maximum effort!
If you are more interested in HIIT, please have a look at some of the workouts from www.fits-me.co  Our workout plans are build to fit your fitness level.


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