There is a lot of confusion as to just what type of cardiovascular exercise is best for weight loss. It boils down to two options – long and slow cardio or fast and short cardio. Both sides have their passionate advocates, yet the current scientific consensus is squarely on the side of fast and short high intensity sessions. High intensity work-outs burn the most calories while you’re exercising. But they do more than that – they increase your metabolism so that you’re burning more calories after your work-out session. This after-burn effect, known as EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) will turn your body into a fat burning furnace for 24 hours after the your work-out. Not bad for a training investment of just 6 minutes!
How to HIIT It.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) involves quick bursts of high intensity training followed by short rest periods. High intensity is light years away from what can be seen in the cardio rooms of most gyms. You won’t be able to carry on a conversation or sing along to your iPod with this type of training. The work-out is extremely hard. But it works – and it doesn’t last long. So, are you up to the HIIT challenge?
The best exercises to choose for HIIT training are those that will allow you to use maximum exertion during the high intensity portion of the training. Running is a great choice, allowing for hard out sprints (imagine you’re being chased by a Doberman) followed by a slow jog. You can use a treadmill, stair-climber or any other piece of cardio equipment that you have access to. To maximise your fat burning potential even more, it is best to perform your workouts first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. Before breakfast your body is slightly carb depleted, temporarily making fat the primary fuel for energy.
As already explained, HIIT involves short duration workouts. In fact, you’ll only have to allocate 6 minutes to your workouts on those days. Here’s how it will look:
(1) Choose an exercise that you are comfortable performing with maximum intensity (sprinting, cycling and skipping are good options).
(2) Perform a medium intensity warm-up for 2 minutes.
(3) Perform 20 seconds of maximum intensity.
(4) Recover for 10 seconds.
(5) Repeat this sequence until 4 minutes are up.
That’s it! Your work-out will be over before most people have tied their shoe laces. But, if you’ve done it right, you’ll be dripping with sweat and those 4 minutes of intensity will have felt like 4 hours. Now it’s time to take a shower and get on with the rest of your day.
HIIT and Resistance Training
Utilise HIIT training as your first tier of attack on body fat. Perform your 6 minute workout three times per week on alternate days. The second tier of your weight loss exercise regimen needs to involve some form of resistance training. Research has shown conclusively that exercise that involves muscle contraction will burn more calories while, at the same time, releasing hormones that assist in fat loss. Remember, too, that it is muscle that gives your body it’s shape and tone. So, incorporating a resistance training program into your exercise schedule will, not only boost your fat burning efforts, it will ensure that you are not losing vital muscle tissue. In the process it will shape and sculpt your muscle into the body that you’ve always desired.
Your weight training sessions should take place twice weekly within a distance of 2 / 3 days. So, if you’re going to do your HIIT training on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, hit the weights on Sunday and Thursday. Choose exercises that target your problems areas. For most women that will mean focusing in on the thighs, glutes and core area. A routine that includes squats, the farmer’s walk, leg extensions and leg curls along with a few upper body strengtheners will fit the bill nicely. Each of these sessions should last between 30 – 40 minutes.
Is HIIT training appropriate for beginners?
Yes, as long as you warm up. While you’re getting used to the program, you need to build up the intensity. So, in the 20 second ‘go’ phase, start at an intensity level that prevents you from talking and then increase the speed each session until you are truly going all out.
What scientific studies have been done to support HIIT training?
In 1996, Professor Izuni Tabata led a study involving Olympic speed skaters who performed 20 seconds of ultra-intense exercise followed by a 10 second recovery. This was repeated for 8 cycles. A control group did steady state training. The first group showed a higher increase in V02 max as well as greater anaerobic benefits.(1)
Since then there have been a number of studies that have supported Tabata’s findings. A 2009 study by Giblin, et al showed that HIIT training for just a few minutes brought greater benefits in terms of cardiovascular fitness and fat loss than steady state training that lasted much longer.(2)