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HIIT it Right

Fat-burning, muscle-building high-intensity interval training can work miracles for your body, but you’ve got to do it right.

Article
Ryann Gordon
Photos
Courtesy
Posted
September 29, 2017

Picture what happens when you mix the results of CrossFit, Pilates, yoga, interval training and cardio into a 30-minute power workout. HIIT — or high-intensity interval training — is not only one of the year’s biggest workout trends, but is also known to burn fat, improve metabolic health and increase VO2 max levels.

HIIT is a versatile workout because it’s a short, powerful exercise that is anything but boring. It involves alternating between work intervals of high intensity with recovery or rest periods of lower intensity. Most HIIT workouts call for work periods of 20 to 30 seconds (even up to 90 seconds). Not only does HIIT break one of the key barriers that stops people from working out — time — it’s also one of the most intriguing workouts to get involved in, because it can involve new exercises each time.

While interval training can be highly beneficial, it does have a series of guidelines that must be followed if you want to see results. Due to the shortness of time that this workout takes, participants must put all of their energy into their workout every step of the way.

But there are some aspects of the workout that you may be doing wrong. These mishaps could sabotage your efforts and diminish your results. Here’s how to ensure you get the calorie-torching sessions right.

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HIIT-ing too high
If you’re looking into trying high intensity interval training, don’t expect to come out looking like The Rock. HIIT is designed for high cardio that specifically burns fat before building muscle. Although many of the exercises involved in interval training can build muscles as you squat, do pushups, crunches and other muscle-building movements along the way, HIIT is going to do more work on your heart and sweat glands than anything. If you’re looking to add mass, stick to big lifts.

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Heavy HIIT-ing
The point of HIIT is utilizing your body to pick up your heart rate — not to use too much equipment. The only materials you should need for a good interval workout are your body weight, a mat, timer and maybe a couple small weights. Most of the exercises you’ll be doing will require a lot of movement, so sometimes even weights can get in the way.

Rather than using bands, barbells and other fitness equipment, look up unique exercises that create the same effect with only your body weight. The great part about this workout is that using your body weight as a fitness tool actually helps to increase your heart rate and gets you sweating in no time. If you’re using weights and other materials to work out, naturally you will feel the effect of strength training more so than cardio. The less equipment you use, the more your body will have to work to create that effect and consequently burn more fat along the way.

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HIIT progression
If you’re choosing a HIIT workout, chances are you’re going all in. But doing too much too quickly can set you up for injury — even during that initial session. You really need to start slowly and gradually because this allows your musculoskeletal system to adapt. If your first workout is 10 minutes long, try 13-15 minutes the next week. Keep progressing to the point when you can perform the high-intensity intervals at your full capacity throughout the entire workout.

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HIIT-ing for hours
The key component that makes HIIT such an influential workout is that it involves short bursts of energy that burn high amounts of fat — which means, break time after. Don’t overwork yourself by training for too long or repeating far too many rounds of workouts. And, make sure to give yourself a day in between for your body to recover. After just one 15- to 30-minute session, you’ll gladly be looking for that break. Keep in mind that slow and steady doesn’t win this race.

It’s recommended to push yourself as hard as you can throughout the entire workout, with 10-second breaks in between sets, and give it your all for the last few intervals. Dragging your workout longer than 30 minutes can easily lead to diminishing returns. Time your workout to whatever fits your schedule and regime, beginning at 15 and working your way up to 30 minutes.

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Hardly HIIT-ing
One of the most crucial aspects of HIIT is that you put everything you have into every exercise. Due to the short amount of time during each interval and the workout as a whole, the only way you will see results is if you are pushing yourself the entire time. If at the end of a 30-minute session you aren’t drenched or extremely breathless with muscles burning, then you’re doing it wrong.

Experts say that, in order for high-intensity interval training to do its job, you must exert 80 to 90 percent of your max heart rate to achieve results.

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HIIT-ing it cold
Don’t make the mistake of forgetting to warm up. Failing to limber up before exerting such energy and movement on your body can result in injury, which will most surely keep you from reaching your fitness goals. After a long day or sleep, your body needs to be stretched and your muscles slightly warmed and energized to keep tight tendons from becoming vulnerable and slowing you down.

Finding a good warmup is crucial, not only for your safety, but for the sake of your physique as well. You won’t push half as hard if your body is still in idle mode. Make sure to stretch and do a series of low-key warmups like jumping rope or jogging for a few minutes.