Tag Archives: HIIT
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” – Inigo Montoya
The myth of HIIT.
As popular as the coined term is, I can count on one hand the number of people over the last year I’ve personally witnessed actually doing a high intensity interval session.
It is a sad truth that many people confuse pushing themselves at a moderate pace with no rest as HIIT.
That is not HIIT, it’s more akin to basic endurance work.
It is in this knowledge I feel no guilt about telling those who champion this method that they’re not doing what they think.
Let us break down the different style of interval training based on the literature and what energy systems it is playing with.
Energy Systems & Timings
Alactic Anaerobic – (ATP-CP) – 1 to 12 seconds – Immediate
Lactic Anaerobic – (Glycolytic – Fast/Slow) – 60 to 120 seconds – Intermediate
Aerobic – 120 seconds to potentially hours – Long term
WE all have a limited amount of maximal power efforts, typically lasting for a fraction of a second or a few seconds rely entirely on stored ATP.
The limitation to continued effort lies in the availability of ATP and our own ability to re-synthesise it during training with insufficient rest, hence why some strength/performance coaches recommend up to 15min rest between these efforts. Fairly logical, however not suitable for the average joe.
This being said, that is the price of a high intensity effort.
Moving on, if we sustain out effort (as mentioned above) after a few seconds, CP is called upon to replenish the rapidly dwindling ATP as best it can. The CP contribution reaches a peak approximately around about 5-7 seconds (this is where most start to lose significant output capability, they’ve peaked), it is around this point the oxygen-independent glycolysis has already begun to start.
If we are to follow this then true HIIT would require people to stop here, rest and aim to repeat this effort, or at least as close to it as possible, alas many keep going because of misguided ‘Insta-Bro/Hoe’ information.
Persisting in to a continued effort (while admirable is now hitting a different energy system) maximal force development no longer becomes possible and muscular endurance becomes the dominant component because that’s how the body works.
Don’t get me wrong, it is in the next few minutes that a lot of people can attain great benefits from because for most everyday tasks that require effort we rarely ant them to last longer than 2-3minutes. While not quite HIIT, more anaerobic intervals it’s still very useful (most will still call this HIIT by the way).
Strenuous activity which lasts approximately up to 30 seconds starts the oxygen-independent glycolysis system to rule the roost, however with appropriate rest intervals it help will prevent the build-up of blood lactate allowing for more repeated efforts of this style.
If we keep going the more oxygen-independent glycolysis reaches its peak after about 30-40 seconds (in most, this can of course be trained to higher thresholds), and after about 90-120 seconds its contribution becomes minimal as it is replaced by the oxygen-dependent glycolysis.
^^ This is the fast/slow glycolysis bit.
It is at this point where people confuse HIIT with what they end up doing which is to keep going at a less than ‘high intensity’ pace wth allows the exercise intensity to be kept below the blood lactate threshold or at least allow intra-exercise adequate recovery to be allow allowed, kinda.
As such the lactate and protons will be removed (at the same rate as their production for the most part) so that prolonged muscle activity becomes possible.
^^ This is where people claim to do HIIT for extended periods of time and while nobel in their idea, it’s no longer what they think it is.
Knowing this becomes the reason behind using intervals other than the popular on that trolls social media, such as fartlek, basic interval training, interval circuit training (strength circuits, power circuits, anaerobic circuits etc), which allow for recovery and repeated efforts of muscular work.
In doing this you can stay in the glycolysis side of training (up to 120, perhaps 180 seconds of sustained work efforts), which while not technically HIIT, it yields more benefit to the majority of people.
The work to rest periods for this would be the classic
So 3min on 3min off, or 3min on 6min off, etc.
^^ In the rest you may do some corrective work or other endeavours so the time is utilised effectively.
Many typical gym goers will wither away in fear when seeing this because they have been Indoctrinated in to the realms of –
“You must be constantly working! Keep going! Never stop moving! It’s not going to count unless you DIE!!!!!”
Which is just silly to be perfectly honest and you can see that it just doesn’t work for the majority of people because they have low levels of overall CV, strength, and poor body composition.
Does this mean if you’re one of the above with that mindset that you’ve been wasting your time in your training so far?
Potentially yes, yes it does, however that doesn’t mean you can change it now and actually become more productive in your training sessions.
Believe it or not you will get more out of doing less better then more worse.
Trust me, I’ve been the person who did more and it didn’t do me better in the long run.
So, your turn.
What style in HIIT training do you do and is it actually HIIT of some hybridisation that is something else entirely?
Leave your thoughts below.
EMOM, perhaps you’ve heard of it?
Every minute on the minute you perform a select amount of exercises for a specified amount of reps.
It is a popular training method, which was actually developed in the S&C realm and meant to function as a weight based interval.
So for example utilising a 1-3, 1-2 or hard 1-1 work to rest ratio.
Typically a good EMOM will have about 15-20 seconds of solid work then 40-45seconds of rest (1-3 work to rest ratio).
This would allow for maximal effort each minute and the most bang for ones buck, or at least it always used to because as with any method people got a hold of it and decided to bastardise it, sadly.
You know, some is good, more is better, so 50 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest kinda stuff, foolishness really for any long term progress.
Ideally the working section of an EMOM will last at the longest 30 seconds, once you go beyond this you start to severely sacrifice your performance and increase the potential risk of injury.
Not what many of the fatigue chasing people want to hear these days, however it’s still worth saying.
Here are a few to try that will start off each and then slowly start to kick you in the ass.
1 – Thrusters x3-5 (start at 3, don’t be a hero) x10-20min
2 – Snatches x2-3 x10-20min
3 – Kettlebell Swings x10 x20min
4 – Sprints 30-50m x10min
5 – Clean & Push Press (or Jerk) x2-3 x10-20min
Now for a tricky one:
6 – Exercise Complex of 4-6 movements, 1-2 reps per move x10min
Example: RDL, Power Clean, Front Squat, Push Press, Penally Row.
Just adding one of those as a finisher will improve your conditioning to no end just keep an eye on how long each one takes, good ones last as mentioned about 15-20 seconds as this gives some buffer time as you start to fatigue in the later sets.
Aim to pick movements that offer a large return on investment and keep the reps low (manageable), you can always increase the load if you wish to make things challenging.
HIIT (high intensity interval training) is one of the most popular training methods of a great many people these days.
While the concept is a solid one, it’s something that is being abused because there is only so much HIIT you can do each week.
Given this fact people actually end up doing MISS (moderate intensity steady state).
It’s not uncommon for people to do claim the do 4 and sometimes more session of HIIT per week, now the intentions are good however the body just can’t keep up with those kinds of metabolic demands.
I’m one to admit I couldn’t keep up with those kinds of demands and I’m actually quite conditioned.
If you’re one of the people doing this then I’m sorry to say that you’re not actually doing what you think you’re doing and the chances are your body composition reflects this too.
How many people do you know who claim to train this way, in this amount of frequency and unfortunately still have a fair amount of excess body fat, or at least more than you’d expect someone who does a lot of HIIT to have.
Quite a few I’d imagine.
One quick way to establish if your training has been successful if to test your VO2 max (the maximum or optimum rate at which the heart, lungs, and muscles can effectively use oxygen during exercise, used as a way of measuring a person’s individual aerobic capacity.).
You will find that most of the time people who have a high VO2 Max are typically quite lean.
Do you know yours?
If not then I suggest doing a test.
Here is a link to some tests and also a chart of averages:
So what can yo do with this information?
Well, once you know your VO2 Max you can correlate working to a % of it to your heart rate (this is what you should do for HIIT), that way when you’re training you will know where your HR should be for your intervals and so on.
If you do this you’ll soon find that your 4+ HIIT sessions of 1hour per week are perhaps reduced twice per week for at tops 20min.
Here is a quick example to try:
If you are lifting weights 2-3 times per week, do this after two of those sessions.
60 interval sprints at 92% HR (this is around 85% of your VO2 Max), rest 2min.
Try repeating that 5 times, this means 5min of work with 10min of rest.
Remember that each interval that your heart rate needs to be at or around 92% for the majority of the 60 second sprint, that’s how you maximise your training.
If you do this 2x per week (after you’ve lifted) you’ll notice a few things happen.
– Your fitness improves
– Your body fat starts to drop
– You learn what real HIIT is all about
It’s also advised to do perhaps 1-2 steady state sessions (70% average HR) for say 30-45min, I’d probably go for the 30min target.
So perhaps you weekly plan looks like this:
Monday – Weights + HIIT – as above
Tuesday – 30min Steady State Training (run, swim, row etc)
Wednesday – Off
Thursday – Weights + HIIT -as above
Friday – Off
Saturday – 30-45min Steady State Training – as above
Sunday – Off
Try it and you’ll find things start to fall in to place.
Oh, also ensure that if fat loss/body composition is your goal then you have a sustainable calorie deficit in place and a decent nutritional protocol.