Also known by its full name, High Intensity Interval Training, a HIIT cardio workout involves a combination of high-intensity moves, alternated with moderate to low-intensity moves. The ratio of high to moderate/low-intensity exercise is usually 2 to 1, with workouts typically lasting anywhere from 5 minutes to 30 minutes.
High Intensity Interval Training can be incorporated into a variety of training regimens and sports. An example of a simple HIIT workout routine for runners consists of a 20 or 30-second sprint, followed by 10 or 15 seconds of light jogging, with this sequence being alternated for the duration of the workout.
One of the biggest fitness trends today and destined to become even more popular, HIIT cardio provides an efficient and very effective means of quickly reducing body fat levels. It does, however, have its detractors. Included among these are some in the health and fitness industry who maintain that we get better results by exercising consistently at moderate intensity.
In this article, we will look at the benefits and drawbacks of HIIT cardio workouts. Knowing these will help you decide if it will fit into your health and fitness regimen.
Benefits of HIIT Cardio
HIIT cardio is ideal for anyone who wants to add variety to their existing workout routine.
The prime benefits of HIIT cardio include the following:
- Short workouts
With workouts taking 30 minutes to complete at the most, HIIT cardio is worth considering if you don’t have a lot of time to exercise or if you want to shape up in the shortest amount of time.
- Improves cardio fitness
By regularly doing three HIIT cardio workouts a week, you can improve your cardio fitness and increase your energy level and stamina.
- High calorie burn
Burning up to 500 calories each 30-minute HIIT workout, High Intensity Interval Training is excellent for promoting weight loss.
- Enhances fat burning
With HIIT cardio, you will burn fat a lot faster than you will when doing traditional cardio. This makes it an efficient means of lowering your body fat percentage quickly.
- Increases HGH levels
HIIT cardio workouts enhance HGH (Human Growth Hormone) production, increasing levels by up to 450%. According to proponents, HGH burns body fat, enables greater exercise capacity, encourages muscle growth, increases bone density, decreases the visible signs of aging and more.
- Challenging, but fun workouts
HIIT cardio workouts are fast-paced and intense. Fun to do, they can be varied almost endlessly. This means your workouts never become boring, so sticking with them is easier.
This great range of variation and flexibility also means your muscles will stay constantly challenged. This being the case, you will be far less likely to hit a fitness or weight loss plateau.
Drawbacks of HIIT Cardio
While HIIT cardio has a lot to offer, it does not come without drawbacks. We will look at these below.
- Greater risk of injury
Something to be aware of is that due to the nature of the exercise, HIIT cardio places more stress on the joints than gentle, low-impact cardio. This makes it unsuitable for anyone who suffers from joint pain and those who are recovering from an injury.
- Longer recovery time
Full recovery from HIIT cardio workouts can take 2 to 3 days. This being the case, they should not be undertaken on a daily basis. While this will please some people, it will test the patience of others who want to be physically active every day. The simple solution is to partake in another form of physical activity the days you don’t do a HIIT cardio workout.
- Not for new exercisers
HIIT cardio workouts require that the participant is reasonably fit. Unfortunately, this makes it unsuitable for those who are just beginning their fitness journey.
23 Minute Fat-Burning HIIT Cardio Workout
Incorporating HIIT into Your Current Training Program
To reap the full benefits of HIIT cardio, undertake it as one part of your fitness training. The recommended maximum time you spend doing HIIT should be capped at 3 x 30-minute workouts per week. Approached this way, your body will be able to recover between workouts and you will significantly reduce the likelihood of injury occurring.
With HIIT your options are virtually limitless, encompassing as it does all types and manner of exercise. Following are some sample HIIT workouts to try:
- HIIT Bodyweight Workout – Select up to 20 bodyweight exercises. Do each exercise for 1 minute at high intensity, followed by 30 seconds at low intensity. Alternate this sequence for a total of 5 to 30 minutes.
- HIIT Cycling Workout – Cycle on a road or stationary exercise bike for 1 minute at high intensity, then 30 seconds at low intensity, for a total duration of 5 to 30 minutes.
- HIIT Dumbbell Workout – Select as many as 20 dumbbell exercises. Using a set of light dumbbells, perform as many reps of the first exercise as you can in 20 seconds. Rest for 10 seconds, then move on to the next exercise. When you’ve done all of the exercises, start again at the first one. Continue for 5 to 30 minutes.
- HIIT Sprint Workout – Find an open space where you will be able to sprint freely. Sprint for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds. Repeat until you’ve done 5 to 30 minutes, in total.
HIIT Cardio Workout Summary
If HIIT workouts aren’t currently a part of your fitness training, I recommend you give them a try. Taking an hour and a half per week at the most, people who do even half that or less have reported benefits typically associated with workouts that take far longer.
While HIIT cardio does have some negatives and it won’t be suitable for everyone, used as recommended, High Intensity Interval Training can be highly beneficial, and it can help you take your fitness to the next level.
Another popular use of HIIT is to combine it with weight training as outlined in the article Combining HIIT and Weight Training.