High Intensity Training (HIT) is becoming more and more popular, it is a great way of getting a work out done in less time. So if time is an issue for you and then HIT training may be just the thing for you. High intensity training can be used for both cardio and strength training.
It is not a new fad and has been around for years, Arthur Jones was using it as a way of training in the 1970s but it seems it is getting mentioned a lot more now. Not only can you get your workout done quicker but you will be burning off just as many calories as doing a regular steady paced routine.
How does it work?
When talking about HIT and cardio, the term usually refers to high intensity interval training, the difference between HIT and regular cardio is the changes in pace. If you regularly do cardio you are most likely to stick to a steady pace, the type of pace where you can still hold a conversation, and you don’t change intensity you keep to your pace and just keep going for however long you usually go for (approx 45-60mins). But with HIT this would change by including bursts of a higher intensity, so in the case of cardio that would be bursts of more speed. It doesn’t matter what level you are (beginner, intermediate or advanced) or what pace you normally walk, jog or run at, everyone can include HIT in their programme. Just do your normal pace for 1minute then go at a faster pace for 30 secs, then back to normal pace for 1 min and then faster for 30 secs and so on. You can build it up so that you can go 1:1, if you need to take longer rest periods (the slower pace) then do so but the benefit really comes from going as fast as you can for the high intensity intervals. By training this way you can reduce the amount of time of your cardio from 45-60 mins down to approx 25 mins and still burn the same amount of calories, maybe more!
HIT in strength training is brief, infrequent and intense. Brief refers to the overall amount of time you take, infrequent means you should not be doing the same body part daily – have at least 48 hours rest in-between and intense refers to the intensity or effort. HIT training can help you lose fat and gain lean muscles mass whether you have just started your training or been training for a while, you can find more details of a study at The Sport Journal.
HIT is popular not only for those wanting to work out in less time but also for those who have hit a plateau or who have just become bored of their routine. It is a way of changing things up and getting results. The difference between HIT and standard exercise routines is that HIT will focus on completing one set of the desired exercise until momentary muscle fatigue instead of doing a set number of sets and reps eg. 3 sets of 8-12 reps. There is more emphasis on perfect form and controlled movements.
HIT concentrates on slow and controlled movements through a full range of motion
It is common to see people in the gym using momentum and their body to ‘swing’ the weights up and down, especially if they are doing heavy weights, but this is not good form and doesn’t work the muscle as fully.
With HIT you should be looking at taking 3 seconds to lift the weight (known as the concentric phase – where the muscle contracts and shortens) pause for 1 sec at the end of the phase (holding phase) and then take 4 seconds to lower the weight (the eccentric phase – lengthening of the muscle) and then pause for 1 second. This is 1 rep. You need to use your full range of motion (the full joint movement but don’t lock the joints). Keep going until you feel the ‘burn’ in your muscle, then it is time to stop otherwise you may sacrifice your form to get another rep or 2 out, your muscles are fatigued when you are unable to do the exercise in a controlled manner through all phases (lifting, holding and lowering).
Choose a weight that will allow you to do 10 reps to fatigue. Work one body part for 1 or 2 exercises. It may sound easy as you are only doing 1 set but if you are using the appropriate weight and concentrating on form and slow controlled movements you will find it more challenging than it sounds. As you become stronger you will need to increase the weight so that you are able to fatigue the muscles.
Don’t forget to warm up and cool down!
If you are going to do HIT it is important to take enough time to rest, and recover, depending on how you work out will depend on how long you need to rest, if you work your full body then you may want to only do this training twice per week or you could split your routine up between upper and lower body, as long as you are not working out the same muscles daily. Remember brief, infrequent and intense.
HIT Strength and Cardio combined
Certain programmes which have High Intensity Training can work your cardiovascular system as well as your strength, so you will not necessarily have to do cardio separately, depending on your goals.
A couple of ways you can do HIT where strength and cardiovascular workouts are combined:
Crossfit – Many of you will have heard of crossfit as it is becoming extremely popular. It is a programme that focuses on strength and conditioning. One of the types of HIT workouts used, and that you could implement into your own routines 1-2 times per week, is the Tabata workout.
Tabata workouts are where you work out intensely for 4 minutes. For example, you would do an exercise for 20 seconds (doing as many reps as you can – safely and with good form) then rest for 10 seconds then repeat, so do the same exercise again for 20 seconds doing as many reps as you can and take a 10 second rest repeat until you hit 4 minutes. So you have 8 intervals to do, you can choose to do just one exercise or add in another. Think of your goals and then decide your exercises, it is a good idea to choose full body or compound movements so you use as many muscles groups as you can to get a great full body workout in a short amount of time. You could do push ups, squats, pull ups, mountain climbers, burpees etc The great thing about Tabata is it only takes 4 minutes. Don’t forget you will still need to warm up, cool down and stretch. You will need to ensure you leave enough time to recover between sessions.
Circuit Training – This form of exercise will build both strength and stamina. A typical circuit will consist of 8-10 exercise stations and you will spend 60 seconds on each exercise with 30-60 seconds rest between each exercise, the circuit will be completed 2-3 times with a rest of approx 3 mins between each circuit. An example of a general fitness circuit is as follows: Push Ups Step up with bicep curl Upright row Crunches Mountain climbers Bent over row Overhead tricep extension Squats
You don’t have to join a cirucit training class to enjoy the benefits, put a circuit together yourself, you can even do it in the gym by timing yourself on each machine, or do free weight exercises. If you do your own circuits then remember to design a programme that hits all your body parts equally. You can also split your routine up so you work your upper body on one day and lower body on another.