Burn More Fat In Less Time With HIIT Cardio

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What is HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and why should you  do it? HIIT is a type of metabolic conditioning. In an earlier post I talked about some of the benefits of these workouts. While the different types of metcon workouts may be structured differently, the results are similar when it comes to fat loss.

HIIT workouts consist of intervals of high intensity activity (work) that you alternate with intervals of moderate to low intensity activity (rest). The duration of these intervals may vary. Usually the high intensity intervals are shorter than the moderate intensity ones, but that’s not always the case.

During the high intensity intervals, the key is to work as hard as you can for the duration of the interval. Think a level 9 or 10 out of 10 on the RPE scale (shown). Then, on the moderate intensity intervals you’ll work at a level 4 to 6, giving you a chance to recover, catch your breath and get ready for the next high intensity interval.

Does the high to moderate intensity ratio matter and what ratio is optimal? A typical ratio is 1:2 or 1:3, high to moderate intensity. However, some research has indicated that the optimal formula for interval training is actually a 10-20-30 (that’s high, moderate and low intensity respectively) interval mix. Others have found that a 2:1 ratio is best. Setting the ratio with the work intervals longer than the rest intervals is a more advanced training level. When you’re just starting out try a 1:3 ratio to get used to this type of training and progress from there.

What if I don’t feel like slowing down when the work interval is done? Two things about this. First, if you don’t want to slow down at the end of the high intensity intervals then you were probably not pushing as hard as you should be for this type of workout. Find a way to work harder whether it’s upping the speed (or treadmill incline) on the cardio machine or just pushing yourself harder.  You should be working hard enough that you are looking forward to the high intensity interval being over long before it’s done. Also, it’s important to slow down for the rest intervals in order to allow your body to recover enough to have the energy to push at maximum intensity when it’s time for the next work interval.

What activities are best for HIIT cardio sessions? Any type of cardio that you would normally do as steady state can easily be converted to a HIIT workout.  Running (outdoors or on the treadmill), the elliptical, rowing machine, cycling and swimming laps are all good options. All you need is a timer that you can use to set the intervals and alter you when it’s time to switch your intensity.

How long should a HIIT session be? One of the great things about HIIT is that you can get greater benefits in less time. A lot less. Create your workout planning to do however many work-rest interval cycles will fit into 10 to 15 minutes. Start the workout with a five minute warm-up (essentially a low intensity of the activity your’re about to do for the workout) and follow with a cool down (to bring your heart rate down) of about five minutes. The total workout time will be 20 to 25 minutes.

If you regularly do steady state cardio sessions, try replacing one or two of them each week with with HIIT workouts instead, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. The intensity of HIIT workouts burns more fat than steady state cardio, the after burn effect is dramatically longer and it will save you time. HIIT workouts are hard work, but worth it.

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