The fitness world has loved Hiit for quite a while and it doesn’t seem to going anywhere anytime soon. For me, I never got into it and still cannot bring myself to be a fan of it .There are some good things to it but these same traits are what I do not like about it.
To those who do not know, High Intensity Interval Training (Hiit) is a short, sharp intense exercise methodology. It is often credited to have stemmed initially out of the research findings from the Tabata protocol, which is a 4 minute workout where participants put in a full 100% max effort (using a 2:1 effort to rest ratio). From this Hiit evolved to be shorter intense circuits, e.g. 7 minute body weight workouts. In this modern day and age Hiit often is referred to even when doing old school aerobic circuits akin to those that have been around since the 80s. These sessions of 30 – 60 minutes are a far cry from the 4,7 or 10 minute all out workouts that Hiit started out from.
My Experience Of Hiit & Other Methods
While I only use Hiit with the odd client I personally know what training focusing on intensity over volume feels like as I competed in 400m running. The training for this is about quality, you would run a 400m all out, rest and then do it again. We would finish most sessions with a classic modern day body weight 5 minute Hiit circuit as well.
Pros & Cons of Hiit
Some of the good things about Hiit include:
– Shorter Sessions – Most people want to get exercise done ASAP, so a 15 minute work out sounds much better than a 60 minute one! This is great news if the benefits are the same.
– More Calorie Burn / Minute Of Exercise – More calories are burned per minute doing Hiit then more steady forms of fitness training which again is a good thing.
– Higher Calorie Burn Over The Next Day Following The Workout – The studies show that the excess calories burnt over the next 24 hours following a Hiit work out are greater than normal fitness forms.
– Health & Fitness Benefits – Intensity has a positive effect on getting fitter as well as the usual benefits exercise has on blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, mental well-being are achieved in much quicker times.
– Many People Have Some Amazing Results With It – Plenty of people have great results on it and are often the most enthusiastic promoters of doing it.
– (It Makes a Good Business Model For Fitness Companies) – I may never do it myself but it is certainly a good way to make money for Fitness Professionals… not that this could cloud their advice on how good it is of course… hmmm.
This all sounds great, surely everyone should be doing it!! Despite the above I cannot get on board with the approach. Hiit Has some huge drawbacks and counters to each of the points above. The reason it is not that great comes down to :
– Poor Exercise Adherence – Most people struggle to get a normal easy exercise session consistently over any longer time period. The year long consistency for most people with Hiit is a disaster. It is no wonder of course, who can motivate themselves to train really hard all the time?? Who isn’t bored of Burpees yet??
–Most People Fail To Reach The Needed Intensity – For the very short programmes most people will not work out hard enough to get the benefits. The 10 minute work outs require high level effort and focus. For the longer versions of it this is not so much a problem as already you are drifting into more normal aerobic training methods and intervals.
– Less Overall Calorie Burn – Despite calorie burn of Hiit per minute and post work out increase, time and again it gets beaten by both longer and easier to stick to exercise sessions. A 7 minutes Hiit session, however hard it is can not come close to a 45 minute cardio session in terms of calorie burn. Time and again Hiit does not out perform normal sensible cardio in practical terms around energy expenditure.
– Increased Eating Post Work Out – I have discussed previously the studies on compensators, those people who if they burn 400 calories by doing exercise will naturally eat 450 calories more of food. When these people work out hard they often eat much more food in response. If fat loss is the goal then obviously this is horrendous news. (Note – Non Compensators would eat less from Hiit workouts than their expenditure IF they do the session, see poor exercise adherence issues).
– Inferior Fitness Development Method – Hiit is a jack of trades and a master of none. People who want to be good at running do not do Hiit, they follow a running programme*. Those who are focused on gaining muscle do not do Hiit, they follow hypertrophy programmes. People who want sports performance or increase their functional fitness, e.g. over 60s, do not do Hiit, they follow specific training plans. Hiit is simply an inferior training methodology than any specialized or focused plan. This is why it is not used solely by anyone who is really good in a particular trait.
*Wikipedia cites the origin of Hiit from Seb Coe’s training plan back in the 1970s, like all athletes these sessions were part of a bigger training plan with different methodologies. Also, this form of Hiit sprints is not what is usually referred to as Hiit training sessions these days.
– Most People Have Awful Results Using It – The truth is most people who do Hiit get awful results, they are inconsistent with it and fail to see the results they desire and eventually quit. While some do amazing on it, generally they love exercise already and are non-compensators in regards to their food.
What You Should Do With This Information?
Due to all those negative reasons about Hiit I will continue to not use it with 99% of my clients baring the odd exception. So do not panic if you ever do a session with me that you will be forced to do some burpees. I don’t think I have ever given a client this exercise.
The fitness professionals will continue to pump the approach until the next magical fat loss saviour is marketed. Despite what them and the Hiit community say you do not need it to achieve your results.
If you enjoy it and are consistent with it then keep doing it. Though keep an eye out for when you reach your maximum fitness threshold for this sort of training. At this point you will need to include other more specific plans to develop your fitness further.
Cross Fit, which has a Hiit based approach for most of it’s Workouts of The Day (WOD) are very good at mixing it up to use other techniques such as strength training to continue development. High intensity is also used within targeted aerobic training protocols for athletes, but this is not the same as current day Hiit circuits.
What Are Your Experiences & Views About Hiit?
Photo – Competing in Athletics, the start of the 400m and 100m. Sprint training focuses on intensity over volume which is similar to Hiit. Albeit the training is very different. Click here>>>
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