There is an ongoing debate among bodybuilders about which is better – a steady-state cardiovascular workout or a high intensity interval training. It’s like comparing a long-distance runner to a sprinter. Both are world-class athletes. Both train to be at the top of their game. But if you are going to look a lot closer at their physique, the sprinter will have more chiseled, more well-defined muscles than the long-distance runner’s lankier appearance. Compare Olympic marathoner Stephen Kiptotich from Uganda with Jamaican Olympic sprinter Usain St. Leo Bolt and you can readily see the difference.
This is not to say that one is inherently better than the other. The whole point is to choose the type of program that would benefit your fitness goals the most.
High intensity interval training has been lauded as the ideal training for people who would like to burn fat, tone their muscles, and push their physical stamina to the hilt. It comprises of a full interval of short bursts of very intense physical workout followed by a toned-down version of the same workout. For example, you go try to become Bolt in 20 seconds then follow that up with a 10-second leisurely jog as you would around the park.
Studies show that 20 minutes of HIIT no more than 3 times a week can reduce total body fat by as much as 2 percent. This may seem a modest reduction in total body fat but if you are going to compare it with 30 minutes of steady state cardiovascular training 3 times a week then you know that it really means a lot. Individuals who cardio trained only posted a very minimal 0.3 percent reduction in their total body fat. And here’s the added bonus, the same 20-minute HIIT produced an additional 2 pounds of lean, beefy muscle while those in the cardiovascular training group actually lost a pound.
If you are going to seriously consider the implications of these studies, it simply means that high intensity interval training allows you to burn as much as 2 percent of your total body fat while at the same time adding 2 pounds of lean muscle to your body. It’s the perfect formula for bodybuilding and fat burning. Cardiovascular training, on the other hand, will be beneficial for losing weight simply because you will be losing a pound of muscle mass instead of body fat. You are also burning more calories. So, if your goal is to lose weight without necessarily having that chiseled appearance, then you go for steady-state cardio workout. But if you really want a leaner, more sculpted body, then HIIT is for you.
Benefits of Doing the HIIT
High intensity interval training has many benefits. However, it is very important to understand that it takes time for the brain to recover, at least 48 hours to be exact. Doing HIIT on a daily basis can result to metabolic stress, muscle damage, and mechanical tension. This is because you are pushing the central nervous system to the hilt. It needs time to recover before you can start hitting it again.
Nevertheless, if done properly, high intensity interval training can provide you with the following benefits.
More efficient workouts – The beauty of high intensity interval training is its efficiency, allowing you to obtain maximum results in so short a period of time. For example, doing the Tabata method will require you to perform 20 seconds of short high intensity exercises followed by 10 seconds of less intense exercises or recovery. This comprises one cycle. Completing 8 cycles will only mean 4 minutes of HIIT and you are already guaranteed muscle building and fat-burning success.
Burn more fat – The intensity of the training puts your metabolic processes in hyperdrive. This leads to more efficient burning of both calories and fat long after the HIIT workout session. Because the muscles have been pushed to the hilt, they will continue burning calories and fat even while you are already resting in the comfort of your own home.
Builds a healthier heart – You know you’re doing it right once you feel as if your heart wants to jump right off your chest. You are pushing it to its optimum levels of functioning. Over time, you can train it to become more efficient at pumping blood. For example, professional athletes typically have slower heart rates and lower blood pressure even after an intense exercise. Why? Their hearts have grown more efficient in pumping blood.
No equipment needed – You don’t have to go to the gym or even buy very expensive gym equipment to enjoy HIIT. For example, you can run as fast as you can at the park for 20 seconds then jog for another 10 seconds. Try jumping rope or even doing lunges.
Lose weight while building muscle – One of the most obvious benefits of HIIT is that it builds muscles while at the same time burning more body fat. In effect, you get firmer, more toned physique.
Increases metabolic rate – HIIT can definitely increase your body’s rate of metabolism. This makes it more efficient in burning calories and fat. HIIT has also been shown to stimulate the synthesis and secretion of human growth hormone to aid in your muscle building and fat burning efforts.
It’s flexible – As already pointed out, you don’t need to go to the gym to perform high intensity interval training. You can do it right in your backyard or even at the park. If you have access to a swimming pool then you can do HIIT there, too. The point is to observe the principles of HIIT and you should be doing fine.
Pushes you to the hilt – Performing high intensity interval training takes sheer determination and the ability to push yourself to the hilt. High intensity interval training workout sessions are very challenging. They may be very short but you will be running out of breathe a lot faster, too. This is where discipline and motivation comes in.
A Few Examples on How You Can Optimize Fat Burning with HIIT
Now that you have an idea of what HIIT is and what it can do for you, it’s time to look at some of the few examples you can perform to get you going in your fat burning and muscle building efforts.
Burpee-Climber-Jumping Jack – Perform 10 repetitions each of burpees, mountain climbers, and jumping jacks continuously without resting in between exercises. Repeat the circuit with 15 repetitions each and then 20 repetitions each. Follow it up with jumping rope for 3 minutes. Then rest for 1 minute. Repeat the routine 3 more times.
Lunge-Pushup-Walkout – Perform a walking lunge using a kettleball being exchanged underneath the leg for 45 seconds. Rest for 15 seconds then perform 45 seconds of pushups followed by another 15 second rest. Perform 45 seconds each of lunge jumps and inchworm walk-outs with a 15-second rest in between. Follow with jumping rope for 3 minutes before resting for 1 minute. Repeat the circuit for another 3 rounds
Kettleball Squat-Dips-Speed Skaters-Plank – Perform 45 seconds each of traveling side lunges, lateral jump speed skaters, dips, and plank to pushup with 15-second rest periods in between exercises. Follow up with jumping rope for 3 minutes before resting for a minute then repeat the circuit for another 3 rounds.
You can actually create your very own HIIT. You just have to remember to push your body to the hilt then follow it up with a less intense workout before rest and recovery. Give it at least 8 weeks and you should be well on your way to a leaner, more chiseled, body.