High intensity interval training

Why High Intensity Interval Training is King (HIIT): 2 Ways to Add Intensity to Your Workouts

In a previous article we talked about the benefits of resistance training, and how incorporating more resistance training into your workout regimen can help you burn fat, stimulate muscle growth and achieve the body you’ve always wanted.  In case you missed that article you can read it here.

Many people have asked me to follow up on that article with an article about why so many trainers and programs are now recommending high intensity interval training (HIIT) as the most effective form of exercise.

What is Resistance Training?

First things first – resistance training is a form of exercise that causes muscles to contract against external resistance in order to increase strength, tone, mass and/or endurance. The external resistance can come in many forms, including bricks, bottles of water, medicine balls, weights, another person, the wind, a body of water, or your own bodyweight.

When I talk about resistance training I am referring to two main types of resistance, including the resistance from (a) a weight such as a barbell, dumbbell, medicine ball or bottle of water (my favorite), or (b) your bodyweight.

Performing bodyweight strength movements is one of the most effective forms of resistance training for many reasons: it does not require any equipment, it does not require a gym membership, and it can be done practically anywhere.

Unlike traditional strength training performed in the gym using either barbells or dumbbells, bodyweight strength training is a form of resistance training that develops muscular strength in proportion to your existing bodyweight.

Often times the tendency in a gym setting is to lift heavier weights over time, can result in the overdevelopment of large muscle groups and the under development of small muscle groups.

Bodyweight strength training is very effective at developing total body muscular tone and strength because it is a way to develop small and large muscle groups simultaneously, reducing the risk for muscle imbalance.

Why Does Adding Intensity Make Your Resistance Workout “Healthier”?

Research has shown that increasing the intensity levels on your workouts is a great way to increase the difficulty of your resistance workouts, which results in the following health benefits:

Muscle and Fat Benefits

  • Increased energy expenditure (1)
  • Increased fat burning (2–4)
  • Improved body composition (2)
  • Increased time to fatigue (5)

Blood Glucose Benefits

  • Decreased insulin resistance (6–8)
  • Decreased blood glucose variability (9,10)
  • Reduced post-meal glucose levels (9,10)

Cardiovascular Benefits

  • Increased cardiovascular endurance (3,11,12)
  • Increased anaerobic threshold (12)
  • Increased cardiac output (stronger contractions) (13)

Only in the past 15 years has HIIT taken the limelight as one of the most effective forms of exercise, especially for busy individuals with only a limited amount of time to exercise.  One author states:

“These data suggest that individuals can burn more calories performing a HIIT session than spending the same amount of time performing a steady-state exercise session. This form of exercise intervention may be beneficial to individuals who want to gain the benefits of both resistance and cardiovascular training but have limited time to dedicate to exercise.” (1)

Adding Intensity to Your Workouts

In a traditional workout, you perform a series of movements, each for a specified amount of time. At the end of each set, you briefly rest before moving onto the next set. As your fitness level increases, you may notice that you are capable of working at a higher intensity and performing more reps on certain exercises.

Take a Medium Intensity Workout…

Suppose you perform a workout at a medium intensity, and break a sweat towards the end. On a scale of 1 to 10, let’s pretend that your perceived level of exertion was a 5 out of 10.

And Make it a HIIT Workout

Now, perform the same work out again, but this time work as fast and as hard as you can to make it an HIIT workout. During this workout, let’s pretend that you’re perceived level of exertion was a 9 out of 10.

Even though you are working the same muscle groups and performing the same exercises, you will certainly be more tired following the second workout and may develop increased muscle soreness.

When you increase the intensity of a workout, large muscle groups get fatigued quicker. As a result, smaller muscle groups are recruited, resulting in more comprehensive muscular development. In addition, increasing the intensity of your workout increases the calorie burn. And who doesn’t want that?

By increasing the intensity of your workouts, your strength and endurance can increase at a significantly faster rate. In addition, these types of workouts are extremely effective at training you to mentally withstand challenging situations. A double whammy indeed.

How to Add Intensity to Your Workouts

Tip #1: Temporarily Increase Your Work Rate

The easiest way to add intensity to your workouts is to choose a few exercises to perform as fast as you can within a set.

Suppose you decided to perform the following bodyweight circuit a total of 4 times, for a whole body workout that is sure to leave you breathing hard:

  • Jumping jacks: 60 seconds
  • Bodyweight squats: 60 seconds
  • Plank position hold: 60 seconds
  • Roman twists: 60 seconds
  • Pushups: 60 seconds
  • Rest: 2 minutes

Repeat this circuit 4 times

To increase the intensity of your workout, simply choose one timed exercise in each set and perform that exercise as FAST as you can. All other exercises in that set at a medium intensity. Your new HIIT workout would now look like this:

Set 1

  • Jumping jacks: 60 seconds (AS FAST AS POSSIBLE)
  • Bodyweight squats: 60 seconds
  • Plank position hold: 60 seconds
  • Roman twists: 60 seconds
  • Pushups: 60 seconds
  • Rest: 2 minutes

Set 2

  • Jumping jacks: 60 seconds
  • Bodyweight squats: 60 seconds (AS FAST AS POSSIBLE)
  • Plank position hold: 60 seconds
  • Roman twists: 60 seconds
  • Pushups: 60 seconds
  • Rest: 2 minutes

Set 3

  • Jumping jacks: 60 seconds
  • Bodyweight squats: 60 seconds
  • Plank position hold: 60 seconds
  • Roman twists: 60 seconds (AS FAST AS POSSIBLE)
  • Pushups: 60 seconds
  • Rest: 2 minutes

Set 4

  • Jumping jacks: 60 seconds
  • Bodyweight squats: 60 seconds
  • Plank position hold: 60 seconds
  • Pushups: 60 seconds (AS FAST AS POSSIBLE)
  • Rest: 2 minutes

By doing this, you will notice that your high-intensity circuit will be significantly more difficult. The exercises that you performed immediately after the high-intensity exercise will be very strenuous. By the end of each set you should be sweating profusely!

 

Tip #2: Decrease Your Rest Interval

Another surefire way to increase your intensity in a workout is to reduce your rest. I know, this goes against all evolutionary mechanisms, and forces you to work hard at the very moment your brain is screaming for oxygen.

Let’s return to our previous circuit, shown here:

  • Jumping jacks: 60 seconds
  • Bodyweight squats: 60 seconds
  • Plank position hold: 60 seconds
  • Roman twists: 60 seconds
  • Pushups: 60 seconds
  • Rest: 2 minutes

Repeat this circuit 4 times

Notice that the rest interval is 2 minutes long in between sets. To up the intensity, simply decrease that rest interval to 90 seconds or 60 seconds or 30 seconds, and watch the profound difference it makes to your intensity level. It’s a simple tweak, but very powerful. Your workout would now look like this:

Set 1

  • Jumping jacks: 60 seconds
  • Bodyweight squats: 60 seconds
  • Plank position hold: 60 seconds
  • Roman twists: 60 seconds
  • Pushups: 60 seconds
  • Rest: 90 seconds

Set 2

  • Jumping jacks: 60 seconds
  • Bodyweight squats: 60 seconds
  • Plank position hold: 60 seconds
  • Roman twists: 60 seconds
  • Pushups: 60 seconds
  • Rest: 60 seconds

Set 3

  • Jumping jacks: 60 seconds
  • Bodyweight squats: 60 seconds
  • Plank position hold: 60 seconds
  • Roman twists: 60 seconds
  • Pushups: 60 seconds
  • Rest: 30 seconds

Set 4

  • Jumping jacks: 60 seconds
  • Bodyweight squats: 60 seconds
  • Plank position hold: 60 seconds
  • Roman twists: 60 seconds
  • Pushups: 60 seconds
  • FINISH WORKOUT

Take Home Message

Adding a small amount of intensity to your workout can make a world of difference both for how your body looks and how your internal organs operate. Try making one of these simple adjustments, and watch the profound difference that it makes. I guarantee you you’ll notice the difference immediately.

As your fitness level increases, you may eventually be able to perform your entire workout at high intensity, although doing this generally requires months to years of work. It is certainly not out of the question, however even small bouts of HIIT can significantly increase your muscular development and overall work rate.

So give it a try and leave your comments in the comment box below. I’d love to know what resistance circuits you’ve come up with – if you give me a good HIIT workout I’ll incorporate it into my regimen and serve it to my personal training clients as well!

References

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  1. Falcone PH, Tai C-Y, Carson LR, Joy JM, Mosman MM, McCann TR, et al. CALORIC EXPENDITURE OF AEROBIC, RESISTANCE OR COMBINED HIGH-INTENSITY INTERVAL TRAINING USING A HYDRAULIC RESISTANCE SYSTEM IN HEALTHY MEN. J Strength Cond Res Natl Strength Cond Assoc. 2014 Aug 26;
  2. Gremeaux V, Drigny J, Nigam A, Juneau M, Guilbeault V, Latour E, et al. Long-term lifestyle intervention with optimized high-intensity interval training improves body composition, cardiometabolic risk, and exercise parameters in patients with abdominal obesity. Am J Phys Med Rehabil Assoc Acad Physiatr. 2012 Nov;91(11):941–50.
  3. Hazell TJ, Hamilton CD, Olver TD, Lemon PWR. Running sprint interval training induces fat loss in women. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab Physiol Appliquée Nutr Métabolisme. 2014 Aug;39(8):944–50.
  4. Larsen S, Danielsen JH, Søndergård SD, Søgaard D, Vigelsoe A, Dybboe R, et al. The effect of high-intensity training on mitochondrial fat oxidation in skeletal muscle and subcutaneous adipose tissue. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2014 May 21;
  5. Burgomaster KA, Hughes SC, Heigenhauser GJF, Bradwell SN, Gibala MJ. Six sessions of sprint interval training increases muscle oxidative potential and cycle endurance capacity in humans. J Appl Physiol. 2005 Jun 1;98(6):1985–90.
  6. Francois ME, Baldi JC, Manning PJ, Lucas SJE, Hawley JA, Williams MJA, et al. “Exercise snacks” before meals: a novel strategy to improve glycaemic control in individuals with insulin resistance. Diabetologia. 2014 May 10;1–9.
  7. Álvarez C, Ramírez-Campillo R, Henríquez-Olguín C, Castro-Sepúlveda M, Carrasco V, Martínez C. [Eight weeks of combined high intensity intermittent exercise normalized altered metabolic parameters in women]. Rev Médica Chile. 2014 Apr;142(4):458–66.
  8. Racil G, Ben Ounis O, Hammouda O, Kallel A, Zouhal H, Chamari K, et al. Effects of high vs. moderate exercise intensity during interval training on lipids and adiponectin levels in obese young females. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2013 Oct;113(10):2531–40.
  9. Little JP, Jung ME, Wright AE, Wright W, Manders RJF. Effects of high-intensity interval exercise versus continuous moderate-intensity exercise on postprandial glycemic control assessed by continuous glucose monitoring in obese adults. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab Physiol Appl Nutr Metab. 2014 Feb 18;
  10. Bussau VA, Ferreira LD, Jones TW, Fournier PA. The 10-s maximal sprint: a novel approach to counter an exercise-mediated fall in glycemia in individuals with type 1 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2006 Mar;29(3):601–6.
  11. Tabata I, Irisawa K, Kouzaki M, Nishimura K, Ogita F, Miyachi M. Metabolic profile of high intensity intermittent exercises. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1997 Mar;29(3):390–5.
  12. Tabata I, Nishimura K, Kouzaki M, Hirai Y, Ogita F, Miyachi M, et al. Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1996 Oct;28(10):1327–30.
  13. Shiraev T, Barclay G. Evidence based exercise - clinical benefits of high intensity interval training. Aust Fam Physician. 2012 Dec;41(12):960–2.

 

 

About The Author

Cyrus Khambatta

Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 22, I have spent over a decade learning the fundamentals of nutrition at the doctorate level. My goal is to share my knowledge of practical nutrition and fitness with people with prediabetes, type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is an OPPORTUNITY to attain excellent health. Reversing the effects of insulin resistance can be a fun and enjoyable process if the right system is in place. That's why I've spent over 10 years developing a rock solid system that can minimize blood glucose variability and insulin resistance.

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