How many people tell you that you really need to do HIIT training? You might hear phrases like it’s the best, do cardio and strength training at the same time, or it is so much better than regular cardio…
High Intensity Interval Training has become super popular. There are entire gyms that only specialize in it. Tons of influencers online are also endorsing this modality of fitness. There are certainly some positive aspects to it, but is it for you?
First, lets talk about some good things about this. First, many experts believe HIIT training is great for what is called type 2b muscles fibers. These are fast twitch, glyoclytic fibers that need explosive movement to be trained. So not only will you get your heart rate up, but you will strengthen these. Without actually focusing on strength and measuring your progress accordingly, you will get sweaty, burn fat, you might get stronger depending on how you eat, but will you get stronger and burn fat? If your goal is to build muscle, you need to eat in a caloric surplus and stimulate muscle growth. So it would depend on your choices when you are not training. With that said, I have personally witnessed many people loose weight only with hit training while maintaining a caloric deficit. The problem is many people I have seen do not maintain the deficit and only HIIT training for long periods of time. So they will loose like 20 pounds in a couple of months and gain back ten. Meanwhile, there strength might have improved slightly.
Ok, so I love to focus on strength. Put simply, you either have more fat or more muscle. So we all want more muscle (or lean mass) and less fat. I will talk more on this in a later post. So although HIIT training can be really good, it might not be the best for improving your strength. Again, this depends on your goals, which begs the question: did you reflect on what your goal was when you started HIIT training?
People will say HIIT training is great for loosing weight. Yes! It can be one tool that will help. If you only do HIIT training or any other form of exercise without changing your lifestyle choices and eating habits, then you will probably not loose weight. But, if you try to cut your liquid calories, prioritize protein and whole foods, and sustain a caloric deficit while consistently moving everyday, then you will loose weight.
For individuals who are extremely overweight and just trying to get started, I personally feel HIIT training is not a good way to start. With how much weight these individuals are carrying, the amount of force and strain on the joints doing HIIT training is going to be a lot. It is kinda like going from sitting on the couch to running a marathon. It would be too much too fast, and would put you at risk for injury. A reasonable course of action would be to do a little bit of HIIT training. You could try 10-20 minutes once or twice a week. Make sure to properly warm up with easy movement, increase blood flow and body temperature, and use dynamic movements. Keep it simple and aim for a 5-10 minute warm up. Other than that, walking is a great way to start moving. Most people who have not been training should be able to walk for some amount of time, so do that and make changes to your eating habits and lifestyle. Overtime, you will loose weight and get stronger. It would also be great to have some sort of strength training program to help you build muscle. Finding a squat movement, pulling movement, and pushing movement that you could safely do but would also be a challenge would be the key. You could aim to do 2-3 sets of 5-10 reps for each movement two to three times a week.
There are more benefits to HIIT training, and if you are curious, then there is so much information out there, I am sure you can find it. My point here is that HIIT training is one tool. Yes it can help you reach your goals and improve life, depending on what your goals are and how you execute. With any type of exercise, make sure you can safely perform the exercises. Too often do I see people doing HIIT training only to sacrifice proper form and technique to get as many reps as the can in as little time possible. Technique and form are important for quality gains, functional movement patterns, and preventing injury, so be sure to pay attention and don’t worry so much about how many. Quality should come before quantity.
So if you feel HIIT training will help you reach your goals, then that is great. As you improve your health, consider that the human body can move in many different ways, so find different types of movement and exercises that will help you to stay active. You will reinforce yourself positively by incorporating movement into your life that you like. This will help you to stay consistent, which is key to reaching your goals.
And the next time your friend tells you how amazing HIIT training is, you can agree with them and confidently state that HIIT training is one type of exercise. You could also simply ask them questions about their goals and try to understand their perspective. This way, your not attacking their faith in HIIT training, you are simply trying to understand them.
For those reading between the lines, you might have surmised I am not a big fan of HIIT training. It is not that I do not like HIIT training, I am just sick of people hyping it up when it is but one path. I am also tired of seeing people focus on short term results and not make the necessary long term changes. I am tired of people sacrificing technique and injuring themselves while HIIT classes did not give them the proper instruction to prevent injury. I am tired of people being sold on the superiority of HIIT training and it’s magical ability to build muscle and burn fat simultaneously. Yes, there is a grain of truth in all of these. If you choose to do HIIT training, great! Do it well. Safely execute the exercises, and decide on why you are doing it. I would not confine yourself only to HIIT training. So even though HIIT might help you reach goals, try to incorporate some flexibility training, mobility work, cardio (pick something fun that will be easy to get into a flow state), and do some intentional strength training.