A True HIIT Workout

A true HIIT workout = short bursts of maximal or near maximal intensities with adequate and appropriate recoveries. There is an emphasis on quality of movement as opposed to quantity.

To build some more depth into an example HIIT workout let’s build a scale out of 10 for intensity and performance. 10 being the heaviest or fastest you can perform, your maximum intensity.

The true HIIT workout
• Warm up for 5 minutes focusing on a movement pattern that is very similar to the one/s you are about to use at high intensity and aid in any postural limitations you may have
• Perform your first High Intensity Interval – score = 9 out of 10 for thirty seconds
• Rest for ninety seconds up to two minutes. Make it an active recovery though. So you are moving at rate of about 2 out of ten on our scale
• Perform second high intensity interval – score once again = 9 out of 10 for thirty seconds
• Repeat the above rest protocol
• Then repeat this up to 8 times where your performance and intensity stays above an 8 out of 10
• Total work time = four minutes (cumulative over the eight high intensity intervals)
• Total recovery time = twelve minutes (cumulative over the eight 90 second recovery periods)
• Total time expended from start to finish for the workout = 16 minutes excluding warm up and cool down
• Estimated calories burned 145. This number disregards any after burn effect which may occur as a result of a high intensity workout. The higher the intensity the higher and longer the after burn. This is termed EPOC or Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption.

Let’s compare this to a High Volume Interval Training (HVIT) workout. This is what far too many are actually doing while believing they are performing HIIT.
• Warm up for 5 minutes as above
• Perform your first High Volume Interval. Score = 9 out of 10 for thirty seconds. Keeping the work time the same to further illustrate my point.
• Rest for forty five seconds.
• Perform second high volume interval. Score = 8.5 out of 10 for thirty seconds
• Repeat the above rest protocol
• Perform the third high volume interval. Score now drops to 7.5 out of ten on our intensity scale.
• This continues for sixteen intervals where ultimately our intensity is anything but high! Scoring a consistently lower score until we reach 3 out of ten for the final interval.

Now let’s do the sums again
• Total work time = eight minutes. Double that of the true HIIT example
• Total recovery time = twelve minutes. Same as HIIT example
• Total time expended from start to finish for the workout = 20 minutes excluding warm up and cool down. 25% more than true HIIT.
• Estimated kcal burned 170. NOT EVEN 20% for twice the amount of work time. The higher the intensity the more calories burned! Again this number disregards any after burn effect which may occur as a result of a high intensity workout.

Moral of the story – Do not confuse ‘effort’ with ‘intensity/performance! That is another type of training with a different response and risk profile’