HIIT Training Variations

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) aims to improve athletic performance with short, intense training sessions. There are two famous methods that come from studies done on the subject. The first study was done in 1996 on the Tabata method. This is the topic of my previous post.

The second well known HIIT method is called the Little Method and is based on a study conducted in 2009. This method uses 60 seconds of intense exercise followed by 75 seconds of rest. This cycle is repeated eight to twelve times. The Tabata method on the other hand uses 20 seconds of intense exercise with 10 seconds of rest. This cycle is repeated eight times.

The benefits of HIIT training found through the two studies mentioned here are quite impressive. Aerobic and anaerobic performances are both improved. If you try out these methods you will certainly feel a difference even from your first session to your second session. By the fourth or fifth session you will be quite amazed at how much easier the training is (but it is still not easy!).

HIIT training requires you to work hard, so I recommend doing it with a partner to help push you. If you can’t do it with a partner, then you should measure your output somehow. For example, if you are doing sprints, try to make sure you are covering the same amount of ground for each repetition. I know this extremely tough, but it will ensure you are giving full effort even when you feel like you are going to die.

I have seen people get very creative with HIIT training. This has inspired me to try out some of their recommendations and come up with a few routines of my own. The reasoning for doing this is twofold. First, doing sprints on a stationary bike or running gets boring. Why not mix it up a bit. Second, if sprints on the ground and on a bike are great then other types of exercises are probably pretty good too (although I don’t know of any studies looking into this yet).

You can do HIIT training with any type of exercise you want. I should warn you that this type of training is for healthy and active people who have a good fitness base already. The training is severely intense. I am not joking. Think about how much it would hurt to run as fast as you can for twenty seconds, rest for ten seconds and then do it again seven more times! It is every bit as difficult as you think and a bit more. It is ok though. You feel awesome after completing it.

I have tried HIIT training with a combination of bodyweight exercises. I started by doing a routine of push-ups, air squats, burpees and pull-ups. I decided to do it Tabata style but knew I would need to extend the time to get the full benefit. I went for 50 seconds of exercise and 20 of rest. It was difficult, but it was good.

Another method is to set a number of repetitions to complete for each exercise. Let’s say you want to do 100 of each exercise. You will start with by doing as many, say, push-ups as possible. Once you can’t do anymore, switch to the next exercise, squats for instance. Do as many as you can and then switch again. The only tough part here is keeping track of what number you are on. Well…the exercise is tough too.

I have also gotten crazy using the TRX suspension trainer for HIIT training. The ability of the TRX to switch quickly between exercises makes it really great for doing HIIT. I do recommend making sure that your form is perfect for each exercise you will be doing on the TRX suspension trainer before actually doing a HIIT session. This will minimize your chance of injury.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. Remember to warm up and cool down properly. Come up with your own HIIT routine and reap the benefits.

The Tabata Method

This is the first post regarding high-intensity interval training. Several quality, replicable studies have been conducted on different high-intensity interval training (HIIT) exercise methods over the past few years. The results of these studies have confirmed and quantified some of the results of this kind of training based on the actual training method, time and frequency. These studies also seem to have confirmed some things that coaches, trainers and athletes have had a hunch about for a long time—some high intensity work can really pay off (and be quite uncomfortable). Today I’ll discuss the Tabata method of HIIT, which is the first HIIT method I began using.

First, I would like to note that high-intensity interval training is, well, exactly what is in the name—it’s intense. Therefore, you should only engage in this kind of training if you already have a decent fitness base. For those of you starting a new exercise routine, please check with you doctor to make sure you’re in good enough health to start the routine you want to. Also, since you’re often giving your full effort during HIIT, take care to prevent injury. Particularly, watch your form. Don’t let it break down just. This is when injuries occur. Keeping in good form should always come before getting to that maximum effort. During these intense sessions, it takes a lot of mental focus to accomplish this. Practice it! Try and do these training sessions with low-intensity, low impact exercises like a stationary cycle.

The Tabata method comes directly from a study published in 1996 titled Effects of Moderate-Intensity Endurance and High-Intensity intermittent training on Anaerobic Capacity and VO2max. The study’s conclusion (paraphrased) was that moderate-intensity aerobic training that improves maximal aerobic power does not change anaerobic capacity. Adequate high-intensity intermittent training may improve both anaerobic and aerobic energy supplying systems significantly.

This study was done using stationary cycles with 7 to 8 sets of 20 second exercise at pretty much full intensity (170% of VO2max) with a 10 second rest between each exercise. Subjects performed the exercises 5 days a week for 6 weeks. The gains produced were significant and I believe this study has been replicated several times and different set lengths have been experimented with. The study has also been done with top condition athletes. The gains (about a 28% increase in anaerobic capacity after 6 weeks) are good for top athletes living in the world of incremental gains. If you Google this study or the Tabata name, you will find a lot of reputable resources on the subject.

The reason I started doing Tabata sprints was just to experiment with this method to see how it felt. I have only tracked my progress based on my feeling. I did the method with sprints. Again, please note that this is intense. If after my warm-up, I felt off for some reason, I wouldn’t do the Tabata session that day. It’s too easy to injure yourself while sprinting at full speed.

I really enjoy the Tabata method, but it does tend to hurt a lot—especially the first few sessions. I normally do only one Tabata session a week. After four weeks of doing it, I found that I was much more comfortable during the sessions and seemed to recover better in the hour after the session. I definitely recovered better over the next 24 hours, and I rarely experience soreness due to these sessions.

I have performed these sessions with running shoes on concrete (with the utmost caution). Doing this usually prevents me from really getting maxed out due to my fear of injury. I prefer to do this barefoot (sometimes with barefoot shoes and sometimes without) on a nice grassy surface. I use a free app on my iPod Touch that times the intervals automatically. It’s kind of a pain to have to hold the iPod while sprinting, but I’ve found a good way to go about it.

I have also done Tabata sessions with burpees, mountain climbers and push-ups. I prefer the sprinting method, but I am going to try doing it with air squats as I have seen on a YouTube video. I bet it will hurt.

If you feel like trying to destroy yourself for some aerobic and anaerobic improvement, try the Tabata method. It’s interesting and worthwhile. As previously mentioned, you can do this with a number of exercises. Check out the TRX Reviews page for a bodyweight exercise tool that is pretty cool.