10 Best Interval Training Routines
Updated on: March 2023
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Guide to HIIT Cardio Training
HIIT cardio training will blast off body fat like never before and raise metabolism. Let me, a personal trainer who does HIIT cardio training twice weekly, explain why.
HIIT cardio training is simple: Alternate bursts of high intensity cardio with one to several minutes of low intensity cardio. HIIT cardio training can be done with any cardio equipment, with a stepper, staircase, track or even inline skates. HIIT sessions can last 20 to 45 minutes, and 8-10 intensity intervals should be performed, though six will still get great results. HIIT cardio training is superior to the more traditional form of cardio exercise, in which a person stays at a fixed pace that's sustained for up to an hour straight.
Just 20 minutes of HIIT cardio training is superior to an hour of low or medium intensity cardio exercise on the same equipment or same type of movement. Traditional cardio exercise is called "steady state" or "long duration," because it's pretty much the same speed and output throughout the session. There may be mild nuances in speed, incline and pace, but essentially it's a sustained effort.
HIIT cardio training entails strenuous spikes sprinkled throughout a very easy pace. Total work time in a 30 minute HIIT cardio session actually amounts to just minutes (e.g., 10 high intensity intervals times 30 seconds each equals five minutes of hard work -- with two to three minutes' easy work in between each intensity interval). Five minutes of high intensity work, divided by 10 intervals, will burn off far more fat than one whole hour of steady state cardio.
Here's why HIIT cardio training blasts off fat
Steady state cardio recruits primarily slow twitch muscle fiber. HIIT cardio training recruits fast twitch. Fast twitch fiber burns more calories and requires more energy to recover after the cardio exercise. Steady state cardio is not intense enough to create lactic acid as a byproduct. HIIT creates lactic acid because of its high intensity. This lactic acid buildup triggers increased release of human growth hormone. More human growth hormone triggers more fat burning. HIIT creates severe oxygen dept, leaving the body in a state of oxygen dept for hours after the cardio exercise is over.
This sounds scary, but it's actually a fabulous thing, because post-exercise oxygen debt is a fancy way of saying metabolism remains elevated for hours after the cardio exercise is over! More simply, HIIT cardio is so tough on the body that the body needs a huge amount of energy to recover. The energy is pulled from stored body fat, including the fat in your belly.
Pros of HIIT in addition to burning fat
The short sessions work great for busy people; less boring than steady state; more fat burn within one week; higher resting metabolic rate; dramatically improved sports performance; significant improvement in fitness.
Cons of HIIT
Can be mentally difficult to adjust to; concept can be intimidating to people used to casual effort cardio exercise; can cause injury if person rushes into it without first warming up.
HIIT cardio exercise examples (warm up for five minutes first; warm down for five minutes). Intensity intervals should leave you too winded to talk, should all last 30-60 seconds, and 8-10 intensity intervals should be done.
Stationary bike (manual setting). Set pedal tension and speed so that pedaling your fastest completely takes it out of you. Pedal easily for one to two minutes.
Elliptical trainer (manual setting). Apply same concept as above.
Treadmill (manual setting). For walkers, set machine so that you can barely walk the setting before having to reduce setting to an easy pace for one to three minutes. More fit people will need a high incline. Never hold onto the treadmill. Remember, the pump is only for 30-60 seconds. For joggers and runners, again, find the setting that blasts you good, then reduce setting to an easy one-to-three-minute walk. Don't hold onto the equipment except maybe to reduce speed from a very fast sprint.
Rowing machine. Adjust settings for a very difficult row for 30-60 seconds, then switch to an easy row for one to two minutes.
Outdoor running. Run your fastest for 50 to 100 yards; or half to the full length of the straightaway of a track. Walk to the other straightaway and repeat. Or, walk all the way back to the original straightaway and repeat.
Bleacher running. Run your fastest up the bleachers. If this can be done in under 30 seconds, then just run so fast and hard that you can barely get to the top. Walk down and/or around for a few minutes, then repeat.
Swimming. Swim short laps, but your fastest possible, then wade the pool length and repeat.
HIIT cardio training should be done two to three times per week on non-weight lifting days.