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You may have seen the acronym HIIT popping up all over the internet, fitness videos, news media, etc. HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training and it’s …awesome! Most people who envision what HIIT looks like picture lots of burpees and jumping, sweat and pain. That’s not entirely accurate. And unfortunately, tons of misinformation are resulting in people incorrectly doing HIIT workouts. HIIT can be an extremely effective method of shredding fat and getting that often coveted six-pack. BUT, you have to do it right. Here’s how….

HIIT is basically a cardio session consisting of short burst of intense work. I stress intense because that’s the point. You have to work… hard. However, it’s short. Durations of work last anywhere from 20-90 seconds. Imagine you’re running a long distance. What do you do? You chose a pace you can maintain, right? When I run a marathon I run at a 6-7 MPH pace. I can maintain that pace for a long time. If I wanted to make a run into a HIIT workout it would be a short, intense run consisting of burst of energy followed by periods of rest. For example, I might sprint (10 MPH for me) for 30 seconds and then walk (3.5MPH) for 60 seconds for 6 rounds. That’s only a 9 minute workout but it’s definitely work.

HIIT can be done with only your body weight, or you can incorporate equipment such as medicine balls, dumbbells, kettlebells, sandbags, etc. ANYTHING can be a HIIT workout as long as you make it short and intense. HIIT is challenging and that’s the point, but it takes some getting used to. To help clients understanding how it works (and monitor their safety) many fitness professional use a methods called RPE, or Rate of Perceived Exertion. This is a 1-10 scale where the client can express the level of exertion they feel they are at. 1 being low and 10 being all out effort. For HIIT to be effective, you’re aiming for 8 or 9.

But WHY does it work? Well, here’s the science behind HIIT. When you push to the max, you increase your VO2, which in turn increase your stamina and the amount of oxygen you can utilize while exercising (Gibala, M. and McGee, S., 2008). Additionally, HIIT can improve endurance and metabolism, regulate insulin and burn body fat. Yes, all exercise burns body fat. However, HIIT burns more because of the higher intensity. As if that’s not awesome enough, HIIT has an “after burn” effect. It’s called EPOC and it stands for Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption. Intense exercise like HIIT can increase calorie burn as much as 15 percent (Gold, 2017). That’s pretty significant!

Earlier I mentioned that the short, intense bursts are followed by rest. Rest is an essential part of HIIT. First, you push your body to the edge, then you rest and bring your heart rate back down. You go from high-intensity to low intensity resulting in more work for your body, which results in higher calorie burn. In other words, forcing your body to work and recover burns more calories (Gold, 2017). It also trains your body to recover faster

With HIIT, a little goes a long way. Overdoing HIIT will have a “reduced gain” effect. Basically, it won’t be a surprise to your body anymore. So incorporate a HIIT workout into your training regimen 1-3 days a week. Start with 1 day, but I wouldn’t suggest exceeding 3 days. In addition, too much HIIT can result in injury. I would also like to point out that many people believe that high intensity is the same as high impact. If you’re concerned about impact, HIIT does not need to have any impact. The two are not interchangeable. You can absolutely have a HIIT workout without sacrificing your joints. As always, best results come with a clean diet. So eat clean, be consistent, and incorporate HIIT into your workout schedule. You will love the results!


Sources: Gold, Marissa, (2017). High Intensity Interval Training: What is HIIT, and How Do You Know if You’re Doing it? Self Magazine

Gibala, Martin, McGee, Sean, (2008). Metabolic Adaptations to Short-Term High-Intensity Interval Training: A Little Pain for a Lot of Gain? Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews

See more articles from personal trainer Ginn Johnson at


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