It’s week six, which means midterms have descended upon UCSB. Plundering our precious reserves of brainpower, they have left us under-caffeinated, stripped of time, and quite possibly tempted to skip our workouts.
That’s why it’s the perfect time to try interval training. Not only does interval training help you build muscle more quickly and make it easier to breathe when you do cardio, it also saves you time at the gym—time you could spend studying or taking a power-nap.
There are two kinds of interval training: high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and supramaximal interval training (SMIT). HIIT is characterized by quick bursts of challenging activity followed by equally brief periods of moderate activity. SMIT, on the other hand, is going all-out for a short amount of time and then resting for a longer amount of time. Nearly anyone can do HIIT, but SMIT is designed for athletes (which is why we’re going to stick to HIIT here).
According to a survey conducted by the American College of Sports Medicine, HIIT has been predicted to be the top fitness trends of 2014. (1) This is no small wonder, considering that HIIT:
- reduces the amount of adrenaline in your blood (so you can train harder without getting tired)
- lowers your heart rate (so your heart doesn’t have to work as hard)
- reduces your body’s net glycogen use for one hour after training (which just means your body uses fat instead of sugar for fuel)
- increases body fat oxidation by 36 percent (so you burn more calories even when you’re resting). (2)
In a study conducted on college-aged men, just four weeks of HIIT notably increased participants’ strength. (3) With HIIT, you definitely won’t lose muscle mass; if anything, you’ll just lose body fat. That’s especially important right now, considering it’s bulking season and all. (Then again, when is it not at UCSB?)
Additionally, HIIT has been proven to be an effective training method for improving aerobic capacity. In a study conducted on girls and guys who averaged 19 to 20 years of age, HIIT resulted in better 40m (a good sprint) and 3000m (about two miles) times than did submaximal training (running at a constant pace). (4)
Alison Parakh, an instructor and personal trainer for the Department of Recreation’s Wellness and Fitness and Personal Training Programs, said that when her clients want to change their body composition, she often integrates HIIT into her programs to help them do so.
“Most often students are concerned about changing their body composition, either reducing body fat or increasing muscle mass, or both,” Parakh said in an email. “I have no ‘typical’ or ‘cookie cutter’ program, each program is based on the needs and goals of the client. That being said, I will nearly always include free weight exercises, complex training … and some form of squatting. When reducing body fat is a goal, I also program interval workouts, when appropriate. My bootcamp class and most of my small group training sessions utilize a lot of intervals and/or HIIT.”
So why does HIIT work? There are three reasons, according to Parakh.
“HIIT works because first of all, the energy expenditure for higher intensity exercise is greater than for a lower intensity. It also releases more growth hormone into the bloodstream compared to lower intensity exercise. The third reason is that exercise post oxygen consumption (EPOC) is raised for a longer time following the exercise session, which increases the calories burned overall,” she said.
Citing the National Strength and Conditioning Association, Parakh noted that while the number of additional calories burned after exercising is generally no more than 50 to 75, these calories do add up over time. (5)
For these reasons, HIIT can almost certainly help you reach your fitness goals, Parakh said, as long as you are not injured or very out of shape.
“I definitely recommend HIIT if someone is prepared physically to do so. By that, I mean the ability to safely exercise at maximal or near maximal levels for a short period of time, and no injuries which might be aggravated by high intensity training,” she said.
There’s no one way to incorporate HIIT into your workouts, either. As long as you have some way of weight training and some way of doing cardio, you’re good to go.
“HIIT doesn’t necessarily mean running sprints—the methods can be adapted to an elliptical trainer, a rowing ergometer, or cycling,” Parakh said. “Circuit weight training, complex training, and combination training in the weight room can also elicit some of the same training responses.”
Ready to try HIIT? Here are some workouts to get you started:
Bodybuilding.com—The Ultimate 8-Week HIIT-For-Fat-Burning http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/ultimate-8-week-hiit-for-fat-burning-program.html
Men’s Health Magazine—Plan Your Cardio Workout http://www.menshealth.com/nutrition/interval-training-workouts#
FitnessRX for Women—30-minute Full-body Blast http://www.fitnessrxwomen.com/fat-loss/fat-burning-workouts/30-minute-full-body-blast/
Women’s Health Magazine—The Fast and Furious Interval Routine http://www.womenshealthmag.com/fitness/cardio-intervals
1. American College of Sports Medicine. “Survey Predicts Top 20 Fitness Trends for 2014.” Last modified October 25, 2013. http://www.acsm.org/about-acsm/media-room/news-releases/2013/10/25/survey-predicts-top-20-fitness-trends-for-2014
2. Talanian, Jason L. et al. “Two weeks of high-intensity aerobic interval training increases the capacity for fat oxidation during exercise in women.” Journal of Applied Physiology 102 (2007). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17170203
3. Kendall, Kristina L. et al. “Effects of Four Weeks of High-Intensity Interval Training and Creatine Supplementation on Critical Power and Anaerobic Working Capacity in College-Aged Men.” The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 23 (2009): 1663-1669. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19675499
4. Cicioni-Kolsky D. et al. “Endurance and sprint benefits of high-intensity and supramaximal interval training.” European Journal of Sport Science 13 (2013): 304-11. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23679147
5. National Sports and Conditioning Association. “Hot Topic: The Role of Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) in Weight Loss Programs.” http://www.nsca.com/Education/Articles/Hot-Topic-Role-of-EPOC-in-Weight-Loss/