HIIT It

Who benefits from high intensity interval training?

Hi vs Lo Intensity Workout 002
Personal trainer Komoki Lamp demos HIIT intervals on the treadmill at Superior Athletic Club in Medford. Photo by David Gibb Photography.

For fitness enthusiasts, choices in how to exercise are nearly unlimited, from outdoor activities to indoor gym routines. While most participants agree that cardio is an important component of staying fit, not all agree on the best way to go about it. One of the deep divides comes between HIIT (high-intensity interval training) and LISS (low-intensity steady state exercise). Since there is much to be said for either method, it comes down to a matter of individual goals and personal preference. We asked Angela Young, assistant manager and personal trainer at Superior Athletic Club in Medford, to tell us about the pros and cons of HIIT.

What is HIIT?

HIIT uses moderate pace exercise followed by an intense burst that you do in intervals,” explains Young. “For example, I would have you on a treadmill at a light jog at a very moderate pace for about a minute, and then we’ll go for 20 seconds at a very fast pace, basically a sprint. Then we back it off again to walking to bring you back to a recovery level. We take you through those two alternating levels for 15 or 20 minutes, and that is all you need.”

What are the benefits of HIIT?

“At most any gym, you can see people who spend an hour or more on a treadmill,” Young says, “but with HIIT, I can give them the same calorie burn in 20 minutes and their metabolism is going to be naturally raised for the next two days after the workout. It’s a very effective workout because it increases strength, endurance and oxygen capacity in a short period of time, which is very appealing for busy clients who can’t spend a lot of time in the gym.”

How often?

“I recommend it only about three times a week with a day of rest in between because those short but explosive bursts of energy require more cells to be repaired due to a lot more demands placed on the muscle tissue.” Young cautions, “Done daily or back to back, you could easily end up with a muscle strain or an overuse injury.”

What are some examples of HIIT exercises?

“There are many exercises that can be adapted to this so you can keep it simple just by doing a moderate pace for about a minute and alternating with a high energy output movement for 20 seconds,” Young says. “For example, you can use very slow jumping jacks and then more explosive jumping jacks where you’re leaving the floor. Whatever exercises you use, just do it at a slow pace for about a minute, more or less, depending on your conditioning, and then about 20 seconds all-out, as fast as you can, repeating this cycle for 20 minutes.”

Who is most likely to benefit from HIIT?

 “It’s used by athletes, bodybuilders or anyone who wants to lose weight and increase their endurance,” Young says. “It’s especially good for those who want to keep fit but still maintain muscle mass, because too much cardio can actually cannibalize the muscle tissue, whereas HIIT preserves it.”

Are there disadvantages to HIIT?

 Young admits, “It’s not for everybody. HIIT cardio may be too intense for people just beginning an exercise program or with preexisting physical conditions. I have some clients who can’t go all-out by sprinting on a treadmill or jumping rope. That’s when LISS will be more beneficial for them.”

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Ready to hit it?

“HIIT is a very effective workout because it increases strength, endurance and oxygen capacity in a short period of time. But it’s not for everybody. HIIT cardio may be too intense for people just beginning an exercise program or with preexisting physical conditions.”

 

-Angela Young, Superior Athletic Club, Medford

 

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