Bodybuilders and those into fitness have traditionally used steady-state cardio, which involves low to moderate-intensity exercise to burn body fat. Some experts argue that this form of cardio is superior to others because it burns a higher percentage of fat for energy. In recent years, HIIT (high-intensity interval training) has come onto the scene in a big way.
What Is HIIT?
HIIT is exercising with 100% of all the strength and energy you can muster, alternated by short recovery periods of low intensity/no intensity. Unfortunately, many people seem to confuse HIIT with regular interval training.
To be clear, HIIT is a form of interval training, though the opposite isn’t necessarily true. Interval training is a varying of intensities within the same workout, where you alternate a low intensity bout with a higher intensity bout, but not necessarily at 100% output.
For what it’s worth, all forms of interval training can be effective.
Benefits of HIIT
- takes less time to burn calories
- more dynamic, generally more fun
- convenient, can do it anywhere
- EPOC effect (afterburn)
Does intense exercise help burn more calories and fat than standard aerobic and steady-state workouts? Like most things in the domain of fitness, there are opposing camps on this topic.
One feature that seems to lean on the favorable side of HIIT is what’s known as Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC).
“These high-intensity training sessions force the body to work harder to build its oxygen stores back up—for a period of 16 to 24 hours post-workout, research suggests. The result: more calories burned than if you’d exercised at a lower intensity for the same (or longer) period of time. Think about it like maxing out your credit card: During rest, your body has to work hard to clear away the lactic acid and pay back its oxygen debt. Exactly how much you can burn after exercising directly correlates to the duration and intensity of your workout,” says DailyBurn trainer Anja Garcia, RN, MSN.
I usually avoid referencing Wikipedia, but it does have some quality information about the EPOC effect.
Most people are better off starting with more basic interval training that is less taxing on the system. HITT requires an advanced level of fitness. If done too often and/or combined with additional types of high-intensity exercise, it becomes counter-productive and will likely lead to over-training and/or injury.
Four questions to consider before trying high-intensity interval training:
1.What is your primary goal?
If your primary goal is to simply reduce body fat (which is most of us), I recommend that you take a pass. Yes, fat loss is about inducing a caloric deficit, but we also know that it is mostly dependent on one’s diet. You’ll do better by getting your diet under control instead of risking overtraining and injury with this method.
HIIT will also put the brakes on your strength training gains, because it tends to make you lose strength and power. When the primary goal is fat loss, your order of importance should be: diet (first), weight training (second), and then moderate cardio (third).
On the other hand, if your primary goal is to increase speed, athletic ability, and anaerobic capacity, this is a good option.
2. What does your diet look like?
If you’re on a diet that has little to no carbs, attempting to do HIIT will be disastrous.
Not only will you lose muscle mass, but your body will crash halfway through the workout because you won’t have the necessary glucose in your system to execute such intense exercise.
3. How do you workout?
HIIT is much more demanding on the central nervous system (CNS) than moderate cardio. The CNS can only handle so much intensity. Once you surpass its limit, you enter into the realm of overtraining and injury. For example, you may have hit your legs hard yesterday, but today for some reason, you don’t have enough strength left to tackle your upper body workout.
On the surface, the two sessions seem unrelated because they are different muscle groups, but there is a connection. Your CNS drives your strength output to a high degree, and when you deplete that in training your legs, there’s not much left to train upper body at maximum levels the next day.
4. How fast do you recover?
If you tend to have a slower recovery system (usually ages 35+), then you should stick with moderate cardio. It’s as simple as that.
HIIT Workout Routine at Home
This HIIT bodyweight routine will train your upper and lower body, and you can even do this during your lunch break:
- 20 Jump Squats
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms straight out in front of you. Bend your knees, keeping them in line with your feet, and sit back into a deep squat past parallel. Rise up in a controlled fashion, and perform a small jump. Then land back in your squat position. Repeat.
- 20 Push-Ups
Go down slow and controlled, and explode up without locking out the elbows completely. The main thing here is to keep your back straight. You can also choose to do these on your knees.
Advanced Level: 30 reps for each
Alternate a set of jump squats with a set of push-ups and a resting period of only 60 seconds in between. Start with 1-2 complete cycles of both exercises.
HIIT workout routines work, just like traditional cardio routines work. After synthesizing several conflicting articles and scientific studies, my overall takeaway, however, is that whatever the difference for producing fat loss, it’s pretty minimal, borderline negligible. Do whatever it accommodates your schedule and type of training regimen. Bodybuilding and fitness is by no means a one-size-fits-all activity.
The four questions asked above are worthwhile to consider in any case.
Still want me to choose sides?
Overall, the evidence suggests that HIIT is slightly more efficient at achieving fat loss. However, HIIT can also create a strength deficit (making you weaker), and carries a greater risk of injury and overtraining. Slow and steady seems to win the race in the long run.
Personally, I’m a “both-and” kind of guy, and enjoy variety in my workout routines. I prefer using both HITT workouts and steady-state cardio sessions based on how I feel that day.
To learn more about HITT Routines for Fat Loss, watch this video – 30 Minute FAT-BURNING HIIT WORKOUT! 🔥Burn 450 Calories 🔥Sydney Cummings
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