How does HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) work?
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How does HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) work?

It’s a tough way to work out but the results speak for themselves – HIIT training is an efficient way to achieve a lean, conditioned physique.

High intensity interval training (HIIT) refers to the alternation between low and high intensity exercise. It may also refer to the alternation from high intensity exercise to a short resting periods repeatedly. There are many examples of HIIT training combinations, some of which will be explained further in this article.

Anybody who has tried HIIT can attest to the fact that alternating body weight conditioning exercises for 15 minutes can be far more challenging than a jog around the block.

What is the importance of high intensity interval training?
It’s physiologically impossible to continually perform exercise at maximum intensities for an prolonged amount of time. Our bodies use fuel in a manner that does not allow this.

Here is what happens when someone attempts to run at full intensity for twenty minutes.

Stage 1 – Phosphocreatine

The first approximately 25 seconds or so  make use of the high-intensity energy source called phosphocreatine. This allows you to sprint at maximum speed easily.

Stage 2 – Lactic acid and anaerobic glycolysis
Once the 20 second mark is passed, anaerobic glycolysis begins to take over as phosphocreatine runs out. More lactic acid is produced and acts a fuel source. Your lungs are working really hard now and although you’re still running as fast as you possibly can, your pace would get slower.

Assuming you were an Olympic athlete’s fitness level, you could continue like this for approximately 10 minutes. However, a person of average athletic prowess would fail the challenge of sprinting for twenty minutes quite quickly.

Why is this?
The answer: Oxygen. Oxygen is used to break down fats and carbohydrates in your body, which it uses for fuel or energy. While efficient, but your body simply can’t work at maximum intensity. With aerobic metabolism, you profit in efficiency but sacrifice intensity.Comparatively, higher intensity workouts like sprinting make use of anaerobic metabolism. Meaning that you can run very fast, but not for very long.

HIIT combines these two in order to make use of the benefits of both systems. The higher intensity periods create a metabolic demand that is very effective for long-term fat loss and overall conditioning. The lower intensity periods let you recover and use the aerobic energy system.

The effect of HIIT on Hormones
The hormone released during exercise depend on the intensity of the movements. Less intense exercise has the ability to lower stress levels. Examples of these types of exercises include yoga or a calm walk. As intensity increases, so do your levels of  testosterone,  epinephrine (or adrenaline), cortisol, endorphins and aldosterone. HIIT can therefore elevate stress hormones. The body reacts to this by adapting, causing the anaerobic metabolism to kick in.

Why should one consider HIIT?
HIIT is superb for minimising body fat, strengthening the cardiovascular system and it lets you get the most out of your time spent working out.

How to do HIIT effectively
One extremely effective way of doing HIIT is through resistance training. Some recommended resistance exercises include burpees, kettlebell swings or jumping squats.Alternatively, one can try a combination exercise to ramp up the intensity, such as a pullup and a pushup in fast succession. One might also combine resistance exercises with “cardio” sort of exercises.For example, try sprinting up a hill, then do a quick set of pushups.

Customize your HIIT training depending on your goals
Try some sport-specific HIIT activity if you want to get fit for something in particular. Soccer players might try sprints, jumping would suit basketball players and boxers might consider running with heavy sandbags.

Remember that an adequate warm up and cool down is absolutely essential when taking part in HIIT.

Try the 7min Summer HIIT Workout if you want to give HIIT a try!

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