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Burn Twice The Calories In Half The Time: High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

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I know the title of this post sounds like some late night infomercial. This is no infomercial tagline though. Interval training is a great method to burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time. How much is a lot more? How about 9 times as many calories as a traditional cardio workout such as jogging on a treadmill.

High Intensity Interval Training

The basic idea of High Intensity Interval Training is to perform cardio so intensely that your body spends hours recovering and continues to burn calories throughout the recovery period. You need to find your edge with full on effort and push past it.

Some of the ways that HIIT can be performed are:

  • Doing a 2:1 ratio of work to recovery, or active rest. That means you stay moving during the rest break. Such as sprinting all out for 20 seconds and then jogging for 10 seconds.
  • Doing 30 seconds on, followed by brief periods of active rest. A good starting place is to do 30 seconds on and 30 seconds off.
  • Doing 30 seconds on and 10 seconds off, with a longer break every 3rd or 4th exercise.
  • Doing 60 seconds on, followed by 30-45 seconds of recovery.
  • The Tabata method uses 20 seconds of intense exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest repeated continuously for 4 minutes and getting through 8 cycles.

The overall amount of time that you spend doing a HIIT workout can range from 20 to 45 or 50 minutes. It can be adjusted for fitness level, intensity and available time. Also, for those of you who are not runners, like me, you can apply almost any cardiovascular exercise to this technique. I do it using different calisthenic methods such as jump squats, burpees, even jumping jacks, pretty much anything you can think of that gets your heart rate up!

HIIT training really seems to target fat a lot more efficiently than typical cardio, without burning muscle in the process. Typically, when you’re burning calories through exercise, your body burns available carbohydrate sources from recent meals or fluid intake first, next the body looks for fat to burn for an energy source. Finally, the body will begin to burn protein and muscle to fuel itself.

Now you might be asking yourself how HIIT can target fat differently than other cardio? The most common case study often cited in other articles about HIIT is the physical difference of two different types of runners. All you have to do is look at the body of a long distance or marathon runner versus the body of a sprinter, a good example being an NFL wide receiver or Olympic sprinter. The bodies of sprinters are often ripped and tone, while the bodies of long distance runners are typically much skinnier and less muscle toned.

Now I’m not saying anything negative about long distance runners. That is a very healthy and effective way of being a fit person. People have different things that they enjoy and different goals in their fitness programs. However, if your goal is to look more chiseled and ripped, you may want to consider doing more interval work than hour-long sessions at one speed on the treadmill or track.

Whatever your goals, mix it up. Variety is key to having a fit lifestyle!

Looking for a HIIT workout? Try my FREE Kettlebell Core Cardio workout!



Tabata I, Nishimura K, Kouzaki M, et al. (1996). “Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max”. PMID 8897392

Rozenek R, Funato K, Kubo J, Hoshikawa M, Matsuo A (2007). “Physiological responses to interval training sessions at velocities associated with VO2max”. PMID 17313282

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