High-intensity interval training provides better workout

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Jessica Anderson takes a 10-second break to catch her breath before starting a third set of burpees. In her small living room, Anderson uses YouTube as her personal trainer. Without leaving her house or using any equipment, Anderson has completed a full-body workout in 20 minutes.

Anderson, a BYU elementary education student from Perrysburg, Ohio, used to spend an hour doing cardio at the gym, but for the last two months, she’s done high-intensity interval training (HIIT) in her apartment instead.

Maddi Dayton
A BYU student does interval training in the BYU gym. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a quick way to get a full-body workout. (Maddi Dayton)

“I love feeling like a boss after only working out for 20 minutes,” Anderson said in an email. “Although the workouts are relatively short, they feel longer because of the intensity.”

Anderson is one in a growing trend of people who want a powerful workout without a lengthy time commitment. HIIT attracts individuals because of its variety, versatility and effectiveness. It pairs high-intensity exercise intervals with brief recovery periods for maximum cardio.

HIIT has been around for decades and is a part of many exercise brands such as Insanity and CrossFit. HIIT workouts are flexible and can be done anywhere: alone in a dorm room, in a large group class at the local gym and anywhere in between. HIIT workouts are increasingly available online making them accessible to almost anyone.

“HIIT is something that has been used for years and years. It isn’t a fad workout,” said Megan Smith, a personal trainer based in Lindon, Utah.

Smith also said she thinks the fitness community is becoming increasingly interested in HIIT workouts because they are efficient and effective.

THE INCREASED AVAILABILITY OF HIIT WORKOUTS:

Because of the greater demand for quick and efficient workouts, a greater supply has been created. Social media training has especially contributed to the accessibility of HIIT workouts. Smith, for example, runs the website munchercruncher.com and posts quick daily workouts on Muncher Cruncher’s Instagram.

“I have fallen in love with the HIIT training method,” Smith said in an email. “This method of training is very efficient. It allows individuals to get the maximum bang for their buck with their workout time.”

Smith said that the key to a good HIIT workout is being able to push oneself to the max.

HIIT utilizes variety to keep an individual’s body changing, but this variety also keeps a person’s interest and makes the workout less monotonous.

Interval training works, according to Smith, because the short recovery breaks allow participants to perform at maximum capacity when they need to.

Flat Abs Fitness, run by Jess Ayn Lee in Lehi, Utah, is another social media exercise platform that utilizes HIIT. Throughout the year, Lee posts different 15-day HIIT challenges to her social media.

Some HIIT workouts might last an hour; others may be only five minutes. Interval training is what gives a workout the HIIT factor.

Because HIIT requires variety to work, there is not one typical workout; however, there is a familiar format.

An example of a short HIIT workout from Lee is two sets of 15 jumping squats and 80 jumping jacks, with a 20 second break in between.

Other HIIT trainers might use time instead of reps, challenging exercisers to do as many jumping squats as possible in one minute then take a 10-second break followed by one minute of jumping jacks.

According to a 2011 study by the American College of Sports Medicine, two weeks of HIIT improved an individual’s aerobic capacity as much as six to eight weeks of endurance training.

HIIT is quick, simple and raises heart rates, which is what exercise is supposed to do.

Ultimately, efficiency is what people want. Not only do gym goers want to burn calories during a workout, they also want the afterburn effect that keeps their bodies working all day.

Ari Davis
Alex Caputo, owner of the Orem Orangetheory Fitness gym talks about the benefits of monitoring heart rates during exercise. During a workout with Orangetheory, participants are hooked up to heart monitors to increase efficiency. (Ari Davis)

Orangetheory Fitness, opening in Orem in October, offers an hour-long total body workout that claims to keep burning calories after the workout ends.

Alex Caputo, owner of the Orem location, said the workout focuses on heart rate. When people come to a class at Orangetheory, they are hooked up to a heart monitor. During the workout, focus is placed on the heart rate and moving into the fat-burning zone.

The classes are half cardio and half strength. Caputo said during the cardio portion, interval training is key in order to raise heart rates.

“Variety and change is the spice of all this,” Caputo said.

ANYONE CAN HIIT:

While variety keeps participants interested, there are a few reasons people start HIIT workouts. HIIT can be easily adjusted to any fitness level, making it an ideal workout for almost anyone.

“Everyone can do HIIT, you just have to think about changing the intensity of the workout,” Staci Short, a HIIT instructor at Xcel Fitness in Salt Lake City, said.

HIIT also does not require any gym equipment. There are some forms of HIIT that may use a treadmill or a medicine ball, but the vast majority of the workouts can be done using just one’s body weight as resistance.

HIIT doesn’t require a large time commitment, but will still be a good workout. Short recommends active people do HIIT workouts for 30 to 90 minutes a day, two to three times a week. This aligns well with the USDA exercise recommendation that adults get 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week and do strength training such as pushups at least two days a week.

HIIT workouts are also helpful because modifications are easy to make, Short said. The point is to elevate the heart rate, so some participants might skip a rest period and others might add one in.

And while individuals can easily do HIIT workouts at home, Short said using someone else’s ideas and having someone else to push an individual to his or her limit are two of the main benefits of going to a HIIT class.

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