High Intensity Interval Training

Author: Mike Perrozzi

Alright faithful Anytime Fitness readers, it’s that time: the gym is up and running again! This means I’m going to shift focus to discussing a modality of training that can be best explored with some specialty equipment that most people do not have in their own homes. That’s not to say you are unable to accomplish your goal without items such as kettlebells, speed ladders, battle ropes, etc.; you’ll just find it’s easier to create that gut wrenching muscular burn with the aforementioned gear.

What modality am I talking about? High intensity interval training, or HIIT for short. Simply put, HIIT is a rigorous set of exercises done with very little (usually timed) rest in between or just one exercise done to exhaustion in short spurts. This is widely beneficial in that you can torch fat and burn an insane amount of calories over such a small period of time. You are also able to fit a great workout into nearly any time frame that you have available, crushing the stereotype of the bodybuilder spending three plus hours in the gym doing endless sets of repetitive movements. This also dismisses the general “I don’t have enough time to exercise” excuse quite handedly.

However, a common misconception is that the exercises selected must be plyometric or explosive in nature; while this is certainly a great way to accomplish HIIT, it certainly is not necessary. A high rep or timed set of barbell squats moving at a normal ratio and done in one large cluster set can scorch your lungs and leave you breathless just as much as a 100m sprint. High intensity interval training has been around for a long time, but wasn’t really popularized until a little more than the past decade when both kettlebells reemerged as a necessary training tool and the “Tabata” method was coined.

Tabata training is a very effective, although often abused, modality that is short and very intense. Here is how to create an effective Tabata series: choose anywhere from one to eight different exercises (the most popular choice is two) and set a time for four minutes. You will perform one exercise for twenty seconds in an all out, give it everything you’ve got effort and then rest for ten seconds before performing the next exercise for twenty and resting for ten until you’ve gone all eight rounds (fitting neatly into four minutes).

Couple of key things to note about being efficient with your Tabata series:

-because you must transition between exercises relatively quickly, it is necessary that you choose exercises that require minimal equipment. My recommendation is to choose one or two dumbbells or kettlebells that are challenging for multiple movement patterns (ie a 15lb dumbbell may be challenging for an overhead press but not nearly as difficult for squats).

-choose movement patterns that complement each other, such as one upper body and one lower body or one push and one pull. This is what makes choosing only two exercises most effective, because you can go back and forth four times and really hit each side/half of your body efficiently. Examples of this would be a kettlebell swing and a goblet squat (one hinge dominant and one squat dominant) vs goblet squats and lunges (which is essentially just doubling up on the same movement).

-be careful that you can perform these exercises safely until the last second: you are meant to try and exhaust yourself in the twenty seconds available. Choosing something such as overhead presses might not be in your best interest as a breakdown in form on these can have all sorts of painful consequences (not limited to even a dumbbell landing on your head).

-the flip side of this is to make sure the exercises you choose also give you the biggest bang for your buck. This is another reason why kettlebells are so versatile for the style of training, as well as battle ropes and any other difficult to use apparatus, but kettlebells specifically because you can do tons of difficult exercises back to back with just a single bell and string them altogether. Contrast this with a Tabata set up of bicep curls and tricep extensions however, and you could probably finish that four minute drill with relative ease.

The only real drawbacks to HIIT training is that if you do too much of it in one session, you will find your body will be unable to recover fast enough not only during the workout, but also for the following workout. Muscle soreness from these intense bouts can often be crippling if done in excess, not to mention you really aren’t building too much strength by constantly choosing lifts and weight parameters that force you to work against the clock and not kill yourself while doing so. Adding one or two HIIT drills to the end of a more conventional workout plan is probably more ideal.

While there are many more ways to implement this trending workout modality, you’ll have to come and see me one on one for personal instruction with it. Thanks for reading, and hope to see you in the gym soon!