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Thursday, March 8, 2018

Could High Intensity Interval Training Be the Perfect Workout?


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With hundreds of muscles, joints, tendons, and bones all working together at the same time, it’s clear that the human body is a marvel of engineering. And one thing is for certain—it was designed to move.

Unfortunately, for the modern man, movement is harder to come by. We spend most of our days sitting in a car, on a train, or at our desks. And then, if we’re lucky, we squeeze in a quick jog before binging on some Netflix and then calling it a night.

We need to move.

We were designed to move.

But what kind of movement? There are so many different types of workouts around that choosing the best one can seem daunting at best.

The answer—there is no one-size-fits-all approach. It largely depends on you—your body, your goals, and ultimately what you like and dislike. That being said, there might be one approach that is not only effective but also fits into our busy lifestyles. But before jumping into the specifics, let’s first break down the two major types of exercise.


Resistance exercises, as the name implies, puts your muscles up against resistance. This could include weightlifting, pushups, and kettlebell training. Basically anything that pushes your muscles outside of their comfort zone. These exercises are short, intense, and to the point. And they’re really good for you.

Resistance exercises don’t just make you stronger, they actually improve the way you move. It’s because they improve the way your muscles send signals to the brain. One of the many benefits of resistance exercises is that they keep your body in a constant fat burning state once you’ve finished your workout, kicking your metabolic rate into high gear. They’re also proven to increase bone density and have been shown to improve cognition and decrease anxiety. In short, resistance exercises come with a lot of benefits.

But do they constitute a complete workout? Unfortunately, no.


On the other side of the equation, you’ve got endurance exercises. Instead of taxing your muscles in short, intense bursts, these exercises are designed to work your aerobic system with activities like running, biking, or swimming.

Endurance exercise makes you leaner—just look at marathon runners. It increases your lung capacity and is good for your heart health (shocker!). But that’s just the start. Research also suggests that endurance exercises promote brain health and may even make you more creative.


But what if there was an exercise that combined the body-sculpting, strength boosting effect of resistance exercises with the brain-boosting, slimming powers of endurance training?

Spoiler alert: there is.

It’s called high intensity interval training, or HIIT, for short. HIIT might be the perfect hack for an all-in-one exercise experience because it combines the best of both worlds. Your heart will race, your muscles will burn, and you’ll get all the benefits that come along with a full-body workout in a fraction of the time.

At its core, HIIT alternates between brief, strenuous exercise and active rest. You might sprint for 60 seconds, walk for 30, do push-ups for 60, walk for 30, and so on. You repeat for a series of rounds until you’re exhausted. And that’s part of the beauty—HIIT is so effective, you’ll be lucky if you make it past 15 minutes. And for time-strapped humans (most of us), it’s nearly perfect.

Another reason to give HIIT a try: you can basically do it anywhere. At the gym, in your home, or at the park. You don’t need to invest in any special equipment. All you need is a little open space because HIIT workouts often utilize your own body weight, so any workout that gets your heart rate up quickly such as plyometrics, high knees and jumping jacks can be implemented into a HIIT workout.

But maybe the biggest benefit of HIIT workouts is that they fight exercise boredom. When you’re mixing up different exercises every day, you might actually look forward to your workouts instead of getting burned out by doing the same thing for a longer period of time.


If you choose to incorporate HIIT workouts into your exercise regime, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure you’re effectively alternating between an intense exercise and active rest. You’ll see much better results if you structure your workouts.
  • Try not to focus on exercises that target the same muscle groups. With HIIT, there aren’t any “leg days.” The idea is to mix things up and target your entire body.
  • Try using a clock instead of counting reps.
  • No matter how tired you get, make sure you keep good form. It’s easy to start slacking when you’re exhausted. And if you’re too tired to possibly maintain good form, it might be a sign that you need a break.

Remember, HIIT workouts don’t have to be complicated. In fact, the simpler the better. Here’s one to get you started. Do each exercise for 60 seconds while walking in place for 30 seconds between each:

  • Bodyweight squats
  • Walk in place
  • Burpees
  • Walk in place
  • Push ups
  • Walk in place
  • High jumps
  • Walk in place
  • Sit ups
  • Walk in place

Just repeat the workout until you’re completely spent. And don’t forget to enjoy it!

Need some other exercise ideas? Check out this simple guide on circuit training.

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