by Jessica Remitz
From celebs to athletes to television show contestants, high intensity interval training workouts, or HIIT, are quickly becoming the latest exercise craze. But what exactly is a HIIT workout? And why are they effective? We’ve asked Kristi Molinaro, creator of the 30/60/90® workout and group fitness instructor at Equinox, to share all the details on HIIT training just in time to kick up your summer workout routine.
Why HIIT Training?
High intensity interval training is a style of training that alternates between cardiovascular drills and active recovery, like 60 seconds of squat thrusts followed by 30 seconds of pushups, Molinaro said. These workouts are effective because they force the body to continually move and work outside of their comfort level, and because the sets are short, most participants can push themselves much harder, she said. Most HIIT routines work all areas of the body, utilizing core, upper, and lower muscles during both cardio bursts and active recovery sets.
“In 30/60/90 active recovery sets, we use free weights to work the back, triceps, and biceps and pushups [to work] the chest,” Molinaro said. “In the cardiovascular sets, we do a lot of full body moves, such as squat thrusts and jumping lunges which use both lower and upper body and the core.”
Devotees love HIIT training for its fat burning ability, with improved insulin resistance, lower blood pressure, raised HDL-cholesterol levels, and positive shifts in metabolic rate and muscle mass gain additional benefits to interval training, according to ACE fitness. Studies have also shown that a person’s metabolism can be slightly raised for up to 36 hours after a HIIT workout, Molinaro said.
Incorporating HIIT into Your Workout
As challenging as HIIT workouts seem, intervals can be added to nearly every workout at every level of difficulty. Beginners should lower the intensity of the high-powered, cardiovascular intervals by either slowing the move down or using just their body weight instead of free weights, Molinaro said. From there, you can increase your pace or weight as you become more adjusted to the training. Group classes like 30/60/90, Shockwave, and Tabata are all becoming popular at gyms nationwide and are a great introduction to HIIT training. They’re all formatted a little differently, but rely on cardio, strength, and circuit training at intervals to sculpt and change your body.
“In the seven years since I created 30/60/90, the thing that has been the most interesting to me is how quickly the body adapts to what it is asked to do,” Molinaro said. “If [people] stay consistent and take class at least twice a week, they will be keeping up with the regulars before they know it.”
Consider trying a class or two a week to start, and bring some friends along with you—being with other newbies may make learning the routine less intimidating! If you’re not ready for a class just yet, try adding intervals like hill sprints to your running or spin routine to help shake up your workouts.
“The idea is to push past what’s comfortable and overload the system,” she said. “The body is highly adaptable and must be constantly tricked into better shape.”
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