High Intensity Interval Training. You’ve probably all heard of this trendy method of boosting your fitness. All of you that have trained with me have done bits and pieces of it during our sessions, and at bootcamps. It amounts to pushing yourself harder than you usually would for short periods of time, repeatedly, with small rests between. Examples of this are 3 sets of 10 burpees, with 20 seconds rest between, or rowing machine intervals – 10 or 20 seconds hard out, with 10 or 20 seconds of rest, repeated a few times. Weights circuits are not an example of HIIT – they are endurance building – where your heart rate stays fairly constant (although that may be constantly high). HIIT happens when you rest to let your heart rate drop – then you push as hard as possible to lift it really high again.
HIIT has been repeatedly shown in great research to be really effective for quick gains in cardiovascular fitness and health. A short 10 minute session can give you the same benefits as a 60 minute workout, and can burn the same amount of calories. This works out brilliantly for time poor people. You’ll get gains in muscle mass or improved body composition as a result of HIIT too. This is due to lots of growth hormone being released because of the adaptions to the exercise stress your body has to make.
However there are a few who should avoid HIIT:
- those with heart conditions (no surprise)
- when you are pregnant (unless you’re very fit and already do lots of HIIT when you get pregnant), and post partum
- through menopause (including perimenopause) according to some it’s not always 100% effective in the ways it may have been for you in the past
- if you have an injury
- if you’re immune suppressed or sick.
HIIT can be fantastic for home training as you are able to get a hard workout done with very little equipment in a short period of time. You can do it whilst biking outside (include short intervals in intense bursts), swimming in the sea (fun idea to sprint in and out of the waves close to shore), walking up and down a beach (head into and out of the dunes), at a playground with your children (using the bench seat to do fast step ups, or one of the monkey bars for chins), utilising your homes stairs, even while cleaning, gardening (or lawnmowing).
Before you start a HIIT stint, warm up with a good 10 minute run or uphill walk, or bike if you have one. Don’t do static stretches before it though (this can lead to muscle tears).
Some ideas for your home based HIIT sessions:
- 10 x 10 squat jumps – rest/recover for 30secs between each set.
- On your stairs at home – race up as fast as you can, then walk down. Aim for 500-1000 steps.
- 10 x 10 push ups or pull ups – with 20 secs between.
- On the street outside your house (or maybe at a park) sprint for 10 secs, rest for 10-20 secs, repeat 4-10 times – if you’ve never done this before, start with 4, if you’re an expert 10 or more.
- If you have a kettlebell – kettlebell swings, 15 x 5. Rest 10 secs between.
- A heavy dumbbell squat push, 15 x 5. Rest 10 secs between.
You can also use combinations of the above. I like to do bits of these after one of my shorter runs. Often I’ll do 4 or 5 sets of 15 squat jumps or kettlebell swings after a run. If you do this make sure your HR has dropped back to almost resting before you start.