HIIT is ‘High Intensity Interval Training’. This is a form of cardiovascular training that involves alternating between periods of intense activity and periods of relative ‘active recovery’.
In turn, this has numerous benefits for your body. Not only does this boost your energy levels by enhancing the function of mitochondria, boosting your VO2 max and more; but it also helps you to burn more calories by triggering an ‘afterburn effect’.
The best part? All of this is accomplished in a fraction of the time that it takes to perform ‘steady state cardio’.
But how many times a week should you really be using HIIT like Kayla Itsines have outlined in her BBG Workout PDF ? Continue reading to understand more!
Keep in Mind: HIIT is TOUGH
I find it troubling when I read a blog that recommends HIIT because it is ‘easier’ than steady state. The mistake here is assuming that quicker = easier.
In reality, that is far from the case.
While HIIT might not be as hard on the joints as running for hours at a time, it is incredibly intensive on the heart, it triggers the build-up of considerably more lactic acid and it is a serious workout for the nervous system in a way that steady state isn’t.
In short, if you struggle with energy or motivation, then you will struggle with HIIT a lot. By the end of an intense HIIT session, you’ll be shaking, you’ll feel sick and you’ll be bordering on collapse.
So How Often Should You Do HIIT?
Unfortunately, there is no concrete answer to this question – simply because there are far too many factors to consider.
Firstly: what type of HIIT are you doing? HIIT might mean doing something like Tabata which is over in 4 minutes. But it might also mean a 30 minute routine including 20 one minute sprints! The type of exercise you choose makes a big difference too – you might recover from a run or cycle more quickly than a go on the battle ropes for instance.
Then there’s your base fitness to begin with. If you’re out of shape and overweight, then I wouldn’t even advice trying that 4 minute Tabata session – as this is simply too tough on the heart. Instead, I’d recommend using a variation with more recovery, or perhaps only doing 2 minutes.
You also need to factor in your training around HIIT sessions. If you use HIIT as a ‘finisher’ at the end of your workouts, then its effect is going to be very different to a workout that consists purely of HIIT.
And this should also include your recovery and activity outside of the gym. Are you sleeping enough? Eating enough? Do you do your strength training properly? Is your lifestyle stressful or do you spend most of your time relaxing at home?
Ultimately, there’s only one person who can answer all these questions: you. And with that in mind, it becomes incredibly important that you listen to your body. If you wake up and you feel full of energy, if you end each week with plenty of fuel left in the tank – then you can increase your HIIT workouts.
But if you’re feeling overtired, sore, or prone to illness… then you need to resist the urge to keep training and scale it back slightly.