First of all, you don’t have to choose one training style. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), SSC (Steady State Cardio), RT (Resistant Training), each of them has pros and cons, yet each of them has an important utility for improving certain areas of your fitness. None of them is better than the other, and they might work the best if you combine them in your training program.
Article by Bella Trost
Let’s start with the biggest hit, the HIIT!
It is an interval training with a short period of intense exercise followed by less intense exercise or rest periods. However, high-intensity can mean a very different thing to a senior, or to an overweight middle-aged woman than to a fit guy in his 20s, HIIT usually refers to the hardcore gym workout with boxjumps, squat jumps, burpees, sprints, etc.
This training form became extremely popular a few years ago and it’s still trending. I can see why. First, it feels very effective, so people get that liberating “I’ve done something, I can relax now” feeling. Second, it promises fast weight loss and lean muscle gain with a little time commitment – 20-30 minute sessions, a maximum of 3 times a week. Sounds perfect, right? 1.5 hours of exercise per week and you get the perfectly toned body you’ve always dreamed about! It sounds too good to be true, probably because it is. I don’t question the effectiveness of the exercise but in my experience magical body transformations don’t just happen from a special workout. It has to be paired with the right diet, which means foods in the correct ratio and amount, that fuel your chosen training form and support your fitness goals.
Don’t get me wrong, HIIT is fun and challenging, and it is effective. You sweat a lot and you really get the sense that you worked out all of your muscles. You can burn lots of calories and it also provides an afterburn effect, whereby you burn calories for hours after finishing. (This is a popular selling point but if you do some research, many studies show that the calories you burn after a workout are not too significant and the more often you train, the more the afterburn effect diminishes. Sorry). Also, bear in mind that after a hard workout, your appetite will greatly increase. We tend to treat ourselves to a huge post-workout meal to “recover”, eating twice as many calories as we burned while exercising. So don’t fool yourself with the extreme calorie burn and afterburn effect. Toning up, losing weight, gaining muscle – whatever your goal is with HIIT – it comes with a disciplined diet!
HIIT can be a great experience, a real warrior feeling like you’re fighting to survive, but before you sign up for a class or decide to do it at home, please make sure the workout is modified for your fitness level, that you are able to do the exercises with the correct form and that you warm up beforehand. HIIT usually includes a lot of jumps… Well, don’t jump into it! Especially if you have little or no experience with training. First, learn how to do the basic moves like squats, lunges, push ups, planks (search online for tips to check videos). If you don’t know the basics you can easily get injured, or put undue stress on your knees, back, wrists, etc. This could leave you with long-term ill effects on your health. Even the simplest moves like high knees can cause injury if you’re not flexible or you didn’t warm up enough. (It has happened to me and it is no joke). If you’re not used to training, even normal bodyweight squats, walking lunges and push-ups will make your heart rate go up, give you that burn in your muscles and that HIIT fatigue! Modify until your body is ready for doing combos, adding jumps and adding weights. (Warning! Just because a YouTube or any other social media workout video is marked as beginner level, that doesn’t mean that it is. Maybe it’s beginner level to the super fit guy who created the workout but it might be too much for you. Don’t feel discouraged, just find the right exercises for your level, and build up gradually.
HIIT is a very hard form of exercise, even challenging for people like me who have been training for more than 20 years. It’s exhausting and you need recovery time, much longer than after any other form of exercise. Push yourself but don’t burn out! Let your body rest and adapt!
Do HIIT if you enjoy short, fun and very hard full body workouts! Don’t do it just for the calorie burn! Leave the fat loss to the nutrition. If you are not disciplined with your diet, HIIT itself won’t make your dream body happen. Exercise for health and fitness and to feel good! Warm up and choose the right difficulty level! If HIIT feels right, go for it, just don’t overdo it!