For those of you who have heard of HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) but aren’t quite sure what it is, the premise is actually relatively simple. The idea is that by doing high-intensity bursts of training an individual can improve fitness levels dramatically using far less time than traditionally required. Instead of spending an hour on the treadmill at a moderate pace, HIIT usually consists of just a few minutes of exercise while obtaining superior results.
Considering that high-intensity interval training is a relatively broad term, we’ve put together three distinct workout protocols that cover a variety of experience levels. We recommend that you’re fully aware of your capacity before you start. If you have any concerns, talk things through with your doctor first.
The Tabata Protocol
Arguably the protocol that started the HIIT trend is named after Dr. Izumi Tabata, who developed his methodology at the National Institute of Fitness and Sport in Kanoya, Japan. He carefully studied the performance of the Japanese skating team and his findings showed that doing high-intensity spurts of 4 minutes of exercise resulted in markedly improved fitness results.
Tabata devised a workout programme that takes a total of 15 minutes, consisting of 5 minutes warming up, 4 minutes of high-intensity training, and finally a cooldown of 5 minutes. Within the 4-minute high-intensity window, athletes are asked to do intense exercise for 20 seconds followed by a 10-second recovery phase. Considering that this protocol was devised for Olympic athletes, it goes without saying that you need to be very fit before you embark on this particular routine.
While similar to Tabata’s workout programme, Martin Gibala (professor at the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University) developed a workout that can be adapted to all levels of experience. Studies conducted in both 2009 and 2011 resulted in the template for two distinct workouts that maximise efficacy.
The workout for the advanced level comprises of a 3-minute warm-up, 1-minute high-intensity training, 75 seconds recovery, and finally, 3 minutes cooling off. The beginner routine is built for those that are new to HIIT or not in particularly good shape – it comprises of a 3-minute warm-up, 60 seconds of HIIT followed by 60 seconds recovery, and finally 5 minutes of cooling down.
Timmons HIIT Protocol
Jamie Timmons is a professor of aging biology at the University of Birmingham (United Kingdom) and is an active proponent of the HIIT method. His results were aired on a BBC Horizon television programme, which followed an individual’s HIIT results. The overall improvements were measurable, with a significant insulin sensitivity being perhaps the most surprising resulting benefit.
The Timmons HIIT protocol uses an exercise bike, with the individual pedaling at a moderate pace for 2 minutes followed by 20 seconds of max intensity. Three such bursts are done with both a warm-up and a cooling down being done either side of the HIIT workout. The exact timing of these is left to the individual’s taste, with a few minutes of each being the recommended minimum. This routine is suited to those who are interesting in working out at home or prefer stationary bikes to other exercise options.
HIIT training takes it out of you, so make sure that you do your due diligence and research a plan that fits your experience level. If you’re just starting out, consider shorter high-intensity bursts and give your body plenty of time to warm up properly. Don’t jump in at the deep end, but ramp up your efforts over time. This won’t just get you superior results, but it’s also much safer for your body.