HIIT Cardio Guide – Benefits of High Intensity Interval Training


HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) has become a popular mode of training in recent years due to three main factors; it is short in duration, more effective in subcutaneous fat loss when compared to other types of cardio workouts and can relieve the boredom often experienced with long, steady state cardio. The attraction of reducing your training time may be attractive to you and spark some initial interest, but HIIT training affords you far more benefits than just a short or enjoyable workout.

HIIT is far superior compared to steady state exercises when it comes to increasing your VO2 max (the maximum amount of oxygen you can uptake during exercise). An increase in your performance and ability for stop start activities (weights, football and basketball) will be much improved. You will be in much better shape for most sporting activities and the V02 max is one of the attributes you often find elite athletes measured on as an indication of fitness and endurance.

As you are most likely trying to grow lean muscle to accompany your six pack abs, you will want to avoid the catabolic (muscle loss) state which follows periods of long duration, moderate intensity exercise. The last thing you really want is muscle loss after putting in grueling bouts of effort and concentration into your gym training sessions. You may well have come across the correlation between muscle loss and steady state cardio, but not know why? The reason why HIIT training is so effective in maintaining your lean muscle simply comes down to the makeup of the two muscle fibers in your body; fast-twitch and slow-twitch. Slow twitch fibers are more compatible with bouts of activity such as long, steady state cardio, whereas fast twitch fibers are more suited to short, intense bouts of exercise such as weightlifting or sprinting.

Whether you train for long moderate cardio or intense short and speedy bursts of HIIT cardio, your muscle tissue has a propensity to take on the appropriate properties. A rather extreme, but relevant example is to look toward the physiques of 100 meter sprinters versus 10,000 meter runners. Look at how their physiques differ and the makeup of muscle tissue! Sprinters carry out vast amounts of sprint drills (HIIT training) and maintain lean, muscular physiques and ripped six pack abs. A sprinter’s muscle is composed of fast-twitch muscles while the longer distance runners muscle is composed of thin slow-twitch-muscles which can carry their bodies over long distances.

hiit-cardio-training-sledSo now you have an idea of the benefits and the effective changes HIIT cardio can make to your physique and fat loss you are probably all geared up to try it out if you haven’t already. However, HIIT training is very intense. Don’t be fooled by its short duration. This type of training often requires mental preparation and a thorough warm-up. It really is important that all your muscles are warm and ready – only then are you ready for a session. Try one of the two training methods for a great HIIT session. For workout #1, you can either do all out sprints or go above your VO2 max for a very short period of time coupled with adequate recovery periods, Or, for workout #2 you can do sprints that are just below your VO2 max for a slightly longer period with an adequate recovery as well. All out sprints are extreme, but will elicit the greatest EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) and VO2 max improvement. The second option will train your body to perform at a very high intensity for a slightly longer period of time while taking less time to recover.

HIIT Cardio Workout #1:

  • Warm up thoroughly with a moderate jog for 5 minutes.
  • Sprint for 15 to 30 seconds, followed by a 2-minute recovery (a walk or slow jog).
  • Perform between 6 and 10 of these intervals, and finish with a cool down (2 minute walk and stretch all major muscles).

HIIT Cardio Workout #2:

  • Warm up thoroughly with a moderate jog for 5 minutes.
  • Sprint at approximately 80% of your maximum intensity for 45 seconds to 1½ minutes. Follow this with a 1 to 2 minute recovery period.

Perform between 5 and 8 of these intervals, and finish with a cool down (2 minute walk and stretch all major muscles).

You may find that your recovery periods are shorter since you aren’t running quite as intensely as in the first option. Repeat this sequence for 5 to 8 intervals, and finish with a cool down (2 minute walk and stretch all major muscles).

This is just a basic workout of HIIT and you can incorporate a variety of different tactics to keep your HIIT workouts fun and fresh such as mixing up the distances and recovery times. Instead of sprints, complete your working phase on a rowing machine or change the physical location and sprint up a hill instead of on flat ground. One final thing to consider also is where to do your training. It would be much better to either use a track or run on grass as it will be a lot less tension on your ligaments than sprinting on concrete. Ideally you can complete a short HIIT session on your days off from the gym. However, HIIT training requires that you take a rest on the following day. Do not try to endure consecutive days of HIIT since your body needs to recover from the intensity!

Finally, a great fat loss principle to apply to your HIIT training is to combine your training sessions with a diet just above your maintenance level (a hypercaloric diet). This will actually help you to build muscle and aid your fat loss.

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About Author

Sebastian Turrichi

Sebastian is a personal trainer who has studied advanced sports science and put the knowledge and skills he learned into practice by helping his clients create a specialized program designed to get them into the best shape of their life. See my profile page for more information!

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