Jillian Michaels

November 6, 2019

Is HIIT the best type of workout to burn body fat?

Most fitness trends tend to come and go, but HIIT training is one that is here to stay, and for good reason.

HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training, despite the word “intensity” in its title is something everyone can and should incorporate into their workout regimen, and this week's blog is all about how and why!

If you are a beginner and you’re thinking I’m insane to imply you should be doing intense workouts as a person who’s less advanced with your fitness level, here’s the thing – intensity is based on your heart rate and heart rate is relative.

For example, HIIT training is a fitness technique that requires the individual working out train for short periods of time at 90% – 100% of our maximum ability and then recover at around 50% of our maximum ability – and everyone’s maximum is relative to their level of fitness. Now, the most accessible way for people to gauge their maximum, other than their RPE (rate of perceived exertion) is their heart rate while training. I prefer heart rate over RPE because so often people sell themselves short with regard to what they are capable of and heart rate is usually a pretty clear and unbiased indication of how hard your body is working.

So, first you simply subtract your age from 220 and that is how many times a minute your heart should be beating at your absolute maximum. Mine is 175 beats per minute.   220 – 45 = 175

Now, you might be thinking this makes no sense. If you’re 34 and Lebron James is also 34 how can you both have the same maximum heart rate? Well, as mentioned above, fitness level is relative. So what it would take for Lebron to hit his maximum heart rate would be far more intense than the average 34 year old American. Lebron might need to sprint on a 45 degree incline at 12 mph to get his heart rate that high, whereas another 34 year old may sprint 8 mph on no incline to get there. So you see, there is no excuse to not incorporate this technique as it is for everyone.

Now that we’ve covered the fact that anyone can do it, why should they? HIIT trainings benefits are pretty great. Studies have found that it improves your cardiovascular fitness, insulin sensitivity, brain power, metabolism, and fat oxidization (your ability to burn fat).  And, it offers these benefits at a greater pace and greater amount than most other forms of fitness. It’s a pretty powerful fitness tool, which is why I incorporate it into almost every workout I create for you guys.

So, how does one do it? Well, there is no specific formula to HIIT. And in fact, I personally debate what exercises you must use to engage in it.

Traditionally speaking, HIIT was done with cardiovascular exercise types in timed intervals of intensity over a period of 4 minutes minimum (like tabata protocol) to to 30 minutes maximum. For example, exercises like biking, rowing, sprinting, jumping rope etc. would be done at maximum effort for a short burst and then at 50% effort for a short recovery period.

These ratios of intensity range, and this is also where your fitness level should be taken into consideration. So if the first number represents the amount of intensity and the second number in the ratio is the amount of recovery I advise my athletes as follows:

Work to recovery ratios in 20 second timed intervals:

  • Advanced athletes 3:1 (60 seconds max – 20 seconds recovery)
  • Intermediate/advanced 2:1 (40 seconds max – 20 seconds recovery)
  • Intermediate 1: 1 (20 seconds max – 20 seconds recovery)
  • Beginner 1: 2 (20 seconds max – 40 seconds recovery)

Given all the above, you can still incorporate HIIT on the days you don’t do a HIIT focused workout. If you’ve ever worked out with me, you may have noticed that I use resistance training exercises in this interval fashion or I work HIIT cardio exercise intervals into my strength training circuits. I do this so my trainees get the best of both resistance training and HIIT training.  This type of methodology might look as follows:

  • 10 Push Ups
  • 20 Alternating Lunges
  • 1 minute Jumping Jacks at maximum pace (rest 30 seconds and then repeat or move on to the next circuit)

OR

  • 40 seconds of Jump Squats (as many reps as possible)
  • rest 20 seconds
  • 40 seconds of Jumping Lunges (as many reps as possible)
  • rest 20 seconds
  • 40 seconds of Push Ups (as many reps as possible)
  • rest 20 seconds
  • 40 seconds of Assisted Pull Ups (as many reps as possible)
  • rest 20 seconds

Repeat for 4 rounds

There really is no wrong way to do this provided you don’t overdo it. So don’t do straight HIIT based workouts more than 4 times a week tops. And don’t do a HIIT exercise longer than 30 minutes or it's simply too much stress on the body and you risk losing the benefits proper recovery provides – from injury prevention to accelerated results.

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