High Intensity Interval Training

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High Intensity Interval Training: Time-efficient cardio training, whatever your goals!

    High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is exactly what is says- short bursts of high intensity exercise, followed by periods of low intensity recovery work. It is a very effective way of improving cardiovascular capabilities. The method is an excellent way of making cardiovascular improvements without having to train for extended periods of time.
    The method of training is perfectly suited to almost all team sports. Sports such as football, rugby and hockey are very stop-start in nature. The ball is never in play for a great length of time and as a result players tend to work in short sprints rather than at a long, slow jogging pace. For this reason it is by far the most effective way of training for these games, as it mimics the demands placed on the body perfectly.
    You don’t need to be training for a particular event to benefit from HIIT. We could all benefit from a little extra CV fitness- if you weight train the increased cardiovascular capability is a major benefit in battling fatigue at the end of a long training session. I personally don’t use the method as a fat-loss tool, but am a big fan of its benefits for other aspects of my fitness.
    There is a huge body of evidence that supports the notion that HIIT improves Vo² max (the ability of the body to transport and utilize oxygen during exercise) faster than steady state cardio, so those looking to make big increases in their aerobic capacity quickly should look at this as their first option when embarking on a cardiovascular training programme.

There are many bodybuilders who use HIIT as their cardio workout. The reason for this is due to its short, intense nature, the body produces very little muscle-catabolising cortisol hormone. This is a major plus for those competing in physique contests, where sheer size counts for a significant amount of the judging criteria. If a workout was likely to cause major muscle breakdown, it would be discarded immediately by those guys!

    The scientific research behind the benefits of this method has caused many professional athletes and sports teams to adopt a HIIT regimen for their own training. The leading source if the research is Veronique Billat, and through her work she has highlighted various intensities and training protocols that significantly improve VO² max, even in trained individuals. This means that no matter how fit you are, there are always improvements to be made!

The benefits of HIIT over steady-state are numerous, including
·Higher intensity
·Larger improvements in VO² max in shorter time period
·Lower cortisol production, resulting in less muscle breakdown
·More suited to many team sports
·Simultaneous improvements in endurance and speed endurance
·Shorter sessions, meaning increased recovery time
·Reduced injury risk

    When designing a HIIT programme we have to consider the intensity at which the trainee is going to work. The higher the intensity, the shorter the high intensity intervals will be. It goes without saying that the higher the physical demands of each session, the shorter the duration will be. Another thing to consider is the length of each interval- if the trainee is working at close to 100% effort during each interval, the intervals will be shorter than those in a session where the trainee is working at, say, 80% of maximum effort.
    The intensity and number of intervals is dependent on the goal in mind. A footballer would have to focus on lots short, intense sprints with a medium intensity, short duration rest period. The reason for this is simple- a footballer is never likely to be sprinting at an all-out pace for longer than a few seconds, nor is he likely to be able to spend a long time recovering. It tailors his training to the nature of the game he is playing. This is called specificity and should be the basis of all training, no matter what goal or event a trainee is working towards.
    High Intensity Interval Training is not just for team sports- middle distance and marathon runners are known to have used the method very successfully. When you consider the nature of these events, they are endurance based, but occasionally the athlete will have to work at a higher intensity, when trying to get a good position at the start of the race, overtaking an opponent and more importantly, a sprint finish!
    Essentially, a HIIT programme is used for improving cardiovascular endurance and capability, especially VO² max. This is an important aspect of many different sports and activities, so it makes perfect sense to incorporate some HIIT into your training regime. A couple of sample routines below are ideal to get you started….

Beginner HIIT

    5 minute warm up
    30 seconds sprint @ 75% maximum effort 2 minutes recovery @ 50% effort
    Repeat this set 10 times.
    Medium HIIT
    5 minute warm up
    1 minute sprint @ 90% maximum effort 1 minute recovery @ 50% maximum effort
    Repeat this set 5 times.
    Advanced HIIT
    5 minute warm up
    30 seconds sprint @ 100% effort 30 seconds recovery @ 60% effort
    Repeat this set 10 times
    10 seconds sprint @ 100% effort 30 seconds recovery @ 70% effort
    Repeat this set 6 times.

Give these routines a try and see how you get on!

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