How Long Should Your HIIT Workouts Actually Be?
We all know how important it is to be in a good shape, not just for good looks, but also for our health. It is very important to adjust your diet to be healthy and strong.
Therefore, it is crucial to choose a diet that would have a high impact on our productivity and energy.
But as much as we eat healthily, sometimes it is not enough to lose enough weight, at least not as much as we would want to.
Therefore, the only solution to that problem is a good old workout.
Yes, we can go for long walks and steady jogging, but if we wanted to lose weight faster and improve our physical ability and condition, we would require much more intensive training than just a simple walk.
That is why we are here today to introduce you to a very specific type of training, called “high-intensity interval training”, or in short HIIT.
We will explain what HIIT exactly is, why it is scientifically proven to be very useful and how it helps us reduce our weight faster.
After that, we will give some hints on how long should HIIT last, give some workout examples and mention some possible flaws of this type of training.
That said, stick with us and let us begin!
WHAT DOES HIIT STAND FOR?
As mentioned above, HIIT is an acronym of High-Intensity Interval Training.
It is a technique of training where you do an exercise faster at a higher intensity for a specific amount of time, then swap to doing the exercise in a slower pace, by reducing its intensity, also for some time.
A good example of HIIT I tend to use is running 1 minute at full speed, then walking for a minute, then increase the speed slightly for some time and then doing the sprint again for 15 to 30 seconds, depending on how tired I am.
Of course, the workout doesn’t stop after just one cycle, but continues for a couple of cycles, depending on how many of them you can do.
Try to aim for around 7-10 cycles.
Basically, what you do, is swapping from faster to slower exercise in a couple of minutes.
That type of workout helps with boosting up your stamina and eventually, you should be able to hold much longer and to do several more cycles.
One of the people who has contributed the most to the use of HIIT workouts instead of using normal cardio workouts is Japanese scientist Izumi Tabata.
With the popularity of his research, he managed to popularize the overall technique with the type of HIIT interval called “20 seconds exercise, 10 seconds rest”.
You can find out more about Tabata exercise in the video below.
It is a very popular HIIT exercise used throughout the world by both professionals and amateurs.
Tabata exercise is considered the best HIIT workout when we consider the time needed to perform it, which is only 4 minutes.
Therefore, it is very time-effective for the people who work a lot but still wants to be healthy and fit.
WHAT ARE SCIENTIFIC RESULTS REGARDING HIIT?
Let us examine the study Izumi Tabata conducted on a group of Olympic skaters, where he had tested the influence of his “20 seconds work, 10 seconds rest” training against the influence of regular steady cardio training on their stamina.
The test was done by using room bikes.
Subjects who were subjected to the Tabata exercise did 8 cycles of his “20 seconds drill, 10 seconds rest” at maximum 170% of VO2, while those who were doing regular cardio exercise did a steady paced cardio, that is often used at maximum 70% of VO2.
The results were amazing! People who were doing Tabata’s exercise had their stamina increased more than the people who had been doing regular cardio training.
After that point, more studies have been conducted and all of them showed that high-intensity interval training is more efficient when it comes to weight loss and growth of stamina than the regular cardio exercise that has been used as the most efficient way of doing it until then.
To some people, this information was very shocking, because it would mean that 4-7 minute exercise gave better results than 30-40 minutes of riding a bike or jogging.
It means that very busy people could actually use this training to improve their health and stamina because they would need just several minutes instead of around full hour or more for the normal exercise.
That way, the people who were claiming they had no time to work out would not be able to do it again, hence, it could actually make them practice a bit more, because, as we have already said, it is very important to do some type of workout every day, in order to keep your body and mind healthy.
Yes, the workout is important for the brain as well.
Though there are some mindfulness exercises that help you train your brain, it is also important to do your workout regularly, because the brain is linked to all other parts of the body.
HIIT VS FAT
Previously, we mentioned that HIIT is more efficient in burning fat than some regular cardio training. Now, let us see why that is true.
Let’s start with explaining what the main goal of HIIT is.
When doing a HIIT, your main goal is to increase your heart rate to reach 85-90% of the maximum heart rate possible.
When your heart works within that interval, it means that your body is functioning anaerobically, or in other words, without oxygen.
This later leads to excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or in other words EPOC, which is also known by a different name, simply as the afterburn effect.
The afterburn effect represents the number of calories burned after you are done with your exercise.
It basically means that your body will need some time to recover itself from doing the exercise, and during that time it will burn more calories, even while you are resting because the exercise itself was very intense and your body needs some time to catch up to it.
Now, let us see what happens in your body when you go out for some jogging, for example.
Would you get the same results or not?
When we are running at some normal speed, our body does not use the anaerobic system.
On the contrary, the energy system it uses is aerobic, which is, as you might have already guessed, a complete opposite of anaerobic.
While working aerobically, our body uses oxygen to power itself and the muscles.
And because of that, there is no afterburn effect, leading to the conclusion, which is that your body will not burn additional calories after you have completed the exercise.
Well, now we know how exactly both HIIT and regular cardio training work.
We no understand for what reasons is the HIIT more efficient than its cardio competitor and why it is considered to be one of the most efficient ways of exercise for burning the fat and losing some weight.
HOW LONG SHOULD HIIT LAST?
Ha! Considering this question, there are a lot of different opinions.
Some claim it should last around an hour, some claim more, some even goes to the lengths to say that it takes just 7 minutes of a workout to do the efficient HII training.
Of course, all people are different, so some people can do HIIT a bit longer than others.
Therefore you should start small, with the recommended length and then adjust it to your needs and possibilities.
The general opinion is that if your HIIT exercise took you longer than 30 minutes, it means that you have not pushed yourself enough and that the afterburn effects that should have come out of it would be lesser and not on optimal levels.
Apart from that, some claim that if your HIIT exercise takes less than 15 minutes, it means that you did push yourself, but it also means that you overstepped and didn’t reach that optimal afterburn effect that you would have gotten if you had worked a bit more.
That’s why it is important to motivate yourself to be more open to doing a workout, even when you are not in the mood.
So, if you still want us to give you some specific interval to work out, we could say around 20-30 minutes.
Of course, as said above, it really depends on how much of it you can endure and whether you are motivated enough to continue even if you are not working enough.
As you have probably noticed in the previous text, when we had mentioned Izumi Tabata and the workout he brought to us, you can do his exercise in around 4 minutes, but in order for it to be effective, you need to do it for several cycles.
So, without any further due, try to keep that in mind and take your lifestyle and personal ability into account when you start planning your own HIIT, because it could either be longer or shorter, depending on a variety of different factors.
The general guideline to help you is, what we have already said, around 20-30 minutes, depending on your current stamina and physical readiness.
People who are more physically prepared are capable of doing longer and more intense HIIT, so if you are not one of those people, do not worry, you can workout at your own pace, by gradually increasing your workout times over time.
WHAT ARE POSSIBLE FLAWS OF HIIT?
Despite being very useful for increasing your stamina level and reducing your weight, the high-intensity interval training is not for everyone, so you should think carefully whether it is for you or not.
So strap in and let us see what are the flaws of HIIT.
1. HIIT can cause a lot of stress
First of all, HIIT could cause a lot of stress, because it is very hard to do this type of exercise.
It can often get very demanding, both physically and mentally.
So, it is very important that you know your limits and finds out if you have what it takes to do this type of exercise.
Of course, people will say that some amount of stress is useful to both your body and mind and they would be right to say so.
Without any stress, our mind and body would become too dormant and kind of not interested in anything, which could lead to us not carrying about pain, other people and the things that are happening around us all the time, which is of course not good.
On the other hand, a lot of stress is also not good for us, because when we are overstressed, it can be seen by other people, and apart from that, it could also cause some damage to our body and mind as well, which is a very bad thing to happen.
We live in a modern time, where there are a lot of things happening around us that influence our stress levels.
Simple things, like a family fight, traffic jam or a bad day at work all contribute to the stress level and that is why they should all be included when we intend to plan how long would our HIIT exercise take.
If you lead a very busy life, it wouldn’t be too good to add another 45 minutes of stress with HIIT, so that’s why you need to take everything into account.
On the other hand, if you are well rested, you sleep well or just have something that you use to vent out your stress, then it would be a good idea for you to incorporate HIIT exercise during the week.
For example, 3-4 times per week with the HIIT lasting around 20-30 minutes each.
That way you will manage your stress level easily and be able to workout enough for you to reach that goal, whether it is to lose some weight or to increase your stamina level.
2. HIIT is not useful for bodybuilding
All throughout the text, we have mention how HIIT has the positive effects on stamina level, how it helps if you need to lose some weight and maintain very good muscular activity, but we have never mentioned anything about its influence on bodybuilding.
That is the case because there is no influence.
HIIT exercise is just not made for increasing your strength and becoming large like Arnold Schwarzenegger.
If your goal is just that, then you have to do another type of training, with more weight lifting included.
There are a couple of ways of doing this, but the traditional one is to focus on training one muscle family per training.
For example, people usually train biceps or triceps, leg muscles or back muscles independently.
There are a couple of more new ways of doing it, but it is not the topic of this text, but you can check other articles if you are more interested in that.
For now, we will focus on HIIT exercises and how it can help people who are ready to invest themselves in it.
HIIT WORKOUT EXAMPLES
There are a lot of types of HIIT exercises, depending on the time needed and exercises included.
You can also combine multiple simple exercises in order to create your own customized training.
Therefore we cannot recommend just one type of HIIT.
It all depends on your preference and your ability to do certain types of exercises.
Some may suit you more, some not, so try to find the best combination for yourself.
If you really have no clue which ones would you prefer and you do not have time to experiment, you can check this video, which describes my personal favorite HIIT exercises.
We will list some of the most common types of HIIT workout below, so stick with us and let’s find the perfect HIIT workout for you!
1. Walk, sprint, walk
This is the simplest HIIT workout you can do. The idea is to walk for 30 seconds, then to sprint for 30 seconds.
This way you will speed up your heart rate and reach that afterburn effect we had previously talked about.
Of course, you should do this in cycles, ranging from 10-15, depending on your current stamina level. The more the merrier, but make sure not to get too tired, because the point of this is not to fall down out of exhaustion, but to gradually increase your stamina.
2. Run, sprint, run
The same concept applies here, except that instead of walking you have to run.
This exercise is generally much harder, but if you feel ready enough you can start from this one, instead of starting with the first one.
However, if you feel like you are not capable of pulling it off, you should either start with the first exercise or reduce the number of cycles to around 5-7 and see if you can make it.
3. Push me up to infinity!
Yes, you have probably guessed this one right. As the name suggests, this exercise consists of doing infinite pushups.
The idea is to do 10 pushups at a time with 15-30 seconds rest between each cycle.
Since this exercise has infinity in its name, there is no real limit on how many cycles you can do.
But, even the most experienced people tend not to do more than 10 cycles.
So, if you are a beginner, try with a smaller number, of let’s say, maximum 5 cycles. You can also combine it with other exercises, and create your own cycle, which would contain several different exercises.
4. Squatting without stopping
Same as the previous one, this one is infinite, you can do it as many times you want and are physically able to.
The idea is the same, do 10 squats per cycle, and repeat it as much as you can, with 15-30 seconds rest between each cycle.
This can be very exhausting, so tread carefully and if you feel like you will drop, stop and take a longer rest, or just plan your squat cycles more appropriately so you maximize your efficiency.
5. Pushups + Squats
One of the most common exercises is to combine pushups and squats, and by squats, we mean air squats.
Again, the idea is generally the same, do 10 pushups, each followed by an air squat and then repeat for 10 cycles if you can endure it. If not, just reduce the number of cycles you are doing and you should be good.
Also, this one can also be very tiring so be mindful of that and make longer rest intervals or reduce the number of cycles so you would reach the optimal efficiency.
6. Infinite Burpees
If you hated the previous one, you will hate this one even more. It’s a combination of the previous exercise with some additional tweaks.
The general idea is the same as before, with the addition that rest intervals could be increased to 30-60 seconds.
So, do the same, 10 cycles, with the rest interval of 30-60 seconds.
7. Sit and Jump
What you need to do here is do 10 sit-ups followed by standing up and jumping vertically into the air as much as you can.
After each cycle, rest up for 30-60 seconds.
You can also combine this exercise with some of the previous ones to make it even harder if you think you are up for it.
8. Jumping Seal
No, you will not ride a seal! Don’t get your hopes up. This drill has gotten its name because of the navy seals.
Anyway, the idea is to do 50 jumps with your hands in front and then waving horizontally while jumping.
This should be done as fast as possible, but you need to make sure to maintain a good rhythm. If you feel like you are going too fast you can slow your pace.
The rest interval is between 45-60 seconds. Try to repeat this exercise as much as possible, but let’s say 10 cycles would be more than enough.
There you go, people! Now you know what HIIT really is, why it is very useful when it comes to losing weight or just improving your stamina level.
You know what are its benefits and weaknesses, so you can now start training and choosing the right HIIT workout for you out of the all we have mentioned or just combine some of the exercises and create your own HIIT workout plan if you feel like it.