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April 23, 2012

High Intensity Interval Training: Short and Sweet

High Intensity Interval TrainingI could not agree more with this article.  Brief episodes of high intensity exercise repeated over and again (HIIT or high intensity interval training) for 15 to 20 minutes can give you the same health and fitness benefits, if not better, than prolong exercise at moderate intensity.

You will burn more calories from high intensity interval training than regular aerobic exercise with many of those burned calories coming after you are done exercising.  In addition, HIIT can stimulate production and release of growth hormone which is the primary “healing” hormone of the body.

High intensity interval training is better than aerobic exercise in getting our blood vessels to produce nitric oxide which keeps arteries flexible improving blood flow.

But before jumping into HIIT, and as the article mentions, get medical clearance from your physician especially if you are over the age of 40, or younger with risk factors for heart disease.  Also, wearing a heart rate monitor will help you gauge the level of your intensity.

To be effective HIIT needs to be performed at 85% of maximum heart rate or higher.  See “Calculating Your Target Heart Rate“.

Be sure to drink water immediately after your workout and cool down.  When you’re finished with HIIT that’s a good time to perform stretching exercises as your muscles are adequately warmed from the HIIT making it easier to stretch tight muscles.

High Intensity Interval Training Protocols

There several protocols for high intensity interval training workouts.  One workout plan isn’t necessarily best or better than another, but there probably is one out there that will work best for you.

High intensity interval routines can be performed on treadmills, elliptical trainers, stationary bicycles, stair climbers, rowing machines.  They can also be done with calisthenic exercises.

Tabata protocol: One is the Tabata protocol which involves high intensity bursts for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds of rest repeated 8 times for a 4 minute workout.  After a one or two minute rest period another 4 minute cycle can be performed either doing the same exercise or a different one.  As you become more fit you can work up to doing 4 or 5 four-minute Tabata cycles.

One potential problem from this protocol is that the 10 second rest is too short that you may find yourself dogging it or pacing yourself during the 20 second bursts.  This will minimize the benefits of performing HIIT.

Sprint 8:  Sprint 8 is another HIIT protocol where high intensity bursts are performed for 30 seconds followed by 90 seconds of rest repeated 8 times.  The 90 seconds is long enough to recover that you can give a maximum effort on the next 30 second burst.

Personally, I find this protocol more effective at getting me to my maximum (or darn near it) heart rate than the Tabata protocol.

90% protocol:  The FoxNews article discusses 60 seconds of 90% maximum intensity followed by 60 seconds rest.  The important point is that you have to rest long enough to give an all out or near max effort on the next burst cycle.

So you may have to experiment some on yourself to find the ideal ratio of “on” versus “off” time to reach your maximum heart rate. You may find the 20 seconds of bursts followed by 40 seconds of rest works better for you, as an example.

Get in the routine of adding high intensity interval training to your exercise program. You will see benefits.

See related articles.

“4 Benefits of High Intensity Interval Training”

“Increasing Growth Hormone with Sprint 8”

“Exercise in Quick Spurts”

“Boosting Nitric Oxide with Exercise”

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Dr. Joe Jacko

Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio at Grandview Primary Care. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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