HIT vs HIIT
No matter where you look, whether on television, in a magazine, or at your local gym, you are bound to hear about High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). I remember first hearing about it in 1996 when I was a freshman in high school. At the time I was in a strength training class and asked my coach if I could design a HIIT workout and give it a try. By design I mean copy most of the workout I found and make a couple tweaks here and there to meet my exercise knowledge base. What I did then was much like what I have witnessed in the gym on a regular basis. My workout back then was more of a High Intensity (HIT) workout rather than a HIIT workout. Let me define what the two types are before getting into the differences.
High Intensity Training
I see a HIT workout to be super intense from beginning to end. There usually isn’t any rest time, and if there is – it is only to ingest fluids or expel fluids or other solid substance. Crossfit workouts are a perfect example. I’m not dogging Crossfit by any means. And while I don’t agree with many aspects of it, you can’t deny that they are HIT workouts. There is a beginning to the workout and an end – there isn’t an in-between. If you stop to recover, you are met by the wrath of the Coach or the harassing of co-Crossfitters (in a fun team building way of course). HIT workouts aren’t limited to Crossfit, but it is a popular example of HIT.
High Intensity Interval Training
HIIT workouts are comprised of a high intensity exercise such as an all-out sprint followed by a period of recovery. One of the purposes is to get the heart rate as high as possible and get it there as fast as possible. An example of a HIIT workout would be ten 100m sprints with some amount of recovery between sprints. I can’t really say how long of a recovery because that is completely subjective. In my opinion, a true HIIT workout can not be performed using an exercise modality other than sprints on foot, on a bicycle (traditional or upright) or a rowing machine.
There is no question as to whether or not HIT or HIIT workouts are effective. A simple google search will provide many studies showing their effectiveness. The problem I see many times is that too many people are trying to adapt HIIT workouts into their program, but are actually doing HIT workouts instead.
In the above descriptions, you may notice that the main difference between the two is the rest period. There aren’t any rest periods (or very few anyway) in a HIT workout, but there are absolutely necessary rest periods in a HIIT workout. To me, this is where most people make their mistake.
Many people have good intentions when beginning a HIIT work, but they neglect one of the most important parts – recovery. HIIT workouts are beneficial because they force the body to go from a resting state to a high energy state. This fluctuation has been shown to increase the amount of calories burned after the workout. What usually happens is that people get so caught up in the high intensity part, they neglect the recovery. If you don’t give your body time to recover then you have effectively turned your HIIT workout into a HIT workout and you miss the benefits of the former.
How to measure recovery during HIIT workouts
In my opinion (I have a lot), using a heart rate monitor is the most efficient method of monitoring recovery between intervals. Here is an example of how to use it:
Lets say you are 30 years old, which means that your estimated max heart rate is 190 bpm (220-age). Based on all those heart rate zone tables, 123 bpm is your low intensity zone. We will use that as our recovery goal. Use the heart rate monitor to see where you’re at. In this case we are looking for ~120 bpm and ~190 bpm.
Here is an example of how to perform a HIIT workout using the heart rate monitor:
- Perform a light jog to get heart rate up to ~120 bpm
- Sprint as fast as possible for 100m (this is your high intensity interval. During this, your heart rate will climb to near maximal. In this case, we are looking to be as close to 190 bpm as possible).
- Now JUST REST!!! Walk around in circles or something – but REST! We want to get your HR back down to ~120bpm. DO NOT REPEAT THE INTERVAL UNTIL YOUR HR IS BACK DOWN!
- Repeat for anywhere between 20-30 minutes or so.
If you do not allow you’re heart rate to recover your HIIT workout just became a HIT workout. A heart rate that is high for a long period of time uses mostly stored glycogen for energy whereas a heart rate that is lower uses stored fat as energy. HIIT workouts will effectively raise your heart rate just high enough and long enough to maximize fat burning for longer periods of time.
In closing, HIT and HIIT are very beneficial. Just be sure that your workout is what it is intended to be!
Thanks for reading and good luck.
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