I’m a huge proponent of HIIT (high intensity interval training). It’s the best way to get into great cardiovascular shape in a fraction of the time. It’s why I’ve been running hill sprints every week for several years now.
Earlier this year there was a study making the rounds on the internet highlighting the powerful anti-aging effects of HIIT. One of the reasons why we age is because the ability of our cells to produce energy declines over time. Turns out that HIIT can mitigate this decline by boosting the ability of our cell’s mitochondria to generate energy.
This is fantastic news.
But now you can add another benefit to HIIT’s growing list. According to a recent study, daily half hour of interval training can cancel out the negative health effects of the worst imaginable diet.
The researchers in the study got 15 healthy men aged 18-30 to eat nothing but junk food for two weeks. In addition, the men did a half-hour interval training session on a treadmill every day consisting of 15 sprints lasting 1 minute with 1 minute of walking as recovery between each sprint.
The researchers determined the junk food diet had no negative effects on the health of the participants. All of their biomarkers remained unchanged. Incredible.
HIIT really is a powerful tool. If you’re not incorporating HIIT into your training program you really ought to. If you don’t know where to begin the following are three of my favourite (and arguably the most effective) HIIT exercises:
I have a love hate relationship with the air bike. It’s easily the most effective conditioning tool I have ever used. It’s also the most miserable way to get into shape.
If you don’t know what an air bike is this is what it looks like:
The air bike is perfect for interval workouts or HIIT, especially Tabata intervals. Tabata intervals consist of 20 seconds of an all out effort followed by 10 seconds of rest for a total of 8 intervals or 4 minutes.
I know what you’re thinking: 4 minutes doesn’t seem like a lot. How can a 4 minute workout be 1) difficult and 2) effective?
It’s all about the intensity.
The first few rounds you do on the air bike seem easy or at least “manageable,” but by the time you hit the 4th interval your legs and lungs are burning. The remaining 4 rounds are not fun and I’m usually left huffing and puffing for a good 10-15 minutes AFTER I’ve finished the workout.
Pro tip: one way you can tell you had good Tabata workout on the air bike is if your lungs feel burnt like you inhaled smoke. This is the sensation I feel for up to an hour after I’ve done a solid Tabata workout on the bike.
100 Burpees for time
We’re all familiar with burpees and we all know they suck. Well, try doing 100 of them as fast as possible. Talk about a miserable experience.
This is one of my go-to workouts whenever I find myself really short on time and have no equipment. You can literally do burpees anywhere.
In my opinion, you want to aim for AT LEAST 100 burpees in under 10 minutes. I think that’s a fairly decent goal and indicative of good overall cardiovascular health. Once you start getting under the 7-8 min mark then you’re truly developing some incredible cardiovascular conditioning.
Remember to practice good form with these. That means a complete push up on the bottom and getting at least 6 inches of air with your hands above your head on the jump. I see many guys flop around on the ground like a fish out of water thinking they are doing burpees. Don’t be like them!
A fun way to incorporate this protocol is AFTER your main weight workout. Do them as a finisher. You may find 100 burpees a bit daunting at first but you could start with 50 and build up from there.
Or you could do 100 burpees every single day. Guaranteed you’ll be in fantastic shape if you follow a protocol like this.
There’s just something about sprinting I find enjoyable. I love being outside (even in the winter) and running is a very primal, natural activity. I think you get as much of a psychological boost as a physiological one from sprinting or running.
For hills sprints all you need is a little stretch of roadway on an incline and you’re good to go. The grade of the incline doesn’t matter too much. Just realize the steeper the hill the harder the sprints will be so adjust your training accordingly. I recommend anywhere between 80-100m sprints.
Executing a hill sprint workout is dead simple. Sprint full tilt to the top of the hill and then walk back down. Repeat as many times as possible. When you first start out you may only get a handful of sprints before throwing in the towel. Don’t feel discouraged. Try adding an additional rep each week. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can build up.
How often should you do HIIT?
It really depends on how your weekly training is organized. Personally, I do each of the above workouts 1x per week. This is on top of weight training 3x per week and practicing BJJ 3x per week. I usually do HIIT in the morning and train BJJ in the evening or tack on an interval session as a finisher to one of my main weight workouts.
My recommendation is to start off slow. Perhaps just 1-2 HIIT sessions per week. As you get in better shape you can consider ramping it from there.
HIIT is an incredibly powerful form of exercise. Not only does it have the ability to slow down the aging process but new research suggests it can even mitigate a less than stellar diet.
If you’re not already incorporating HIIT into your routine then do it. Try one of the three protocols above. They will kick your ass but you’ll end up better off because of it.
Here’s to staying fit!