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All about HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) cardio.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010 by  
Filed under Daily Blog


I changed my mind yesterday and decided to do an afternoon session of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) instead of morning LISS (Low Intensity Steady-State) cardio. I am a big fan of HIIT cardio, for several reasons. First, I like that the sessions are relatively brief at just 12-20 minutes compared to 45-60 minutes for LISS. Also, if you want to improve your cardio-vascular abilities and VO2 max, HIIT is one of the most powerful tools available to you. Of course HIIT cardio elevates your metabolism for 24-36 hours (perhaps even more) after you complete your workout, so it’s an awesome fat burner. Finally, LISS can be a bit boring; if you find yourself bored during HIIT then you are not doing it right.

My introduction to HIIT cardio came all the way back in 2003 when I was first starting out. I had been doing 50-minute LISS cardio sessions (with good results), but then I read Body For Life, which recommends fasted HIIT cardio, and so I began to do that. Personally I would never do HIIT cardio in a fasted state now, but at the time I had no prior experience and followed along. I definitely lost a lot of fat following the BFL style of HIIT, but I do feel some muscle was lost as well. Now I do my HIIT workouts after I have at least a couple of meals in me. Remember that when doing HIIT most of the calories are burned AFTER you complete your workout, as opposed to LISS cardio where the “afterburn effect” is minimal. Also, I find that with a couple of meals under my belt I have more energy to hit the intensity intervals even harder. Hitting the intensity intervals hard helps increase the metabolism boost.

The BFL style of HIIT is pretty simple: you do a couple minutes warm-up at roughly 50% intensity, then a minute each at 60%, 70%, 80% and 90% intensity. Repeat for 20 minutes, making the final interval an all-out 100% effort. These “intensity” percentages are based on perceived effort. It won’t take long before you have a good feel for what percentage of effort you are putting out.

The HIIT cardio workouts I do now are alternating intervals of active recovery and 100% effort. I do a couple minutes of warm-up, then go all-out for a given period of time, then active recovery (about 50% effort) for a given period of time. For example, the workout I did yesterday was all-out for 45 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of active recovery. The total workout was 16 minutes in length. I vary these workouts by making them more difficult from one week to the next. I do this by making the total workout time longer, decreasing the length of the active recovery intervals and/or increasing the length of the 100% “all out” intervals.

By the way, I don’t change the resistance level on my bike. I just adjust the speed at which I’m pedaling. When I’m going all out, I spin as fast as I possibly can go; when I’m in active recovery I spin at about half that speed.

Finally, I’d like to mention that as much as I love HIIT, I do find LISS cardio to be a very effective fat loss tool, too. Incorporating both types of cardio into your fitness plan is a great way to add some variety to your cardio workouts, burn fat and keep your body from adapting to one or the other.

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