Can a 4-minute workout really deliver better—and faster—results than HIIT?


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As the popularity of HIIT continues to soar, sprint interval training, or SIT, is doing its best to catch up. A typical HIIT workout consists of high intensity movements for 2 to 4 minutes, followed by a recovery period at a lower intensity for 1 to 3 minutes. SIT workouts combine “short bursts (10 to 30 seconds) of maximal effort sprints balanced by long rest periods (3 to 4 minutes),” says Nicholas Rizzo, a bodybuilder and training expert at RunRepeat. Which begs the question, can shorter, harder, faster, stronger really hold weight in your workout?

It just might. In a new meta-analysis, Rizzo compared the two to find out which is most efficient by analyzing more than 70 scientific studies, and the results came through loud and clear. It can certainly compete. And what’s more by using maximum effort intervals, it can even shave time off of your routine, while helping you to build muscle.

“You’re working out at the highest intensity possible. Going from giving 90 percent effort to 100 percent effort isn’t easy and is incredibly demanding from your body. As you increase the intensity, the benefits increase almost exponentially. It allows you to put in maximal effort, in minimum time, for the best results,” Rizzo says. “In addition, you’re going from one extreme to the other and back again. Where a HIIT workout will spend the entire time at an intensity somewhere between 3 to 8, SIT spends it either at a 0 or a 10. This extreme jump in intensity is what allows it to produce such a greater stimulus.”

SIT certainly isn’t easy by any means. But according to Rizzo, it’s much easier to keep your head in the game during a SIT workout than it is during a HIIT workout.

“I’ve tried doing HIIT before. Even in my best shape, I still hated it and it was always incredibly difficult. When you don’t like that type of exercise, it can be pretty hard to find the motivation and drive to push yourself to finish that workout, nevermind come back and do it again the next day,” he says. “For me, that’s the real benefit of SIT. It’s a lot easier to push yourself through 10, 20, or 30 seconds—especially knowing you’ll be able to rest afterward.”

Want to try sprint interval training (SIT) for yourself? Here’s how it’s done

“This is what every workout you do with SIT will most likely look like,” Rizzo says. “If you’re just starting out, it’s best to take it slow and work your way up.”

  1. Sprint for 10 to 30 seconds at maximal effort
  2. Rest for 2 to 4 minutes, either fully or at a low intensity (think slow, casual stroll)
  3. Repeat a total of 4 to 8 times

How often: Do a total of 2 to 3 workouts per week

For beginners: Start with four 10-second sprints per workout. From there, you can slowly bump up the length of your sprints, the number of sprints, or reducing your rest time.

Before you start doing intense workouts, learn how to protect your joints. And if you want to add some weightlifting into your high-intensity workouts, here’s how to do it.

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