High intensity interval training—or HIIT as the cool kids call it—has become the unofficial workout of quarantine. Google searches for the modality nearly doubled when we all went into lockdown, which makes sense given how easy they are to do at home, sans equipment. But as seemingly simple as it may be to hop into a HIIT workout on your own, according to trainers there’s one major mistake that many of us make when we’re doing them: Going too hard.
The whole point of a HIIT workout (and what makes them so quick and effective) is that they’re meant to integrate short spurts of energy with periods of rest. The goal is to go all out during each active interval, then use the rest time to recover so that you can hit your maximum level of effort when you start moving again. But if you aren’t giving yourself enough time to recover, trainers say you’re likely sacrificing the integrity of your workout.
“Many times during HIIT workouts, we see people maintaining the same level of intensity the whole time, because they see their goal as completing the workout as a whole rather than utilizing the highs and lows throughout,” says Jonathan Tylicki, CPT and director of education for AKT. “This can be an issue because it reduces the effectiveness of what HIIT training has to offer, because in HIIT you want to have peaks and valleys and ideally reach your anaerobic threshold multiple times throughout the workout.” If you’re operating at 100 percent throughout the workout, you’re likely getting some great endurance training, but you’ll be missing out on the metabolism-boosting benefits that HIIT has to offer in its purest form.
The best way to fix this problem, says Tylicki, is to familiarize yourself with the class format, and understand the moments when you’re supposed to be pushing yourself versus when you should be laying off the gas. How do you know you are doing it right? “You should become ‘breathless’ multiple times throughout the workout, so you know you are reaching your top intensity level.” And from there, know to back off and rest.
If you’re taking a trainer-led class, the format will lend itself to these types of peaks and valleys. Tabata style HIIT, for example, will give you 20 seconds of work with 10 seconds of rest, while EMOM (“every minute on the minute”) workouts will have you doing a minute of work followed by 30 seconds of rest. Need a little inspo? Follow along with one of the videos below that will ensure you’re getting the most out of every HIIT workout.
25 minute bodyweight HIIT and core workout
15 minute Tabata workout
7 minute HIIT workout with weights
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