HIIT Training Workouts

Why Nailing Your Interval Timing May Be the Key to Crushing Your HIIT Workouts

Photo: Getty Images/Westend61
One of the most rewarding aspects of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is how easily you can measure your progress. The first time you do burpees, you may feel that certain death is upon you—but by the 50th time, they're probably starting to feel pretty powerful. Once things start to get easier, though, it may be time to switch things up so you can continue to progress. When it comes to how long your HIIT intervals should be, however, there's no hard-and-fast rule when it comes to choosing the duration your periods of effort (or "intervals"), according to Scott Thompson, global athletics director at F45 Training.

Instead, HIIT is really about making sure you're maintaining and adequate ratio of work to rest. "The timing can change so long as the work to rest ratio is complementary," Thompson explains. "To find the interval duration that works for you, there are many factors that need to be considered, like the type of training, the number of exercises, and the intensity of the work set as well as the intensity of the recovery set." For example, at F45, you may complete 20 seconds of jump squats followed by 10 seconds of an active recovery like jogging in place, or you may have 40 seconds of jump squats and 20 seconds of rest. Makes sense, right?

The reason why it's so important to maintain the balance of going hard and resting really comes down to form, says Thompson. "During a longer interval, we would recommend finding a consistent pace in order to elevate the heart rate enough and maintain it without over-exhaustion and without losing correct exercise technique," he says "If you find that your recovery period does not allow you to maintain the same level of intensity in the next set, then you may need to adjust the work to rest ratio."

So, if you're fully capable of cranking out a minute of bear crawls, but your lower back starts hurting halfway through, you may want to tweak the duration of that intervals to 30 seconds and take a full 30 seconds of rest. As you get more advanced, you can start upping the duration of both your effort and recovery periods.

Once you've given yourself permission to adapt your HIIT workouts to how your body feels right now, you're prepared to enjoy all the benefits of HIIT training (and oh, there are many). It’s been shown to improve your cognition, boost your mood, and help regulate your metabolic processes.

"The interval training style allows variety in exercise selection across workouts, which ultimately should result in greater levels of motivation, and for the longevity of your training regime,” Thompson says. “Consistency is one of the most important factors when it comes to seeing results, so a training style that promotes variation is a huge benefit.” So, go ahead and HIIT to your heart's desire (just make sure you're taking time for R&R, too).

10 minutes of HIIT. Go, go, go: 

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