photo: iStock

If you’ve been having a hard time squeezing exercise into your daily regimen, you may be the perfect candidate for High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). In fact, anyone can benefit from practicing HIIT training because it can be done in the privacy of your own home with little to no equipment. It's not only convenient and effective, but it can also help boost your metabolism and get you burning more calories during and post-workout.

Studies have found that HIIT training benefited teens and staved off heart disease because how effective it is in such a short time frame. The workout is known to wear your down fast, which is why a little goes a long way.

Initially it may sound intimidating, but there’s no reason to fear this workout. You’ll improve your strength, endurance, and even shed some pounds. “HIIT training is high metabolic training where we’re trying to push the body to 100 percent of it’s maximal potential,” explains Robert Ramsey, head HIIT instructor and coach at TS Fitness in New York City.  Although most of us are comfortable with our typical gym routine, it may not be getting us anywhere near our fitness goals. “A lot of people believe that training at 40 to 50 percent is going to help them see the benefits, but the science doesn’t prove that,” says Ramsey. “That’s why I like teaching HIIT classes. I like to force people to train at a higher percentage, which is then going to give them more results.”

If this sounds like the workout for you (just remember it's all about giving it 100 percent each time!), then read on — we’ve broken down how HIIT training works and its benefits. Ramsey even created a HIIT workout that you can do at home to get those calories burning!

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Everyone can do it.

The beauty of HIIT training is that anyone can do it safely. “HIIT training can be done even for 80-year-olds. They’re not going to go as fast as I am, but their 100 percent is going to look completely different than mine or yours,” explains Ramsey. The key is to listen to your breath during the workout because it is a clear indicator of the performance, If you’re pushing yourself and you’re out of breath, then you know that you’re reaching higher training percentages than normal.

Take a class, but do your research.

You’ve probably seen samples of HIIT sessions on YouTube or in magazines, but they’re not always the best resources. If you’re a newbie to the workout, it’s best to do your research and find a reputable instructor who specializes in these classes. Ramsey says it’s a slippery slope because not all trainers and workout videos are created equally. “Unfortunately the average YouTube video isn’t supporting scientific data, so I’m more for the fitness professional that knows what they’re doing and can prove through anecdotal data that what they’re doing works.”

You’ll burn extra calories post-workout.

It sounds too good to be true, but when you’re working that hard your body HAS to reward you in a way. EPOC which stands for Excess Post Oxidative Consumption — is what happens when your body increases its rate of oxygen intake during a tough workout, and afterwards, tries to restore the body to its resting state. This is also known as the “afterburn” because your metabolism is elevated and continues to burn fat as the body recovers. “There are lots of studies, that have found that you can burn up to 72 hours of fat, post-workout, but it was only seen in those who were working out between 85 to 100 percent of their max potential,” says Ramsey. So the harder you work, the longer you’ll continue burning fat after your session is over.

It can go on as long as you want.

The best part about HIIT training (aside from the last point) is that you can squeeze it in at any time of the day. Your session can last as long as 50 minutes, or as short as 10 to 20 minutes. “If I’m pressed for time and only have 20 minutes, I’m going to go hard. If I know my max push ups is 20, then I’ll set a goal of 25,” explains Ramsey. In fact, he says HIIT training is all a mental game and your only competition is yourself. “Mentally, you already know you fail at 20 push ups, but then something has to happen in your brain where you’re telling yourself that you have to fight for those last 5.”

Two times a week is sufficient.

You don’t need to do HIIT sessions everyday either, which is good if you are new to it. “HIIT training is tough on the body and you want to give it time to recover,” points out Ramsey. He recommends adding it to your regimen at least twice a week in conjunction with mobility work (like a yoga class), weightlifting (focusing on slow controlled movements using specific muscles), and aerobic based work (running a few miles). “As a coach, I like to preach fast, slow, and stretching with training,” he says. 

Using your body weight is important.

“A lot of people seek out sources in regards to training in general, when they have not yet mastered their own body as a tool,” explains Ramsey.  He says that simply by doing a routine with your own body weight, such as performing squats, jumping jacks, push-ups, high knees, burpees, and mountain climbers is enough to create a hard 5-minute workout.

Create a HIIT plan — and a good playlist. 

HIIT training will work in your favor if you create a blueprint that has all the exercises you plan on doing in a block of time. Therefore, if you’ve jotted down that you will do 20 burpees in a minute, stay committed and complete ALL of them. Speed is also important and is what will get you to the high training zone you’re working towards using 100 percent effort. Ramsey recommends using music as your motivator as well. “Music can get you into that mental state of mind that keeps you focused. It doesn’t matter if it’s Spanish, opera, or classical. It’s whatever moves you."

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A sample HIIT workout created by Ramsey.
photo: Giselle Castro, Vivala