Above the door at Primal Gym, we display a sign reading “72 Hours”. We often get questions from members as to why it’s there, and what it means.
In a 24 hour day, the average person will work for 8 hours and (at least should) sleep for 8 hours. This leaves an 8 hour period for free time every single day. Over the course of a week that equals 72 hours of free time. The sign above our door is to serve as a reminder that there should be no excuse not to come into the gym for an hour-long session at least 3 times per week.
Even with this reminder, “I don’t have the time” is the most common excuse people will give for not working out. That’s where HIIT comes into the picture.
THE MOST TIME EFFECTIVE CARDIO AROUND
High intensity interval training (HIIT) is a form of cardio that relies on short, maximal effort sprint intervals, followed by low to moderate intensity intervals to bring heart rate down. The intervals repeat until you can no longer perform the high intensity intervals at 100% effort. These sessions usually last no more than 20 minutes total. In terms of time efficiency, HIIT is by far the most optimal style of cardiovascular training, and perhaps any type of training altogether.
HIIT WILL GET YOUR SHREDDED
HIIT is also the superior cardio method for fat loss.With traditional low intensity steady state (LISS) cardio, you only burn calories at the time of the activity. With HIIT, you’ll burn calories during the activity as well, but on top of that, performing HIIT will induce a calorie burning period of roughly 24 hours. That means that even after you’ve left the gym, after you’ve had a few meals, after you’ve vegged out on the couch, and while you sleep, you’ll be burning fat.
Not only will your body be a fat burning machine from performing HIIT, but you’ll also be changing your metabolic rate. That means you’ll be able to eat more food while still burning fat! If you’re looking to lean out for the summer, a few HIIT sessions a week means you don’t need to restrict your calories quite as much, and if you’re looking to gain size, those HIIT sessions will allow you to eat even more without having to worry about gaining excess fat.
HIIT WILL GET YOU JACKED
Because of the nature of a sprint-style activity, muscles are activated, and muscle fibres are recruited the same way they would be as if you were lifting weights. The hip and knee extension of an all-out sprint is very similar to that of a heavy squat, and the pump and burn you get after a few intervals on a stationary bike is reminiscent of a brutal leg day – and it can be achieved in less than twenty minutes. This means far superior muscle retention than other forms of cardio.
IMPLEMENTING HIIT INTO YOUR ROUTINE
So we’ve got a method of cardio that is the most time-efficient, the best at burning fat, and the most effective at retaining lean muscle mass. Great. How do we implement it? Below are 3 HIIT exercises that I’m currently incorporating into my training, and would highly recommend giving a shot:
*NOTE: Treat HIIT sessions like a proper workout. Have both a pre-workout and post-workout meal surrounding your session. It’s probably best to have a separate HIIT training session from your regular weight training sessions (about 4-6 hours apart), and avoid HIIT sessions on days where you have heavy leg training scheduled. Have a clock/stopwatch of some kind handy, and it may be wise to have a buddy with you to help you time your HIIT sessions properly.*
1) STATIONARY BIKE SPRINTS
Warm-up: 5 minutes with a middle-of-the-road resistance, pedalling at a low to moderate intensity.
Sprint: Crank up the resistance of the bike to ~80% and begin to pedal as hard and as fast as you possibly can (a true 100% effort) for 10-20 seconds.
Rest: Reduce the resistance back to normal and pedal at that lower intensity for another 60-90 seconds.
Repeat: Do it all again 2-4 more times for a total of 3-5 sprint intervals, or until you can no longer exert yourself 100%. You can do more intervals after you’ve adapted to the stress of these sprints.
Cool down: Pedal at the low intensity for another 2 minutes, and you’re done!
Increase the resistance on the bike during the sprints over time until you’re able to go all out with 100% resistance, and don’t be afraid to play around with the duration of the sprint, and the rest period. Beginners should start with 10 second sprints and 90 second rest periods, and do only 3 sprint intervals. Overtime, you’ll increase the duration of the sprint, decrease the duration of the rest, and complete more overall intervals.
2) HEAVY SLED SPRINTS
Warm-up: 5 minutes of light sled drags and pushes at a low to moderate intensity, slightly increasing weight to the sled until you get to your “working weight”.
Sprint: Once the sled is loaded with plates, sprint as hard as you possibly can, putting as much force into the sled as possible for 10 seconds (typically one length of the Primal turf).
Rest: Pace back and forth on the turf slowly for 60-90 seconds.
Repeat: Repeat this process for a total of 5-10 rounds, or until you can no longer go all-out.
Cool down: Reduce the weight on the sled and do some lower intensity drags or pushes for about 2 minutes.
Again, beginners should start at the low end with only 5 rounds and increase over time. I’d recommend keeping the sprint intervals at 10 seconds and focus on increasing the weight on the sled over time, as well as reducing the rest periods.
3) BATTLE ROPE INTERVALS
Warm-up: 2 minutes of alternating hands. You should develop a steady pace, maintaining consistent “ripples” in the ropes.
Sprint: No more alternating hands. Think about slamming both ropes down to the ground as hard and as fast as you possibly can for 20 seconds. Although this is an upper body HIIT exercise, you’ll definitely get your whole body involved if you’re truly going all out. You should be doing a small hop with each “slam” of the ropes to generate power.
Rest: I’d recommend a true rest here. Literally just take a step away and stand there for 1-2 minutes. Your arms will be thanking me later.
Repeat: 3-5 total rounds, to begin with. Increase the amount of rounds over time. Again, once you feel you can’t recover fully for an all-out “sprint”, you’re done.
Cool down: Take anywhere from 2-5 minutes to stretch out your forearms, delts, and lats.
Most HIIT sessions are lower body focused, so the battle rope intervals are a nice alternative. You’ll find you get a crazy pump and burn in your forearms, delts, and lats after performing these.
If you find time to be your biggest issue when it comes to getting into the gym, give HIIT a try. It won’t take you more than 20 minutes to complete a session, and you’ll be able to retain and even gain muscle from doing it, and of course you’ll be burning fat like a mad (wo)man.
For people who are able to get into the gym regularly, but dread the thought of cardio due to either time constraints or boredom (traditional cardio can get a bit boring and time consuming), HIIT could be the answer for you as well. It’s also far superior to traditional cardio in terms of fat loss and muscle retention.
Start out by incorporating 1 HIIT session per week, and gradually increase the frequency of the sessions to 3 per week.
So what are you waiting for? Get into the gym, get on a bike, sled, or a set of ropes, and reap the many benefits of HIIT cardio!