Should you only lift weights, or should you stick to cardio? The age-old debate has demanded one approach to be the victor, when in reality, you can benefit from both methods, as every sport has its strengths and weaknesses. So no, you shouldn’t stick to strength training only, and yes, your fitness journey should boast some efficient and effective cardio sessions on a regular basis.
Contrary to weight training, which is crucial when trying to increase muscle mass, get stronger, and improve your explosiveness, HIIT cardio helps you drop fat more efficiently, elevate your cardiovascular endurance, increase explosive power as well, and improve your balance, coordination, and motor skills. So, let’s take a deeper look at HIIT and why it should be a staple of your fitness regime.
What is HIIT anyway?
High-intensity interval training has been around for quite some time now, and ever since its popularisation in the 90s, numerous studies have confirmed its physical and psychological benefits. So how does it differ from traditional cardio? For starters, traditional steady-state cardio requires that you spend a decent amount of time running, jogging, or walking in order to promote fat loss and increase your cardiovascular endurance. And don’t get me wrong, steady-state cardio has its benefits.
However, it always falls behind its explosive, fast-paced younger brother, HIIT. HIIT training is designed to test your maximum abilities with every session, challenging your mind and body through explosive movements such as jumps, sprints, and dynamic bodyweight exercises, as well as short rest intervals in order to maximise performance and workout efficiency. What’s more, a HIIT workout can be done anywhere, and it shouldn’t take you more than 10-15 minutes to complete.
Why should you stick to HIIT instead of steady-state cardio?
Now, why would anyone go through a gruelling 15-minute high-intensity workout when they can simply go out for a jog? The reasons are numerous, but the all-encompassing benefit HIIT has over steady-state cardio is that it’s more efficient and effective on all fronts.
Not only can you complete a workout in half the time, but you can also burn fat more efficiently while retaining muscle mass. Moreover, while traditional cardio regimes can test your cardiovascular endurance only to a certain degree, HIIT allows you to constantly push your limits and reach new goals. But remember, in order for HIIT to work, it needs to be intense every single time.
Implementing HIIT into your weekly routine
Now that I’ve got you all hyped up for this style of training, we can talk about implementing it into your weekly routine. If you’re looking to just improve your cardio, then by all means go ahead and do only HIIT. On the other hand, if you’re looking to maximise your performance and supplement your gym routine, it will require some careful consideration.
The first thing you need to keep in mind is that you will be adding stress on your muscles, CNS, connective tissue, bones and joints, so you need to keep yourself safe with long-lasting compression clothing during your workouts to avoid injuries. Secondly, you can do HIIT every day if you want, but you need to make sure you are able to recover properly before every session, especially if you have your main gym routine as well. This is why doing HIIT on your off days is a good idea, but you can also throw it in after your main workout. With that in mind, let’s take a look at which HIIT variations might work for you.
The numerous variations of HIIT
HIIT is often associated with bodyweight training, and oftentimes you’ll see an Instagram fitness model running up and down some stairs in an empty stadium. While it makes for a great Instagram post, HIIT can be done in a number of other interesting ways.
For instance, if you hate running or sprinting, you can stick to barbell HIIT complexes, doing a Tabata or circuit-style, explosive 10-minute workout with nothing more than a barbell. On the other hand, if you want to take a break from weight training, why not do a quick bodyweight circuit consisting of mountain climbers, crunches, planks, push-ups, pull-ups, jump squats, etc.
Alternatively, you can even use HIIT in a strongman-style format and go all out on some classic strongman exercises such as the farmer’s walk, yoke walk, log press, keg carry, and many more. Remember that HIIT comes in numerous forms, so don’t limit yourself to sprinting up and down steps like in a bad Rocky Balboa montage – experiment a little.
Combining HIIT with the right diet
Every training method requires you to adjust your nutrition accordingly in order to keep making gains and promote healthy adaptations in your body. This means that if you implement HIIT into your lifestyle without addressing your caloric intake, you might soon plateau, accumulate fatigue, and even injure yourself while slowly regressing in performance.