Have you ever seen a person doing an exercise with bad form and it appears as if they are about to get injured? I cringe every time I see anyone doing an exercise badly all in the name of burning calories.
We all love short cuts. We all want the most direct route to achieving and smashing our fitness goals. That’s why HIIT workouts are so popular and everyone is jumping on this wagon to get the promised faster results.
HIIT is effective for some people but is it essential for improving your fitness and health? Is it the best type of exercise to help you reach your long-term fitness and fat loss goals?
In this article, I’ll explain why HIIT is a fad and is not suitable for a majority of people who’re looking to get in shape and to improve their fitness and health.
What is HIIT?
HIIT stands for High-Intensity Interval Training.
It’s a workout that involves short bursts of intense exercise alternated with recovery periods. The workout can range from between 4-30 minutes or even more. It can include exercises such as sprinting, rope jumping, biking, Tabata, and other bodyweight exercises.
Studies show that HIIT workout burns fat faster in a short amount of time compared to other modes of exercise like steady-state exercise. After a HIIT session, metabolism can remain elevated for 24 hours.
Other benefits include improved fitness, better heart health, and better blood pressure. Also, you can gain a bit of muscle from doing HIIT when trying to lose weight compared to other forms of exercises like running.
The above reasons have compelled a lot of people to take up HIIT as their go-to work out making it popular. But we all know that popularity is never an indicator of the effectiveness of any mode of training.
So, before taking up a HIIT workout, find out whether it’s the best for your goals, experience and ability. Also, it is important to find out whether you’ll be able to sustain that level of training over the long haul.
The downsides of HIIT Workouts
After training hundreds of people in the last 10 years as a personal trainer, I’ve seen more cons than pros of HIIT.
The problem with HIIT is that it disregards the basics of a well-designed fitness program. A good program has progressions and regressions and can accommodate people with different levels of fitness.
Most group HIIT classes are a one size fit all. Usually, all participants go through the same routines without regard to their experience and fitness. The focus of most HIIT sessions is to make you sweat and to “kill you” at the end of the workout.
But I’ve found out that most people looking to get in shape have three main problems:
- Tight and stiff muscles.
- They lack flexibility and mobility around their joints.
- They lack the necessary muscular strength to handle whatever life throws them.
Taking such people with weak and tight muscles and throwing them into a HIIT workout without working on the fundamentals is disastrous. Their training will be short-lived, painful and they will stop training because this kind of training is not sustainable.
Why HIIT Might not be your best option
- Increased risk of Injury.
HIIT workouts incorporate exercises like box jumps, burpees, and other plyometrics which are hard to master and require a very long learning curve. And when done with the wrong form, they can result in injuries.
2. Not ideal for beginners.
If you are a beginner steer clear of HIIT especially if you are doing it on your own at home. It will be hard to tell if you’re doing something wrong and after some time you can suddenly get an injury without knowing the cause. Get some training experience first before attempting HIIT and start with the easy stuff first then build it up.
HIIT is a hard and strenuous type of workout. Most people cannot stick to a HIIT program because it can easily become overwhelming and uncomfortable. So, build up your pain threshold first by doing other types of workouts like weight training to prepare your body. Progressing too soon too fast will make you hate workouts.
- Too short for health
HIIT sessions are short. If you only do it three times a week, it means you will have worked out for a total of 60 min if your sessions are 20 minutes each. This is not enough to maintain your health leave alone help you lose weight and get lean. The minimum recommended exercise for adults by the American Heart Association is 150 minutes of physical activity per week meaning you can not only rely upon HIIT to improve your fitness no matter the intensity.
If you’re starting out with exercise, begin with weight training and some low-intensity cardio either on the same day or alternate days. This will build up your stamina and strengthen your muscles, joints and ligaments in readiness for tougher workouts in future.
After several months of training, you can add a session of HIIT once a week but it’s not necessary. However, it is important to weigh your options. Look at what you are going to gain or lose from either doing or not doing it. I’ve trained clients in the past who’ve made tremendous progress without any HIIT.
A HIIT workout is good a complement to other forms of training like steady-state cardio, yoga and weight training. Having a balanced fitness routine regardless of your goal is key. Make sure your workout program promotes strength, mobility and cardiovascular endurance. If you’re only doing one of these, find a way to add new activities to make it whole and balanced.
What has been your experience with HIIT? Let me know in the comments below.