Like pushing your body to its limits? Make sure you’re getting the most out of high-intensity interval training.

Here’s something you’re bound to have realised – highintensity interval training (Hııt, or intense bouts of exercisefollowed by brief periods of rest) isn’t going anywhere.For the last four years, the American College of Sports Medicine(ACSM) has placed Hııt among its top five fitness trends. And itseems we can’t go a week without a new Hııt class launching. The appeal is obvious– Hııt is great for whittling waistlines – but how can you be sure you’re getting themost from your Hııt workout? Matt Crane, head coach at BE Elite Body Design(beelitebodydesign.com) warns that your body will master any form of exercise that youdo regularly, leading to less progress over time. ‘Your body will get used to this type oftraining and you’ll need to change the way you work out,’ he says. And fitness expertsworry that our gung-ho approach to training means we’re missing out on the benefitsof performing exercises properly. ‘While moving fast will raise your heart rate and burnenergy, doing the moves right is key to activating the correct muscles and maximisingon your workout,’ explains Jess Schuring, founder of Heartcore (heartcore.co.uk). Notgetting the results you’d like? Read on to nail your next HIIT class.



Sure, HIT is all about moving so quicklythat you break a sweat, but doing anexercise correctly – if a little slower – willmean you reap more fitness rewards.New exercises require muscular andneurological coordination, so give yourbody time to master the movement.Rushing through it means you risk doingthe move incorrectly and stressing thewrong muscles. ‘Doing the moves properlyis key to staying injury free and gettingresults,’ says Schuring. ‘Next time you’redoing a burpee, get your chest close tothe ground to work your chest and armmuscles. Keep your shoulders over yourwrists during mountain climbers, and keepyour chest upright during your next squatjump. Slow down the pace because speedwill come naturally as you improve andengage the right muscles.’


HIT training should feel hard, but howspeedily you move will depend on yourindividual fitness level. How can you besure you’re working hard enough? JanineGeorge, Optimum Nutrition fitnessinstructor (onacademy.co.uk), recommendsmeasuring your heart rate. ‘You shouldbe performing at 80-95 per cent of yourestimated maximal heart rate [MHR is 220minus your age]. This intensity is enough tomake you feel breathless and sweaty,’ shesays. Achieving this intensity will hinge onrecovering fully between activity efforts, soaim to get your heart rate down to 40-50per cent max rate before moving again.


There’s no doubt about it – high-intensityexercise requires oodles of energy, so don’ttry to do it on an empty stomach. ‘Eat oneto two hours before working out and aimto have something that’s high in protein,results doing a regression exercise (theeasier form of a move) properly than otherswill get from doing the full move poorly. ‘Ifyou progress too quickly, you’ll developbad form and shift the work away from thetargeted muscles,’ warns George. ‘Thiscould place extra stress on your joints,risking injury, and might mean you fatiguequickly as well.’ The take-home message?Exercise for results, not for show.


Take note – if you can do two HIITworkouts in a row, you’re not workinghard enough. ‘You should feel fullyfatigued at the end of a HIIT session,’says Kelly Du Boisson, fitness expert atkellydubuisson.com, ‘So, if you still haveenough energy to do a Spin class or hourof yoga, you haven’t worked hard enoughand won’t benefit from the EPOC [excesspost-exercise oxygen consumption] fat-burning effect.’ HIIT sessions shouldn’tlast much longer than 30 minutes, butnewbies may only be able to cope with fiveminutes of exercise at such a high intensity– and that’s OK, too. Aim for a maximumof two to three HIIT workouts per week,alternating between these sessions andlow-to-moderate intensity exercise.


Keep going when you feel the burn. ‘Theburning sensation you feel in your muscleswill make you want to stop,’ says George.‘It’s a key indicator that you’re in the rightzone, as is feeling breathless. When you’rebreathless, your body has been pushedto the maximum, producing energy formuscles without the necessary requirementof oxygen. This results in an anaerobicstate that leads to EPOC, which raises yourmetabolism and causes the body to burncalories for up to 24 hours after workingout.’ So don’t give up. contains carbohydrates, good fats andincludes veggies. Poached eggs withsmoked salmon, spinach and avocado onpotato rösti is a good example,’ saysCrane. ‘I wouldn’t advise doing a HIITsession very late in the evening becauseit can leave you on an adrenaline high,which might make it difficult to sleep.’ Aimto have a bit of downtime between yourHIIT workout and bedtime.


Follow these rules from Steve Barrett,author of The HIIT Bible: SuperchargeYour Body and Brain (£14.99; Bloomsburyfor a fat-burning session.


There is a fine linebetween doing something and doingnothing. Some of my PT clients wouldalways look for a reason to give up; otherswould consider asking for a refund if stillstanding at the end of a session. Makeyour own judgement call on how hardyou should push yourself.


This ismy mantra, which means that, rather thangoing full steam ahead in the first workout,you should practise drills and movementpatterns. Work at perfecting technique anddeveloping a baseline of fitness beforeadding intensity.


Improve one rep at a time before you attempt to do an exercise flat out, or try a method such as ‘as many reps as possible’ [AMRAP, or as many reps as you can do in a set time].

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