High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has been the "it girl" of the fitness world for a while now, and for good reasons: it is quick, flexible, effective and engaging. As the name suggests, HIIT consists of short bursts of intense exercise, which you alternate with low-intensity recovery periods. "It is great for people trying to lose weight," says Delhi-based fitness expert Meenakshi Mohanty, pointing out that it helps increase cardiovascular and muscular endurance. According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), HIIT can be performed on all exercise modes, including cycling, running, swimming or a group class; in short, it isn't specific to an actual activity but is just a way of training. A typical HIIT routine takes very little time—under 30 minutes tops—burns more calories in the same time as steady-state cardio, and stimulates a higher EPOC or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (which means a significant afterburn-effect).
Before you jump on the HIIT bandwagon, however, do remember it's not for everyone. If you're very overweight, unfit or dealing with an injury, for instance, it is best to give HIIT a pass. And never schedule more than two or three sessions a week: HIIT is hard on the body, and you risk overtraining and injury if you do it every day. Also, form is critical since you will be moving quickly from move to move; spend some time with a qualified instructor to learn proper form before trying out anything new.
Not sure how to begin? Or confused by all the jargon thrown around at your morning boot camp? Read on to know more about three of the most common HIIT-inspired workouts
EMOM stands for every minute on the minute. As the name suggests, it is a sort of training where "a movement is supposed to be performed for mentioned reps in 60 seconds," points out Najid Sheikh Siddiquee, Faculty at Institute of Nutrition and Fitness Sciences, Pune. For instance, a trainee will perform ten reps of push-ups once the timer starts and rest until the next minute starts; if one finishes these reps in 30 seconds, one can rest for the remaining time till the next minute begins. "This allows better overall strength for the next set to be performed," he adds.
It is also an excellent tool that allows you to analyse your performance after every minute and is a perfect tool for measuring progression from week to week, believes Shivani Daiya, a Mumbai-based fitness coach, the founder of fitness brand DCP. For instance, if it is an eight-minute EMOM of eight burpees, you keep doing the same number of burpees every minute. "If it takes you 35 seconds in the first minute and 50 seconds in the second minute, you can see that you're lagging," she says.
However, as with any form of movement, self-awareness is essential. According to Mohanty, the only real drawback of EMOM is that you can tend to get carried away and overdo it without really taking time to recover. "Rest time is important in EMOM workouts because it helps lower your heart rate while your body recovers and gets you ready for the next set," she says.
Sample EMOM workout
Courtesy Najid Sheikh Siddiquee
Jump Squat 10 reps/ 1 minute
Pushup Burpee 10 reps/ 1 min
Flutter kicks 20 reps/1 min
Pullups 10 reps/ 1 min
Repeat this round 4 times (Total: 16 minutes)
AMRAP, which stands for as many rounds as possible, does not have any built-in rest period, says Daiya. Instead, you try and complete as many rounds and reps as possible of a group of exercises in a particular period." The idea is to move from one set to another as fast as possible without compromising your form," she says.
An AMRAP workout can be used as a stand-alone workout or be tacked on after a progressive strength training program, depending on your goals. Some of the biggest advantages of AMRAP is that it can help burn calories, improve your cardio system and build muscle, adds Mohanty. It also enables you to track and plan your workout and compete against yourself.
However, it can lead to central nervous system fatigue and slower recovery, says Siddiquee. "So, trainees may achieve greater work in one session, but the number of workouts in a week may reduce because recovery from such workouts takes longer." It may also leave you at greater risk of injury, one of its biggest disadvantages. Often, because a trainee focuses on getting in multiple rounds in a set amount of time, form inevitably suffers. "It's easy to sacrifice your form when doing an AMRAP workout, especially if you're doing it in a group," agrees Daiya, pointing out that group energy often ends you pushing your body harder than it may be ready for.
Sample AMRAP workout
Courtesy Shivani Daiya
Jump squats 4
V sit-ups 3
50-meter sprint or 20 counts on the jump rope
To perform this workout, set your timer to 20 minutes. Complete ten burpees, move directly to five push-ups, five pull-ups, four jump squats, three v sit-ups, and finally one sprint or 20 counts on the jump ropes. This counts as one round and also the worst experience of your life (Just kidding). Continue this circuit until the 20-minutes are up. Record your score and try beating it in your next workout.
Fit in four minutes? Is that even possible? Perhaps-- if you do a Tabata program right. "It is an interval training program that follows eight rounds of movement including 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off for a total of four minutes," says Mohanty, adding that you exercise at a very high intensity in a Tabata workout (close to 100% of your maximum heart rate). In short, you go all out for those four minutes with very little rest. "It is not easy at all," she says, adding, however, that it is an excellent way to push the body to its limit in a short amount of time.
Also Read: How to get the most out of the plank
The name, Tabata, comes from the man behind it: Japanese scientist Dr Izumi Tabata, who first tested it on elite athletes. Not everyone, however, can exercise at this intensity, believes Daiya. "It is more suitable for intermediate and advanced athletes," she says, adding that heart patients should avoid this entirely because of its intensity. However, a more seasoned exerciser who has understood the limits of his or her body and has mastered good technique may benefit. "If you'd like to add Tabata to your workout routine, I advise doing it once per week," she says. Then, later, once you are better trained, you could do it more often. "But your body should have recovered well from the previous workout."
Sample Tabata Workout
Courtesy Najid Sheikh Siddiquee
Box Jumps 8 rounds 20 seconds work, 10 seconds rest