Introduction to HIIT

 In Fitness

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has a great potential to burn maximum calories in a minimum amount of time.


In this article, we want to introduce you to an alternative to conventional cardio, high intensity interval training, or as everyone knows it: HIIT.



It all started with the Fartlek

We must go back to the 1910s to find their first precursor: the Swedish athlete Gösta Holmer.


Holmer, popularized during these years the interval training (later known as fartlek) that led him to win the bronze medal at the Olympic Games in Stockholm in 1912.


As a result, during the 1920s, interval training became quite popular.


Between 1920 and 1928, the athlete Paavo Johannes Nurmi won 9 gold medals and 3 silver medals distributed among the Olympic Games in Antwerp, Paris, and Amsterdam in different modalities.


However, the definitive figure who would put the concept of fartlek on everyone’s lips thanks to his victories had not yet arrived.


We are talking about EMIL ZATOPEK. “The human locomotive”, as the Czech was nicknamed, began to incorporate into his training series of between 200 and 400 meters at high intensity with short rest intervals.


His track record speaks for itself, as well as having the honor (and record) of being the only athlete capable of winning the gold medal in the 5000, 10000 and marathon “AT THE SAME OLYMPIC GAMES”, a feat that no one has been able to match to date.


Therefore, we can dare to say that interval training works.



Example of fartlek training

First of all, we must point out that if you are a beginner and you are hesitating between whether the fartlek or the HIIT is better for you, my recommendation is that you start with the fartlek since the level of breathing capacity will be much less demanding for you than the HIIT (obviously if you want to do a HIIT-type training in conditions, it should be quite demanding).


Once this is clear, we will tell you that organizing or planning your fartlek sessions should not be difficult. Let’s get to it:


First of all, we’ll start with a 10-15 minute warm-up at a gentle jog, since like all training this one requires its “on” period.

  • Once the warm-up is done, we will start at the “base” pace that we have set, for example, 140 beats for 2 kilometers.
  • Then, to make our change of pace, for example, for 400 meters at 160 beats. And this we would repeat during the whole session (for example, 40 minutes).
  • This is just an example and there are different ways to structure a fartlek session.


Adding hardness with the Hiit

The first difference that we will find when we compare the HIIT with the fartlek is that the training based on the concept of the HIIT has a shorter duration than the fartlek type.


It would be impossible (or theoretically impossible) to perform a HIIT training with the duration of a fartlek training.


It must be said that although the HIIT refers more to the cardiorespiratory theme, there is a variant, the HIPT (High Intensity Power Training) that focuses more on it or muscular (working with weights or machines).


Origins of the HIIT

The High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) method was born in the 1970s by Peter Coe (father of Sebastien Coe), who applied this method with his son: the method consisted of a series of 200-meter sprints with 30-second breaks.


From here, numerous studies, variations, and protocols based on Coe’s original HIIT method.


The first major variation of this method was made after Izumi Tabata’s study, from which the “Tabata Method” was created, consisting of 20-second periods in which the relevant exercise was performed alternated with 10-second rest periods.


As we say, there are multiple variations of the original HIIT method, and as each person is a different world, “there is something for everyone”.


Benefits of the HIIT

Once the origins of the HIIT protocol have been explained, we will point out some of the advantages or benefits that training based on this protocol can bring:

  • Because it is a high intensity training, a high oxygen debt is generated during its execution, so the recovery period will not be short, but can be prolonged during hours or even days.
  • There is an increase in the metabolism of the cells.
  • The consumption of glucose increases and the sensitivity to insulin improves.
  • It increases growth hormone levels by up to 450% in the first 24 hours after the session.
  • A highly favorable environment is created for the synthesis of muscle proteins.

These are some of the benefits, but depending on our level, it will be possible to produce


These are some of the benefits, but depending on our level, there may be more or less adaptation in our body and more or less improvement in our condition.


As far as contraindications are concerned, HIIT is DISADVISABLE for people with obesity, heart or blood pressure problems, and for those who follow a hypocaloric diet.


Also, it is not advisable to take stimulants before the session, since this type of training produces an increase in pulses which, if added to the effect produced by the stimulants, could lead to heart problems.


Types of Hiit


It is perhaps one of the most popular methods of HIIT that exists.


The appearance of this method is due to the Japanese skating trainer Izumi Tabata in 1996, in his quest to increase the maximum oxygen consumption (VO2Max) in his athletes.


It consists of 8 cycles of 20 seconds of exercise alternated with 10 seconds of rest.



It was popularized by Dr. Jonathan Little and Dr. Martin Gibala of McMasters University in 2009. Their goal was to improve the physical condition as quickly as possible.


It consists of 8-12 cycles composed of 60-second periods of maximum intensity alternating with 75-second periods of low intensity and is performed 3 times a week.


There is a variant, to make it more “accessible”, which consists of cycles of 60 seconds of high intensity (not maximum) alternated with 60 seconds of low intensity.



It consists of 3 cycles of 20 seconds of activity (maximum intensity) and 2 minutes of rest.



This variant of the conventional HIIT consists of 100-meter sprints at maximum intensity followed by a rest period which is usually the time it takes to walk back to the starting line.


Since it is a demanding method, it requires a good starting physical condition to be able to use it. Not suitable for beginners.



An example of this method would be to perform 6 series of exercises of descending duration starting at 60 seconds until reaching the last series of 10 seconds.


It may not seem extremely intense at first, but I assure you that in the last series, with the accumulated fatigue, they will become hard.


If you want to do more than one exercise, you can also, it would be another way to add hardness to your training, but keep in mind that you must do each exercise at the same time.


I will give you an example: Let us suppose that we are going to work on burpees and dead weight.


We would start with 60 seconds of burpees followed by 60 seconds of deadweight before the first rest. We would do 50 seconds of burpees, 50 seconds of dead weight, and rest. And so on until we finish our training.



We can perform a HIIT routine with several exercises to do without the need to rest between exercises.


For this we must try that the consecutive exercises are not of the same muscular group, that is to say, not to put together a press bench and some openings, since it would suppose high wear and very probably we would not get to complete the training.


An example could be the following: Burpees-Press Military-Sentadilla-Dominating-Curl Femoral. The exercises chosen will depend on each person and their tastes.


Keep in mind that this type of HIIT would be more of a HIPT routine than a pure HIIT.


Final Conclusion


When we approach the subject of HIIT, people usually ask the following question: “But is it better than to do cardio or HIIT? My answer is that it depends. If you have plenty of time, I would say alternate them, for example, by doing three sessions a week alternating cardio and HIIT.


If you are a beginner, you can start with two sessions of classic cardio and one of HIIT adapted to your level, and as you improve your fitness you can modify it to your liking.


And for those of you who don’t have enough time to do 40-50 minute cardio runs, the HIIT is undoubtedly your best option.


As I said before, if you don’t have the right level, you will have to adapt your routines to your capabilities.


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