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High-intensity interval training: it might sound like an intimidating name (Intense? I’m not ready for intense!). But besides being a great way to burn calories, build muscle, and gain endurance, it’s actually a great option if you’re short on time or just new to working out. (In fact, studies even suggest that it works better for amateur exercisers than serious athletes. Win!)
Ready to get started? We’ll walk you through how to make a high intensity interval training workout plan for yourself, customized to your fitness level and time constraints.
But first: what is it?
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a workout style that involves expending maximum effort for short periods of work followed by short rest periods. You can do HIIT at home, on the go, or in the gym; it uses exercises that use your own body weight, so you don’t need any special equipment. And if you’re giving it your all during those short periods, you can complete a good workout in just 5 to 30 minutes.
Interval training has plenty of benefits. It boosts metabolism and heart health, builds muscle and endurance, and even helps balance blood glucose levels, making it a good preventative health practice for those at risk for type II diabetes.
How Does HIIT Work, and Why?
You can burn a lot of calories while doing cardio or regular aerobic exercise, but HIIT keeps the burn going for up to 24 hours. That’s because high-intensity interval training uses more of your body’s oxygen stores, which means that after your workout, your body goes into overtime rebuilding those stores.
This “afterburn effect” is also called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). Regular interval training can boost your body’s VO2 level (your ability to use oxygen while exercising). This is what helps you build up endurance for other forms of exercise or activity, or even just more intense interval training.
How to Make an Interval Training Plan
1) Choose your exercises
First, decide which bodyweight exercises you want to do for your interval-training plan. To get a full body workout, make sure you choose moves that focus on different muscle groups such as arms, core, legs, and glutes. Here are some common exercises to choose from:
- Jumping jacks
- Jump squats
- Tuck jumps
- Standing stairs
- Other plyometrics (jump training. Watch some examples here!)
When putting together your moves in your interval training plan, alternate muscle groups so you don’t tire out too quickly. Instead of doing three leg-focused intervals in a row, for example, switch between upper and lower body as much as you can.
2) Choose your intervals
A common interval is 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off, but you can vary it based on your fitness level. If you’re new to this kind of exercise, work your way up in both time and intensity so you don’t get discouraged. Start off with a solid 5-10 minute workout, balancing 30 seconds on with 60 seconds off. Work your way up slowly, challenging yourself each time without overdoing it. If you’re short on time but still want extra intensity, try doing 45 seconds on, 15 seconds off.
You can also download apps that time your intervals for you, making it easier to keep track of your workout. Check out these 10 great interval training apps here.
3) Give it 100%
You’ve made your interval training plan, now follow through with it! HIIT works best when you give 100% effort during your active periods. Breathe during your rest periods, but get right back to it full-on when the time is up.
Don’t Forget Recovery
Because of the recovery time your muscles need between high intensity workouts, it’s recommended that you complete this type of exercise twice a week max. Wait at least 48 hours between each session.
Also, don’t forget to stretch after your workout! You’ll likely experience soreness in the days that follow a HIIT workout, but stretching immediately afterward helps reduce the amount of lactic acid that builds up and makes muscles tight.
– Emily Polson
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