The best athletes in the world keep an open mind regarding the best ways to reach and maintain peak physical fitness. In particular, the world’s top athletes are gravitating toward high intensity interval training, often referred to with the acronym of HIIT. Interval training is also spreading to the masses as this nuanced approach to exercise gets the body in tip-top condition in less time than a traditional workout.
The Basics of Interval Training
Interval training is centered on rapid bursts of intense exercise followed by brief periods of rest. In short, HIIT gets the heart pumping at a high rate with grueling physical exercise only to give way to much-deserved rest periods. Once the heart returns to its usual beats per minute, another intense period of exercise follows. This alternation between intense exercise and idle activity is repeated throughout the entirety of the workout.
The end result of interval training is improved conditioning with less wear and tear on the body than required by a traditional workout. This is precisely why professional athletes as well as everyday people are transitioning away from traditional exercise toward interval training.
The Science Behind Interval Training
Sports scientist Thomas Gunnarsson, an academician at Copenhagen University, wrote his doctoral thesis on how interval training impacts the human body. The individuals Gunnarsson studied showed meaningful physical fitness improvements by enhancing workout intensity. It is particularly interesting to note those who partook in interval training benefited from it regardless of their specific athletic background. Participants ranging from runners to soccer players, cyclists and beyond obtained considerable benefit from interval training.
The advantages provided by interval training are particularly interesting as those who swear by this unique form of exercise typically spend less time engaging in physical activity than those who perform traditional exercise. The reduced volume is offset by the spike in intensity. Even those who were already well-conditioned benefited from the transition to interval training.
Sports scientists such as Gunnarsson believe HIIT improves athletic performance as it pushes the body to the max instead of allowing it to plateau across an extended exercise session. However, researchers are still debating why interval training makes such a meaningful difference for everyday people as well as trained athletes. Some argue the simple act of altering one’s course of exercise is enough to enhance performance. After all, the body and mind get into a rut of sorts when the same exercises are performed over and over again. The introduction of the HIIT exercise approach appears to get the body out of that rut, push it to new heights and ultimately enhance performance.
A Closer Look at HIIT Intervals
If you are considering taking the HIIT plunge, you are likely pondering the appropriate interval length. Intervals can be as short as five seconds or as lengthy as eight minutes. However, the key is performing these periods of exercise near your maximum heart rate. In terms of recovery intervals, they should be the same length as the exercise intervals. All in all, your total HIIT workout should last between 20 minutes and an hour.
Give interval training a try and you will find it improves your physical fitness. More importantly, if you participate in sports such as soccer, football, basketball, tennis or hockey, you will find interval training enhances your performance in those sports as it replicates the flow of the game. The icing on the cake is the fact that interval training does not wear away at your body’s limited cartilage in the manner that occurs with traditional exercise. So give yourself a break (pun intended) with interval training and your body will benefit across the long haul.