Over the past couple of years, HIIT workouts have become all the rage. What’s not to like about them? You don’t have to go to a gym (which saves you time and money), you most definitely feel them, and you don’t have to set aside three hours for them; they’re short and sweet!
But a disturbing trend seems to be flooding social media lately. People are claiming that they’re doing these types of workouts five, six, or sometimes even seven days a week. Not only is this concerning because rest days are important, but there’s a good chance that if you’re able to do that many HIIT workouts in a week, you’re not doing them right. At all.
These super quick workouts (most of which are 10-minutes max) were developed so that everyone could do whatever their chosen type of cardio is with the most effort possible. ‘Most’ is the key word there. Joey Thurman, CPT and author of 365 Health and Fitness Hacks That Could Save Your Life confirms – “The idea is to elevate your heart rate for a brief period, followed by resting for a given period…You can train in a 1:1 work-to-rest ratio (sprint for 30 seconds, rest for 30), a 1:2 ratio (sprint for 30 seconds, rest for 1 minute), a 1:3 ratio (sprint for 30 seconds, rest for 1.5 minutes), and so forth.” So as you can see, the idea is that you give it your absolute all during the 30-second sprints.
Dalton Wong, another CPT and author of The Feel Good Plan: Happier, Healthier, and Slimmer in 15 Minutes a Day agrees. “True HIIT is like sprinting, and it should make you feel like your gas tank is completely empty.” Basically, you shouldn’t even be able to make it to second 31 without wanting to keel over and die. Chances are, if you’re able to work out like this seven days a week, you’re probably not giving it your all. You might not even be giving it your medium at that point. It’s uncomfortable; it’s brutal; it makes you feel like you want to die, but it’s only for ten minutes – Make ’em count.
The Benefits Of HIIT
Why is HIIT so popular, anyway? When we start a new workout routine, we want to know that it’s working and we want to see results as soon as possible. We also want that workout to be super efficient so that we can get on with our already too-busy day. HIIT checks both of those things off without even trying.
First, the fast burning. “Research shows that intervals can repair your metabolism by reducing inflammation, forcing the body to improve its ability to use and burn energy,” Thurman says. What this means is that HIIT workouts allow you to burn fat at a faster rate, make better use of your energy during the workout, and they even trigger a phenomenon called EPOC (otherwise known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) where your body continues to burn calories long after your workout is finished.
When done correctly and used in conjunction with a solid nutrition plan HIIT can blast belly fat, increase the size and strength of your fast-twitch muscle fibers , and improve your overall heart health. But these only hold true if you’re doing it right.
Why You Shouldn’t Be Doing HIIT Workouts Every Single Day
Ten or so minutes a day doesn’t sound like it’s a lot to push your limits as far as you can, but you can do more damage than good by doing so. Injury and mental burnout are the two main concerns.
Over-training is a fast track to strains, pulls, and tears. You know how you’re not supposed to work the same muscle group two days in a row while you’re weight training? It’s kind of the same thing with HIIT. In either instance, your muscles need to rest so that they can grow, recover, and repair themselves.
Why is mental burnout a risk? If you get to a point where you’re not happy or excited to workout anymore and you’re just going through the motions, you’re less likely to pay attention to your form and will again increase your risk for injury.
How Much HIIT Is Too Much HIIT?
Two to three HIIT sessions per week are more than enough to reap the benefits, any more than that and you risk doing more damage than good. You can definite do other types of workouts on other days – think things like yoga and resistance training – but you still need to remember to schedule in a couple of rest days so that your body can rejuvenate itself.
How many HIIT workouts do you do in a week and what do you do on the other days?