HIIT Me One More Time

Variations of HIIT

For many people, HIIT training is a lot like sex. It’s short, sweet and really gets the heart pumping. Unfortunately sex isn’t as effective at creating a fat burning effect as a session of HIIT is. If it were, the acronym HIITS (High Intensity Interval Training Sex) would be the latest and greatest method to a leaner body and the catch line would read, “have fun while shedding pounds.”

Try to remember the last time you enjoyed a cardio session. It was probably a while ago and consisted of staring at the cute Cardio Bunny on the stair-climber. Well, times change and gone are the days of losing pounds by walking the treadmill, toning your glutes on the stair- climber and/or planting your cheeks on the so-comfortable seat of a stationary bike. If you respect progress, want to minimize muscle loss and maximize fat loss, all that’s required is a ten to fifteen minute session, one to three times a week. That’s the beauty of HIIT.

Let’s face it, humans are creatures who crave change. What was once fun and enjoyable can soon turn into a task that requires the mindset of a Tibetan monk. And if it’s not enjoyable, chances are the routine won’t be performed with much effort or enthusiasm. If you’re one of those individuals who’ve grown tired of repeating the same old routine, let me HIIT you up with some variety, but, first, let’s backtrack a bit.

A Brief Review

For those of you unfamiliar with HIIT, let me briefly explain why it’s so darnned effective at making you a lean bastard.

It’s all about energy expenditure, that is, weight loss. Move more, eat less and you’ll lose body mass. For those of us who carry more muscle than the average person, replacing the body mass with muscle mass is why we make such a big fuss about cardio and it’s catabolic effect on muscle.

For some time now, aerobic work (long duration activity at a steady state) has been known to effectively burn calories and lower body mass because it focuses on using fat as it’s primary energy source. However, as the intensity of activity increases the primary energy substrate involved will shift. The body will move away from mobilizing fatty acids while the proportion of carbohydrates is increased. (1) While this leads to the thinking that long-duration, low-intensity activity is the optimal route towards fat loss, research shows that high- intensity activity is actually more effective. (2, 3, 4) Add intervals of high and low periods (5) and fat-burning increases. There are several reasons for this, and others that remain unknown.

During high-intensity, intermittent training, post-exercise energy expenditure was significantly greater than in subjects who performed moderate or low intensity activity. (6, 7) As a result more fat is utilized in the recovery phase. Several studies confirm that the higher the exercise intensity, the more fat, proportionately, will be burned during the recovery phase. (9, 10, 11) Also, higher exercise intensity had a greater effect on acetyl-CoA carboxylase (an enzyme involved in the fatty acid synthesis pathway) inactivation, which results in greater free-fatty acid oxidation post-workout. (12) Intense interval work also utilizes both the fast and slow twitch fibres, more fast twitch fibres because of the amount of work required of the body in such a short time period. Along with the muscles, the respiratory, heart and nervous system are also required to expend more amounts of energy. This means that more fat and carbohydrates are burned to keep up with the demands of the body both during and after a HIIT workout.

To sum up, the energy cost of HIIT is much greater than that of aerobic exercise. In addition, the body will expend more energy at rest throughout the day and this contributes further to fat loss. This equates to one lean machine if HIIT is properly incorporated into a program.

The Programs

I’ve listed below a number of different ways HIIT can be incorporated and performed so that the most can be made out of each session. Even if it’s quality you’re after, sometimes quantity is just as important.

Warm-up is crucial. Make sure you perform some motions that move the specific joints used in the movement through their range. For example, grabbing a sport ball or a medicine ball and going through a wide variety of movements such as bending at the hips, knees, shoulders, elbows and wrists continuously for five to eight minutes will serve as an effective warm-up. Once this has been completed you can move on to the type of HIIT you’ll be performing.

Elliptical Trainer: For those of you who suffer from joint problems, an elliptical machine can be a godsend. If your club/gym happens to have a couple of pieces that come with arms this exercise can be all the more effective as it can now involve your upper body. Be forewarned though– watching a heavily muscled lifter furiously pumping their arms and legs every 20-60 seconds for 10-15 minutes can be a pretty amusing display.

Stair-Climber: If you work in a building that has a long flight of stairs, then you know very well just how hard climbing flights of stairs can be. Set the stair-climber at the most difficult level and attempt to keep the pedals from touching the floor. Once you’ve finished the interval, get off and walk around until it’s time to go again. Legs of steel perhaps, try stepping on your tippy toes.

Treadmill Work: Running on the treadmill is not as effective as running outdoors due to the lack of intensity that can be achieved on a treadmill. A treadmill, nevertheless, can still do its job well. One way to really utilize this piece of equipment is to do walking lunges on the steepest grade for 30 seconds at 1.5-2.0 miles an hour. Rest 30 seconds, and repeat 5-10 times. If that’s not enough for you, speed things up or grab some dumbbells.

Running Lines: On a basketball court or a field, mark out 5 lines. Each one should be about 3 feet apart from one another. Run to each line and back to the starting point. Once you have run to each line and back, stop and rest for 1 minute and then repeat this 3-6 times. Change of pace perhaps? Try running the lines backwards.

Uphill Sprints: Sprint up a hill and then walk or jog very slowly downhill as your period of recovery. Repeat the sprints 4-8 times. You can do the hill sprints with the exception of running backwards up the hill and walking forwards down.

Skipping Rope: Skip for a minute, then rest a minute, and repeat 10 times. If you want to show off, throw in some combinations.

Side Laterals: Set up two cones or markers and side step them for 30 seconds as quickly as possible trying to minimize the time your feet are in contact with the ground. Rest 1 minute, and repeat 6-10 times.

Weight Training: A study conducted by Dr Tabata in Japan showed that “six to eight very hard twenty second intervals with ten second rest periods” are very effective for increasing both aerobic and anaerobic conditioning. (13) Putting this into practice, an individual would perform a movement that utilizes multiple muscle groups. Movements such as the Squat or Deadlift are a good place to start. Using approximately 50% of your 1RM perform as many repetitions as you can in twenty seconds, rest for 10 seconds and repeat six to eight more times. Be warned, this method was used on elite Japanese speed skaters and was a very painful experience. This method is not only great at fat burning but will teach you how to stay mentally focused while enduring a large amount of pain.

Bike: It’s probably the most boring piece of equipment to use in the gym, but it can be quite effective. If you’re feeling brave, try Dr Tabata’s method (as mentioned above). The experiment Dr Tabata performed used bikes, which gives you a feeling just how tough this method really is.

Sled Dragging: Westside disciples should be very familiar with this exercise. Simply load up the sled and drag it to your heart’s content. If you’re up for a challenge, drag the sled up a hill.

Dumbbell/Plate Toss: Grab a weight that’s heavy enough for you to throw maybe a foot or so and throw it. Using an under hand stance with the legs in a sumo position thrust the hips as you push the legs into the ground and swing the arms up into the air while releasing the weight. Walk over, and pick up the weight and repeat.

Finishing Up

I’ve just skimmed the surface of the many ways one can integrate HIIT into a training program. So, if boredom is knocking at your door, you can open it wide and refuse entry because now you have some great ideas at your disposal.

Written By Maki Riddington

Discuss, comment or ask a question

If you have a comment, question or would like to discuss anything raised in this article, please do so in the following discussion thread on the Wannabebig Forums – HIIT Me One More Time discussion thread.


1. Romijn, JA, Coyle EF, Sidossis LS, Gastaldelli A, Horowitz JF, Endert E, and Wolfe RR. Regulation of endogenous fat and carbohydrate metabolism in relation to exercise intensity and duration. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 265: E380-E391, 1993

2. Bryner, R.W., R.C. Toffle, I.H. Ullrish, and R.A. Yeater. The effects of exercise intensity on body composition, weight loss, and dietary composition in women. J. Am. Col. Nutr. 16:68-73, 1997.

3. Pacheco-Sanchez, M., and K.K Grunewald. Body fat deposition: effects of dietary fat and two exercise protocols. J. Am. Col. Nutr. 13:601-607, 1994.

4. Tremblay, A., J. Després, C. Leblanc, C.L. Craig, B. Ferris, T. Stephens, and C. Bouchard. Effect of intensity of physical activity on body fatness and fat distribution. Am J. Clin. Nutr. 51:153-157, 1990.

5. Tremblay, A., J. Simoneau, and C. Bouchard. Impact of exercise intensity on body fatness and skeletal muscle metabolism. Metabolism. 43:814-818, 1994.

6. Bahr, R., and O.M. Sejersted. Effect of intensity of exercise on excess postexercise O2 consumption. Metabolism. 40:836-841, 1991.

7. Laforgia, J. R.T. Withers, N.J. Shipp, and C.J. Gore. Comparison of energy expenditure elevations after submaximal and supramaximal running. J. Appl. Physiol. 82:661-666, 1997.

8. Treuth, M.S., G.R. Hunter, and M. Williams. Effects of exercise intensity on 24-h energy expenditure and substrate oxidation. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 28:1138-1143, 1996.

9. Brooks G, Gaesser GA. End points of lactate and glucose metabolism after exhausting exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology 49: 1057, 1980.

10. Bahr, Sejersted. Metabolism 40: 836, 1991.

11. Melby, C., C. Scholl, G. Edwards, and R. Bullough. Effect of acute resistance exercise on postexercise energy expenditure and resting metabolic rate. J. Appl. Physiol. 75:1847-1853, 1993.

12. Rasmussen, B.B., and W.W. Winder. Effect of exercise intensity on skeletal muscle malonyl-CoA and acetyl-CoA carboxylase. J. Appl. Physiol. 83:1104-1109, 1997.

13. Tabata I, Irisawa K, Kouzaki M, Nishimura K, Ogita F, Miyachi M.Metabolic profile of high intensity intermittent exercises. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1997 Mar;29(3):390-5. PMID: 9139179