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HIIT Interval Training — The Full Guide To Fat Incineration [Infographic]

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If you’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing a heart-thumping HIIT cardio workout — High Intensity Interval Training — you’re missing out on one of the most effective, high intensity exercise protocols available to the human body. Period.

In my experience, HIIT is the #1 tool when it comes to incinerating the HORRIBLY stubborn body fat that plasters the inner crevices of the abs, specifically the lower abs. HIIT is an absolute beast of a workout, but it’s the fastest, most efficient way to perform cardio, with sessions typically lasting between 10-15 minutes max.

HIIT excels when it comes to preserving hard-earned muscle and zeroing in on body fat. Picture a sprinter vs. a marathon runner. Sprinters — think Usain Bolt or Tyson Gay — are absolutely rip-roaring jacked. Marathon runners are typically lanky and all skin-and-bones. The sprinter body is precisely what HIIT promotes.

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If you look at any cardio machine you’ll see a color-coded fat-burning graph that, among other things, shows the “fat-burning zone” as approximately 60-65% of your maximum heart rate (MHR). In theory you DO burn the highest percentage of calories from fat during low intensity, steady state cardio (e.g. long distance running) when compared to higher intensity (anaerobic) cardio. Unfortunately, I really could care less about percentages — I want body fat melting off the body at the highest possible rate.

In practice you burn more overall calories, and ultimately more fat, at a higher intensity. See the chart below for some quick math. What’s more, high intensity cardio — sprinting in particular — uses very little muscle tissue for energy; long distance cardio tends to sap valuable muscle tissue and extracts amino acids to generate fuel. Yuck.

fat burning zone chart, hiit vs steady state cardio, calories burned during cardio, heart rate calories burned
http://exercise.about.com/od/weightloss/a/The-Truth-About-The-Fat-Burning-Zone.htm

 

HIIT also elicits a response known as EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption — highlighted in-depth here), which boosts base metabolism, calorie burn, and the rate of fat loss for up to 48 hours post-workout.12 You’ll actually burn A LOT MORE calories when you’re on the couch, working, sleeping, etc. as a direct result of a HIIT workout.

Sorry, you don’t get anywhere near as much EPOC from long distance running (but you do from weight-lifting).

In terms of health & performance benefits, HIIT is about as beneficial as it gets. It significantly increases power, fat oxidation, and V02Max — the maximum amount of oxygen the body can consume during exercise, a measure of all-around cardiovascular fitness; improves cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglyceride profiles, two measures of heart health; and enhances insulin sensitivity, a major determinant of diabetes.3456

 

How Does Interval Training Vary?

While many different types of interval training exist, at the core it simply implies varying the intensity of a workout at a calculated rate. Interval training can differ in the following ways:

  • Mode — Type of equipment or terrain used (e.g. treadmill, bike, weight-lifting, running on a track)
  • Intensity — Level of speed, length of rest period, or weight/resistance used (e.g. speed on the treadmill, weight used, rest period, resistance on a bike)
  • Ratio — Ratio of time in the low-to-high intensity intervals (Walk 90 seconds, sprint 45 seconds = 2-to-1 ratio low-to-high. Walk 30 seconds, sprint 30 seconds = 1-to-1 ratio low-to-high)
  • Duration — Number of intervals/length of the entire workout

 

Sample HIIT Workout

For the Lean It UP version of HIIT cardio, we’ll use a 2-to-1 low-to-high ratio for 15 minutes total —

  1. Walk 2 minutes as a warm-up (3 MPH)
  2. High Intensity Interval 1: 45 second all-out sprint. Sprint speed is going to vary on a person-by-person basis. I sprint at 12.5 MPH — choose a level that’s intense and makes you run HARD, but at the same time make sure it feels safe. Start conservative and gradually work your way up over time.
  3. Low Intensity Interval 1: 90 second walking rest interval (3 MPH)
  4. High Intensity Interval 2: 45 second all-out sprint
  5. Low Intensity Interval 2: 90 second walking rest interval (3 MPH)
  6. Repeat 3 additional intervals
  7. 2 minute walking cool-down (~2.5 MPH)
  8. Finish

As a word of caution, this version of HIIT is extremely taxing on the body — only attempt it if you’re in the physical shape to handle a highly intense regimen. Regardless of who you are, start with a conservative intensity and gradually progress to higher speeds.

For more information on HIIT see the infographic below from The Greatist, which does a nice job laying out the foundation of interval training and a few different variations, including: Tabata, The Little Method, and Turbulence Training.



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The Complete Guide to Interval Training

More Health and Fitness News & Tips at Greatist.

 

 
 

References, Notes, Links

  1. Effect of acute resistance exercise on postexercise energy expenditure and resting metabolic rate. Melby C, Scholl C, Edwards G, Bullough R. J Appl Physiol. 1993 Oct;75(4):1847-53. []
  2. Effect of acute resistance exercise on postexercise oxygen consumption and resting metabolic rate in young women. Osterberg KL, Melby CL. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2000 Mar;10(1):71-81. Erratum in: Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 2000 Sep;10(3):360. []
  3. Long-term Lifestyle Intervention with Optimized High-Intensity Interval Training Improves Body Composition, Cardiometabolic Risk, and Exercise Parameters in Patients with Abdominal Obesity. Gremeaux V, Drigny J, Nigam A, Juneau M, Guilbeault V, Latour E, Gayda M. Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2012 Jul 30. []
  4. High intensity interval exercise training in overweight young women. Sijie T, Hainai Y, Fengying Y, W. Jianxiong. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2012 Jun;52(3):255-62. []
  5. High-intensity aerobic interval training increases fat and carbohydrate metabolic capacities in human skeletal muscle. Perry CG, Heigenhauser GJ, Bonen A, Spriet LL. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2008 Dec;33(6):1112-23. []
  6. Effect of 2 weeks of sprint interval training on health-related outcomes in sedentary overweight/obese men. Whyte LJ, Gill JM, Cathcart AJ. Metabolism. 2010 Oct;59(10):1421-8. Epub 2010 Feb 12. []

 

Bryan DiSanto

Bryan DiSanto

Founder & Editor-in-Chief at Lean It UP
ELLO ELLO I'm Bryan DiSanto. I'm the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Lean It UP, a CPT/CSN/Fitness Coach, Chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu – Paris, NYU graduate, ex-fat kid, and all-around fitness junkie.

I also contribute to Men's Health Magazine.

When I'm not working on my abs (or somebody else’s), whipping up avocado roses and avocado toast, or running a Tough Mudder, I'm probably yelling at a Carolina Panthers game somewhere.

Come be friends with me on Instagram (@BRYDISANTO) & Snapchat (BRYDISANTO).
Bryan DiSanto
  • Shan

    Wow, great article. I loved how you used facts to back everything you said and the pictures still keep it interesting. I’m gonna start some MHR workouts. (sprints)

    • Thanks Shan! Definitely do; they’re crazy effective and efficient. Just PLEASE make sure that you’re doing it under control, especially if you’re on a treadmill – it’s better off to start a little bit slower, than crank it up beyond what you’re able to handle.

      • swap

        I really loved the article. science behind excersize is explained very well. I hhave been doing this and giving good results too. my question is what should I eat(protiens, carbs, fiber) after this intense workout so that i dont lose my muscles. I do this alternative day one day weight training and 1 day abs and HIIT. please suggets

        • Definitely a heavy dose of protein + carbs. Minimize fiber & fats.

          • swap

            Thanks brian

          • Rocky

            I understand the needs for protein and carbs and restricting the fat but why fiber? Doesn’t the fiber assist in getting rid of that unwanted fat with healthy digestion?

            • While it’s obviously healthy and good for digestion, it SLOWS it down. When your muscles are depleted, it’s important to shuttle nutrients in as quickly as possible — too much fiber can counteract that.

              It also impacts how insulin works and is released, in a way that isn’t optimal for growth + recovery.

  • Majkl

    I am sorr, but I don’t know of a single person in the world, that can sprint all-out for 45 seconds. This is a death wish. PS: my mum sprints 12,5 MPH 😀

    • MuppetMonkeyMan

      nah dude “YOU” cant sprint all out for 45

  • Sebastian

    I started with HIIT a couple of months ago, now I am doing 2 minutes of warm up, and then 1 minute at 12,5 mph and 1 minute of rest at 3,7 mph, for 15 or 16 minutes…. the things is, Im doing this twice or 3 times a week, should i do this everyday? because I cant see my lower abs….

    • 3-4x/week is the max you should be doing to be effective; it’s really hard on the body.

      What’s the rest of your training like? Your diet & nutrition? Ab work? Stress? Sleep? HIIT is crazy effective, but you’ll never see your abs if everything else is a mess.

  • Shayaan Khan

    Would the same results come if you did it without a treadmill? Also, would it be good for basketball? It seems like it.

    • It’s amazing for basketball because it mimics the way you run — spontaneous bursts and short-duration sprints, with recovery in between.

      Absolutely — you can do it on a track, the street, an elliptical, stationary bike, rowing machine, etc. Pick your favorite. It’s all about alternating periods of high intensity with ones of low intensity, whether that’s in terms of speed, resistance (think bike/elliptical), or incline (hills).

      I’ll write-up an article with different forms of interval training to elaborate.

  • TheUninvited

    how many times per week someone should train to lose weight in order for the abs to show?

    • That’s tough to say — it’s dependent on so many factors: DIET, sleep, stress, base movement, where you’re starting from, etc.

      I’d say 3-4 dedicated workouts/week is a solid minimum if you’re really emphasizing your eating. 5-6 is ideal for quicker results (and how I personally train).

      • TheUninvited

        alright thank you very much i appreciate your answer:) You’re the best:D

  • Nh

    I’m 21 and working out for about the past 5-6 months. I do mostly abs, chest and bicep workouts, being that those are the muscles I want to show nicely. I do 5 sets of push-ups until I can’t and 5 sets of bicep curls until I can’t. For my abs workout I do 3 sets of crunches, 2 sets of reverse sit-ups, 2 sets of leg raises and a couple of other lower ab workouts. The wotkout takes me around 1 1/2 hrs. I do feel that I gained a little muscle but I’d like my chest and abs to be clearly showing. My upper abs show a bit and my lower abs not at all. I do have some lower belly fat, but not a lot being that I’m a size 29. Before my workouts, 6 months ago, I used to be a size 31 and lost weight by hardly eating. That could be the reason why I have some lower fat. Do you have any suggestions on how I can get my chest, biceps and especially my abs to show?

  • Evan

    Hey Bryan, I have been trying to combine this HIT method with the 5×5 strength training regiment (not sure if you are aware of it). The 5×5 goes three times a week and when I’m not feeling totally destroyed, I do HIT on the off days. What do you think about doing ab exercises after a HIT workout? Also what do you think about 30 seconds easy pace, 30 seconds medium, and then 30 seconds all out sprint (in a pool)? I usually do that for around 15 cycles. I’m still not losing belly fat (after several months) but I think it has to do with my diet. How do I know if I’m eating too much or too little? Thanks

    • Hey Evan — Few things:

      1. If you’re trying to cut body fat, 5×5 isn’t your best option. That’s aimed at strength production, not body recomposition. I’d follow any of our WOTMs — our Summertime Shred might be your best bet because it combines HIIT with weights and dedicated ab training. It’s a holistic approach to slashing body fat, developing your abs, and slapping on muscle mass. http://www.leanitup.com/wotm-042014-sculpt-ultimate-beach-body-summertime-shred-workout-shuttle/#comment-1500882618

      2. I have no problem with that. Modify HIIT and tweak it however you’d like. Just make sure you have enough max intensity all-out intervals. The benefits derive from the high points. Here are a few other HIIT workouts if you’re looking to switch it up: http://www.leanitup.com/5-hiit-workouts-can-right-now-incinerate-fat-15-minutes/

      3. Awesome idea to combine abs with HIIT, just flip them. Do abs and then HIIT.

      4. I’d tweak your training plan first before cutting calories. If you’re still not losing fat, then diet is definitely the issue. That can be a quantity AND/OR quality issue (i.e. eating crap). Attack quality first—eat better foods, cut out all junk, eat more protein, fruit, and veggies, etc.—and then if you’re still stagnant, slowly reduce your calories (100-200 at a time). Once you see results you know you’re right in the wheelhouse.

  • I love it I love it I love it…!!!

  • Miriam

    Hey Bryan, I’m 21 years old and have struggled with weight since I was 8 (or so I thought, being a chubby kid.) I’ve been working all these years trying to get a fit, ripped look and I think I can say I’m not in bad shape but the one thing that continues to evade me is my lower ab area. Starting at the bottom of the front of my rib cage, a pooch sticks out, actually hanging down slightly over my belt line! How can I get rid of this, I feel like I’m doing everything right (clean diet, constant exercise, HIIT, weight training, lots of water, quality sleep, no stress etc.) Help please!

    • Hey Miriam — For most people, fat over the lower abs (aka the “pooch) is the last to go and the first to come back. Most people have some fat there that expends/contracts on a pretty regular basis. Everything from a small dietary slip up to increased water retention can make it blow up temporarily. As a chubby kid, I totally have the same issues!

      For you, it looks like you’re doing all the right things. I’d look at your diet and workouts closely — are your workouts consistently high-quality and as intense as they could be? Are you doing resistance training? How much HIIT are you doing? Is your diet mainly HQ protein, veggies, healthy fats, and some complex carbs; and are your calories in check?

      And remember that it’s a slow process. It takes a LONG time to drop all of the fat over the abs. Are you still progressing, or are you stuck at a plateau?

      Bryan

  • Tyler Deken

    Hi Brian! I am 26 Years old and I have been doing strength training for 6 months. I am eating 5 nutrient dense, low calorie, meals a day with tons of lean protein, veggies, and some complex carbs with little to no salt, fats, gluten, or sugar. I have been cutting now for the past month and I have seen significant fat loss, as well as muscle gains. I want to blast away the last of my belly fat without losing muscle. I am currently weight training a different muscle group every other day, and doing 15 minutes of High Intensity Cardio in the mornings and 15 minutes at night; 7 days a week.

    My questions are:

    1: What is the best way for me to lose belly fat as fast as possible, without losing muscle?

    2: How often should I do Cardio? Is 7 days a week even worth it?

    3: How often can I/should I work out my abs for best results?

    I am dedicated and willing to keep doing whatever it takes to reach my goals. Thanks for the Help!