- Most of the stuff labeled as HIIT isn’t HIIT
- HIIT workouts are short intense effort followed by a period of active recovery
- HIIT has its place in a fat loss plan but it shouldn’t be the whole plan
According to Urban Dictionary, the term catfish means:
“someone who pretends to be someone they’re not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.”
I hate to tell you this but people have been catfishing you with HIIT workouts for years in hopes of getting in your pants.
Take a minute if you need to.
They suck you in with the high hopes of a HIIT workout and end up giving you the new age version of a Jane Fonda-80’s-spandex-wearing aerobics class.
That shit stops now.
In this article I’m going to help you diagnose HIIT catfishing schemes and show you how to really use HIIT to burn fat.
What is a HIIT Workout
The great thing about the lifting community is that the naming convention is like that girl you know from college that now has an OnlyFans…there’s not much left to the imagination.
High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT involves short bursts of intense exercise alternated with low intensity recovery periods. HIIT is a cardio workout designed to break up extreme effort into little bite sized bouts. These are typically 20 sec of all out effort and then a 1-2 min low intensity active recovery period.
These short bursts of intense exercise are mostly bodyweight exercises like sprints, jumps, air squats etc. With the lack of rest periods using a heavy weight would be nothing short of a disaster and not live up to the high intensity name.
Due to the intensity of the exercise and your lack of having endless energy, typical workouts last 5-20 mins.
A staple my workout in the early days of the pandemic and a great HIIT home workout is sprinting.
20 yard sprints followed by 1 min of rest repeats 5-10 times. I could bang this HIIT workout out in 20 mins with a warmup and cool down.
The next question is, what is intense?
If you are doing it right, intense is where you are breathing heavily, unable to hold a conversation. Basically all out effort. If you could sustain that level of effort for 30 seconds you didn’t go hard enough.
Think of running half court suicides if you played basketball or running 10 yard sprints in football.
If you can breathe normally during the active recovery period you aren’t doing HIIT because the high intensity isn’t there.
So if you see classes or workouts that claim to be HIIT that 1) Involve heavy weight or 2) last more than 20 mins it’s a catfishing scheme. Slip into your fanciest spandex because you’re being sold glorified aerobics classes.
Is HIIT Good For Fat Loss
HIIT is good for fat loss…but so is LISS (Low Intensity Steady State cardio).
Anything that gets your body moving is good for fat loss.
Remember, when it comes to fat loss we have two levers we can pull.
More movement and eat less.
So anything that can fit into your schedule on the movement side is good for fat loss.
Now, the claims of HIIT jacking up your metabolism so you burn massive amounts of calories post exercise aka Exercise Post Oxygen Consumption aka EPOC has been grossly oversold.
In a 7 hour period post HIIT workout, you’re looking at an extra 40-80 calories burnt depending on how big you are and how long the workout was. I get that little things add up, but going balls-to-the-wall for 60 calories is kind of a kick in the boys.
Where HIIT does shine for fat loss is the time it saves you. You can get a full HIIT workout done in less time than you spend playing a game of Sudoku on the toilet.
That’s gotta count for something.
Is HIIT Good For Muscle Building
Where HIIT falls short is muscle building.
I’m sure you’ve seen someone that looks jacked that does HIIT but looking jacked because they have low body fat and building muscle are two completely different things.
Let’s look at me for a sec…wow that was kinda Antonio Brown-esque. Here’s me at 180 -> 173 -> 208 Anyway, me at 208 (right) has more muscle due to the 15 month bulk I just finished than me at 173 (middle). But 173 me looks more jacked.
HIIT will help you look more jacked but it won’t help you build muscle.
To build muscle you need to progressively increase the weight you’re using.
You can’t get that with HIIT because 1) the rest periods are too short for full recovery, and 2) form is going to suffer once fatigue sets in. You’ll be using more momentum to lift the weights which won’t stress the muscle the way it needs to get bigger.
Traditional weight training is the way to go when it comes to building muscle.
So if you are looking to build muscle, skip HIIT or at very least do it right before you leave the gym.
Is It Ok To Do HIIT Everyday
HIIT is like using pepper on your food.
It’s good in small amounts.
When you push hard with HIIT or with heavy weight lifting, it adds lots of stress to the body. Over time, with other stresses, that workout stress adds up.
A body dealing with a lot of stress performs like shit.
Workout performance suffers and fat loss comes to a screeching halt.
When it comes to using HIIT, it’s best to take the same approach you would working out the same muscle group.
One day on, one day off.
This will give your body time to recuperate in between workouts to help manage stress and fatigue.
Your body needs time to rest and rebuild. I hate to break it to you but you are not the Terminator. If you are constantly beating up your body it can’t get bigger, stronger or leaner.
So don’t do HIIT everyday, give your body at least one rest day in between.
HIIT vs Cardio
The great debate of LISS vs HIIT is upon us.
So which is best?
Well it kinda depends on your situation.
If you have little time in your schedule; HIIT might be better.
For a vast majority of people, increasing daily steps as LISS is better.
Walks. Parking further from the office. Taking the stairs are all great ways to increase steps in your normal day.
Consistency is what you should aim for.
The best plan would be to base your cardio on how you feel that day.
Feeling good, motivated and strong? Do a quick HIIT workout after lifting.
Feeling a little tired or beaten up? Take a 30-40 min walk.
As long as you are doing some cardio, it’ll help your fat loss and give you all the cardio benefits.
For my photoshoot prep, the only cardio I did was hit 10k steps per day by taking a walk in the morning (LISS) and playing with my then 2yr old son at night.
My friend and client Robert, got jacked by walking everyday.
Like I mentioned earlier, HIIT adds stress to the body that is also dealing with diet stress, work stress, workout stress, and life stress. Regardless if you acknowledge it as stress or not, your body does.
A stressed body doesn’t do what you want it to.
Cardio, like getting more steps throughout the day, is a stress reliever. It doesn’t induce a stress response in the body, it’s low impact and easy on the joints, it improves mental wellbeing and speeds recovery by flushing lactate and pumping fresh blood around the body.
Both HIIT and LISS have their place and situation, use both.
How To Add HIIT Right
Use HIIT very sparingly, again like pepper on your food.
I’ll really only use it if a client has a busy schedule or if it’s someone that has a hard time getting steps in during the day.
Other than those two scenarios I usually skip it because everyone has stress in their lives whether they want to admit it or not and me adding to that would be counterproductive to your results.
IF I do add it, it’s always at the end of a workout as a finisher.
This way the client gets lifts as fresh as possible then can add a little fat burning at the end.
Always lead with weight lifting, cardio always comes second. If you lead with HIIT you are killing your energy for lifting and in turn your progress.