Some of us remember time-based circuit and interval training for years before the Crossfit or fitness blogging movement began, but the last decade has heralded the rise of the high-intensity interval training (HIIT) fitness regime. Useful for everything from my jogging routes to my strength training regimes, it is well-loved among trainers and time-starved fitness lovers alike. As a big fan of bodyweight exercise moves and the interval timer (and equivalent apps!), I incorporate HIIT into my fitness and physical activity routines at least 3 times a week. While everyone who prescribes to it has their own personal ways to include it into their workouts, these are my top three types of HIIT training protocols.
As Many Rounds/Reps As Possible (AMRAP). I am not particularly fluent in the language of Crossfit, but the AMRAP protocol is something I made an effort to understand. It entails performing a set number of repetitions for several different exercise moves and performing as many cycles of the moves (with minimal rest between sets) for a fixed time period. Personal spin I set my timer to 15 minutes, choose 2-3 strength training and/or plyometric moves (I guess paired moves for me would be my twist on the Crossfit superset), perform a set of number of repetitions of each moves in succession with maximum of 45 seconds rest in between sets then repeat another 15-minute session after a short break. How it feels? About five minutes into the workout will feel like the rest is impossible, but the endorphin rush afterwards is unforgettable. Maybe it's a favourite because I keep chasing that rush.
Tabata. Dubbed by many as "The 4-Minute Workout", the basis of the Tabata protocol is a 4-minute cycle of interval training for 20 seconds at maximum intensity followed by a rest period for 10 seconds. Can 4 minutes really cut it? Personally, I am a proponent of elevating the heart rate to 80% of its maximum (the cardiovascular range) for at least 20 minutes per session for it to be effective, so I would not rely solely on a 4-minute workout to keep my body and heart in optimum condition. Personal spin I perform about 5-8 cycles of the 4-minute workout on my own with about 2 minutes rest in between cycles. My alternate routine entails setting my timer to 50 seconds of maximum-intensity work and 10 seconds of rest and using the protocol for a total of 20-30 minutes. How it feels? Like almost every other type of interval training you can undertake, you will feel completely shattered afterwards but your body will definitely thank you. Long after the workout, in fact.
Every minute on the minute (EMOM). So simple, the protocol is self-explanatory. Okay, for neophytes, I'll explain anyway: you turn on your timer and start a fixed number of repetitions of an exercise move at the start of a minute then start the next set of repetitions when the next minute starts, and then you get the drift from there. Personal spin I take one or two exercise moves (my other take on the Crossfit superset) and perform my repetitions with special focus on perfecting my form at the start of each minute and I work out for 20-30 minutes with this protocol at a time - this works best within the minute if the number of repetitions is kept low (I usually keep my reps under about 10-12, especially if I'm pairing moves; otherwise, the minute will not be sufficient to finish one round.) How it feels? The first two minutes sail by and you feel great then by the start of minute five, you feel like you'll want to die - you won't but you may want to - but when you get to the end of the last minute, you feel amazing.
The circuit training protocol has been around for generations on end, and the rise of the HIIT is just living proof that circuit training is a mainstay in fitness and healthy living. Like I said, everyone has their own personal preference, but these three styles are part of my personal key to staying fit and active.