ALVIN HO is COO of VitaCare Medical Group and co-founder of FITivate Pte Ltd. He is a certified fitness professional and was named Singapore’s 10 Most Influential People in Health and Fitness aged 40 and under, by SBR. Alvin strongly believes in the adage, “Prevention is better than cure”, and strives to help individuals attain optimal fitness through living an active and healthy lifestyle.
Feeling the effects of the many meals over the festive Christmas and New Year holidays, and fearing what the upcoming Chinese New Year in just weeks will do to your waistline? Worry not – there’s HIIT to keep you feeling and looking fit.
This is a genre of exercise that is crafted to subject the body to a series of intense exercises over a relatively short period of time. In other words, you will be made to sweat buckets. HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training has been around for some time and gained increasing popularity among busy individuals who yearn to maximise their training efforts in the shortest time possible. Personal trainers are also inclined to incorporate HIIT for their clients so that they can more effectively make use of a typical one-hour training sessions.
Essentially, HIIT requires the individual to shuttle in and out of short bursts of full effort sets with low to moderate intensity workouts in between each set. The beauty of HIIT is that it can be performed in or out of the gym, with or without weights. Before I dwell into some sample HIIT training regimes, let’s first discuss a few of its benefits.
1. The fat torcher
This fat incinerating training is proven to burn more than regular endurance exercises (like jogging). According to a study made in 2011, two weeks of HIIT is said to trump the aerobic benefits brought forth by six to eight weeks of endurance training.
2. Metabolic hyperdrive
The post-effects of HIIT are most interesting. By subjecting the body to intense exercises over a relatively short span of time, it tends to heighten an effect known as Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC). EPOC is a post-workout process where the body burns calories so as to restore itself back to its normal state just before the bout of exercises took place. Because HIIT causes the body to experience a high level of depletion, the post-exercise metabolic rate is maintained at a considerably high level for the next 24 hours, where calories are continually burnt in order to aid recovery.
This is the sort of activity that enables one to achieve the most in the least amount time. Particularly beneficial for busy individuals or those always on the go. Like I mentioned earlier, HIIT can be done inside or outside of a gym.
Running, biking and… yes you’ve got it! stairs climbing!
Step 1 – 5 minutes: Start off with a warm up through slow pacing.
Step 2 – Start your first sprint (run / pedal / climb) as hard as you can for 10 to 30 seconds.
Step 3 – Slow down to a comfortable pace for the next 20 secs.
Repeat steps 2 and 3 for 10 times.
Step 4 – 5 minutes: Warm down.
Step 1 – 5 minutes: Stretch.
Step 2 – Begin with wide grip pull-ups or inclined pull-ups (depending on your current level of fitness). Your ability to complete each set will definitely decrease in subsequent sets but just push yourself till you can’t go on.
Step 3 – Rest for 15 seconds.
Repeat steps 2 and 3 for 8 to 10 sets.
Step 4 – Break for 30 seconds after above cycle.
Step 5 – Second group of exercise will be push-ups (either standard or knee supported-push ups, depending on fitness level). Similarly, push yourself until you’re unable to go on.
Step 6 – Rest for 15 seconds.
Repeat steps 5 and 6 for 8 to 10 sets.
Step 7 – 5 mins: Warm down.
There are two variations to this – it can be HIIT for a targeted muscle group or circuit training.
For targeted muscle group training, start off with weights that you are capable of executing for a maximum of 10 to 12 repetitions. Rest for 30 seconds and for the remaining 8 to 10 sets, using the same weights, execute till failure for each set.
Circuit Training will have to be carried out in a continuous string. There should be no rest time in between each set of the circuit: For example. shoulder press >>> chest press >>> lats pull >>> bicep curls >>> leg extension. Rest only when one circuit cycle has been completed, for about one minute, before commencing the next cycle. Similarly, pick weights that you can execute for 10 to 12 repetitions at the start and maintain those weights till the very end.
To conclude, HIIT can be generally summarised in the figure below. It entails intervals of energy bursts and short rest periods which should not take more than 30 to 40 minutes to complete.
The key is perseverance. You will have to continually psych yourself up to complete the entire routine and not give up. Remember to keep hydrated and cease training if you are not feeling well.