High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) Simplified!

By Scott A. Jansen

Before writing this article I took a small survey of my clients about which topic they wanted more information about or wanted clarification with. The resounding answer was HIIT or Tabata intervals and how I could help them understand the ratios better.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) describes any workout that alternates between intense bursts of activity and fixed periods of less-intense activity or even complete rest. This sounds fairly simple until you try to figure out the work to rest ratios. Ask any friend or trainer, watch videos from any media outlet, or step into any CrossFit or Orange Theory and they’ll all have different answers. This is why many people get confused. Everyone gives you different information and complicates a basic proven concept.

I liken it to asking your friend or shoe salesmen “what’s the best running shoe?” You better get ready for several minutes of a passionate description of their personal favorite shoe and why you shouldn’t try anything else. Simply put, we’re all different and might prefer one versus the other, but they’ll all do the job.

Keep it basic

Let’s start with the work to rest ratios. When first attempting these types of workouts start slow with more rest. You’ll see bootcamp classes and extreme athletes all around you doing super intense bouts of exercise with very little rest periods. They took time to develop that conditioning level to get there. Don’t try to replicate what they’re doing unless you’re at their level. Always remember to do what’s right for your own body.

I’ve done interval training with patients recovering from heart surgery; you can imagine how slow their intervals were. They’d walk slowly for a few minutes, then rest for several minutes. Over time they become more conditioned to exercise and the body adapts. Elite Athletes recover within mere seconds and can return to a resting heart rate from a full sprint in under 30 seconds.

Here’s a basic breakdown:

Beginners: 1 to 3 (work to rest ratio) For 1 minute of more intense movement take 3 minutes of less intense movement

Moderate exercisers: 1 to 2 (work to rest ratio) For any intense movement take double the time in less intense movement or complete rest.

Advanced exercisers: 1 to 1.5 (work to rest ratio) For 60 seconds of intense movement take a 90 second less intense movement (active recovery)

Tabata Protocol (highly advanced): 2 to 1 (work to rest ratio)

Simplify the concept by remembering your body will adapt quickly to any interval you subject yourself to. If you’re not into doing math or following a prescribed method, then simply work hard until you feel tired then bring the intensity down until you feel recovered. Start the more intense movement again until fatigued, then rest. Keep those cycles going for as much time as you have available or energy to do them.

Interval training is not new, but enter the word Tabata!

Intervals were originally designed for running, but after Japanese researcher, Dr. Tabata conducted his 1996 cycling interval study, they became exciting and mainstream. The original study illustrated the amazing benefits of doing intervals and how efficient they can be.

An example of Tabata protocol is 20-second intense movement and 10 seconds of rest.

Whatever exercise you use, Tabata training will raise your metabolism and heart rate immediately. Since you are performing these exercises at a very high level of intensity, your body will have to work much harder to keep it up. This will cause your heart to pump faster and your metabolism to elevate. Your metabolism will stay at that elevated rate long after you stop exercising, which burns more calories and body fat.

Incorporate resistance exercises into your intervals

Many exercises and types of equipment can be incorporated. Here’s an example of 4 exercises using timed intervals.

Basic Workout Example:

Push Ups
Medicine Ball Slams
Jumping Rope

How to do the Tabata advanced version (adjust intervals for your conditioning level):

20 seconds of pushups, then rest 10 seconds.

20 seconds of squats, then rest 10 seconds.

20 seconds of ball slams, then rest.

20 seconds of skipping rope, then rest.

Repeat this cycle again 8 times through for 16 minutes total.

Here’s a list of resistance training movements I recommend for clients to use in combination with classic cardiovascular activities like: Running (treadmill), Rowing, Running Stairs, Biking, or Jumping Rope.

Here is a list of exercises to try:

Mountain climbers
Pull ups
Steam Engines
Bicep curls
Triceps dips
Push Ups
Squat Presses

In Closing

Remember to start slowly until you feel comfortable decreasing the rest periods and increasing the intensity to your intervals. Have fun blasting away stubborn body fat with these super efficient HIIT workouts. If you add these to your weekly routine you’ll quickly see your metabolism heighten and get better conditioned.

Reach out to your trainer or me personally to help you create the HIIT workout best designed for your fitness level. For fun tips, exercises, and videos follow me on social media: FB: Scott Jansen, Instagram: @scottajansen.

Stay Healthy and Active,
Scott A. Jansen
Magnuson Athletic Club/Fitness Manager – Sister facility of Issaquah Fitness