HIIT: Get fit with high-intensity interval training

Get results fast – try high-intensity interval training. How does it work, what exercises does it involve and what should you bear in mind?

HIIT (high-intensity interval training) takes your body to the limit, time after time – the limit where your body consumes the most oxygen. After the workout, the body has to use a lot of energy to return to its normal state. So, you will continue burning calories, even when you’re lying on the sofa again. It’s the ideal training method for building muscle and burning fat at the same time.

High-intensity interval training – what does it involve?
Whether you’re running, doing strength training, on the cross-trainer or your bike, there’s no fixed approach. The important thing is to subject yourself to maximum effort for a short period of time. When running, for example, you can jog until you’re warm and then run as fast as you can for 20 to 30 seconds. Then you take a break of 10 to 15 seconds with a walk. This is then followed by the next sprint. You will achieve better progress within a much shorter time than if you engage in traditional endurance running.

The same concept can be transferred to lots of different sports. Combining sprints and walks can make classic circuit training into HIIT. To do this, you can do whole-body exercises such as burpees (press-up combined with a star jump) or lunges for 30 seconds each, before going straight on to the next exercise or getting your breath back for a couple of seconds. After one circuit comprising several – for example, six or 12 – exercises, you take a short break. The important thing is that your body doesn’t really get a proper chance to recover in between. This only happens once the whole work-out is complete.

HIIT is only suitable for people who are already fit
This all sounds quite simple and rather tempting. But, be careful: HIIT can be dangerous for people who are not already very active, warns Dr Mathias Frey, Team Doctor to the professional footballers from 1. FC Heidenheim. In the worst-case scenario, people who overdo it might experience the opposite effect. As a result of the extreme stress, the body might produce high levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This puts you at risk of injury. For this reason, high-intensity interval training is only suitable for people who are already fit. And even they should ask for advice, preferably from a personal trainer, before starting an HIIT programme. Otherwise, it is enough to do HIIT twice a week. The body needs the breaks so that the workout can take effect.

The high-intensity workout is probably not suitable for people who have had heart problems in the past, who are overweight or who have a chronic illness. You should at least consult your doctor beforehand.