“High-intensity interval training,” or “HIIT,” has survived — and conquered — its label as the latest exercise fad of the 2010s and 20s. Many studies have shown it to be one of the most effective forms of fat burning, and even professional athletes swear by integrating HIIT into their fitness plans.
HIIT is relatively simple to take part in, and that’s why it’s so appealing — as the name suggests, it involves repeated short bursts of high-intensity exertion followed by rest periods. However, there are 9 common HIIT mistakes beginners and experts alike should look out for during their workouts.
Skipping Warm Up (Or Cool Down)
Your high school gym teacher was right, and so was every 80s Jazzercise VHS tape ever made: Stretch! Warm up! Especially with something as intense as HIIT, you don’t want to suddenly jump into an aggressive exercise routine without preparing yourself beforehand with stretching or some light cardio. Post-workout cooldown also helps your muscles heal. It only takes 5-10 minutes, so there’s no excuse not to make time for it, especially since the ideal HIIT workout is usually under 45. Speaking of under 45, another super-common HIIT mistake is…
Exceeding 30 Minutes
Multiple independent studies have found that the worthwhile benefits of HIIT stop at around 45 minutes, and some HIIT workout classes focus on shorter workouts that are 15-20 minutes. In general, unless you’re involved in advanced HIIT training, it’s recommended that you stick to workouts under 30 minutes and never over 45. Beginners can see beneficial effects with training sessions as short as 8-10 minutes! The key to HIIT is in the short fat-burning work periods combined with short rest periods. Spreading your workout over a longer period means you might not go as hard in anticipation of future perceived exertion. Save your longer workouts for weight training or steady cardio instead.
Incorrect Rest Intervals
Some people are hesitant to get into HIIT because of the structured nature of HIIT sessions, with furious bursts of “work” followed by specifically timed rest periods. A popular work to rest ratio is 60 seconds of rest after 60 seconds of intense exertion, although every workout plan is different. If you’re resting too long after activity periods, your heart rate might not be getting high enough to burn fat efficiently; if you’re resting for too short a time, your reps might get sloppy and halfhearted as you struggle to keep going.
Speaking of sloppy reps, another HIIT mistake beginners and advanced gym rats alike make is incorrect form. Always study the exercises you’re doing before you attempt them or, ideally, have them demonstrated to you and supervised by a personal trainer. If you aren’t using proper form and continue pushing yourself anyway, you might be doing more harm than good.
It’s tempting to immediately jump into the most intense workouts you can with HIIT, and while this might not seem like a bad idea, it’s always good to gauge your actual stamina first. If you can’t take the stairs without gasping for breath, you might not be able to jump rope for five minutes straight, either — and that’s okay! Your HIIT plan has to work for you. Pick a high-intensity activity that you think you can manage, not one that you think will give you the best long-term results. You can always change it up as you improve.
Goldilocks was a wise woman when she sought out the middle ground of “just right.” HIIT workouts should be intense, and if you can have a normal conversation during work intervals, you’re not pushing yourself hard enough. You should be putting in maximum effort during your work intervals. Get your heart rate up and your blood pumping! You can use a heart rate monitor to help you figure out the baseline you need to seek. You should be aiming for 80 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate — aka an 8 or 9 out of 10 on an intensity scale if you don’t have a heart rate monitor.
Not Fueling Correctly
While it’s unwise to eat right before your workout as your lunch might end up all over the treadmill, you also shouldn’t exercise on an empty stomach. Most experts recommend eating a snack or small meal 1 to 3 hours before you hit the gym. Choose healthy foods with protein to keep you going. Check out these suggestions for what to eat before a HIIT workout, and don’t forget to drink water before and after your workout!
Doing HIIT Too Often
Perhaps the most harmful HIIT mistake on this list is engaging in HIIT too often. The most beneficial schedule for HIIT is 2-3 times per week, and doing it more often can cause injury and compromise your results. Recovery periods are as crucial for muscle growth as working out, so take your breaks from HIIT seriously!
Hating Your Workout
If you hate what you’re doing in the gym, you’ll dread it every time you walk through the doors or get out your dumbbells. Hating your HIIT workout is no different. HIIT is fantastic because it’s so adaptable. Dancing, weight training, swimming, boxing, martial arts, and even gymnastics can be integrated into HIIT. If your workout is a bore or a chore, change it up so that you actually look forward to going to the gym.
Avoiding these 9 common HIIT mistakes will help you get the most out of HIIT, whether you’re looking to burn fat, increase muscle tone, or just get healthier! Are you seeking HIIT classes, HIIT instruction, or workout advice? Contact Bria Method today and see how HIIT can benefit you.