High-intensity interval training

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This article is about the cardiovascular exercise made popular in the 2010s. For the 1970s weight training, see High intensity training.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT), also called high-intensity intermittent exercise (HIIE) or sprint interval training (SIT), is an enhanced form of interval training, an exercise strategy alternating short periods of intense anaerobic exercise with less-intense recovery periods. HIIT is a form of cardiovascular exercise. Usual HIIT sessions may vary from 4–30 minutes. These short, intense workouts provide improved athletic capacity and condition, improved glucose metabolism, and improved fat burning.[1][2][3] Compared with other regimens, HIIT may not be as effective for treating hyperlipidemia and obesity, or improving muscle and bone mass.[4] Researchers also note that HIIT requires "an extremely high level of subject motivation," and question whether the general population could safely or practically tolerate the extreme nature of the exercise regimen.[5]


High-intensity interval training can describe an exercise session composed entirely of HIIT techniques, or as a component of an exercise plan. HIIT exercise sessions generally consist of a warm up period, then several repetitions of high intensity exercise separated by medium intensity exercise for recovery, then a cool down period. The high intensity exercise should be done at near maximum intensity. The medium exercise should be about 50% intensity. The number of repetitions and length of each depends on the exercise, but may be as little as three repetitions with just 20 seconds of intense exercise.[citation needed] The specific exercises performed during the high-intensity portions vary.

There is no specific formula to HIIT. Depending on one's level of cardiovascular development, the moderate-level intensity can be as slow as walking.[6] A common formula involves a 2:1 ratio of work to recovery periods, for example, 30–40 seconds of hard sprinting alternated with 15–20 seconds of jogging or walking.

The entire HIIT session may last between four and thirty minutes, meaning that it is considered to be an excellent way to maximize a workout that is limited on time.[7] Use of a clock or timer is recommended to keep accurate times, number of rounds and intensity.

Peter Coe regimen[edit]

A type of high-intensity interval training with short recovery periods was used in the 1970s by the athletics coach Peter Coe when setting sessions for his son Sebastian Coe. Inspired by the principles propounded by the German coach and university professor Woldemar Gerschler and the Swedish physiologist Per-Olof Åstrand, Coe set sessions involving repeated fast 200 metre runs with only 30 seconds recovery between each fast run.[8]

Tabata regimen[edit]

A version of HIIT was based on a 1996 study[9] by Professor Izumi Tabata (田畑泉) et al. initially involving Olympic speedskaters.[10] The study used 20 seconds of ultra-intense exercise (at an intensity of about 170% of VO2max) followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated continuously for 4 minutes (8 cycles). The exercise was performed on a mechanically braked cycle ergometer. Tabata called this the IE1 protocol.[11] In the original study, athletes using this method trained 4 times per week, plus another day of steady-state training, and obtained gains similar to a group of athletes who did steady state training (70% VO2max) 5 times per week. The steady state group had a higher VO2max at the end (from 52 to 57 mL/(kg•min)), but the Tabata group had started lower and gained more overall (from 48 to 55 mL/(kg•min)). Also, only the Tabata group had gained anaerobic capacity benefits. It is important to note that in the original study from 1996, participants were disqualified if they could not keep a steady cycling pace of 85RPM for the full 20 seconds of work.

In popular culture, "Tabata training" has now come to refer to a wide variety of HIIT protocols and exercise regimens that may or may not have similar benefits to those found in Tabata's original study.

Gibala regimen[edit]

Professor Martin Gibala and his team at McMaster University in Canada have been researching high-intensity exercise for several years. Their 2009 study on students[12] uses 3 minutes for warming up, then 60 seconds of intense exercise (at 95% of VO2max) followed by 75 seconds of rest, repeated for 8–12 cycles (sometimes referred to as "The Little Method"). Subjects using this method trained 3 times per week obtained gains similar to what would be expected from subjects who did steady state (50–70% VO2max) training five times per week. While still a demanding form of training, this exercise protocol could be used by the general public with nothing more than an average exercise bike.

Gibala's group published a less intense version of their regimen in a 2011 paper in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. This was intended as a gentler option for sedentary people who had done no exercise for over a year. It included 3 minutes of warm-up, 10 repetitions of 60-second bursts at 60% peak power (80- 95% of heart rate reserve) each followed by 60 seconds of recovery, and then a 5-minute cool-down.[13][14]

Timmons regimen[edit]

Jamie Timmons, professor of systems biology at the University of Loughborough, is a proponent of a few short bursts of flat-out intensity. In a BBC Horizon programme in February 2012, he put Michael Mosley on an exercise bike regimen consisting of three sets of about 2 minutes of gentle pedalling followed by 20 second bursts of cycling at maximum effort. This was done three times a week for a total of 21 minutes of exercise per week (3 minutes of intense exercise), plus warm-up and recovery time. Measurable health benefits were reported, including significantly improved insulin sensitivity.[14]

Benefits and limitations[edit]

Aerobic effects[edit]

Studies by Tabata,[9] Tremblay[15] and others have explored the effectiveness of this method compared to traditional endurance training methods. A 2008 study by Gibala et al.[16] demonstrated 2.5 hours of sprint interval training produced similar biochemical muscle changes to 10.5 hours of endurance training and similar endurance performance benefits. According to a study by King,[17] HIIT increases the resting metabolic rate (RMR) for the following 24 hours due to excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, and may improve maximal oxygen consumption (VO2 max) more effectively than doing only traditional, long aerobic workouts.[18][19][20][21] Tabata's 1997 study concluded that "intermittent exercise defined by the IE1 protocol may tax both the anaerobic and aerobic energy releasing systems almost maximally."[11] Around 20% of participants in Timmons' 2010 study showed less than 5% improvement in aerobic capacity.[22] Conversely, about 20% of participants were described as "high-responders".[14] A complex mixture of genes are involved, but differences in 11 single-nucleotide polymorphisms alone could predict 23% of the total variance in VO2max.[22] Timmons was able to demonstrate that about half of the responsiveness of aerobic capacity to HIIT was genetically determined.[22]

High-intensity interval training has also been shown to improve athletic performance. For already well-trained athletes, improvements in performance become difficult to attain; increases in training volume may yield no improvements. Previous research would suggest that, for athletes who are already well-trained, improvements in endurance performance can be achieved through high-intensity interval training. A 2009 study by Driller and co-workers[23] showed an 8.2 second improvement in 2000m rowing time following 4 weeks of HIIT in well-trained rowers. This equates to a significant 2% improvement after just 7 interval-training sessions. The interval-training used by Driller and colleagues involved eight 2.5 minute work bouts at 90% of vVO2max, separated by individualized recovery intervals.

Metabolic effects[edit]

Long aerobic workouts have been promoted as the best method to reduce fat, as it is popularly believed that fatty acid utilization usually occurs after at least 30 minutes of training.[citation needed] HIIT is somewhat counterintuitive in this regard, but some studies have shown HIIT to burn fat more effectively.[15][24] There may be a number of factors that contribute to this, including an increase in resting metabolic rate.

Other studies provide conflicting evidence about the effect of interval training on fat burning. In one study of participants who were obese and sedentary, researchers compared the benefits and results of sustained cardiovascular exercise at the moderate intensity thought optimal for fat oxidation with an interval training program where participants alternated between 5 minutes at 20% less than the optimal fat oxidation level and 5 minutes at 20% more than the optimal fat oxidation level. They found the sustained moderate intensity workouts were more effective in burning fat: "A continuous exercise training protocol that can elicit high rates of fat oxidation increases the contribution of fat to substrate oxidation during exercise and can significantly increase insulin sensitivity compared with a eucaloric interval protocol."[25][dubious ] In a study comparing HIIT, continuous training, and strength training by Nybo et al., HIIT was shown to be less effective for treating hyperlipidemia and obesity.[4]

HIIT also significantly lowers insulin resistance and causes skeletal muscle adaptations that result in enhanced skeletal muscle fat oxidation and improved glucose tolerance.[24] Timmons' group showed that two weeks of HIIT can substantially improve insulin action in young healthy men.[14][26] Gibala's group reported a 35% increase in both insulin sensitivity and muscle oxidative capacity among seven sedentary people after two weeks on the lower-intensity regimen outlined above.[13] Timmons believes that this response is because HIIT uses 80% of muscles in the body, compared to 40% for gentle jogging and cycling.[14] In young women, HIIT three times per week for 15 weeks compared to the same frequency of steady state exercise (SSE) was associated with significant reductions in total body fat, subcutaneous leg and trunk fat and insulin resistance.[27]

Cardiovascular disease[edit]

A 2011 study by Buchan et al. assessing the effect of HIIT on cardiovascular disease markers in adolescents reported that "brief, intense exercise is a time efficient means for improving CVD risk factors in adolescents".[28] A meta-analysis by Weston et al. (2013) has identified that HIIT has more physiological benefits than moderate intensity continuous training (MICT) in patients with lifestyle-induced chronic disease. Indeed, the improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness after HIIT are almost double that of MICT.[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Perry, Christopher G.R.; Heigenhauser, George J.F.; Bonen, Arend; Spriet, Lawrence L. (2008). "High-intensity aerobic interval training increases fat and carbohydrate metabolic capacities in human skeletal muscle". Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism 33 (6): 1112–23. doi:10.1139/h08-097. PMID 19088769. 
  2. ^ Laursen, Paul B.; Jenkins, David G. (2002). "The Scientific Basis for High-Intensity Interval Training". Sports Medicine 32 (1): 53–73. doi:10.2165/00007256-200232010-00003. PMID 11772161. 
  3. ^ Talanian, J. L.; Galloway, S. D. R.; Heigenhauser, G. J. F.; Bonen, A.; Spriet, L. L. (2006). "Two weeks of high-intensity aerobic interval training increases the capacity for fat oxidation during exercise in women". Journal of Applied Physiology 102 (4): 1439–47. doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.01098.2006. PMID 17170203. 
  4. ^ a b Nybo, Lars; Sundstrip, Emil; Jacobsen, Markus D.; Mohr, Magni; Hornstrup, Therese; Simonsen, Lene; Bulow, Jens; Randers, Morten B.; Nielsen, Jens J.; Aagaard, Per; Krustrup, Peter (2010). "High-Intensity Training versus Traditional Exercise Interventions for Promoting Health". Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: 1951–1958. doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181d99203. 
  5. ^ Gibala, Martin J. (2007). "High-intensity Interval Training: A Time-efficient Strategy for Health Promotion?". Current Sports Medicine Reports 6: 211–213. 
  6. ^ "High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): The Ultimate Fat Incinerator". 
  7. ^ Van Dusen, Allison (October 20, 2008). "Ten ways to get more from your workout". Forbes. Retrieved December 14, 2008. 
  8. ^ Coe, Sebastian (2013). Running My Life. Hodder. pp. 38, 39. ISBN 978-1-444-73253-5. 
  9. ^ a b Tabata, Izumi; Nishimura, Kouji; Kouzaki, Motoki; Hirai, Yuusuke; Ogita, Futoshi; Miyachi, Motohiko; Yamamoto, Kaoru (1996). "Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max". Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 28 (10): 1327–30. doi:10.1097/00005768-199610000-00018. PMID 8897392. 
  10. ^ "Interview with the founder of the world-renowned Tabata Protocol". Ritsumeikan University. Retrieved 30 January 2013. 
  11. ^ a b Tabata, Izumi; Irisawa, Kouichi; Kouzaki, Motoki; Nishimura, Kouji; Ogita, Futoshi; Miyachi, Motohiko (1997). "Metabolic profile of high intensity intermittent exercises". Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 29 (3): 390–5. doi:10.1097/00005768-199703000-00015. PMID 9139179. 
  12. ^ Little, J. P.; Safdar, A.; Wilkin, G. P.; Tarnopolsky, M. A.; Gibala, M. J. (2010). "A practical model of low-volume high-intensity interval training induces mitochondrial biogenesis in human skeletal muscle: Potential mechanisms". The Journal of Physiology 588 (6): 1011–22. doi:10.1113/jphysiol.2009.181743. PMC 2849965. PMID 20100740. 
  13. ^ a b Hood, Melanie S.; Little, Jonathan P.; Tarnopolsky, Mark A.; Myslik, Frank; Gibala, Martin J. (2011). "Low-Volume Interval Training Improves Muscle Oxidative Capacity in Sedentary Adults". Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 43 (10): 1849–56. doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e3182199834. PMID 21448086. 
  14. ^ a b c d e Paddock, Catharine (6 March 2012). "How To Get Fit With 3 Minutes Of Exercise A Week: BBC Doc Tries "HIT"". Medical News Today. 
  15. ^ a b Tremblay, Angelo; Simoneau, Jean-Aimé; Bouchard, Claude (1994). "Impact of exercise intensity on body fatness and skeletal muscle metabolism". Metabolism 43 (7): 814–8. doi:10.1016/0026-0495(94)90259-3. PMID 8028502. 
  16. ^ Gibala, M. J.; Little, J. P.; Van Essen, M.; Wilkin, G. P.; Burgomaster, K. A.; Safdar, A.; Raha, S.; Tarnopolsky, M. A. (2006). "Short-term sprint interval versus traditional endurance training: Similar initial adaptations in human skeletal muscle and exercise performance". The Journal of Physiology 575 (3): 901–11. doi:10.1113/jphysiol.2006.112094. PMC 1995688. PMID 16825308. 
  17. ^ King, Jeffrey W. A Comparison of the Effects of Interval Training vs. Continuous Training on Weight Loss and Body Composition in Obese Pre-Menopausal Women (PDF) (M.A. thesis). East Tennessee State University. [page needed]
  18. ^ Smith, Timothy P.; Coombes, Jeff S.; Geraghty, Dominic P. (2003). "Optimising high-intensity treadmill training using the running speed at maximal O2 uptake and the time for which this can be maintained". European Journal of Applied Physiology 89 (3): 337–43. doi:10.1007/s00421-003-0806-6. PMID 12736843. 
  19. ^ Rozenek, Ralph; Funato, Kazuo; Kubo, Junjiro; Hoshikawa, Masako; Matsuo, Akifumi (2007). "Physiological responses to interval training sessions at velocities associated with Vo2max". The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 21 (1): 188–92. doi:10.1519/R-19325.1. PMID 17313282. 
  20. ^ Helgerud, Jan; Høydal, Kjetill; Wang, Eivind; Karlsen, Trine; Berg, Pålr; Bjerkaas, Marius; Simonsen, Thomas; Helgesen, Cecilies; Hjorth, Ninal; Bach, Ragnhild; Hoff, Jan (2007). "Aerobic High-Intensity Intervals Improve VO2max More Than Moderate Training". Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 39 (4): 665–71. doi:10.1249/mss.0b013e3180304570. PMID 17414804. 
  21. ^ Esfarjani, Fahimeh; Laursen, Paul B. (2007). "Manipulating high-intensity interval training: Effects on , the lactate threshold and 3000m running performance in moderately trained males". Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport 10 (1): 27–35. doi:10.1016/j.jsams.2006.05.014. PMID 16876479. 
  22. ^ a b c Timmons, James A.; Knudsen, Steen; Rankinen, Tuomo; Koch, Lauren G.; Sarzynski, Mark; Jensen, Thomas; Keller, Pernille; Scheele, Camilla; Vollaard, Niels B. J.; Nielsen, Søren; Åkerström, Thorbjörn; MacDougald, Ormond A.; Jansson, Eva; Greenhaff, Paul L.; Tarnopolsky, Mark A.; van Loon, Luc J. C.; Pedersen, Bente K.; Sundberg, Carl Johan; Wahlestedt, Claes; Britton, Steven L.; Bouchard, Claude (2010). "Using molecular classification to predict gains in maximal aerobic capacity following endurance exercise training in humans". Journal of Applied Physiology 108 (6): 1487–96. doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.01295.2009. PMID 20133430. 
  23. ^ Driller, Matthew; Fell, James; Gregory, John; Shing, Cecilia; Williams, Andrew (2009). "The effects of high-intensity interval training in well-trained rowers". International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance 4: 1. 
  24. ^ a b Boutcher, Stephen H. (2011). "High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss". Journal of Obesity 2011: 1–10. doi:10.1155/2011/868305. 
  25. ^ Venables, M. C.; Jeukendrup, A. E. (2008). "Endurance training and obesity: Effect on substrate metabolism and insulin sensitivity". Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 40 (3): 495–502. doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e31815f256f. PMID 18379212. 
  26. ^ Babraj, John A; Vollaard, Niels BJ; Keast, Cameron; Guppy, Fergus M; Cottrell, Greg; Timmons, James A (2009). "Extremely short duration high intensity interval training substantially improves insulin action in young healthy males". BMC Endocrine Disorders 9: 3. doi:10.1186/1472-6823-9-3. PMC 2640399. PMID 19175906. 
  27. ^ Trapp, E G; Chisholm, D J; Freund, J; Boutcher, S H (2008). "The effects of high-intensity intermittent exercise training on fat loss and fasting insulin levels of young women". International Journal of Obesity 32 (4): 684–91. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0803781. PMID 18197184. 
  28. ^ Buchan, Duncan S.; Ollis, Stewart; Young, John D.; Thomas, Non E.; Cooper, Stephen-Mark; Tong, Tom K.; Nie, Jinlei; Malina, Robert M.; Baker, Julien S (2011). "The effects of time and intensity of exercise on novel and established markers of CVD in adolescent youth". American Journal of Human Biology 23 (4): 517–26. doi:10.1002/ajhb.21166. PMID 21465614. 
  29. ^ Weston, KS; Wisloff, U; Coombes, JS (October 21, 2013). "High-intensity interval training in patients with lifestyle-induced cardiometabolic disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis". British Journal of Sports Medicine 48 (16): 1227–1234. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2013-092576. 

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