Can I HIIT it?

Is there a more fashionable means of exercise currently thanHIIT? It’s a billion pound industry in itself, with celebrity backed franchises spanning the world and who-knows how many “influencers” attempting to earn a living promoting HIIT workouts promising this and that. I think it would a useful exercise to have a little look into the form of exercise and try to highlight what’s good, what’s not so good and how much HIIT can be too muchHIIT.


It may sound like I’m completely against HIIT, I’m definitely not. I even wrote an article for MensHealth on the subject a few years ago which highlighted what was happening to you physiologically when doing HIIT. It definitely has a place for improving general health and wellbeing as well as for performance, but what I have noticed is that it can be over relied upon. When I say that I mean that it is often done too much, and may even be someones only form of training. As with everything, too much can be a bad thing. I’ve seen a lot of clients over the years where HIIT is all they do, and they have unfortunately fallen for the marketing around HIIT and never really achieved the results they had been promised.


Here’s my take on the benefits, short falls and considerations:


Time efficient: no-one can deny that HIIT is a very time efficient means of exercise. High metabolic load, in a short period of time which leaves you with energy debts to pay. Leading to you paying for the session metabolically after you’ve finished eg continued calorie use to pay the debt.


Equipment: Depending on the goals of the session, you won’t need any. Making the sessions extremely accessible for everyone.


Bang for your buck: An effective way to reduce body fat whilst sustaining as much muscle mass as possible, as efforts are generally maximal.


Pain and injury: High repetitive loading over not one session, but multiple is often the issue. Despite its accessibility and lack of equipment, it’s easy to think that bodyweight means low load. When your bodyweight is movement quickly, or in a plyometric manner (bouncy movements) the load is in fact very high…. Especially on soft tissue structures like tendons.


Hormonal impact: Large adrenaline spikes, gas well as growth hormone and testosterone release are key to preserving muscle mass during HIIT.


Bone stress: When dosed appropriately, with the direction of stress in the right direction, your can help to stimulate bone growth and therefore strengthening of those bony structures. Do too much, too soon and your could well achieve the opposite and.


Session timing: If you don’t want to impact your sleep that night, consider HIIT earlier in the day. If you’re completing the session within 4 hours of bed there is a chance you will find it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep early in the night.


Programming: Depending on your goals and constraints, HIIT can usually play a useful part in your exercising week. I would recommend dosing in some strength related training, that can actually support your HIIT sessions, rather than just doing HIIT as your only means of exercise. HIIT sessions need to be dosed within the week as they take some time to recover from.


Hopefully I’ve managed to get across that I am definitely not Anti-HIIT, but that there are several considerations that you need to take into account when devising your training week. Adding diversity to your training will improve your overall physicality, keeping you healthier, stronger and more able to perform consistently higher, for longer.


Thanks for reading

Barry @barry.sigrist