HIIT DEBUNKED – High Intensity Interval Training Vs Steady State Cardio

High intensity interval training is a great exercise. In theory.

Sadly this 15 minute workout or as some even claim 7 minute workout has a little bit of downsides involved. Doesn’t mean that it’s entirely bad, but generally I recommend my clients at QualityGains.com to stick with regular low intensity cardiovascular training.

Today I’m going to show you why HIIT is in theory a very good exercise, but the way we use it, is deeply flawed.

High intensity interval training was originally used for athletes. Until the media decided to adopt it for the general population as an easy and simple solution for rather bigger problems.

In theory HIIT training should create a huge amount of caloric deficit in a rather short amount. But is this actually the case?

See how a training schedule should ideally be structured is by following this concept. Imagine training your body as backing a vegan cake:

  1. You preheat the oven
  2. You bake the cake
  3. You cool the oven down

In human anatomy terminology this should look like this:

  1. You do a warm up
  2. You do the actual exercise
  3. You do a cool down

A warm up and cool down are implemented because, next to increasing your performance, they reduce your risk of injury.

Now the higher intensity your exercise is, the longer your warm up naturally needs to be. Why? Because an higher intensity exercise creates a bigger tear, a bigger damage on your body.

By definition HIIT is a high intensity training schedule. Meaning: Your warm up needs to be quite long, as high intensity means more stress for your body.

So when in theory an HIIT session might only last about 20 minutes or so, it should implement a warm up and cool down procedure that is suitable for it’s intensity needs.

HIIT is suboptimal because in the popularized version it lacks a warm up and a cool down. In fact if you take a look at the HIIT implementation in athletes, it’s always with a quite comprehensive warm up and cool down.

I’ve never met an athlete that doesn’t have a very extensive warm up. Especially when in reality good athletes are constantly injured. They constantly battle with some sort of pain.

If you’d recommend athletes to train high intensity with no warm up that’d be really foolish.

Another downside is the whole natural of the HIIT marketing. It targets training beginners that want to lose excess pounds, completely ignoring the fact that beginners are usually not able to exert themselves close to their maximum heart rate.

A lot of beginners are trying to use high intensity interval training for fat loss, failing to realize that this cardio training is not suited to thier level.

Over time you’re learning to exert yourself in the gym because your brain is increasing the neurological structure of your muscles.

But when you’re starting out you might think you’re working hard, when in reality you are not. Matter of fact, most beginners are literally incapable of hitting the intensity requirements for the HIIT training schedule.

The chances are very high that if you’re watching this video you’re probably not at this stage yet.

The third reason I do not recommend high intensity interval training is because of it’s negative effects on your weightlifting.

And these come, funnily enough, from the concept that they use to market that cardio, called afterburn. In theory the afterburn should give you that immense amount of fat burn even after you exercise.

After burn is in science terminology called ‘excess post exercise oxygen consumption’. Now when does your body need excess oxygen? When it’s created an oxygen debt in the first place.

What an excess oxygen consumption or afterburn is actually a sign of is an insufficient performance levels that need recovery. This can impair your lifting performance and can lead to injury if you don’t get your recovery on point.

Conclusion – HIIT DEBUNKED – High Intensity Interval Training Vs Steady State Cardio

High intensity interval training is not something I’d recommend based on the three reasons outlined:

The popularized version is time efficient when it really it shouldn’t be. The warm up and cool down is completely left out.

Beginners are absolutely not capable to reach those high intensity level without proper supervision, although they may actually think that they are.

Third is that the recovery time of HIIT can negatively impact your weightlifting schedule.

Moral of the story: Choose a low intensity steady state cardio and do this after 6 hours of fasting. Aim for 30 minutes and then slowly amp it up to 60 minutes. If you’re completely physically unfit don’t worry, just go for a 30 minute walk in the beginning.

Listen to an audiobook while doing this to get used to the boredom.