Brian Cochrane, owner of 1SIX8 in Dubai shares with us the growing phenomenon of High-Intensity Interval Training [HIIT], how to make it enjoyable and using PRAMA ENERGY programming to get results for your members.
Every so often something comes around that captures the attention of the global fitness community [think Aerobics, Spinning, Cross Training] and seems to influence the entire world into a shift in how they structure their training. It can be good, bad, or fad, but there is always something very interesting about it that we can’t dismiss.
At the moment that phenomenon seems to be High-Intensity Interval Training [or HIIT, for short]. Basically put, HIIT is defined as repeated bouts of high-intensity efforts mixed with low-intensity recoveries [or complete rest]. HIIT can be done using any piece of gym equipment [or no equipment!], which is probably one of the reasons that it has become such a huge trend. Another reason for its popularity is that HIIT is very time efficient, with most HIIT workouts lasting only 20 – 45 minutes.
Probably the biggest reason [or reasons] that HIIT has become such a big HIT [- see what I did there] is the multitude of benefits that it claims can be achieved through training this way – rapid fat loss, increased cardiovascular efficiency, improved muscle tone, anti-ageing and accelerated calorie burning post-workout have all been cited as major benefits.
Seems simple, right? Well, as with all things, there is a trade-off. The key to HIIT is intensity. Each effort must be done at a certain intensity in order to guarantee the fantastic results that this style of training offers. The intensity required is generally considered to be 80% or more. That could be 80% of your 1 rep max, 80% of your max heart rate, 80% of your maximum effort in any given task, etc. This intensity can be incredibly difficult for most fitness consumers to achieve numerous times, so it is extremely important that adequate rest is programmed between efforts, with the rest being performed at 50% intensity or less – ideally, complete rest is best.
The next most important factor to consider is the length of the intervals, and how many. Most HIIT workouts program intervals lasting 30 – 90 seconds, with the recoveries being the same length, a little shorter, or sometimes longer. This is called the work: rest ratio and usually looks like this: 1:1, 1:2, 2:1, etc. The number of intervals can vary largely depending on the type of exercise and the ability/fitness level of the consumer. But in general, most HIIT sessions are comprised of anywhere between 5 and 20 intervals.
It is worth noting that HIIT is very demanding, so it should be limited to a maximum of 3-4 times per week and should be a part of a balanced training program.
Now I know what you’re thinking… sounds very scientific and precise, doesn’t it? Well, you would be right! This is one of the major drawbacks of HIIT training, by nature, it doesn’t scream FUN or enjoyment and therefore isn’t attractive to a large number of fitness consumers.
So how do we make HIIT enjoyable?
Well, HIIT training doesn’t have to be suffered in solitude. Training in groups has been shown to improve exercise adherence, improve results through competition and/or interaction, and boosts social inclusion/confidence – see later. Group training can take many forms and may be the best way to make memorable HIIT-based workouts that people will enjoy whilst still being results-based in nature.
So how do we do it? Well, one of the simplest ways to make a HIIT session enjoyable is to add an element of [friendly] competition; this can be against others in the session, or, against himself or herself, by giving specific targets or goals.
For example, to set a target or goal for individuals to compete against themselves set the timeframe for an exercise [e.g. 60 seconds] and set the target of performing a minimum number of repetitions of that exercise in the given timeframe. Simple I know, but this does two very significant things:
1. It gives a tangible target for people to aim for, meet, or exceed.
2. By default, they will work harder as they have a target and therefore will increase their intensity [hopefully over the golden 80%].
When giving the same instructions to a group, with the extra instruction to, for example, ‘see who can do the most reps’ will result in most people trying to achieve ‘the best score’ in the group and therefore interaction and competition will naturally increase. This goes a long way to make sessions more enjoyable and interactive.
Remember when you were in the schoolyard as a kid and everything was centred on games? Hopscotch, football, races, skipping, wrestling, etc. Well, those same urges still exist deep inside us as adults, so a great way to create meaningful HIIT-based sessions is to include games. Our primal desire for play can result in an extremely enjoyable experience for consumers and as a consequence, they don’t realize that they are ‘working out’ as they are so focused on the game. The challenge when including games in a HIIT based workout is to ensure that they follow the HIIT criteria set out above to ensure people ‘get what they came for’.
When you think about it, games are really just another, more primal form of competition, but the difference is that games generally ALWAYS puts a smile on people’s faces, whereas ‘exercise’… well… not so much.
These types of HIIT workouts are starting to emerge across the globe and one company who are doing a phenomenal job of capturing this market are PAVIGYM. Their immersive fitness experience PRAMA features innovative floor markings, some of which are interactive and respond to touch [games anyone?!]. The room has interactive lights that change colour on command and music that can be programmed to match the workout. Moves are projected on screens around the room so that clients can see demonstrations before they start. There is also a feature to project everyone’s heart rate onto a giant screen to ensure the appropriate intensity is being met. Instructors simply programme the work: rest ratios, choose the exercises and select their music and the advanced technology does the rest, all they then have to do is push play! Much of the exercise library that boasts over 600 moves [and is constantly growing], can be run as games and/or competitions between users.