5 Mistakes During HIIT Workouts

5 Mistakes During HIIT Workouts


HIIT exercise or High Intensity Interval Training is simply repetitions of high-intensity exercise for a specific number or duration broken up with low to medium intensity recovery periods. HIIT workouts are all the rage these days, and many gyms have started to do HIIT specific classes. Whether you are planning to start your first go at a HIIT class, or you’ve been doing them for a while on your own, below are some tips to make sure you are doing things in the correct manner.


1. Do not stop completely during your recovery period...that is not HIIT.


You must continue a low to medium intensity movement in order for optimal caloric burn expenditure. By stopping completely you decrease the caloric burn potential, and also allow too much oxygen re-uptake which in turn allows your body to stay aerobic. Obviously, for the sake of safety if you feel exhausted, light-headed, dehydrated, you should stop immediately. However, overtime you should begin to understand both your high and low zones and keep track of your heart rate in order to not have the issue of over exertion.


2. The term "high intensity" is person specific so find your zones

The general rule of thumb however for heart rate in high intensity is 220 - Age X .80, .85. or .90. However, this varies among different level of athletes and different ages. 

The rest intervals should be somewhere around 220 - Age X .65. Again, this varies on your cardiovascular and fitness level. Whatever your zones are, find them out prior to jumping into a HIIT class and use a HR monitor (apple watch, etc) to track this in order to stay as close as possible. If you do not own an electronic that can keep your heart rate, you can learn overtime to assess your breathing and respiration as you get a better sense of your body’s limitations.

You can also take your own pulse. Just place two fingers between the bone and the tendon over your radial artery, which is located on the thumb side of your wrist. When you feel your pulse, count the number of beats in 15 seconds. Multiply this number by four to calculate your beats per minute.


3. Use compound movements as much as possible


Compound movement are simply exercises that use multiple muscle groups and/or sections of the body ( i.e. upper body, lower body, core) together in the same movement. This pushes your body to expend more energy, and subsequently gets your heart rate into the high intensity zones faster. Using isolated movements (i.e. a shoulder press) will not get you into a high heart rate zone as fast as using a compound movement (squat to shoulder press). 

Hopefully, your instructor is creative enough to give you these movements. If you are doing this on your own, think about combining any lower body movement with an upper body movement. For example:

(Using Dumbbells)

Lower Body: forward lunges, reverse lunges, narrow stance squats, sumo squats.

Upper Body: shoulder press, bicep curls, high pulls, lateral raises


Giving you 4 lower body and 4 upper body exercises gives you 16 unique compound movement exercises. That is just scratching the surface as there are endless combinations when integrating fitness tools and toys as a variable into that equation.


4. Change your movements or stations in your HIIT class routinely


Your body eventually adapts to the stress you put on it. You become efficient at the movements you do often, and although that is good for sports (i.e. swinging a golf club), efficiency has the less than desirable effect in fitness of using less energy to complete the movement. You have to challenge all muscles, and you have to continue to do so through muscle confusion in order to burn more. 


You will inevitably find movements you like more, or are better suited to do. However, you must challenge yourself by doing the movements that are more difficult for you. Also, if given option from your instructor choose the movements that are new over the movements that you’re comfortable with.


5. Don't compare how long your HIIT workout is to your other workouts


What people do not notice is the short intense workouts produce a high level of EPOC. EPOC is Excess Post-Exercise oxygen consumption - (Many refer to this as the "After Burn"). Typically, the more intense a workout is the higher the EPOC. This allows for people to work in short intermittent bursts yet feel the effects of caloric burn for hours after as the body recovers and tries to restore homeostasis. 

It is normal to assess the HIIT routine, and wonder how a potential 30 minute workout is better suited for caloric burn than 45-60 min on the elliptical. You have to trust the metabolic and physiologic science that backs this exercise medium as being effective. When it comes to caloric burn, it’s not all about the duration, it’s also about the intensity.