THE BLOG
02/11/2014 12:18 pm ET Updated Apr 13, 2014

4 High-Intensity Interval Training Program Modalities

Also known as "HIIT," and seen all over the fitness industry, high-intensity interval training is known as the most effective way to train your cardiovascular systems. After an ample warm-up, think high-intensity sprints followed by recoveries that are determined based on your fitness level. The more fit you are, the longer the sprints, and sometimes the shorter the recoveries. You can achieve HIIT by simply using your target heart rate zone as a gauge, with your peak heart rate being your upper zone, and your aerobic threshold heart rate being the lower zone. Usually tested by a VO2 max test, you can find out your high and low heart rate zones. However, in the event you don't have access to a VO2 test, here is the Karvonen formula, which you can calculate now and use to determine your zone:

220-age-resting heart rate x 65 percent + resting heart rate=low zone
220-age-resting heart rate x 85 percent + resting heart rate=high zone

*Resting heart rate is taken at your carotid artery (at your neck) using your pointer and index fingers counting the beats for 30 seconds and then multiplying by two. Taking it in the AM first thing is best.

When you do HIIT, you create an oxygen debt thereby elevating your metabolism. You also improve the production of growth hormone and testosterone, which directly lowers cortisol levels, allowing your body to mobilize fat out of your cells for energy (1-4). Isn't that the goal? Steady state training, such as walking or jogging steadily, does not achieve this. Always consult your physician before starting a new exercise program.

Below are four examples of HIIT using different pieces of standard gym equipment.

Please note that a sprint takes your heart rate to 85 percent of your max, so wear a heart rate monitor to see your actual training heart rates as you exercise. During the recoveries, the goal is to bring your heart rate down towards your 65 percent zone. Be sure to use good form when performing these exercises, especially during the sprints. Each training program should last a minimum of 15 minutes, not including the warmup and cooldown.

Treadmill
Increase heart rate through speed, incline or both2014-02-08-Run.jpg

Beginner Program: Starting at an elevation of 0.5
Warm-up: minimum of 8 minutes
Sprint: 20 seconds
Recover: 1 minute
Repeat sprints for a minimum of 6 times, even if you take a longer recovery
Cool-down and stretch

Advanced Program: Starting at an elevation of 0.5-1.0
Warm-up: minimum of 5 minutes
Sprint: 30 seconds
Recover: 30 seconds
Repeat 5 times
Sprint: 1 minute
Recover: 30 seconds
Repeat 3 times
Recover a full minute and repeat these sets 2-3 times.
Cool-down and stretch

Crosstrainer/Elliptical
Increase heart rate through resistance, speed or both2014-02-08-elliptical.jpg

Warm-up 3-5 minutes
Sprint 30 seconds
Recover 10 seconds
Repeat 3 times
Recover 1 minute
Repeat for a minimum of 15 minutes
Stretch

Step-Ups
Using either a bench or a group exercise step
Increase heart rate by stepping quicker
2014-02-08-stepup.jpg

Warm up either on a smaller step or through another cardio equipment to get the hips and legs ready.
Perform 10-15 step ups on each leg
Recover 10 seconds-then other side
Do 5 sets this way
Recover 1 minute in between each set and repeat if you can
Stretch

Jumprope
Increase heart rate through speed of jumping
Warm-up either through gentle cardio or through dynamic stretching of your total body for a minimum of 5 minutes
2014-02-08-Rope.jpg

Jump for 30 seconds initially and count how many jumps you achieve in that time
Recover for 15-30 seconds
Jump again for 30 seconds and beat last time's number of jumps
Recover again 15-30 seconds
Repeat 3 times
Jump for 1 minute and count initial jumps
Recover 30 seconds
Jump for 1 minute and beat last time's jumps
Repeat 3 times
Last set should be how many jumps you can get in without stopping the rope
Aim at beating your first attempt to steady jumping for the second set
Cool-down and stretch

*Photo Credit: Chayala M.

References:

1) Bell et al. (2000). Effect of concurrent strength and endurance training on skeletal muscle properties and hormone concentrations in humans. European J or Applied Phys; 81: 418-27.

2) Roemmich, J., & Rogol, A. (1997).Exercise and growth hormone-Does one affect the other? The Journal of Pediatrics, 131 (1): S75-S80.

3) Turner et al. (1995). Effect of graded epinephrine infusion on blood lactate response to exercise. J of Applied Physiology; 79(4): 1206-11.

4) Weltman, A., Weltman, JY., Schurrer, R., Evans, WS, Veldhius, JD., et al. (1992). Endurance training amplifies the pulsatile release of Growth hormone: effects of training intensity. Journal of Applied Physiology; 72:2188-96.