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How to avoid the 6 most common HIIT mistakes

1. The problem: Relying on HIIT for Muscle Growth

If your sole fitness goal is muscle gain then HIIT isn’t for you. Sure, it’s great for burning fat and adding some definition at the same time, but it’s not best for bulking. “The only reason I would ever recommend HIIT is to help somebody lose fat and build up general fitness,” says personal trainer Greg Brookes. If you’re looking to add mass, stick to big lifts and bigger meals.

If adding size is your MO then pick up a weights bar. “Bulking is best done slowly,” explains PT Danny Fisher. “Weight training will release the right hormones for bigger muscles.” Heavy weight workouts aren’t as effective as blitzing the fat, but putting more tension on your muscles will see them balloon up, whereas HIIT won’t blow as much hot air into your guns.

2. The problem: Training too long

When it comes to HIIT, less is more. “A lot of people say they’re doing a high intensity session, but if your workout is over 30 minutes then you won’t see results,” says PT Ben Camara. Slow and steady doesn’t win this race.


If intensity training is going to work then it needs to be, well, intense. Remember, 10 one-minute sprints are the equivalent of several hours of conventional cycling, according to research published in The Journal of Physiology. So make sure you cut down your sessions into tiny chunks. This should give you more time to admire your physique in the mirror too.

3. The Problem: Training too often

Since HIIT takes less than half an hour you may as well do a session every day, right? Wrong. Very wrong. “If you’ve done a HIIT workout properly then your muscles will be ripped to shreds, so recovery is crucial,” says Fisher. You really can have too much of a good thing.


If you’re tempted to cram your calendar with HIIT sessions then the solution is simple: don’t. You should be training four times a week at most, says Camara. Treat yourself and take at least one complete rest day between sessions to let your body recover and avoid injury. You’ve earned it.

4. The problem: Getting your timings wrong

HIIT burns through fat like the Human Torch in a gas leak, but only if you time it right. An intensity session after work will still raise your metabolism and burn through the calories, but you’ll mainly target all the food you eat in your sleep, which hopefully isn’t a lot.


The sooner you train, the better. Early workouts put a crosshair on your fat reserves, alongside sweeping away the calories you consume through the day. Just starting out? Eat a tiny breakfast 90 minutes beforehand to line your stomach and prevent any sickly feelings during your morning workout, says Fisher. Remember, the early bird catches the worm. And then quickly burns off that grub thanks to the powers of HIIT.

5. The problem: Doing the wrong warm-up

Failing to limber up for an intense HIIT session is a recipe for disaster. Most injuries are caused by going straight into the hard stuff and not warming up correctly, says Camara. Slow down, warm up, finish strong.


Remember your scout training: be prepared. An intense session requires getting your body ready by matching the warm-up with the workout. Mimicking the movements of your main workout at a low intensity will prime you for an effective and injury-free session, says Brookes. So, if you’re planning a sprinting HIIT session, warm-up with a light jog for 5-15 minutes. Practice makes perfect training.

6. The problem: Excessive Equipment

Getting as fit as a superhero doesn’t mean you have to splash out on a batcave full of gear. “It’s an added bonus for more complex training sessions, but you don’t need masses of equipment to see results,” says Camara. If you’re not careful then you’re wallet will shrink faster than your waist.

High Intensity training is flexible, so bend it what direction you want. Investing in some dumbbells will ensure fast results, but you can still get cobbled abs without denting your bank balance too. Hill sprints, squat thrusts – anything that ups your heart rate to 90% capacity will do the trick. Just keep it simple and HIIT will take care of the rest.

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