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High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) The Holy Grail Of Endurance And Cardiovascular Training

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) The Holy Grail Of Endurance And Cardiovascular Training


  Fads and gimmicks are certainly plentiful in the world of fitness and nutrition.  High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) however, is no fad or gimmick.  HIIT is the real deal, the research is conclusive and the consensus is in, HIIT will improve your cardiovascular health and performance better than any other type of training.  The research has been done by some of the world’s best exercise physiologists from some of the world’s best schools, it is not merely this author’s opinion, the superiority of this style of training is scientific fact.  These cardiovascular and endurance gains have been studied again and again over the last decade and the numbers are so convincing there is really no room for debate.  If you want your cardiovascular system function to improve, HIIT is the best way to do it, plain and simple.  There are many blood, respiratory, hormone and performance tests available to us as researchers to test for improvements and deficits in the cardiovascular system, HIIT improves them all in less time than all traditional steady state cardio training.  Let’s explore what HIIT is.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is simple.  HIIT is high effort, repeated, near maximal efforts…  High Intensity, Intervals.  This style of training can be used with any kind of cardiovascular training: Running, sprinting, skating, swimming, rowing, skiing, or any other sport with an endurance component.  This is not a type of training that is specific to any sport, it can be universally applied to any and all sports with an aerobic component.  The universality of this technique’s application is one of the reasons it is so powerful.  For the purposes of this bLog we will be using treadmill runs with full incline (15 deg).  Hill sprinting is one of the safest and most effective ways to improve lower body power and speed which is why we are using this exercise as our basis for our HIIT practical application example.  


15min HIIT on treadmill protocol:

  1.  Warm-up:  Start, with your normal pre-run stretch, mobility work and activations.
  2. Treadmill warm-up (flat, no incline):  5min at a pace you could sustain for 30min. eg 6mph (note: on most treadmills the number you select for speed is in mph)
  3. Treadmill INTERVAL 1 (change treadmill to full Incline):  30secs of high exertion sprinting.  eg 8mph
  4. REST between interval:  1min 30sec, straddle treadmill
  5. Treadmill INTERVAL 2 (treadmill full incline): 30sec high exertion sprinting. eg 8.5mph.
  6. REST between interval:  1min 30sec, straddle treadmill.
  7. Treadmill INTERVAL 3 (treadmill full incline): 30sec high exertion sprinting. eg 9mph.
  8. REST between interval:  1min 30sec, straddle treadmill.
  9. Treadmill INTERVAL 4 (treadmill full incline): 30sec high exertion sprinting. eg 9.5mph.
  10. REST between interval:  1min 30sec, straddle treadmill.
  11. Treadmill INTERVAL 5 (treadmill full incline): 30sec high exertion sprinting. eg 10mph.


The HIIT protocol should have you near max heart rate after the 5th interval (MAX HR = 220-age).  If you don’t have access to a heart rate monitor, you should feel close to a 10 out of 10 on a perceived exertion scale after the 5th interval.  In other words, this should leave you completely gassed and gasping for air at completion.  Obviously training near max heart rate is challenging, consult a heath care professional if you are unsure if this type of training is appropriate for you.  True HIIT like this should not be done more than 2x per week always separated by 48 hours for optimal recovery.  

There it is, the single best way to improve your cardiovascular health, fitness and performance.  Stuck at the same time in your 5k, 10k, 1/2 or marathon?  Give this a try for 6-8weeks and then tell me about how you crushed your personal best at your next race.  The science speaks for itself, there are far too many high quality HIIT original research articles to list here.  The measurable gains in performance, and improved health markers, are significantly better than all types of aerobic training it has been compared against in randomized control studies.  As with all my BLogs, the purpose is to give you simply applied techniques and tools from the worlds best research studies so you can be the best you possible.  If you are like me and get excited about original research papers, go to google scholar and search HIIT, you’ll find hundreds of papers all agreeing this is an extremely powerful aerobic training tool.  Go get after it.    

Be Better Than Yesterday, 

Dr. Brad Murray   

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