4 Keys To High Intensity Training & Why It Gets Great Results!


To stay in shape we often think that we need to go to the gym and work out for an hour.  Do you know where this initial concept came from?  Who decided that exercise needed to be one hour long?  It is from the old school gym owners who were paying their trainers by the hour.  Teach a class for an hour.  Train your client for an hour.  But we don’t need to workout for an hour to get great results!!  And research has proved this to be true.  The key is HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and HICT (High Intensity Circuit Training).

The initial pioneers in HIIT training were Irisawa Koichi and Izumi Tabata. They were coaches of the Japanese Olympic Speed Skating team in the 1990s and were using an unusual training technique of short bursts with even shorter rest periods. It was reported that this method not only increased short term explosive strength but also long term endurance. They found a 4-minute high-intensity interval workout to be similarly effective as a 60-minute moderate-intensity workout.  And the HIIT revolution began…

Dr. Martin Gibala, a physiologist at Canada’s McMaster University is a leading researcher on HIIT training.  I watched an interview with Martin Gabala and he related HIIT training to being similar to the way children play.  Kids don’t jog around at a steady state.  They sprint and jump and skip and stop and then do it again.  Go to any playground and you can see it’s true.  He said that perhaps this is why it is so good for us and why we “enjoy” it — because it is natural.  It’s innate to being human.

In one of his many studies, Dr Martin Gibala and his team found that three-minute intervals on a stationary bike – 30 seconds of intense pedalling followed by a brief rest, repeated five or six times – led to the same muscle-cell adaptations as a bike ride lasting much longer, an hour and a half to two hours. 

Just 3 minutes of exercise led to the same muscle-cell adaptations as a workout that lasted over an hour!!!  What??!!  That’s incredible!!

Dr. Gibala’s group also reported that HIIT worked better for fat-burning than conventional aerobics. Participants in this study were divided into two teams. One did 20 weeks of conventional aerobics while the other did 15 weeks of HIIT. The first group burned 48 percent more calories per session than the HIIT group, but

Those in the HIIT group burned 900 percent more fat over the 15 weeks than the first group burned in 20 weeks.  What!?!  900% more fat burned!!!  Did you read that?!  AMAZING!! 

This goes to show that the EPOC (exercise post-oxygen consumption) is huge AFTER your workout.  Your metabolism is on fire for hours after an intense HIIT workout.

In Dr. Gibala’s latest study, they looked at the benefits of adding a single minute (3 bouts of 20 seconds) of intense cycling within a 10-minute workout, three times a week.  They compared the results to a 45 minute steady state cycling workout.  By the end of the study, the endurance group had ridden 27 hours and the HIIT group had ridden for only 6 hours.  Remarkably the scientists found that the exercisers showed virtually identical gains, whether they had completed the long endurance workouts or the short, grueling intervals. 

This shows that even just one minute of High Intense Training can sky-rocket your results!!

In an article in the American College of Sports’ Medicine Journal’s May 2013 issue, performance coach Brett Klika and exercise physiologist Chris Jordan described how you can cram a combination of aerobic exercise and resistance training into seven minutes using your body weight instead of machines or free weights. The only piece of equipment you need for this High Intensity Circuit Training (HICT) is a chair (to step up on).  The key is the intensity.  Chris Jones suggests maintaining level 8 on the Borg Scale of perceived intensity.  He describes the workout as feeling “unpleasant”.  But the bonus is you can workout in a short time – and boom!  You’re done!

The Borg Scale is the level of perceived exertion that you experience during your workouts.  For HIIT and HICT you need to keep it high and have little rest in order to see the maximum results.  I found a very cute Borg Scale on the internet for you that has relatable emojis 🙂

Emoji Borg Scale

Here are 4 elements that should be included in your HICT (High Intensity Circuit Training) workout to optimize your results:

  1. Aerobic AND Resistance exercises:  You need to include exercises that increase your heart rate (aerobic exercises) and exercises that increase muscular strength (resistance – through body weight or bands or dumbbells).
  2. High Intensity: You need to push yourself hard and use maximum effort in order to gain the results from this style of training.  Otherwise you are just doing moderate exercise and you will need to workout for a longer time in order to get the same kind of physical gains.
  3. Exercise Order: To help you workout as hard as you can you should alternate the muscle groups you are using in your workout.  So lower body then upper body and that will give your muscles a little time to recover.  This also increases the use of fast twitch muscle fibres instead of slow twitch…but that is a lesson for another time 🙂
  4. Minimize Rest:  Having a negative amount of rest (i.e. you are working out for a longer interval than you are resting) maintains the intensity of this style of exercise and this is what gives the results.



Enjoy! Natasha


Martin J. Gibala, “High-intensity Interval Training: A Time-efficient Strategy for Health Promotion” Canada Current Sports Medicine Reports 2007,
Andrew Weil, M.D. “A Workout in Four Minutes”, http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART03459/High-Intensity-Interval-Training-A-Workout-in-4-Minutes.html
Gretchen Reynolds, “The Scientific Seven-Minute Workout,” The New York Times, accessed September 9, 2013, http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/09/the-scientific-7-minute-workout/
Gretchen Reynolds, “1 Minute Of All-Out Exercise May Have Benefits of 45 Minutes of Moderate Exertion,” April 27, 2016, http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/04/27/1-minute-of-all-out-exercise-may-equal-45-minutes-of-moderate-exertion/
PubMed, “Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and VO2max.” October 28, 1996, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8897392

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