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Part 2--High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) from Mike Boyle

Posted on Wed, 23 Feb 2011 02:07:00 -08:00

Part 2--High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) from Mike Boyle

Part 2--High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) from Mike Boyle

Mike Boyle, one of the foremost experts in the fields of strength and conditioning, performance enhancement and general fitness, picks up where he left off last week in Part 1 of this series on high intensity interval training. If you want to take your fitness and fat loss to the next level—without spending more time in the gym—then high intensity interval training (also known as HIIT) could be exactly what you're looking for. Continue reading as Mike delves into two familiar interval training methods, work to rest and heart rate.

Work to Rest Method

There are two primary ways to perform interval training. The first is the conventional work to rest method. This is the tried and true method with which most people are familiar. The work to rest method uses a set time interval for the work period and a set time interval for the rest period. Ratios are determined, and the athlete or client rests for generally one, two or three times the length of the work interval before repeating the next bout. The big drawback to the work to rest method is that time is arbitrary. We have no idea what is actually happening inside the body. We simply guess. In fact, for many years, we have always guessed as we had no other "measuring stick."

Heart Rate Method

With the mass production of low cost heart rate monitors, we are no longer required to guess. The future of interval training lies with accurate, low cost heart rate monitors. We are no longer looking at time as a measure of recovery, as we formerly did in our rest to work ratios. We are now looking at physiology. What is important to understand is that heart rate and intensity are closely related. Although heart rate is not a direct and flawless measure of either intensity or recovery status, it is far better than simply choosing a time interval to rest.

To use the heart rate method, simply choose an appropriate recovery heart rate. In our case, we use 60 percent of theoretical max heart rate. After a work interval of a predetermined time or distance is completed, the recovery is simply set by the time it takes to return to the recovery heart rate. When using HR response, the whole picture changes. Initial recovery in well conditioned athletes and clients is often rapid and shorter than initially thought. In fact, rest to work ratios may be less than 1:1 in the initial few intervals. An example of a sample workout using the heart rate method for a well conditioned athlete or client is shown below.

  • Interval 1 - Work 60 sec, rest 45 sec
  • Interval 2 - Work 60 sec, rest 60 sec
  • Interval 3 - Work 60 sec, rest 75 sec
  • Interval 4 - Work 60 sec, rest 90 sec

In a conventional 2:1 time based program, the rest period would have been too long for the first three intervals, rendering them potentially less effective. The reverse may be true in a de-conditioned athlete or client. I have seen young, de-conditioned athletes need rest up to eight times as long as the work interval. In fact, we have seen athletes who need two minutes rest after a 15 second interval. In the heart rate method, the rest times gradually get longer. The first interval is 1:.75 while the last is 1:1.5.

In Part 3 of this series, Mike looks at traditional methods of measuring heart rate and then examines the efficacy of performing interval training on various pieces of cardio equipment (treadmill, stationary bike, etc). Stay tuned!

Mike Boyle is co-owner and content editor for, one of the world’s leading resources for performance enhancement information. He is Strength and Conditioning Coach with the US Gold Medal Olympic Teams in Women’s Soccer and Women’s Hockey and also for the Ice Hockey team at Boston University. The author of Functional Training for Sports and Designing Strength Training Programs and Facilities, Mike has appeared in well as over 20 instructional DVDs. He currently owns and operates Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning, one of the nation’s first and most successful private strength and conditioning companies.

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