They hurt … but oh do they hurt so good: high intensity workouts.
Sometimes, when you’re chasing speed, stamina, and results, those gentle workouts at a moderate intensity just won’t cut it. You want your workouts to hit hard, and you want them to be effective, so they need to be taken up a notch.
Cranking up the intensity on your workouts is a good way to start seeing results: the harder you work for your goals, the more likely you are to achieve them … and workouts are no different.
If you’ve been hesitating to try out HIIT or other forms of high-intensity workouts, this is for you!
What Are High Intensity Workouts?
It’s just like the name says: high intensity workouts are exercises that maximize your heart rate, get you breathing heavy, and work your body hard. Think sprinting, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), running uphill, and MMA conditioning, for example.
It’s important to note that what’s considered high-intensity for one person might not be the same as for another, so the intensity of your exercise should go off of how you feel while doing them. A couple of ways to determine the intensity of your workout:
• Heart Rate: The rate that your heart is beating is a pretty good indicator of how hard your body is having to work, making it a great clue as to how intense the workout is. If your smartwatch or cardio machine is reading your heart rate at 80% or more of your maximum heart rate, that’s a pretty high-intensity exercise.
• Breathing: If you don’t have access to a heart rate monitor, your breathing can also show you how heavy your workout is. A moderate intensity workout will make catching your breath a little harder but you’ll still able to talk normally, whereas a high-intensity workout will probably leave you gasping.
As a general rule, if you’re fighting to catch your breath, your heart is racing, and you’re kind of hating every minute of it, chances are you’re in a high intensity workout.
The Benefits of High Intensity Workouts
• They’re efficient. There are no great shortcuts for weight loss, but if you want to lose body fat and/or get shredded as effectively as possible, there are few ways to go about it as great as doing intense workouts.
Take high-intensity interval training, for example. This popular form of cardio looks to maximize your heart rate and push you to the limit, which is really good if you’re looking to lose weight.
Both moderate-intensity and high-intensity cardio are effective for burning calories, but according to one study, doing high intensity exercises like interval training was able to decrease total body fat mass by 28.5% more than moderate intensity workouts. [*] So if getting the most results out of your workout is appealing to you, make sure you’re upping the ante a couple of times a week.
• They’re great for your heart health. Exercise isn’t just about the visible results, either. Adding high intensity exercises to your training schedule is a great way to improve your stamina and endurance – and that’s going to be crucial for athletes as well as anyone who’s looking to move better and live longer.
High intensity training (like intervals) can really maximize the way your body uses oxygen, also known as your VO2 max. [*] This means that the more you do this kind of training, the more efficiently your body can circulate blood and the better it can use oxygen – which means you can maintain your physical activity for longer!
• They’ll improve your performance. If you’re an athlete, you’ll definitely want to make sure that you’re including a couple of high intensity exercises into your training schedule.
Even though weightlifting and high-volume training can increase your muscle mass and strength, high intensity workouts can improve your speed and keep you on your feet for longer, which could be the difference between a win and a loss. One study’s findings indicated that the optimal training schedule for boosting athletic performance would be 75% low-intensity and 10-15% high intensity exercises. [*]
How To Build Your Own High Intensity Workouts
The beauty of high intensity workouts is that they’re so intense that you don’t have to do it for as long as other forms of exercise. It is recommended that we get 75 minutes of this kind of vigorous activity a week, though that can be tweaked depending on the kinds of fitness goals that you have and the other workouts you do.
You’ll also want to make sure that you’re giving your body enough time to rest between high intensity training sessions. Giving yourself time to rest between workouts gives your body time to recover and repair from the stress of those intense workouts and prevent further damage, so intersperse your high intensity sessions so that they’re further apart.
As far as the workouts themselves, here’s how to approach them:
• Always look for new and difficult ways to train. High intensity means pushing yourself to the max, so you want to find ways to exercise that are going to present a new challenge for your body even as you grow stronger.
For example, as you start you can switch from running to sprinting, and then as that becomes easier for your body start sprinting uphill rather than on a flat surface. And when you get used to that, you can start increasing the speed or the angle at which you’re sprinting.
Whatever exercise you choose, make sure that you’re keeping yourself challenged and not allowing yourself to get too comfortable.
• During the workout, don’t let yourself rest too much. High intensity exercise is all about keeping your body challenged, and that can mean shortening your rest periods so that you’re continuously moving. Try doing intervals or circuit training with minimal rest between exercises so that you can really feel the burn.
•Pay attention to how your body is feeling. Listen, high intensity exercises are going to be uncomfortable – that’s just the nature of working out hard. But if you at any point feel like you’re pushing yourself past the point of exhaustion, feel lightheaded or dizzy, stop and assess the situation.
The Bottom Line
They might feel like torture in the moment, but high intensity exercises are a great way to maximize both the results of your workout. If you want to see progress, make sure you’re working hard for it!