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One on One

High-Intensity Interval
Training: Applications for
General Fitness Training
Brad Schoenfeld, CSCS1 and Jay Dawes, MS, CSCS*D, NSCA-CPT*D2
Global Fitness Services, Scarsdale, New York; and 2National Strength and Conditioning Association,
Colorado Springs, Colorado

above the lactate threshold, close to HIIT also has been shown to be
V_ O2max, and then carried out to a point superior when compared with steady-
just before the onset of volitional state training for those attempting to
fatigue. This high-intensity bout is then lose weight. While moderate-intensity
followed by a low-intensity recovery steady-state aerobic exercise (the so-
period that allows the body to buffer called fat-burning zone) results in an
and clear lactic acid from the blood, increased percentage of fat burned
thereby allowing the individual enough during a workout, total caloric expen-
time to recover and perform another diture and lipolysis (i.e., fat breakdown)
high-intensity interval.
are substantially greater in an HIIT
Paul Sorace, MS, ACSM RCEP, BENEFITS OF HIGH-INTENSITY protocol. The resulting effects on fat
CSCS*D AEROBIC INTERVAL TRAINING loss are significant. This was apparent
Column Editor Many traditional exercise training pro- in a study by Tremblay et al. (11),
grams focus on the use of steady-state
who compared 2 groups of subjects: an
aerobic activity for the purpose of
SUMMARY endurance-trained group versus an
substrate utilization. This makes sense
HIIT-trained group. Despite a signifi-
HIGH-INTENSITY AEROBIC because the longer the duration of an
activity, the greater the amount of cantly lower energy cost of the HIIT
relative percentage of calories used that workout at the end of the study (120.4
come from fat storage. However, HIIT versus 57.9 MJ), participants in the
confers several advantages over steady- HIIT group experienced a 9-fold
state aerobic training. Research indi- greater reduction in skinfold thickness.
cates that cardiovascular adaptations Several factors appear to contribute to
to exercise are intensity dependent, and this lipolytic advantage. For one, HIIT
improvements in cardiovascular func- increases the bodys potential to use
tion via HIIT may be superior when lipids as an energy substrate to a greater
TRAINING. compared with more traditional train- extent than steady-state aerobic exer-
ing protocols (6,12). HIIT has shown cise, with an increased upregulation of
greater improvements in V_ O2max, en- enzymes responsible for beta-oxidation
igh-intensity aerobic interval dothelial function, blood pressure,

H training (HIIT) is a popular

strategy for improving cardio-
respiratory fitness and health, as well as
cardiac contractility, insulin signaling,
and contraction coupling when com-
pared with moderate-intensity aerobic
(11). There also is an increased growth
hormone response attributed to HIIT,
likely mediated through the significant
reducing body fat levels. A standard exercise (5,6,10). This has important lactate accumulation associated with
HIIT protocol involves alternating implications not only for possibly this type of training (4). In addition,
bouts of both high- and low-intensity preventing the onset of cardiovascular HIIT heightens the extent of excess
exercise to increase the amount of disease but also in potentially reversing postexercise oxygen consumption (also
high-intensity work performed during the risk of certain comorbidities for known as the afterburn), which has
an acute bout of training. High-inten- those suffering from cardiac and met- been shown to be positively correlated
sity intervals are typically performed abolic disorders. with exercise intensity (1).

44 VOLUME 31 | NUMBER 6 | DECEMBER 2009 Copyright National Strength and Conditioning Association
Table ratio of 1:1 (7). These recommenda- context of his/her current fitness pro-
Thirty-minute sample HIIT tions, however, are based on athletic gram as a whole.
routine populations. For the general popula-
tion, a variety of W:R ratios can be
Interval, min RPE (scale of 110) employed in an HIIT routine. A 1:2 Brad Schoenfeld is president of
3 (warm-up) 3 W:R ratio, for instance, has been Global Fitness Services in Scarsdale,
shown to produce favorable responses New York.
4 5
that enhance both aerobic and anaer-
1 7 obic energy system development (8).
Jay Dawes is the Education Director
For those who are less fit, a 1:4 W:R
3 5 for the National Strength and Condition-
ratio would probably be more appro-
ing Association in Colorado Springs,
1 8 priate, allowing acclimation into a more
1 5
intense HIIT routine. W:R ratios can
be varied throughout the course of
1 9 a workout based on individual fitness
1 5 levels (see sample routine in the Table).
Because of the intense nature of the
1 9 1. Bahr R and Sejersted OM. Effect of
routine, those engaging in HIIT need intensity of exercise on excess postexercise
1 5 to be cognizant of the potential for O2 consumption. Metabolism 40: 836
1 9 overtraining. A study by Billat et al. (2) 841, 1991.
noted that, despite an increase in 2. Billat VL, Flechet B, and Petit B. Interval
1 5 plasma noradrenaline, performance training at V_ O2max: Effects on aerobic
1 9 variables were not altered by 4 weeks performance and overtraining markers.
of intensive training at V_ O2max. Lon- Med Sci Sports Exerc 31: 156163, 1999.
2 5 ger periods of sustained interval train- 3. Gibala MJ and McGee SL. Metabolic
ing have not been studied, however, adaptations to short-term high-intensity
1 8
interval training: A little pain for a lot of
and might increase the risk of an
3 5 gain? Exerc Sport Sci Rev 36: 5863,
overtrained state. 2008.
1 7 While HIIT has been shown to 4. Gray AB, Telford RD, and Weidemann MJ.
3 (cooldown) 3 significantly improve cardiovascular Endocrine response to intense interval
function and stimulate greater weight exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol Occup Physiol
HIIT = high-intensity aerobic interval 66: 366371, 1993.
training; RPE = rating of perceived exertion.
loss compared with traditional steady-
state aerobic training protocols, cau- 5. Haram PM, Kemi OJ, Lee SJ, Bendheim M,
tion should be exercised when using it Al-Share QY, Waldum HL, Gilligan LJ,
Finally, HIIT is a very time-efficient as a prescription for the general fitness
Koch LG, Britton SL, Najjar SM, and
form of training. As few as 6 sessions of Wislff U. Aerobic interval training vs.
population, particularly in those with continuous moderate exercise in the
HIIT over a 2-week period for a total of cardiovascular disorders. It is impor- metabolic syndrome of rats artificially
about 15 minutes of very intense tant that a solid base of cardiorespira- selected for low aerobic capacity.
exercise (equating to approximately tory fitness be established prior to Cardiovasc Res 81: 723732, 2008.
600 kJ or 143 cal) have been shown
integrating HIIT into a clients strength 6. Kemi OJ, Haram PM, Loennechen JP,
to increase skeletal muscle oxidative
and conditioning program. Osnes JB, Skomedal T, Wislff U, and
capacity and alter metabolic control Ellingsen . Moderate vs. high exercise
during aerobic-based exercise (3). And In sum, HIIT can be a time-efficient intensity: Differential effects on aerobic
7 HIIT sessions performed over 2 means to improve cardiorespiratory fitness, cardiomyocyte contractility, and
weeks significantly heightened whole fitness and reduce body fat levels over endothelial function. Cardiovasc Res
body and skeletal muscle capacity for and above what is possible through 67: 161172, 2005.

fatty acid oxidation during exercise in steady-state aerobic training. However, 7. Reuter BH and Hagerman PS. Essentials
moderately active women (9). For those given the high-intensity nature of the of Strength Training and Conditioning
protocol, HIIT may be associated with (3rd ed). Baechle T and Earle R, eds.
who have limited time to work out, this
Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2008.
makes HIIT an intriguing option. an increased potential for overtraining,
pp. 499.
especially when combined with regi-
8. Rozenek R, Funato K, Kubo J, Hoshikawa M,
PERFORMANCE ISSUES mented resistance training. It is there-
and Matsuo A. Physiological responses to
The general prescription for interval fore essential to consider the previous interval training sessions at velocities
training is to employ 3- to 5-minute training experience and abilities of the associated with V_ O2max. J Strength Cond
work bouts with a work to rest (W:R) trainee and integrate HIIT within the Res 21(1): 188192, 2007.

Strength and Conditioning Journal | 45

One on One

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