The Best High-Intensity Workouts

Strength training is a great way to burn fat and build muscle. However, for some people, traditional methods are a little slow. Weightlifting and bodyweight exercises are the things that typically come to mind when people think of strength training, but these don’t always deliver the intensity some people crave. 

That’s where High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) comes in. HITT workouts aren’t new as a form of exercise, but they only began gaining traction in popular culture around 2014, when the American College of Sports Medicine included them on that year’s list of fitness trends

A HIIT workout involves short bursts of intense exercise followed by intermittent rest periods of active recovery. HITT workouts are much more condensed than other types of strength training. They last between 15 and 30 minutes, and depending on fitness level, people can complete 1 to 3 sessions per week. High-intensity interval training has become an increasingly popular option for anyone who wants the benefits of strength training coupled with the high-octane rush of exercising at maximum intensity. 

The Science Behind High-Intensity Interval Training

As far as pushing yourself and discovering your body’s limits goes, nothing quite matches the intensity of a HITT workout session. Like traditional strength training, HITT workouts can help you lose weight, build muscle, and improve mental health. 

What distinguishes a HIIT session from your average exercise routine is intensity, a major contributing factor to the science behind why HITT sessions have these added benefits:

Workout efficiency

HIIT sessions are quick, and some of the most demanding sessions may only take 20 minutes to complete. Don’t let the duration fool you, though. With around 15-second periods of rest between exercises and several minutes between circuits, you’ll do more exercise in a shorter period of time. This makes HIIT sessions one of the most efficient workout routines.  

Maximum caloric burn

Depending on your weight and fitness level, you could burn as many as double your typical post-workout calories during a HITT workout. People rarely push their limits during exercise, so their bodies often still have energy left over to exert. But since HITT requires short bursts of total, intense effort, it results in the maximum number of calories burned. 

Metabolic boost

A HITT workout jumpstarts the body’s metabolism, which often stays elevated for hours afterward. This is usually called the “afterburn effect” or Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC), a distinguishing feature of HITT sessions. 

It’s important to remember, of course, that burning maximum calories and elevating your metabolism means your body needs foods high in carbohydrates and protein, such as Muscle Mac’s Mac and Cheese variety packs.

Improved oxygen intake

The body’s ability to take in and use oxygen is called the VO2 max, a standard measure of cardiovascular fitness. Due to the high level of exertion involved, HIIT workouts can improve your body’s VO2 maximum, allowing you to endure longer and more intense physical exercise. 

Heart rate and blood pressure

HIIT sessions have an impact on both heart rate and blood pressure. Your heart rate significantly rises during a high-intensity workout, improving your resting heart rate over time. Additionally, these exercises improve cardiovascular health by lowering blood pressure. 

Remember, though, that while a HIIT workout has many benefits, it is also extremely demanding. Before embarking on your first one, know your limits, talk to a fitness expert, and start slow.  

Top High-Intensity Exercises to Try

There’s no hard and fast rule for what a HIIT workout plan should look like, and there are dozens of ways to design a session. Ultimately, HIIT is about finding your balance and pushing yourself to limits that make sense to you. 

Most high-intensity exercises belong to one of three schools of thought, each with a slightly different goal:

Tabata Training for Maximum Calorie Burn

Tabata training is a variation of HITT, often considered the most intense. Whereas most HIIT sessions call for 30 seconds of exercise followed by 15 seconds of rest. Tabata lowers the intervals to 20 and 10 seconds, respectively. 

While it might not seem like much, this lowered interval makes the session all the more intense, providing maximum caloric burn and leaving you wiped out after each session. 

Sprint Interval Training for Speed and Endurance

HIIT sprints are the best option for those focusing on speed and endurance training. After a short jog to warm up and find a baseline speed, this high-intensity exercise requires you to do a full sprint for 30 seconds, followed by four and a half minutes of jogging, back and forth. By blending aerobic and anaerobic exercise, HITT sprints can provide the best of both worlds.

Bodyweight Circuits for Functional Strength

Bodyweight circuits are the most common type of HIIT training and are perfect for improving functional strength. These workouts require completing a circuit of 4 to 10 bodyweight exercises. After a few minutes of recovery, you will return to the starting position and complete the circuit again. Most HIIT bodyweight sessions require you to complete a circuit 3 to 4 times. 

Optimize Recovery and Nutrition for High-Intensity Workouts

For strength training to be effective and produce the best results, diet and rest are very important. Understanding the roles of rest and nutrition in high-intensity exercises will help you optimize recovery and get the most out of your HITT sessions.

The Importance of Proper Recovery

  • Your muscles and tissues need to repair and heal before the next workout.
  • Taking time off prevents you from making the mistake of overtraining. 
  • Adequate recovery dramatically reduces the risk of injury.
  • Taking physical breaks from exercise also helps you mentally recover.

Fueling Your Body With High-Quality Nutrition

In addition to rest, what you eat makes all the difference. Ensuring your diet has plenty of nutrients to provide energy and help you recover is critical. Foods high in lean proteins and complex carbohydrates—such as Muscle Mac’s White Cheddar Mac and Cheese—are vital, as these nutrients directly correlate with muscle growth and repair.

How Muscle Mac Can Support Your High-Intensity Routine

A high-intensity workout routine is only sustainable with proper nutritional support. Luckily, Muscle Mac’s various Macaroni and Cheese products are packed with ingredients to support your high-intensity workouts and still have the taste and texture of a delicious meal. Made with GMO-free pasta, 20 grams of natural proteins, and real cheese, each meal has an authentic Mac and Cheese flavor that delivers long-lasting energy and promotes muscle growth. 

For the perfect addition to a diet tailored for HIIT workouts, try Muscle Mac today.