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The Problem with Most HIIT Workouts

By Darren Nuzzo on May 3, 2024 9:00:00 AM
3 Minutes Reading Time


Ozempic, Stanley Cups, and Beyonce trying to sing country: three wildly popular phenomena. But not too far behind in the ranks of cult followings is High-Intensity Interval Training, pronounced similar to the thing Shohei Ohtani is getting paid 700 million dollars to do… HIIT.

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has caught on due to its promise of effective workouts within a short timeframe. However, amidst the acclaim, a significant flaw often goes unnoticed: the neglect of the "interval" aspect.

At its core, HIIT revolves around alternating periods of high-intensity exercise and recovery. These "intervals" distinguish HIIT from traditional steady-state cardio by allowing maximal effort followed by brief moments of rest to restore energy levels and promote recovery. Despite its name, many HIIT enthusiasts concentrate solely on the "high-intensity" element, disregarding the second “I” entirely.

Intense exercises like medicine ball throws, sprints, and plyometric jumps are great, but their effectiveness is dependent on you performing them with maximum output. This is where people get HIIT wrong. They place too much value on the sweat and the burn that they sacrifice performance, safety, and technique. Sure, not resting will result in higher volume, but what good is ramping up production if you’re putting out a bad product? That might work for Amazon and Temu, but it has no place in fitness.

Somewhere along the line, the concept of intervals became blurred, and what started as a well-rounded workout transformed into a relentless onslaught of continuous movement. Weightlifting sessions morph into cardio marathons with little consideration for recovery and performance. The outcome? Burnout, overtraining, and a plateau in progress.

But why do we get it so wrong? HIIT's appeal lies in its promise of maximum calorie burn, leading many to believe that more is better. The pressure to push harder, move faster, and sweat profusely fosters the misconception that rest symbolizes weakness or inefficiency. This mentality couldn't be further from the truth. Neglecting rest intervals in HIIT workouts undermines the very principles that render them effective. Without adequate recovery, maintaining intensity becomes physiologically impossible. What you end up doing is training harder but training worse.

So, what's the solution? It begins with a paradigm shift. Instead of viewing rest as merely a pause between sets, it's crucial to recognize it as a fundamental component of the workout itself—an opportunity to strategically recharge, refocus, and optimize performance for the next intense bout.

Next time you do HIIT, remember that the primary goal is to perform at a high level; and remember that a workout’s effectiveness isn’t measured by how much you sweat. If it was, I’d be rolling into Gold’s dressed like Danny Zuko.

Mistakes with HIIT programs | Mind Pump

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Darren Nuzzo

Darren Nuzzo is a writer and performer from Huntington Beach, California. When he’s not authoring works of literary fiction or bombing at open mics, he returns to his roots of health and wellness, teaming up with Mind Pump to bring a new voice to the fitness industry.

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