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Avoid The Mistakes Of HIIT Workouts

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In the late 90’s and early 2000’s the idea of using high intensity interval training (HIIT) and the predominant way to lose body fat and improve conditioning was REALLY controversial. Low intensity steady state aerobic training had long dominated fitness as the superior fat loss and health method since the 80’s. However, more current research showed the wide array of HIIT benefits from…

-Helps improve mood and reduce depression & anxiety

-Lowers risk of some cancers

-Lowers risk of cardiovascular disease

-Increases metabolic rate and decreases body fat

-Reduction in osteoarthritis

-Can help low back pain

-Improves insulin sensitivity

-Can help reduce risks of falls (Atakan, et al. 2021)

Of course A LOT of this depends on HOW we construct our HIIT workouts. Most people assume the more gut wrenching the HIIT workout and the larger sweat angel you create the more effective the training. However, those are not great measures of success or ways to build progress in your HIIT workouts. That is why people often burn out and end up thinking HIIT workouts aren’t for them.

Rather, we should aim to maximize our HIIT workouts through good programming and progressions. What pitfalls should we avoid? Let’s check it out…

Poor Work To Rest Ratios

One of the most important aspects of HIIT workouts are the work to rest ratios. These are what make up the interval and some of the intensity of HIIT workouts. Most people assume the lower the rest time, the better the training effect. However, this is a BIG misunderstanding of how HIIT works in the first place. Imagine if you were going to sprint the length of a football field as hard as you could. If I only give you 10 seconds of rest, you might be able to run another time at maybe 90% of the effort you did the first. What do you think happens the third time? For many people, the drop off becomes more and more significant. In other words, you are actually lowering the intensity of the training by dropping the rest time too low.


Renown strength coach, Robert Dos Remedios (Coach Dos) realized this issue and why he came up with a more effective protocol he calls Metabolic Resistance Training (MRT). We begin MRT with more of a 30:30 work to rest ratio (30 seconds of work, 30 seconds of rest), this 1:1 work to rest ratio is a great starting point for many people as when have less proficiency in lifting technique, we want to build more volume of work. It also works well to build a base to develop the ability to train at higher intensities.

Once we have done 30:30 intervals for around 3 months (3 different progressions of workout programs), we build progression by decreasing the work time and increasing the rest time. This sounds like the OPPOSITE of how to perform HIIT workouts, but this allows us to train at higher intensities and still use the rather brief recovery times to enhance strength, building muscle, and losing body fat more effectively. That is why we often move to using the first 2 exercises as 20:40 intervals (20 seconds of work and 40 seconds of rest). This can eventually be taken to 15:45 intervals, but as we decrease the work time we increase the weight!

Poor Exercise Selection

When I see exercises like biceps curls, crunches, and a lot of single joint or isolated muscle exercises in HIIT workouts, I know people really don’t get it. The goal of HIIT workouts should be to use exercises that use as many muscles as possible as this will increase the intensity of the workout. You can alternate more upper and lower body dominate exercises, but you shouldn’t be focused on isolating any muscles.

Another common mistake is if people repeat very similar movements in their HIIT workouts. I see this in the kettlebell world when people perform a kettlebell swing, a clean, a high pull, and a snatch. Those are all predominately hip hinge patterns and that is a great deal of redundancy versus having more well rounded movement patterns.

stability training

You also have to be honest with yourself about where you are currently in both your fitness level and familiarity with more complex movements. We have lots of “cool” exercises in DVRT but if you can’t perform them well (for a variety of reasons) then focus on the levels of those movements you can do well. Picking the right exercises for yourself is essential in having success with HIIT workouts.

Not Balancing Your Training

We live in a world where it is typically all or nothing. So, people hear about all the great benefits of HIIT workouts and that becomes ALL they want to do. For the great amount of people, this is just too much especially depending on how often you are training and your fitness level. If you have never performed HIIT workouts before I would begin with one session a week your first 4-6 weeks, then 2 sessions the following 4-6 weeks. There are many ways to cycle the work to rest intervals too in order to help you avoid burning out.

Being balanced is key in how much we perform in the workout as well. Instead of aiming to do 4-5 rounds, aim to do around 2-3 your first time through. Use about 4-6 exercises and your total training time should be around 20-25 minutes. Even with a warm-up of 10 minutes or so, that leaves time to do some recovery work. That is where our Myofascial Integrated Movements can come in handy to help the effectiveness of the HIIT workouts by accelerating recovery. Remember, we get the results from how we recover from the training, not how much we beat ourselves up!

Using 20-25 minutes of HIIT workouts with 10-15 minutes of MIM is a great way to balance your training as well as help more effectively recover from our training. That is why it isn’t just one method that is essential for your results and why we aim to have DVRT hit ALL the aspects of great training. Try using these lessons to your HIIT workouts and see how you can maximize the benefits and avoid those common pitfalls.

Want to learn more? Don’t miss 35% off our online fitness certifications, courses, and workout programs with code “education”. That includes our MRT program with Coach Dos HERE and you can use it for our MIM programs HERE. See how DVRT can be a total system of better fitness.