Samara Donald is: The Gym Coach

Make the most of your workout!

It’s about Intensity (Part 2)

Let me tell you a secret. I. Hate. Cardio. If you know me at all, that’s not really a secret. But many people I meet through my blog, twitter, or facebook page are surprised to learn that I don’t do much cardio at all. And, when I’m publishing a workout, I rarely recommend more than 30 minutes of cardio – usually closer to 20.

In my last post, I talked about intensity as it pertains to weight training, which in summary to lift in a slow and controlled way, focusing on intense muscle contraction both in the concentric (lift) and eccentric (release) phases of the exercise.

So how does intensity pertain to cardio? And how does it allow you to do only 20-30 minutes yet still see killer results? I got one word for you: HIIT (ok it’s an acronym but hey.. this whole blog is about efficiency!!)

HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) – sometimes called HIIE (High Intensity Intermittent Exercise) is used by almost every celebrity trainer out there today, and for good reason. In the past decade or so, studies on HIIT have shown that shorter, more intense workouts including short, intense anaerobic periods (near maximum heart rate), combined with aerobic (moderate heart rate) rest periods, burns more fat and calories than longer period aerobic training (e.g. cycling, jogging, running, cardio classes) where you are operating at a consistent moderate heart rate.

There are many different ways to do HIIT:

  1. Tabata Method: One of the more popular methods is called Tabata, Traditional tabata method uses 20 second high intensity periods with 10 second rest, repeated 8 times total. The workout takes 4 minutes to complete,  but should (as all workouts) follow a warm up and allow time for cool down and stretching following.
  2. The Little method is similar to Tabata, but uses 60 second HII’s with 75 second rest.
  3. Pop workouts such as Insanity from Beachbody uses “Max interval training” which, similarly to Tabata, uses longer high intensity periods followed by shorter recovery periods.

I also have published some HIIT workouts on my blog here:


Can everyone do HIIT? Yes everyone can do HIIT. If you are just starting out, play with your own “max intensity” and don’t go too far. You shouldn’t be able to talk, but you should be able to breathe. Starting with Tabata, as some of the shortest intervals, may be good for beginners. You can elongate the rest periods if you need to. Push yourself, but not too hard that you 1) hate it and never do it again, and / or 2) injure yourself.

Do I need a HR Monitor? No. But if you like to work with a HR monitor, great. It can be slightly comforting to know that you are in your “max range” (e.g. 95% of MHR) and not going to hard, and also that you are hitting enough of a rest period (dropping to 50%) before you start back to the high intensity interval again.

If you have any other questions on HIIT, post a comment and I’ll get back to you.

Are you ready for some intensity?! Go get it!!


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This entry was posted on January 13, 2013 by in Cardio, fitness.
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