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How To Customize Your HIIT

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a well-documented strategy for improving health, building lean muscle, burning fat and increasing endurance. A HIIT workout alternates between short work intervals (70 to 90 percent max heart rate) and rest periods (60 to 65 percent max heart rate). There are many benefits to HIIT cardio training. Some research has indicated that HIIT can even help exercisers reverse the progression of certain chronic diseases such as Type II diabetes. Another great benefit of HIIT workouts at home is a significantly reduced time commitment. Shorter workouts leave more time for other obligations.

However, customizing HIIT to the individual is essential to realize these benefits. What’s the best HIIT exercise for you? And how do you safely and effectively perform HIIT workouts at home? Keep reading and we’ll help you take your at home workout to the next level in no time.

The Personal Metric

Effective and safe HIIT with a heart rate monitor is based on the very personal metric of heart rate rather than a cookie cutter metric of volume loads, time or sets.

Using a heart rate monitor correctly, you can turn any workout routine into a HIIT session, from a treadmill workout to strength training with free weights.

Many interval trainers put their clients through a series of predetermined drills or numbered sets. This can work great for some advanced exercisers, but for a beginner or even a long-time exerciser unused to HIIT such a routine may actually be harmful. Driving the heart rate too high and keeping it there too long can spike the production of stress hormones, tax the immune system, and increase the chance of injury.

Rather than building the cardiovascular system, overdoing these workouts can be detrimental to heart health and a tax on the endocrine system.

Heart Rate Monitors

Monitoring the heart rate is the best way to optimize your HIIT workout and customize it to individual fitness levels. Using a state-of-the-art monitor is essential for an accurate reading.

Suunto (a sister company of Precor) makes a great product with a range of styles from a basic wearable belt to an ultra-modern watch with all the bells and whistles. The data-obsessed will have a lot of fun with this cool tool, which can track weather reports, sync with apps and record calories burned and miles trekked. You can even sync your Suunto device with the Suunto App to join a worldwide training community.

Before beginning a HIIT workout at home get familiar with your heart rate training zones. Though heart rate training zones and recovery times are built into some of the settings, to get an individual number you should take your heart rate upon waking in the morning, before any strenuous activity or caffeine. This resting heart rate will be the base rate on which optimal HIIT zones are built.

Maximum Heart Rate Formula

Be sure to review your heart rate monitor's manual settings to reflect your body's personal resting heart rate. The device will crunch the numbers for you, but it's always helpful to run through the most updated formula. Originally, “220 minus your age” gave a good approximation for the client's maximum heart rate (MHR). Also keep in mind that formulas only provide an approximation in terms of the number of calories your body is burning.

Now, however, the Journal of the American College of Cardiology published a study recommending “208 – (age x 0.7)” as a more accurate measure for maximum.

(208 – (age x 0.7)) x 70 percent = low zone (208 – (age x 0.7)) x 85 percent = high zone

The optimal HIIT zone will be between the low and high zones. While a seasoned athlete may work up to the 90 percent range, the average exerciser should keep below the 85 percent range.

HIIT Treadmill Workout

A HIIT treadmill workout is the perfect place to begin working with these numbers, alternating hill walking, slow jogging with intense sprints and slow walking (active rest). Note that some individuals will not need to sprint in order to drive their heart into the upper range; in some cases, a steep hill or even brisk walking will be adequate.

The shorter intervals (15 to 20 seconds) will actually require longer rests, as the shorter burst allow a greater expenditure of energy. While the rest period will typically have a ratio of 2:1 and even 3:1 for beginners, don't rely on time but, rather, on heart rates instead. Active rest periods should last until the heart rate is safely back in the 60 to 65 percent range.

Mixing it up and keeping the intervals varied works best for building muscle and conditioning the cardiovascular system.

Once you are comfortable using your heart rate device and transitioning between intervals, active rest and more steady intervals, you can design virtually any kind of workout to utilize HIIT principles.

Bodyweight Workout

Bodyweight movements such as lunges, squats, jumps and planks alternating with treadmill sprints, jumping rope, elliptical cardio, and specialized footwork are excellent workouts. Many bodyweight workouts can be done with no equipment, making it ideal for at home HIIT exercises.

With a mix of cardio at home on a Precor treadmill, elliptical, or AMT trainer, paired with safe high-intensity interval training and bodyweight workouts will help you meet and exceed your fitness goals.

Visit an authorized Precor dealer to outfit your home gym for HIIT workouts today.