In this article, I will discuss the 2 major methods of performing HIIT and explain which method is better for you.
1. Work to Rest Method
This is the traditional way that HIIT is performed. It involves using set time intervals for both the work and rest periods. Typically, the individual will rest at an interval of 1, 2, or 3 times the length of the work period.
The disadvantage of using the work to rest method is that time is superficial. There is no way to tell how hard you are actually working and what is occurring inside your body other than your own perception of fatigue.
In fact, we are simply “guessing” since there is no absolute way to measure fatigue.
2. Heart Rate Method
The heart rate monitor removes the guesswork and allows you to accurately measure your recovery time when performing HIIT.
By using a monitor, time is no longer needed as a measuring tool.
Instead, we are using our body’s physiology to gauge the intensity of our workouts and how hard we are actually “pushing” ourselves.
Heart rate is almost directly related with intensity. Simply put, the harder you work, the faster your heart beats.
Although this isn’t a perfect method per se, it is far more accurate and reliable compared to the standard work to rest method.
HIIT Heart Rate Method – How to Use It
To implement this method into your training, start off by selecting a suitable recovery heart rate. I recommend using 60% of your theoretical max heart rate.
After performing your work set for an allotted distance or period of time, your recovery can be determined by the time it takes for your heart rate to go back to your recovery heart rate.
As an example, if your maximum heart rate is 200 bpm (beats per minute), then your recovery heart rate would be 60% of 200 which is 120 bpm.
How to Find your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR)
To find your maximum heart rate, just subtract your age from 220. As an example, if you are 20 years old, then your MHR would be 220-20 = 200 bpm.
Keep in mind that there may be a large degree of variability to this equation since it is only an approximation. Depending on your fitness level, your MHR may vary by as much as 20 bpm.
Why I Prefer the Heart Rate Method
When using your heart rate to gauge your training, the whole scene changes.
The recovery time for very fit individuals is actually quicker than originally thought. Studies showed that the work to rest intervals may vary quite drastically as more sets are performed.
An example of a HIIT workout done by a well-conditioned individual is outlined below:
• Set 1 – Work 60 s: Rest 45 s
• Set 2 – Work 60 s: Rest 60 s
• Set 3 – Work 60 s: Rest 75 s
• Set 4 – Work 60 s: Rest 90 s
As you can see, the work to rest interval surpasses the typical 1:1 ratio during the initial set but dips below 1:1 for the 3rd and 4th set.
This is also useful in individuals that are less fit since they may require rest intervals up to 6 times longer than the work interval.
In fact, certain people may need 3 minutes of rest time after a 30 second work interval to bring their heart rate down to 60% of their MHR.
The Bottom Line
With the heart rate method, you can accurately measure your intensity and recovery for any type of training. You can definitively measure improvements in your conditioning by documenting the time it takes you to recover after each interval.
If you’re serious about getting fit and improving your performance while staying safe, get a high quality heart rate monitor to tailor your workouts specifically to you.