High Intensity Training (HIT) and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) Workouts

High Intensity Training

High Intensity Training (HIT) and High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Wait, they are two different things? Yes. You may have overheard either one of these talked about at the local coffee shop, at a wedding, or read about it in your favorite magazine or blog. But what is everyone really talking about? Here are the basics.

Let’s start with High Intensity Interval Training

You may know it by any of the following names: Body Shred, Tabata, Whipped, Beastanetics, and of course CrossFit (which isn’t exactly HIIT, but shares a lot of similarities). Basically any workout, no matter what you “name” it falls into the HIIT category if it combines a series of very short, super-intense, cardio/strength intervals, with short recovery periods in between, all confined to a time period that’s usually between 10 and 30 minutes.

Studies have shown that short HIIT sessions can be more effective at improving heart health and building muscle than longer, moderate-intensity workouts. The after-burn effect comes from EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). This requires energy to help restore the body to a resting state as well as adapt it to the exercise just performed.


  • Wide variety of exercises possible, reducing boredom
  • Can be done anywhere
  • Develops – balance, range of motion, and coordination without relying on machines


  • Tough on joints and tendons
  • High risk for injury*
  • Must be in general good heath to start (injury free), and although we don’t want to put age limits on things, it may be tough for most people over the age of 70 or so to get started

Now let’s look at High Intensity Training

This is more commonly known as “slow cadence”. HIT is a form of strength training popularized in the 1970s by Arthur Jones, founder of the Nautilus exercise equipment company. HIT training focuses on performing quality weight training repetitions to the point of momentary muscular failure. Weights are lifted in a series of ultra-slow movements, each repetition lasting about 20 seconds, eliminating the benefits of gravity and momentum. Your muscles will reach exhaustion in 1:00-3:00 minutes for each exercise, allowing for a total body workout to be achieved in about 20 minutes.

When muscle failure is achieved, it sets off a series of physiological changes that supercharge the body to burn fat as it rebuilds the muscle. Slow cadence workouts are proven to stimulate lean muscle formation more efficiently and safely than regular weight lifting or aerobics.


  • Ultra safe for joints since no momentum is used
  • Low risk for injury*
  • Can be done virtually sweat free
  • Can accommodate injuries and disabilities easily, people 80 years of age or older can start this workout


  • Machines or free weights needed for a total body workout
  • The variety of exercises, and range of motion, are both limited to only the standard movements that can be performed on machines or with free weights

What HIT and HIIT have in common

  • Intense and efficient workouts in a very short amount of time
  • Used by high-performance athletes and trainers for years
  • Recovery is, and should be, the focus. These are not workouts that should be performed everyday. Depending on the person, 2-6 days “off” may yield the best results.
  • They offer the kind of mental workout where you push yourself in ways you never thought you could

Not everyone wants to be pushed to their edge every time they workout. But for type-A or time-pressed individuals, HIIT or HIT may be the answer.

*The level of safety of a HIIT or HIT workout is only as good as the level of instruction given by your coach or trainer. If proper form is not emphasized from the start, either style can leave you at risk for injury.

Photo credit: Naomi Chokr Photography 

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