How HIIT Can Help You Build Muscle

You know it helps you with cardio, but do the benefits of HIIT extend to lifting?

When it comes to High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT, most of us immediately think of short, fast, bursts of cardio that make you sweat a lot, leave you gasping for breath and help you burn fat. It’s the ideal approach for people who don’t have the patience for more sedate fat burners like jogging, giving them a quick and exciting alternative instead.

However, HIIT might be useful in other areas of your fitness regime too! If new research is to be believed, adopting a HIIT approach in the weight room can help you make serious muscle gains in about half the time it takes to finish a ‘traditional’ strength workout.

About The Study

The study was published in Certified, an American Council of Exercise publication, in June 2018. It was carried out by Lance Dalleck, Ph.D., and his team of researchers in the High Altitude Exercise Physiology Program at Western State Colorado University. It included 48 nonsmoking men and women ranging from 21 to 59 years of age. All participants reported no resistance training within the previous six months and were instructed to maintain their dietary habits for the duration of the study. They were also told to avoid any exercise beyond what was required for the research.

The participants were then split up into three groups — a control group, an HIIT resistance training group and a moderate intensity resistance training group. Important measurements like their height, weight, blood pressure and waist circumference were taken before and after the study, along with an assessment of their muscular fitness. While the control group didn’t exercise for the duration of the study, the other two groups were put on a six-week lifting protocol.

The HIIT lifters’ exercise regime saw them doing one set of five reps as heavy as they possibly could of the prescribed exercises,  twice or three times a week. Lifters in the other group did double the reps at less weight, and for the second half of the study, double the sets and more reps, for just as many days per week. The HIIT sessions lasted just about 20 minutes, while the other group worked out for 45 minutes at a time.

The Results

When the participants were tested after the study was complete, the researchers noticed significant increases in both their one-rep and five-rep numbers. However, the medium intensity group displayed no major improvement over the first half of the study, while the HIIT group improved consistently throughout. What’s more? While both groups displayed similar decreases in body fat, the HIIT group also showed improved blood pressure and better cholesterol levels.

So if you’re looking to get built but hate wasting time in the gym, the HIIT approach to lifting is just the thing you need! However, start by gradually increasing your weights and reducing your rest times, and monitor your progress to see if this works for you.

If you’re not too familiar with HIIT, here are some things you need to be aware of before you start following this philosophy. And if you know what HIIT is about, but are not too keen on hitting the gym, here’s how you can sweat it out with some fun dance moves. And lastly, we know that not all of you would be in favour of this fast and furious approach to fitness. This guide to LIIT might interest you — think of it as HIIT’s more relaxed cousin!

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