First of all, I'm no expert, I'm just telling my experience with HIIT and Tabata for cardio and strength training. I'm a 33 years-old regular guy with a more or less sedentary job who went from the worst to the best physical shape of his life.
I'm going to briefly describe these methods, though I want to focus on my experience with this kind of training. So feel free to check online for more information.
HIIT, Tabata... Nice to Meet You
HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training, a method in which you do cardio or strength training in short but intensive intervals. For example, you lift some weight and you make it as intensive as you can by increasing the weight or the repetitions. You rest for a few seconds and do another session. You are going to feel that heart racing, I'm telling you.
This speeds up your metabolism in a way that you are burning fat for a longer period of time after the workout while getting stronger at the same time. The effectiveness increases if you do full body workouts, that is, the more muscles you use in the workout, the more effective.
Tabata is part of the HIIT philosophy. You do 20 seconds of full-body exercises (stand-ups, squats, pull-ups) or cardio (running, cycling, etc) and rest for 10 seconds. Then, repeat this cycle for 4 minutes.
The benefits are obvious: you do more in less time. Warming-up, HIIT, and cooling down can take as little as 10 minutes.
From Dumb to Smart
Ideally, I train 4 or 5 days a week: I do tabata one day and a 20 minute-session of HIIT the next. Sometimes, I get to train only 2-3 days a week, which still gets me better results that going regularly to the gym.
Last year, as your usual forever-skinny guy with a beer belly, I decided to get bulked. This made me eat a lot. A lot! And well, I got more muscle, yes. But I paid the price: my fat-body levels increased. I didn't need that!
Now I practice longboarding, climbing, and paddle tennis. I just want to be healthy, have functional strength and, why not?, look ripped.
When you are 33, the most fat you leave behind the better. Trust me. You are not the same guy who could eat like there's no tomorrow. Your metabolism is probably not as efficient as before, and all the fat you accumulate will keep longer with you.
I'm sure you don't want to be that 40-year old–probably muscled–guy who has to hide his belly to look good. Imagine looking good by just being relaxed without really caring about your appearance at a certain moment. What a boost of confidence, right?
Guess what, I was that guy who constantly was hidding his belly. Now, I don't need to.
And Now, Results...
I have been training like this for two months. And I tell you, there are busy weeks of work when I'm tired and I only train two or three days (10-20 min each day) but I still see results.
What Do I Mean By Taking Care of Yourself And Eating Better?
Reduce the fat and the carbs. Eat more veggies. I don't need to count calories. I just take a strong breakfast (coffee, toasted bread with whatever comes to mind, or cereals) a good lunch, and a little dinner (here, avoid carbs as much as possible).
And a good night sleep.
This is very important. Really. When you are well-rested you train with all you got. I learned that when I started my HIIT during my holidays by the beach. When you sleep well, amazing things happen.
And yes, I still have my occassional pizza and burguer night. Nothing wrong with that.
With A Little Help of Music and Tecnology
Music is very important. Sometimes, you are approaching to the end of a Tabata session and you feel like dying. Where do you get that extra motivation? Yes, music. Rage against the machine, Pantera, In flames, or Wu-Tang Clan work for me.
Also, there are a lot of mobile apps for HIIT and Tabata that will make your training easier. They already include a Tabata timer as default, so you don't have to worry about the time. They also allow you to create and break down workout routines to assign times and alarms to every step in your training.
For example, my 20 minutes HIIT session include 5 minutes of warming-up, a circuit of 7 minutes of full-body workouts (usually with weights), 2 minutes of intensive cardio tabata-style and 6 minutes to cooling down. I'm using A HIIT Interval Timer for Android.
Thinking about practicing HIIT?
Be careful. It's probably a good idea to take a little time to prepare your body for this intensive training if you really are very out of shape.
I was. But definitely not now.
Image by Kevin Jackson.