How you can benefit from High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

By | Movement, Performance, Strength & Conditioning

HIIT, besides being the number 1 fitness trend last year (2018), is still dominating fitness podcasts, local gym timetables and my personal training schedule. You will struggle to find a group fitness timetable without the initials HIIT etched into it somewhere. If you’ve been following my Instagram or YouTube channel, you’ll see that I’m certainly on board, posting weekly HIIT workouts to continually give you fresh ideas for HIIT workouts you can incorporate into your busy week. Here’s a recent example.

Why have we gone HIIT crazy?

HIIT, an acronym for High Intensity Interval Training, is not a new concept. The idea is that you perform an exercise that is going to push your heart rate up to near maximal level, rest and repeat ad libitum. In most of my own HIIT workouts the work interval is just long enough to get close to a maximal or near-max intensity. The rest period is then sufficient to allow a slight recovery but never a full recovery meaning it will take less time to reach that same near-max intensity during the next work interval. A HIIT workout will always have set rest intervals rather giving you small micro rests as you move from one exercise to the next in a typical circuit or crossfit style workout.

Optimal Work & Rest Times

Depending on the exercise, I find between 30 seconds to 1.5 minutes is usually sufficient work time to reach the desired heart rate, but there are many variables to take into account when setting the work time – the speed of the movement, the resistance being applied and the rate of perceived exertion (the RPE) required for a single rep of the given exercise. An exercise with a higher RPE for one rep would require shorter work interval. Similar to the work interval, required rest periods will depend on the intensity of the exercise and how long I spend at a near maximal intensity also generally around 30 seconds to 1.5 minutes. However, in the video above I used a tabata timer consisting of 20 seconds work and 10 seconds rest with longer rest periods at the end of a completed set.

I prefer to use a combination of strength based movements with no more than 50% of the load I would lift during a typical strength workout, that way I can do a high number of reps and continue with good form even when I’m gasping for breath. That’s the essence of HIIT work, repeatedly getting yourself into a state where you are gasping for breath. I often combine the strength movements with a variety of aerobic exercises such as skipping, spinning and running. Depending on your physical abilities and current level of fitness, the required exercise difficulty will vary from person to person.

The benefits of HIIT

The benefits of engaging in HIIT are numerous but I’ll list three key reasons that I believe provide enough evidence as to why everyone should be doing some form of regular HIIT.

HIIT increases your VO2 max

By training at a maximal intensity you are asking your body to adapt to this high physical output your week now requires. You adapt. You get stronger. One of the ways you do this is by increasing your capacity to transport and utilise oxygen in the energy creation process and subsequently the efficiency in which you can remove the metabolic byproducts of intense exercise – think lactic acid. In doing so life gets easier. Having a higher VO2 Max better enables you to adjust to the demands of your day. A set of stairs to climb – no breath shortness here, running late for the train – I’ll just jog and make it on time, playing with my kids on the floor – I’ll wrestle till they get bored (well maybe that’s a stretch, we all know wrestles end with tears and not boredom).

HIIT helps improve insulin sensitivity

Without going into a lot of detail about insulin sensitivity, simply know that whenever we eat foods which cause our blood glucose levels to increase (yep, that’s you doughnut) insulin is the key player which helps clear the excess glucose from our system. Excess blood glucose is toxic to our bodies so we need to efficiently convert it to glycogen (storage form of glucose) or fat, another handy storage form of energy. Glycogen stores are limited and there is only so much we can store. HIIT training leads to the breakdown of glycogen to be used as energy. When you inevitably enjoy that next carbohydrate feed, you now have available storage space in your liver and muscle tissue where you can push the excess blood glucose without adding to the other storage area, commonly known as the “love handles.”

HIIT increases your metabolism

Firstly, why is increasing metabolism a good thing? Metabolism is essentially the speed at which we can create and break down molecules within our body. To learn more about metabolism from a previous post, click here. Increasing your metabolism means your body is more efficient at carrying out the processes involved in breaking down food, producing energy, building hormones, repairing and building muscle, maintaining bone mineral density and the list could go on. My current stance on metabolic rate is it’s not just a matter of higher = better, however a majority of the population stand to gain considerably by increasing their metabolism, often resulting in weight loss and reduced lethargy.

To top it all off, not only will HIIT provide amazing physiological benefits, these benefits can be gained in workouts of 20 minutes or less making HIIT extremely time efficient. Knowing there are some major benefits to be gained from adding HIIT workouts into your week, are you on board the HIIT train?


Post by Russell Whiteford, founder of I GRASP Wellness. Russell is an experienced leader in fitness, wellness and sports coaching. With an undergraduate degree in Exercise Science and currently completing a Masters in Human Nutrition, Russell combines his theoretical knowledge with public and private sector experience in recreation, project management and high performance. All with the aim of bringing you thought provoking content to help you maximise your wellbeing, productivity and performance.

The Three Most Common Mistakes Guys Make in the Gym When Wanting to Stack Muscle

By | Movement

Do you even lift?

Of course you do. Not only do us guys love to see the product of our hard work, the ripples and bumps of muscle definition peeking out from under the sleeves of our T-shirts, lifting feels good. Pushing and pulling that weight and feeling the pump in your arms is a great feeling. Not to mention the positive endorphins that are released which have an opiate like effect on our brains. That’s right, lifting heavy weight (properly) provides a natural high that lasts long after the workout itself. If you have never heard Arnie describe the feeling of “the pump” treat yourself to the 2 minute youtube clip when you’ve finished this article!

For any guy who is regularly getting to the gym, there’s a reason why you are putting in all that grunt work. Usually, a desired increase in muscle size and/or strength is high on the list. Whether sport related or just a matter of keeping yourself in shape, when you are going to the gym with any sort of routine, it’s likely you want to see progress over time and that means muscle growth.

A lot of guys will experience a plateau in their lifting, a point where they are not seeing any progress in their body shape or on the scales, nor are they increasing their weights or reps. There can be many reasons for a plateau, often they are caused by being stuck in the same routine, doing the same exercises and sticking with what you are comfortable with in the gym.

A great program that is periodised and targets a specific goal is the best way to avoid a plateau. However, even the best program will not save you if you are making the following three common errors. Everyday these three mistakes are robbing guys of pure muscle at gyms all around the globe.

Lifting too Heavy

We’re all guilty of this one guys. We use weight to measure progress in the gym and we are quick to jump to the next set of dumbbells or throw the extra 5kg plates on the bench press. We see others lifting more than us and we want to measure up. The weight we lift becomes another symbol of status in your workout community.

When someone reels off their max bench or deadlift, politely take it with a grain of salt until you’ve seen them control the weight. I don’t mean for you to be sceptical or critical towards your fellow lifters, but the number one mistake I see all the time in the gym is guys trying to bicep curl 22kgs using every muscle in their body along with their biceps. Traps, delts, quads (yep that’s right) and of course the grand master when it comes to lifting incorrectly – the lower back.

Bicep curls provide an easy example, but it’s not just the curls that are the culprit, you will see it time and time again with all sorts of exercises.

Key point – Your body doesn’t know the number on the dumbbell, it just responds to the stimulus. What is it that you are trying to get from each exercise you do? If you are doing a curl to increase the size of your bicep rather than get a full body pump, the you need to target the bicep which means controlling the weight with that particular muscle. It’s really that simple.

Sticking to Numbers

Hitting your target number of reps may actually be hindering you. It’s so easy to do which is why it’s the next big trap robbing you of your muscle gains. When you know your target is 8 reps you can push through to that number. You can squeeze out one more when you get to 7. But when you stop at 8 reps, are you certain you couldn’t have lifted number 9?

My position on this is that numbers are ok for your first set or your warm up sets, but when it comes to your working sets, you’ve got to attempt the next rep. Always attempt the next rep. Know whether you can complete it or not. Obviously you must maintain your form so you lift until the weight gets stuck without compromising on your form. When it’s not moving any further without the help of a spotter and when you don’t have a spotter, you release. An experienced lifter will know the exercises that they can fail on safely without a spotter. If you’re not sure, ask a trainer or if you are starting out for the first time and hitting the gym by yourself, start on machines where there is no risk of dropping weights on your toes. While I’m not necessarily advocating for machine weights, I’m definitely advocating for safety first and foremost.

Key point – You’ve got to fail or come close to failure if you want progress and failing is mentally challenging.

Bouncing Through Reps

Bouncing through reps can be a symptom of the two mistakes above and all three often go hand in hand. What do I mean by bouncing through reps?

When you get to the end of the eccentric phase of the movement, that is, where your muscle is under tension while being in a stretched position and you rebound to quickly change direction of the movement. A bench press provides a good example, the eccentric phase is when you are lowering the weight to your chest and the end of the eccentric phase is when there is as much stretch in the muscle as possible and the bar is pretty much touching your chest. At this point you are about to move to the concentric phase of the movement when the muscle will shorten under the load.

Your muscles work in conjunction with your tendons and both have in built recoil mechanisms which basically prevent over stretching and injury. Within the muscle there are special fibres which contract to prevent the muscle from over stretching and in the tendon there is a group of receptors which cause a reflex to protect joints and prevent the possibility of joint displacement.

So bouncing occurs when you go from the eccentric phase to the concentric phase very quickly using the stored energy in these stretch receptors to contract your muscle.

While this is very effective training technique for improving performance in plyometric movements which are explosive and powerful movements such as jumping, it is not the best way to increase muscle size.

The One Common Factor

Now that you know my opinion on the three most common mistakes guys make when wanting to build muscle in the gym, what is the one thing that they all have in common?

They are all a symptom of not owning the weight you are lifting.

When you own the weight throughout the entire movement, you allow the muscle you are wanting to build to do the lifting. You undertake each exercise for a reason, you’re deliberate in your tempo of the movement and you focus on what’s happening all over your body to cause the weight to move. Constantly self correcting during your workout.

When you own the weight you build more muscle faster.

There are many tips to ensure you are getting the most from you workouts and there are obviously so many variables that can come into play to recruit the muslce firer types that you are targeting such as lifting speed, repetition tempo, range of movement and your bodies position in relation to the load.


Thanks for reading! At I GRASP Wellness, exercise programming is just one of the tools that we use to help people achieve specific results in relation to their health and wellness. If you want to build more muscle, connect with I GRASP today.