T Nation

HIIT: Work/Rest Ratio and Total Work

Basically, I’m wondering how much of a rest/work ratio qualifies a workout as high intensity interval training, as opposed to just a more moderate intensity interval training? As well, how much total volume? I’m wondering because I’m prone to look for shortcuts when I’m doing any form of cardio and I’ve been looking for a way to quantify my conditioning workouts to make sure I’m working hard enough. I’ve got a habit of looking back on a workout and asking myself ‘have I done enough?’, since HIIT is so short compared to traditional LISS cardio I find it easy to question whether I did enough total work.

I’ve been looking around and although I can find a lot of good complexes and whatnot, they’re all very specific. I can’t really find anything that gives me a good framework to base a workout around in terms of rest/work and total work performed say if I was going to go run some hill sprints or flip some tyres.

I know it’s something that is hard to really nail down, but I’d appreciate some personal or anecdotal evidence of how much total work and total rest should be done in a HIIT session to get the most out of it.

It appears as though you want an actual template to follow for HIIT cardio. That’s not going to work real well.

Sure it could be done and you could follow some solid programs but ultimately when it comes to HIIT it comes down to you pushing hard when your heart rate is still fairly high. This is how it works. The rest interval is important but you get to pick when to go again based on how you feel. No template can tell you that and if it does it’s full of crap.

Since this is beginner, lets keep it simple.

Flip a tire until you can’t. Keep in mind the amount of rotations you did. Rest long enough to recuperate.

Repeat going in the opposite direction and getting the same amount of rotations.

Rest long enough to recuperate.

now here’s the kicker. Only YOU will know if you can keep going or not. There are too many variables to give you “Do x amount of flip for y amount of sets with z amount of rest”

For the first time, do 8 flips, 4 sets, 2 minutes rest. If you are not throwing up after that, it was too easy. Add more sets, reps and/or lessen the rest time. If after the sets you are weezing and can barely walk, you did great. Do the same until it gets easier and add some flips. Once you reach 12 flips, go back to 8 and add two sets.

Hope this helps.

Oh, and there are no short cuts in life.

Thanks guys. I knew it would ultimately boil down to good ol’ fashioned trial and error but I thought it could be better served if I found (if there was one) a general rule of thumb to begin at.

Why not just make an arbitrary routine that has you feeling like you’re dying at the end and keep at it until you no longer feel like you’re dying, then you make it harder so that you feel like you’re dying again? Say, you want to jog a mile in under X minute. And you keep at it until you reach it. A definite goal will help prevent you from taking those shortcuts?

If you’re not in the very fit level, arbitrary as that may be, then Wendler’s inclined treadmill runs might work.

Basically you set the treadmill’s incline to max and run at a speed that doesn’t feel easy for 15 seconds and then rest 45 seconds. You do that for 20-30 times. The first several reps will be easy, but once as you break 10, you’ll start to wear down real quick. I’ve never did 30 reps, but 20 reps will hurt bad if you’re using the right speed.

It’s fairly well insulated and the use of the treadmill allows you to regulate just how much effort you should be doing. That way you know how much you’re supposed to do in a given day and can’t cut down without feeling ashamed for failing.

This. Especially the 400m sprints…

[quote]The Hoss wrote:
Basically, I’m wondering how much of a rest/work ratio qualifies a workout as high intensity interval training, as opposed to just a more moderate intensity interval training?[/quote]
“Moderate intensity interval” is like saying “water-flavored Jello.” What’s the point? Do one or do the other.

Depends on the type of exercise. Generally, the higher the intensity, the less total workout time. 15-20 minutes might be on the high end for a serious sprint session. I can survive a few sets of barbell complexes that “only” take about 10 minutes. This is also where that trial and error comes in. Start at a base point of work and adjust based on results.

You want a rule of thumb? If you finish your high intensity work, think back and say, “M’kay, yeah, one more sounds like a good idea,” Then the intensity wasn’t high enough.

""imagine you find yourself on some rail track and you hear the sound of train coming up behind you, you turn around and see a freight train thundering towards you… your only option to run, and run hard. You try to out run the train for 20 seconds and just as it is about to hit, you jump off the tracks onto another rail track.

Your lungs are bursting and your muscles are screaming at you but after just 10 seconds you hear another train coming and you have to run for your life again!!! That is the intensity - and guess what, you get chased by a total of 8 trains meaning you are running for your life for 4 minutes."

That’s how Chad Waterbury described Tabatas, which are probably the epitome of high intensity intervals. I’m not saying you should copy that layout exactly, but it might give some perspective.

Thanks for the assistance everyone, it’s much appreciated.