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What are HIIT and HIIRT?

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HIT, HIIT and HIIRT have become a phenomenon among athletes and hardcore fitness buffs across the U.S.:

  • High-Intensity Training (HIT)
  • High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
  • High Intensity Interval Resistance Training (HIIRT)

HIIRT is a resistance-based model, HIIT is a conditioning-based model, while HIT is an overarching term that encompasses both HIIRT and HIIT. As a personal trainer, you will likely focus on incorporating a combination of conditioning and resistance based models when training your clients.

These workouts—actually cardiorespiratory training techniques to be specific—are designed to allow exercise enthusiasts to reach their performance goals and enhance their overall fitness in less time than was ever thought possible.

Just a few of the big names in this area now include: P90X, Insanity, Tabata, and CrossFit.

HIT, HIIT, HIIRT: What’s the Difference?

Whether you prefer HIT, HIIT, or HIIRT, or whether you switch it up or combine the three, in all cases you will be focusing on alternating between brief periods of ultra-intense exercise interspersed with recovery intervals.

HIT: High-Intensity Training is often recognized as an umbrella term for the exercise first popularized and brought to the mainstream by Arthur Jones (inventor of the Nautilus machine). Within HIT are a number of methodologies, such as class HIT and single-set-to-failure HIT. However, all these methodologies take into consideration the basic concepts of time under load (TUL), repetition tempo, and rest period manipulations. Each set focuses on a separate muscle group and is performed to total muscle failure.

HIIT: High-Intensity Interval Training, which is most often associated with either running or cycling (although it can be modified for elliptical training, swimming, etc.), involves a short period of strenuous exercise performed at about 90 percent of a person’s maximum heart rate, followed by a period of rest. The effort and recovery periods are repeated a number of times within a 20- or 30-minute period.

HIIRT: High-Intensity Interval Resistance Training, like HIIT, involves a burst of strenuous exercise, followed by a period of rest; however, HIIRT involves not just exercises, like running or cycling, but also heavy resistance exercises designed to add strength training to the cardio routine.

The main and most distinct difference between the three is the overall intent of each set (or period of intense output). HIT attempts to achieve total muscular failure within each muscle group, while HIIT and HIIRT attempt to achieve as much as possible within an established time period. In HIT, the exercise is performed just once per muscle group, while in HIIT and HIIRT, the exercise is performed a number of times within a workout.

Benefits of HIIT and HIIRT

Whether you choose to follow HIIT, or HIIRT, the goal is the same: to invest less time to achieve an optimum level of strength – both muscular and cardiovascular. Therefore, the main benefit of these exercises is their efficiency.

The benefits of HIT overall, including both HIIT and HIIRT, include:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower LDL and higher HDL cholesterol
  • Lower body fat
  • Increased muscle mass

The specific benefits associated with HIIT include:

  • Increased aerobic and anaerobic fitness levels
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Decreased abdominal fat
  • Weight loss while maintaining muscle mass
  • Increased insulin sensitivity (helps muscles use glucose for energy)

The additional benefits of HIIRT include:

  • Increased metabolism
  • Increase aerobic and anaerobic endurance
  • Weight loss while maintaining muscle mass
  • Higher caloric burn than endurance cardio
  • Increased muscle density

How to Become a Personal Trainer Specializing in HIIT and HIIRT

The first step to becoming an expert in HIT, HIIT, and HIIRT is to complete a comprehensive degree program in personal training or a related area of study, such as exercise science, exercise physiology, or physical education.

Personal training degree programs, which are usually offered at the associate or bachelor degree level, are designed to prepare students through a science-focused curriculum and coursework in areas such as:

  • Nutrition
  • Structural kinesiology
  • Principles and practice of exercise science
  • Basic physiology of exercise
  • Theory and practice of cardiovascular exercise
  • Resistance exercise/sports conditioning
  • Introduction to exercise science

Often considered just as important as a degree in an area related to personal training is professional certification in personal training, which may be achieved through any number of nationally accredited organizations, such as:

  • The Cooper Institute
  • National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF)
  • National Council for Certified Personal Trainers (NCCPT)
  • American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
  • Academy of Applied Personal Training Education (AAPTE)

To begin marketing yourself as a HIT, HIIT, and/or HIIRT personal trainer, you will also want to earn a specialty certification. Some of the organizations that offer professional certification in these forms of high-intensity training include:

  • American Council on Exercise: Sports Conditioning Specialist
  • National Academy of Sports Medicine, Performance Enhancement Specialist
  • The Cooper Institute, Interval Training Workshop
  • International Fitness Professionals Association, Strength and Sports Conditioning Specialist
  • American Fitness Professionals Association, Sports Conditioning Specialist
  • Agility Training Institute, Certified Speed and Agility Trainer
  • American Sports and Fitness Association, Speed and Agility Instructor Certificate

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