Train harder not longer— this may as well be your mantra, so it only makes sense to take your love of high-intensity training (HIT), to the world of personal training and begin making a name for yourself.
High-intensity training (HIT) is best characterized as progressive resistance exercise. In other words, in high-intensity training, you are focused on exercises that require a high level of effort in a relatively brief period of time. Traditional exercises, on the other hand, are focused more on low to moderate levels of training that are completed more frequently.
HIT has little to do with type of exercise (cycling, Nautilus training, free weight training, running, swimming, etc.), as it can be used to accomplish a variety of exercise goals and is highly effective for improving cardiovascular and metabolic conditioning.
What is High-Intensity Training?
To fully understand HIT, you must first understand that the central principle of exercise involves overload. In other words, to stimulate your muscles and encourage them to become larger and stronger, you must force your muscles to work harder than they are accustomed. Therefore, the harder or more intense your exercises, the greater the degree of overload you will experience.
High-intensity training exercises require your full effort. You know you’ve achieved your goal if you are unable to complete another repetition in good form. In other words, you know you have hit the wall once you’ve pushed your muscles to the point of failure.
Training in this capacity would be too stressful on the body if you were to approach it as you would traditional exercise. However, this is not an issue when exercising according to the HIT philosophy because the volume and frequency of training are significantly reduced.
The methods you may utilize to achieve high-intensity training will vary according to style, speed and number of repetitions, as well as the frequency of the workouts; however, they will all emphasize working as hard as possible in a briefer period of time.
In order to achieve the philosophy of HIT (and not overtax the body and its central nervous system), you must ensure that you have achieved an inverse relationship between intensity and exercise volume. In other words, to be successful, you must ensure that the workout’s duration is always decreased when the effort put into the workout is increased.
Achieving a High-Intensity Workout for Your Clients
As a personal trainer, you will likely employ HIT with athletes, body builders, and clients looking to switch things up. You will employ HIT with your clients by alternating intense bouts of exercise, which may range from 30 seconds up to several minutes, with recovery periods lasting anywhere from one to five minutes.
For example, you may incorporate HIT with runners by directing them to run as fast as possible for one minute and then slow down and walk for a period of three minutes. They will repeat this schedule anywhere from 5 to 10 times per personal training session. Most HIT workouts last no longer than 20 to 30 minutes, and most are done as infrequently as three times per week.
Some studies have shown that just 2 hours of HIT exercise is equivalent to about 10 hours of continuous, moderate exercise over the course of two weeks.
The appropriate amount of exercise performed in high-intensity training will ultimately depend on such factors as genetics, age, and lifestyle. You will also likely tailor your clients’ HIT programs according to their level of conditioning, response to exercise, and overall fitness goals.
You will need to consider the following when designing and implementing a HIT program for your personal training clients:
- Number of repetitions: How many repetitions you will require your clients to complete
- Number of sets: Usually involves just one set per exercise
- Progression: How you will increase your clients’ exercises when they have achieved the highest number of set repetitions in perfect form
- Repetition speed: The speed at which you will require your clients to complete their HIT workout as to maintain control of their movement
- Training frequency: How often you will require your clients to perform HIT workouts
- Training volume: How many exercises you will require your clients to perform during a given HIT workout (addressing all major muscle groups)
Benefits of High-Intensity Training
There are many reasons why you would want to focus your personal training career on high-intensity training, but the biggest reason is undoubtedly the benefits your clients will enjoy, such as:
- Improved body composition: HIT has been shown to reduce fat (particularly abdominal fat) faster than traditional exercising.
- Preserved muscle mass: Muscle reserves are better preserved during HIT than during long bouts of steady exercise.
- Improved cardiovascular health: HIT has been shown to have a larger impact on cardiovascular health than traditional endurance training.
- Improved metabolic health: HIT has been shown to be very effective in reducing blood sugar and improving insulin sensitivity.
- Improved aerobic stamina and exercise performance: HIT has been shown to be an effective route to improving aerobic stamina and conditioning.
How to Become a Personal Trainer with a High-Intensity Training Focus
Your career as a personal trainer should always be grounded in a comprehensive education, and the most practical way of achieving this is through the completion of an associate or bachelor degree in personal training or a related discipline, such as:
- Exercise science
- Exercise physiology
- Health and fitness
- Physical education
- Sports medicine
A degree program from an accredited college or university is designed to prepare you to become a personal trainer through a solid foundation of knowledge in anatomy and physiology, general biology, and kinesiology, as well as in coursework related directly to working as a professional trainer, which may include:
- First aid/CPR
- Exercise physiology
- Exercise prescription and assessment
- Health and wellness
You career in personal training may also benefit from achieving specialty certification related to high-intensity training through organizations such as:
- International Fitness Professionals Association, Speed and Power Specialist
- Fit Per Form Institute, Power Training Specialist