Just when you thought HIIT couldn’t get any more hardcore along comes Micro-HIIT. You’re going to have to work a lot harder but you can get your workout done while you wait for the kettle to boil. Dr. Kianoush Missaghi, Freeletics training specialist, tells us more…
What is Micro-HIIT?
Micro-HIIT is essentially a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workout where you push yourself harder than you normally would over the course of less repetitions. It’s all about exercising in even shorter, sharper bursts which push your body into the higher heart rate zones quicker than you would do in a normal HIIT workout.
The benefits of Micro-HIIT workouts have recently been promoted in a study by The American College of Sports Medicine Journal which found that seven minutes of intense HIIT exercise is enough to get the fitness benefits. These shorter, more intense workouts are appealing to many as it’s much easier to work at max-effort for a shorter time and the benefits remain largely the same. For example, it helps to boost your metabolism not just while you are working through the intervals but for a period of time post-workout. In addition, a recent study published in the journal Cell Metabolism found that bouts of Micro-HIIT can slow down cellular ageing.
Is it difficult?
Yes, it’s difficult because you perform the workout as intensively as possible. The good thing is that the difficulty level is relative to your fitness level, meaning that your ‘difficult’ might not be the same as your friend’s ‘difficult’ level. With time, you will also become better at gauging what ‘difficult’ is and how far you can really push yourself.
What are the benefits?
One of the beauties of Micro-HIIT is that you can switch up your training methods by partaking in shorter burst of exercise which can be done throughout the day i.e. first thing in the morning, on your lunch break, or even when you’re waiting for the kettle to boil or lunch/dinner to cook. It can be done almost anywhere using no equipment and is especially good for people who do not have a lot of time to spend exercising.
Micro-HIIT is also incredibly beneficial for those looking to reduce body fat, or who are worried about the fat stored around their middle, which could indicate higher insulin levels. Insulin is the hormone that regulates the levels of glucose in the blood, which could result in weight gain when the cells absorb too much glucose, converting it into fat. According to research in the journal Frontiers, Micro-HIIT training programmes can have positive effects on those at risk of type 2 diabetes.
Furthermore, the healthy stress your body undergoes during HIIT or Micro-HIIT sessions triggers autophagy, which put simply is the process your body goes through to clean out damaged cells and regenerate newer, healthier cells to help the body achieve optimum health. The autophagy process has also been linked to the reduction of neurodegenerative diseases and the treatment of cancer.
Other benefits include improved cardiovascular fitness (stronger heart and better circulation) and increased strength depending on the nature of the workout.
How often should you do it?
Generally, the advice would be to integrate this form of workout 2-3 times per week with at least one day of rest in between, or a lighter less intense workout on other days if you want to exercise more frequently. Even though these workouts are short, they can be draining both physically and mentally. There are no rules, but you need to pay attention to your recovery state and your performance. Too much pain before a workout or subpar performances could mean that you would benefit from another type of session or even a rest day. If it’s new to you, then integrate one session at a time and observe how you feel.
7-minute Micro-HIIT workout
To do a squat, position your feet shoulder-width apart, drop your hips below knee height, in a low down, deep squat position, then fully extend your knees and hips. One full squat is completed once your knees and hips are extended and you are in an upright position. Repeat this motion.
To start a windmill exercise put your arms by your sides and rotate your shoulders backwards. Lift your arms out to shoulder height and repeat the same motion with your arms following the rotation of your shoulders, behind your head.
5x bicycle crunches
Start by lying flat on your back, lift your knees up so that they are at a 90-degree angle and lift your shoulders off the ground slightly, while your hands are touching your ears. Proceed by touching your elbow to the opposite knee while your other leg is fully extended but not touching the ground.
5x side lunges
Raise your arms in front of you at shoulder height. Position feet wider than shoulder-width, extend your hips and knees so that you are upright. Then begin to lower your hips and glutes so that they remain above the knee on one side, while the other leg is extended out. Repeat on each side.
Interval – 2 rounds of the below exercises
10x knee push-ups
Get into the regular push up position, lying flat on the ground with your hands either side of you. Fully extend your arms, lifting your chest off the ground, while your knees remain on the floor.
Begin in a standing position. Move into a squat position with your hands on the ground. Kick your feet back into a plank position, while keeping your arms extended, making sure that your knees, hips and shoulders are aligned. Quickly return to a standing position and jump upwards with your hands on your head.
10x shoulder bridge leg raises (left)
Lie on your back with your feet on the floor and your knees raised. Lift your hips off the ground and extend your right leg while our left foot is on the ground. Rotate your hips so that your right ankle is above your hip, then slowly lower your right leg so that your knees are together.
10x shoulder bridge leg raises (right)
Repeat previous exercise with your right leg.
10s shoulder stretch (left)
In an upright position extend your left arm across your body, using your right arm to support, pull it closer into your chest. Hold position for set amount of time.
10s shoulder stretch (right)
In an upright position extend your right arm across your body, using your left arm to support, pull it closer into your chest. Hold position for set amount of time.
15s deep squat hold
With your feet shoulder with apart, lower your hip to below your knees, making sure that your heels are on the ground. Hold for indicated time.
15s butterfly hold
Sit on the ground with your back and shoulders straight, put your feet together, tucking your heels towards your body and position your knees outwards
15s toe reach
Stand upright with your feet together. Then slowly bend from your hips, lowering your back and shoulders, making sure that your knees stay fully extended, reach for your toes with your hands. Hold for indicated time.
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