The Secret to Making the Most of HIIT Workouts

gym. workout, towel

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“New Year, New You!” Over that expression? Us too. Well, the good news is you’ve been sticking to that routine of HIIT workouts (intense bursts of activity followed by a brief recovery period). The better news? Joshua Carter, personal trainer and Fit Body Boot Camp owner (who has over 20 years of experience helping clients get in the best shape of their lives), is about to optimize your active rest periods to your 2016 iron-handed resolve.

What is active rest?

Carter explains:

Active rest is a resting period that involves (as the name implies) staying active. So why would you want to use active rest as part of your HIIT programming? Well, it might seem a bit counter intuitive at first, but let’s back up and look at some metabolic basics. When you train, and especially when you train using HIIT, your muscles produce lactic acid. This is why your muscles burn when you workout. It is also why at some point you can do another rep — the lactic acid eventually prevents muscular contraction. The more intense the exercise (like HIIT) the faster this will happen.

So what happens to that lactic acid, you ask? We wondered the same thing. Carter says:

The good news is the body can clear lactic acid so that you can continue to train. The better in shape you are the better your body is at doing it. But here is something interesting — your body is not good at clearing lactic acid when you are at your “resting” heart rate. It turns out that to clear lactic acid your body reaches maximum efficiency when your heart rate is at 40% of maximum.

So does that mean we can pop a squat on a bench and check our texts after the training burst? No way! “That means if you want to clear lactic acid quickly and get back to your workout sitting on your butt between sets is not a good idea,” Carter explains. “You need to keep moving. The answer: Active rest.”

So what qualifies as active rest?

close-up of man working out on a rowing machine at the gym

Source: iStock

Carter elaborates on what we can do during our down time:

Basically it is anything that keeps you moving, is not intense but keeps your heart rate elevated. The key is to keep the heart rate in a moderate range. So you should not be out of breath and be able to hold a conversation and still should be sweating a bit. Good examples would be a rowing machine, air bike or moderately paced treadmill on an high incline. You can put any of these in-between your HIIT sets to clear lactic acid faster and further accelerate your results.

Now, who’s ready to HIIT it hard at the gym with us?

Follow Perri on Twitter @66PerriStreet

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