High-intensity interval training. For a while it was all anyone talked about. It definitely works to help you get in shape, but some women find it brutal. The experts at RunRepeat wanted to find out if there was anything else as effective, and what they discovered after analyzing a bunch of studies is that sprint interval training is as effective as HIIT — and it may burn fat more effectively.
What Is Sprint Interval Training
Sprint interval training is a type of high-intensity interval training, but the workouts are very different.
A typical workout for SIT can be boiled down to:
1. An all-out sprint for 30 seconds at 100 percent intensity.
2. Full rest for four minutes. As in, relax, drink water, breath, and prepare for your next sprint.
3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 for a total of 4 to 8 sprints.
How Does SIT Differ From HIIT?
The major differences between these two forms of training are just two factors: intensity and duration.
Imagine intensity on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest intensity. When you perform a SIT workout, you work out in extremes. That is, you sprint at 10 and then rest at 0. Whereas, during HIIT’s high-intensity intervals you work at an intensity of 6 to 8 during high-intensity periods and drop down to an intensity of 2 to 4 during low-intensity intervals.
Hitting your maximum intensity during SIT produces a different kind of results. Pushing your body to the limit, even for a short amount of time, produces changes in your hormone levels and underlying biochemical pathways that working out at a lower intensity does not. HIIT keeps your heart rate constantly elevated, which drains your energy and reduces your high-intensity efforts.
What’s more: SIT requires 20 to 40 minutes max, with only two to four minutes of that time actually moving. Where HIIT sessions generally last 30 to 60 minutes and have you pushing yourself the entire time. Not everyone has an hour several days a week to invest in a workout (but to be clear, the editors of The Fine Line believe you should be making that time for so many reasons), so SIT is a good way to get some exercise.
Getting Started With SIT
The best SIT workouts involve running, cycling, swimming, or rowing. So start by figuring out which is for you, if you don’t already have a favorite. If you aren’t a fan of any of those, consider what cardio exercise you do like (jumping rope? jumping jacks?) and apply the same principles.
Don’t dive in head first doing eight sprints three times a week. Start with a couple and build from there. Every two weeks, add another sprint to your workout. In a month, you’ll be up to four, then you can decide to keep it at that level or increase the number of sprints per workout to a maximum of eight over time. Or add a third training day each week (at most) at the end of the first month. See how you feel about building from there.
The important thing is that you listen to your body. An exercise that requires 100 percent intensity means you need to be 100 percent ready. If you are feeling run down, exhausted, or sore from a previous workout, push your SIT session to the next day. Commit to active recovery from the start, so you can keep up with the slow but steady build-up of sprints and workouts.
And if your struggle to handle two sprints twice a week? Don’t worry. That just means you need to build up to it. This is where HIIT can be extremely helpful. It will help develop your strength and endurance.
Start with 20-minute HIIT sessions twice a week. Then each week for a month, add five minutes to your overall workout. By the end of the month, your body should be ready to restart your sprint interval training program.
Nick Rizzo is training director at runrepeat.com. With a decade of experience in the fitness industry, he brings his background in scientific research to unearth the answers to questions about health, fitness, and working out.