History of High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT

Posted April 16, 2019

What is HIIT?

High Intensity Interval Training, aka HIIT, usually consists of a warmup then 30 second intervals of high intensity sets involving the use of some type of cardio machine.  Cardio machines are not necessary but are useful tools to facilitate the interval sets.  The high intensity sets are followed by lowered intensity sets that take usually take up only 50% of the time of a higher intensity interval.  For example, a 30 second high intensity set would be followed by a 15 second lower intensity set of medium or low tension and/or effort.   Lower intensity sets allow for a clearing out of the lactic acid so that the individual can proceed to another high intensity set.

Keep in mind, there are no hard and fast rules here.  HIIT routines vary based on the needs of the athlete or fitness buff.

The HOTWORX HIIT workouts are 15 minutes (12.5 minutes of actual intervals) and bounce from high intensity to medium, and then to low with a proper warmup in the beginning and cool down at the end.

How did HIIT become such an in demand type of workout?

“High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) boomed into the fitness industry a few years ago as if it was a new revolutionary way of training. However, this form of training has been used as early as the 1920’s with Finnish Olympic long-distance runner Hannes Kolehmainen, who utilised interval training within his programming.”¹

By most accounts, HIIT was originally associated with cycling or running.  Accounts of HIIT training with olympic athletes date back to the early 20th century.  I remember using a form of HIIT every football season as an athlete.  Usually at the end of practice the coach would have the team form lines and he would blow the whistle and require us to run an all out 40 yard sprint with very short rest between running.  There would usually be 20-30 sprints as a part of the end of football practice cardio conditioning phase.

“in the 1924 Olympic games Paavo Nurmi, a finish athlete, used interval training in his preparations leading into the games where he won several gold medals. In the 1930’s we saw the creation of fartlek training from Swedish coach Gosta Holmer. Fartlek was a different type of interval training but still had very similar principles in that it allowed individuals to work at higher intensities. In the 1970’s Sevastian Coe used interval training as part of his preparations. He would perform 200m runs with only a 30second rest before repeating. More recently, and probably the most famous protocol which really sold HIIT to the industry was the creation of tabata training in 1996 by professor Izumi Tabata. Originally performed on Olympic speed skaters. Tabata would have athletes working flat out (170% VO2 max) for 20seconds, followed by 10seconds rest. This was repeated for 4 minutes (8 rounds).”²

There are many different versions of HIIT.  They are usually designed to deliver the top results for a certain type of sport and for a certain type of athlete.  For general fitness we have discovered that the 15 minute HIIT works best.

Of course, the history of HIIT is not a complete story without mention of the HOTWORX innovation, or dare I say audacity of innovation when it introduced HIIT training inside of the small group infrared workout sauna in the fall of 2016.  With the use of the workout sauna at the corporate offices three execs rolled three indoor cycles into the infrared sauna and blasted through a HIIT workout.  Shortly thereafter, HOTWORX began to produce HIIT videos for the sauna and the practice of high intensity interval training inside of the workout sauna was born into the fitness industry!

¹ https://originfitness.com/knowledge-and-advice/high-intensity-interval-training-hiit-the-beginners-guide/
² https://www.origin-series.com/13/13/high-intensity-interval-training

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Stephen P. Smith, MA

CEO and Creator of the HOTWORX
Former National Collegiate Bodybuilding Champion and Arena Football Player
Certified Professional Trainer