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9 Common Misconceptions About HIIT Cardio That Need to STOP!




There is a lot of uncertainty about the effectiveness of HIIT Cardio that simply isn't true. Here are some of the most common misconceptions about HIIT cardio.

HIIT is hands down simply one of the best forms of cardio you can do if your aim is to blowtorch the fat off your body while holding onto muscle.

There’s a lot of literature regarding HIIT, though, that are misleading or outright false. If you make the decision to incorporate HIIT into your training routine and stick to it, then good for you.

However, you should know what this style of cardio is and isn’t. Once the misconceptions are cleared out of the way, you can approach the training with a greater understanding of how HIIT can help you achieve your fitness goals!

Misconception #1: Anyone Can Do HIIT

Can anyone run a marathon, or even a half-marathon for that matter? Of course not; it takes months of training and prepping your body for such an extreme endurance challenge.

The same can be said about HIIT. If you’ve been a couch potato for many years and are breaking out your first pair of running shoes since high school P.E., then you’re not going to have the physical capacity to complete a HIIT session all the way through.

This doesn’t mean HIIT will always be out of your range. It just means you have to ease into it. The average HIIT session is about 15-20 minutes. If you’re a beginner, just do what you can; perhaps that means just five minutes, extending the rest times, shortening the exercise duration, or a combination of the three.

Misconception #2: HIIT Is all You Need to Transform Your Body

Funny retro nerd flexing his muscle

If all you did was HIIT, you will certainly see some good results and lose weight, but imagine how much more fat you could lose if you also incorporated weight training and the right diet?

Remember, weight loss occurs when there is a calorie deficit. Sure, HIIT will boost your metabolism, but that alone won’t have as profound of an impact if it’s all you do.

You also have to consume overall fewer calories and keep up with a resistance training regimen. With resistance training, the additional lean muscle mass gained will raise thermogenesis even more, since muscles require calorie expenditure to maintain.

Think of it this way: are you content with sort-of visible abs, or do you want abs that are completely rippled with the full vascularity and definition?

The former is the best you can get if you did nothing but HIIT. For the best results, HIIT has to be a part of a complete weight loss program that includes resistance training, dieting, and supplementing with a fat burner like Tea Rexx.

Misconception #3: The More HIIT You Do the Better

Just because HIIT is extremely effective does not mean that doing twice the sessions will equal twice the results.

Wanting to see results in as little time as possible, some people ramp up the number of HIIT workouts, sometimes doing multiple sessions a day.

Due to the intense nature of HIIT, your body needs ample resting time between workouts. Doing HIIT multiple times a day will only result in diminished performance, thus grinding fat loss to a halt.

Misconception #4: HIIT Will Bulk You Up

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This misconception is one of the reasons women tend to shy away from HIIT in favor of more traditional cardio. HIIT, like other forms of cardio, is an aerobics workout, which do not build muscle.

It’s true that HIIT does increase testosterone, as proven in this study. However, the testosterone surge is not enough to morph you into an Incredible Hulk minus the green pigment. This is especially the case for females whose bodies do not naturally produce enough testosterone to warrant huge muscle gains.

Even if you do gain some muscle from it, that’s actually a good thing as it increases definition and raises metabolism.

At best, HIIT will help you retain your current muscle mass while burning off fat. This is why it’s heralded as one of the best forms of cardio.

All the talk about HIIT being for men is utter nonsense. The notion is just as outdated as the idea that women should stick to pink dumbbells and yoga mats while leaving the weight room to men.

Misconception #5: The Timing of Your HIIT Sessions Doesn't Matter

When it comes to cardio, and HIIT especially, timing is important. For the most part, there are two best times you should be doing HIIT:

first thing in the morning (before breakfast), and immediately after your strength training.

If neither of these times is possible, then you may get in your cardio at least four hours after your last meal, though the other two options are better.

So why first thing in the morning and after weight training?

In the morning, your body is depleted of glycogen, having gone through an overnight fast. The same goes after a workout since the glycogen is completely used up by the body during the rigorous training.

If you do HIIT when glycogen stores are near-empty, the body will be forced to eat into your body fat as an energy reserve.

Misconception #6: HIIT Is Effective for Spot Reducing

Overweight man pinches the excess fat that he has around his waist.

Here’s the deal: spot reducing isn’t possible, PERIOD!

This is the case regardless of the type of exercise or cardio you perform. This was proven in a 1971 study. The idea of spot reduction is certainly an appealing idea. After all, most people have a problem area or two.

For men, this is often their waistline that has morphed into a beer gut. For women, this is usually areas like the hips, thighs, and upper arms.

Regardless, all fat loss plans should be treated as a total fat loss strategy rather than a belly fat loss, thigh fat loss, arm fat loss, etc.

In an attempt to address a problem area, some people select exercises for HIIT that specifically target a certain muscle group. First of all, your exercises should consist of exercises that incorporate various muscle groups. This way, one muscle can rest while you’re doing another exercise.

No matter how in shape you are, you will not be able to perform similar exercises that hit the same muscle for the entire 15-20 minute duration while maintaining a high intensity.

Misconception #7: Any Exercise Can Be Done with HIIT

Thoughtful businessman with questions marks

By all means, feel free to change up your HIIT routine by incorporating various exercises. Not all exercises, however, will suffice. Ideally, the exercises should, at least in part, compose of compound movements.

Such movements, such as squats, pushups, pullups, and kettlebell swings do a much better job at taxing your cardiovascular system and leave you breathing heavily in a short amount of time.

Sure, an exercise like bicep curls will burn your arms, but it will hardly have you gasping for breath. Put it this way; if you can speak while doing a HIIT workout, then the exercise isn’t intense enough.

This isn’t to say, though, that you can never include isolation movements. A lot of HIIT workouts, in fact, include ab exercises, which for the most part, only work the abs.

Here is a list of exercises that work great for HIIT:

Compound Movements Aerobic Movements
Squats (body weight or using a light weight) sprinting
Pushups (regular or a variation like clapping pushups) Cardio kickboxing
lunges  Jump roping
Pullups, or pulldowns Running in place
Any type of rowing exercise High jumps

Misconception #8: HIIt Is the Same as SMIT

There is also another mode of training known as Supramaximal Training (SMIT) that is often mistaken for HIIT. While similar in nature, HIIT and SMIT are not terms that should be used interchangeably.

With HIIT, you train at about 80%-90% of your VO2 max, followed by brief rest periods of 20 to 30 seconds. With SMIT, you go all out and train at 100% VO2 max, followed by a longer rest period of about two to three minutes.

SMIT is simply another way of training and is not better or worse than HIIT.

It is recommended, though, that you stick mostly with HIIT for the simple reason that the method has been out longer, and there are more studies backing up the validity of HIIT, such as in this report from researchers at University of New Mexico.

Misconception #10: HIIT Should Only Be Done During a Fat Loss Phase

A pair of female feet standing on a bathroom scale

It’s up to you whether you want to maintain some form of cardio workout during a muscle building phase. It’s not an absolute must, but forgoing HIIT when you’re consuming a calorie surplus will result in some fat gains.

Since HIIT burns mostly body fat, it will keep fat gains at bay. It’s not likely (but not impossible) that you will lose fat due to the extra food consumption, but you will definitely offset some of the fat that you would otherwise have gained.

HIIT Is One of the Best Weapons for Fat Loss, Bar None

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HIIT, if done the right way and in conjunction with strength training and dieting, will get rid of the stubborn body fat that you have ever so loathed.

Now that some of the common misconceptions are corrected, you can approach this way of training without false notions or ideas that may lead to improper implementation.

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