I teach fitness classes for Montana State University and am surrounded by young students seeking hard workouts.
In doing so, I can share a few common mistakes I see people doing.
- Recovery- Part 1. People wanting the best workouts every time do not respect their bodies and plan for recovery. This means recovery between workout sets as well as recovery between workout days. Your HIIT sets are typically a negative recovery, meaning less recovery than the actual set (1:1 or 2:1 ratio; the first number is the intense effort, the second is the recovery); but in reality, the recover needs to be what YOU need based on your abilities as well. If you are new to HIIT training, you need longer recovery time between sets. As your fitness and abilities improve, you can shorten the recovery time to a true HIIT workout.
- Recovery-Part 2. A common misconception is that HIIT workouts can be performed every day. For optimum body fitness, your body should experience a broader range of activities which also include range of motion activities and a recover day (or two). Many young people think that when their bodies are not responding to the demand of a HIIT (or other intense training) that they need to work harder. This may be true in some cases, but as a coach for 20+ years, I'd say that more often than not; people need to spend more time in recovery!
- Warm-Up. I have taken more intense fitness classes with instructors driving through a quick 1-2 minute warm almost rushing to get to the 'actual' workout. They think that the class/group came for the hard workout and want to just get to it. Through life, experience, and research; this just isn't true. A proper warm up will allow your body to perform better and stronger than if you skip or rush this step. Typically for any intense type of workout, you will want to take 5-8 of the exercises that you are considering and work through them but slower and more deliberate, allowing your body/muscles to become comfortable with the action. This is referred to as motor learning. For example, if we were going to perform box jumps in the HIIT workout, one of the warm-up exercises could first be step ups and then gradually progress to shorter height box jumps.
I think the most important thing about a HIIT workout is form. As a trainer I watch for proper form; I 'preach' it in all my classes and sessions. Losing form in order to perform one more rep is pointless; it leads to injuries and to miss-learning the purpose of the exercise- and not gain the exercises true benefit. I would say this is the one thing I see happening in many studios and fitness classes; the focus is placed on the participants intensity rather than maintaining proper form. As coaches and trainers, this should be our priority; teaching our participants proper form for their bodies long-term health.