Is HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) a Bust?

It seems that the pendulum is swinging yet again in the fitness world.  Based on conversations that I see on social media, articles and blogs written there is a battle to go back to less warming up, more strength based movements, and counting calories.

I tend to stay pretty close to centered when it comes to trends that are growing or resurfacing in the fitness world.  Reading recent research reviews, seeing what others are doing in the field and looking at the anecdotal evidence all play into how I would design a training program or make nutritional recommendations.

Then there is also the consideration that each trainee is an individual with their own set of circumstances and needs which must be taken into consideration.

The one thing that seems to keep popping up and proving it’s worth is sprinting for fat loss.


Sprinting is tough to do though!  It requires some level of basic conditioning and in most cases if you prescribe it to your client you aren’t able to monitor it very well, leaving them to their own devices to complete it and do it at the intensity needed.

However, it is one of the most effective ways to help improve body composition for your clients.

Sprint Training Protocol

The goal is to sprint at maximal intensity for 30s and then recover for 4 minutes.  This can be done outside on a track, sprinting hills, on a treadmill, bike, or even pushing a sled or prowler.  The key is intensity of the sprint.

If you are utilizing a treadmill you can have the clients push the treadmill with their own power pressing against the rails.  The action mimics that of a high bar prowler or sled push and will be better for them than trying to keep up with a high speed treadmill.  If they must run on the treadmill set it at a 4-6% grade and aim for 10-12mph for the sprints.  Be cautious with the speed at first.

If you are using a bike an aerodyne or Wingate bike is best.  If that isn’t available use a commercial stationary bike and crank the intensity/resistance up to the highest level during the sprint period.

The volume of actual sprint work does not need to be high to produce great results.  A total of 1-2 sessions per week is sufficient, especially when it is combined with resistance or strength training.

Consider the client’s ability to recover and their other activities when programming in their sprints.

Week 1 and 2

Warm Up 5-10 min

Perform 4 all out 10s sprints followed by a 2-3-minute recovery

*If using a bike add 10s to the sprint

Week 3 and 4

Warm up 5-10 min

Perform 5 all out 10s sprints followed by a 2-3-minute recovery

*If using a bike add 10s to the sprint

Weeks 5 and 6

Warm up 5-10 min

Perform 6 all out 10s sprints followed by a 2-3-minute recovery

*If using a bike add 10s to the sprint

Don’t cut the recovery time down in hopes of getting better results.  The goal is near or complete recovery from the sprint before beginning another.

This won’t require a lot of extra time to perform. Looking at it probably makes you think it’s not enough.

Be cautious of adding more sprints early or trying to extend the sprint time.  Two sprint sessions per week mixed into a client’s training schedule should produce incredible results.

After completing one phase of this you can progress the client by adding an additional 5-10s of sprint time and also adjusting rest/recovery time as needed to ensure the quality of the sprints remains high.

It is possible to sprint at a high intensity level on a bike for 30s but sprinting on a treadmill, track or field for that length of time is challenging for most non-track & field athletes.  Remember when programming your sprints for fat loss and conditioning that intensity is the key!


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