HIIT is a killer workout, but if you’re not doing it right, you could be skimping on some major health benefits and fitness perks. It takes the right mindset and willpower to get through a set of burpees, a grueling AMRAP, or a few rounds of tabata training.
Yet it’s an amazing workout and worth the effort! Just make sure to avoid these common mistakes that can mess with your a-game.
Skipping the Warm Up
Before any kind of exercise, especially of a high-intensity, a warm up is crucial to get the body primed to break down and work major muscle groups. “Sometimes people show up ready to go fast and go hard, and skip the warm up. This can set people up for a lower quality workout, or worse, injuries,” says Kathryn Alexander, M.Ed., a personal trainer and exercise physiologist.
“Take the time to do some movement which is full body and increases in intensity, before beginning the actual HIIT training,” she explains. Try some butt kicks, squat jumps, push-ups, jumping jacks, mountain climbers—moves that’ll open up your hips, get the heart rate up a bit, and loosen the body.
Not Working Hard Enough
“HIIT training is not supposed to be a cake walk! It is hard to gauge others’ intensity because it is extremely personal, but HIIT should not be easy,” Alexander says. That means you don’t want to take the easy way out! You’re not getting an effective workout, and if it’s a class, you’re not getting your money’s worth, either.
“By the end of a HIIT session, you should be ready to end. If you’re looking to add another 15+ minutes at the end of the session, you might not have worked intensely enough during the tough portions,” Alexander explains.
Doing Lazy Form When Tired
“HIIT should be very fatiguing, so sloppy form tends to happen. However, this should be resisted at all costs,” Alexander says. Even if your legs feel like jelly, don’t start compromising form during deadlifts or squats—you could set yourself up for injury. Plus, you’re not getting the major calorie burn and strengthening burns that you would with great form, too.
“Continue to emphasize hard work through proper movement and fight form breakdown. Sloppy form and cut corners can result in less work done, fewer calories burned, and greater propensity for injury,” she adds.
Wearing the Wrong Shoes
“This might sound nit-picky, because there seems to be a shoe for everything. You want flat, stable shoes for strength sports, cleats for turf sports, and supportive shoes for high impact work,” suggests Alexander. Wearing the wrong shoes could be uncomfortable, set you up for injury, or prevent you from really following through on proper form for an exercise with maximum effort.
“If you are running or jumping, change out of the lifting or cycling shoes and into something that will absorb force from your impacting the ground,” she adds.
Not Maximizing Those Mental Benefits
Use a grueling, high-intensity session to work on your mental strength. “Learn to drive your body hard for that period of time. Focus on the hard work so exclusively that you don’t even remember work stress or school deadlines,” says Alexander. HIIT is tough, so switching the attitude from a “have to” to a “get to” mindset will help you get through it and stay strong and exhilarated.