Episode Summary

In this episode, we discuss why high-intensity interval training (HIIT Training) may not be the best type of exercise for your business. Stay tuned. 

Episode Notes

In this episode, we discuss why high-intensity interval training (HIIT) may not be the best type of exercise for your business.

We talk about high-intensity training – the pros and cons, and how it fits in somebody’s program.

High-intensity interval training just means getting hot and sweaty. And it’s super popular right now.

It’s just really been popular since the explosion of the studio model, which has really been probably eight years or so of the real popular studio models.

And because of that, the “heart rate” was introduced.

And that sort of drove that as well. The brand promise of some brands is heart rate.

Tying Effort Level During A Workout To The Number Of Calories Burned

When you start tying effort level during a workout to the number of calories burned, and the end goal is like what happens just in these 45 minutes or this hour or these 30 minutes or whatever, you run the risk of then effectively telling your customer that the most important thing is how many calories they burn and how high they can get their heart rate in the next 30 minutes.

And then you might make claims like: “Hey, this not only is going to burn calories; it’s also going to build muscle.” Which is not true if you know the science behind muscle-building.

Stay tuned as we delve deeper.

Key Points of Discussion:

  • Benefits of a short, intense exercise (5:05)
  • You can’t put out that much effort in 30 to 45 minutes (7:31)
  • It doesn’t actually produce any of the results you’re looking for (9:05)
  • Doing metabolic-based training is better than sitting on the couch (9:30)
  • The metabolic finisher – at the end of a true strength training workout (10:33)
  • Your body’s going to adapt to strain, strenuous activities, and stimulus (11:04)
  • Doing it with strength training and sensible eating (13:51)
  • There is a really high churn rate in a HIIT-based business (17:14)
  • Fitting HIIT into clients’ schedules (22:45)
  • If you’re looking for fat loss, general fitness, and you want to feel better… (29:12)

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Mentioned in this episode

Matt Helland

Rick Mayo 

Alloy Personal Training Franchise



We’re going to talk about high-intensity training – the pros, cons and how it fits in somebody’s program.

The acronym would be HIIT which stands for high-intensity interval training. It’s very popular right now. It’s been popular since the explosion of the Fitness Studio model, which has really been probably eight years or so. The introduction to heart rate monitors drove that spike as well. Some brands promise an elevated heart rate. Most models tying effort level during a workout to the number of calories burned in this 45 minutes or this 30 minutes window. In doing this you run the risk of sending the message to your client that the most important thing is how many calories they burn and how high they can give their heart rate within that time frame. Some claim not only is going to burn calories, but it’s also going to build muscle. Which is not true if you know the science behind muscle building. 

So as we talk to Matt who writes programs for thousands of clubs worldwide – we will discuss our thoughts on HIIT overall and especially for the personal training population that we work with. 

Is it good? Is it bad? What are the good things about it? What are the things that we’d like to see different about it? 

A lot of the early adopters of this heart rate tracking, calorie-burning model were doing it as a brand. The science came out eventually and enough people said, all right, look, it’s probably a bit overstated. You’re not burning calories for another 48 hours. You can cherry-pick a study that might show elevated blood lactate levels 48 hours later, and that might be a good one to use. Many cherry-picked studies are used to support any given theory. 

Some factual studies that went into this model – what would be the benefits of a short, intense exercise for a limited amount of time versus a longer bout of exercise at a lower intensity. For example 30 minutes on the treadmill and medium intensity versus 4 minutes at 20 seconds on followed by 10 seconds rest with 8 rounds, which gives you 4 minutes at a max effort. What could we measure around the cardiovascular benefits of one versus the other? As it turns out, they were very similar. If I went harder I could burn a lot of calories ] and I would get the same cardiovascular benefits that I would if I went at a medium pace for 30 minutes.

Everyone took that and then just ran with it.

I have tried this method on an assault bike – you go all out for 20 seconds and take a ten-second break and then go all out for 20 seconds. It is nearly impossible at the max effort to make eight rounds of that. I did three rounds and never did it again. It will make you physically sick.

People took this theory and said I’m gonna build a franchise, or I’m going to build a business model around this. The issue is that there is no possible way that you can take studies like that and overlay the science on a 30 to 45-minute class and expect to get the same results. Yes, the duration was shorter, but it was the effort that caused the physiological response that we were looking for.

To take that mechanism and claim that you know these classes produce epoch is a bit of an overstatement.

A positive way to go about this is at the end of a strength training workout is to do exactly what Dr. Tabata demonstrated in her study, which is taking 3 to 5 minutes at whatever level that you’re at and try to put as much effort as you can for a metabolic finisher.

The air bikes are a great example of how to do that. You could change up the rest of the work to rest ratios, whatever that is, do that. That’s going to give you the cardiovascular benefits that you’re looking for and you’re doing it at the tail end of a strength training workout. We have a bit of an elevated heart rate anyway. You’re more sensitive to it, so it’s a good time to do it. I just don’t love it in a longer class format because I’ve seen it as a club owner for 30 years and I’ve seen it in other brands, people power way down and effort level just to survive.

If somebody loves to go to classes and likes to do metabolic based training, it’s better than sitting on the couch.

What I don’t want to happen is for people to look at these current class-based options and flip open Instagram to see a person who’s in amazing shape and demonstrating a metabolic circuit because it is their workout of the day and be mislead.

I can tell you 100% that most of the people that look that way don’t get that way by doing those types of workouts. Most of them are lifting heavy. They’re using progressive overload. They’re using good movement quality under control. There’s time under tension. 

The adaptation to strength training is now and forever going to increase lean tissue.

It doesn’t mean large muscles. A lot of that has to do with hormone profile, genetics and everything else. We get this a lot with our female population, if I lift too heavy, I’m going to get big. That’s just not going to happen. 

If you look at the way your body responds to whatever stimulus you’re giving it – If the stimulus you’re giving it is high heart rate, cardio-based training all the time, it’s going to get more efficient at doing that type of training. Which will make those classes more enjoyable. The downside to that is the only way to get better is to either double down and do two classes in a row or go a little harder in those classes. Eventually, it’s somewhat short-lived. 

If you’re not doing anything and you add these classes it will produce some positive results. Much like the argument around dieting, if you have a bad diet and you become a vegetarian, you’re going to see some results because you’re going from the typical unhealthy American diet to lots of fruits, vegetables, and nuts. If you’re just moving a lot more and you’ve never done it before, there’s going to be some positive benefits. For the sake of fat loss, which is a longer journey than a few months. You need to do something where the adaptation to that activity actually is going to help you in reducing your body fat over time and bring your weight down and strength training certainly does that. 

Let’s talk about the type of people we train. We have all walks of life, some with injuries. How does that fit into even HIIT training? 

From a business standpoint, which this podcast is about, there is a really high churn rate in a HIIT based business. There are often comments made about the reason behind the high churn rate is due to individuals not getting enough attention in a highly attended class of sometimes 24  people. However, what if the reason that people leave in 3 to 7 months is because that’s the window of opportunity to see any results from those kinds of workouts. 

What if the science shows that after 3 to 7 months of doing a workout and the body’s adaptation process gets more efficient at doing said workout, you’re not seeing any more results. 

There’s no way to shift, no way to pivot or add more weight. There’s no way to change sets and reps. 

This isn’t meant to come across negatively.

We have a lot of passion around this topic because we’re in the industry and we’re up against this current trend. It’s a hot topic now to measure how many calories you burned during a workout. 

You may get excited about that and go into the studio and put in all the effort you’ve got. There is something about the psychology of that, I don’t know if it’s just in the US or just humans in general where we just want to go in and have the need to push yourself to the absolute limit as if it is a standard of accomplishment. 

You can certainly do that in the weight room and work really hard.

However, If you aren’t up for working yourself that hard and want to take a class and get sweaty  – if that is what makes you feel most accomplished, you aren’t alone. Again, if you have no previous movement in your daily routine working out that way will produce results for a time.

I am focused on the science of the matter. Whether my brand was involved or not, this would be my stance. That’s just based on the scientific evidence and what we’ve seen empirically over 30 years.

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