Short on Time, Not on Fitness: Boost Your VO2 Max with HIIT!

Expert Cited: Dr. Martin Gibala

Written by
Brian Leddy
Middle aged sportsman using battle ropes during cr 2023 11 27 04 49 40 utc

Who says you need hours to get fit? If you're short on time but still want to boost your VO2 max then high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is your new best friend.

We've been leaning into Peter Attia's thoughts on VO2 max quite a bit, but there are some contrasting ideas that are also interesting as well.

While Attia has emphasized the benefits of Zone 2 over HIIT (though he does say a mix, light on the HIIT ratio is good), you may find HIIT is just better for your lifestyle. 

If that's the case, then here's some quick hits, about HIIT!

Expert: Martin Gabala

Field of Study: Kinesology

Bio: Author and professor Martin Gibala is a leading expert in the science behind fitness, particularly as it relates to short, intense bouts of activity. He has studied the impact of exercise from micro to macro levels on the human body.

Learn More:

HIIT: Your Fast Track to Fitness

HIIT is all about short bursts of intense exercise followed by brief recovery periods. It should be part of the mix (about 20 percent) when compared to Zone 2 training (the other 80) to make up your VO2 optimization plan. Just 20-25 minutes, 3-4 times a week, can work wonders for your VO2 max.

Go Hard, Go Short (But Not As Short As We Once Thought)

If you're someone who doesn't respond well to moderate-intensity exercise, HIIT might be your ticket to fitness gains.

For those with a jam-packed schedule, focusing on shorter, more vigorous workouts might be the way to go. 

It's all about maximizing your time and effort to get the most out of your fitness routine.

However, and this is a BIG shift in mindset, those work periods during a HIIT session might need to be longer than we once thought.

Traditional HIIT workouts often involve work intervals of 30 seconds or less. But, recent research suggests that extending those work intervals to 1-4 minutes, with equal or longer rest periods, can lead to greater improvements in VO2 max.

This approach, sometimes referred to as "High-Intensity Aerobic Interval Training" (HIAI), allows for a greater volume of high-intensity work, potentially leading to greater physiological adaptations.

HIIT 2.0: High-Intensity Aerobic Interval Training (HIAI)

  • A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that HIAI with 4-minute work intervals led to greater improvements in VO2 max compared to traditional HIIT with 30-second work intervals.

  • Another study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology demonstrated that HIAI with work intervals of 1-4 minutes was effective in improving VO2 max in both trained and untrained individuals.

  • Some experts, like Dr. Martin Gibala, a leading researcher in the field of HIIT, suggest that longer work intervals can be particularly beneficial for athletes or individuals with higher fitness levels.

Small Gains, Big Wins

Remember, the biggest improvements in VO2 max happen when you first start getting fit. Even small gains can have a major impact on your health and well-being. So, don't underestimate the power of short, intense workouts!

At the end of the day, it's all about finding what works for you. If you enjoy HIIT, it's more likely to become a sustainable part of your routine. So, crank up the intensity and have some fun with it!

You don't need to be a professional athlete to reap the benefits of exercise. Short, intense workouts like HIIT, or perhaps once you're deeper into your training HIAI can be a game-changer for busy individuals. So, ditch the excuses and embrace the power of HIIT.

Brian Leddy Profile Image
Brian Leddy CEO & Co-Founder, BodyStack (FDN-P)
Certified Functional Diagnostic Practitioner (FDN-P) and owner of Leddy Functional Wellness. Formerly an Adweek Executive and Media Entreprenuer, Brian pivoted his career to focus on inspiring and coaching people from all walks of life to make positive strides in their respective health journeys. Brian is a Co-Founder, and now serves as the CEO of BodyStack.
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