If you are active at your gym or talk to people active in the fitness world. Then you have probably have heard the words “Crossfit” or “HIIT” thrown around. These training methods are leading the 2017 fitness trends. Their ability to cut body fat, increase endurance and strength have them as top training contenders. But other than knowing they are intense training methods, you probably don’t know a whole lot about them. In this article, we are going to give you a full breakdown of the two training methods. It’s Crossfit vs HIIT.
What is HIIT?
HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training involves short period of intense anaerobic exercises with a short recover period repeated until exhaustion. There is no set duration for training sessions and there are a variety of breakdowns. But your typical HIIT session last 30 minutes with a 1:1 or a 1:2 breakdown. (We will go over this in full detail later)
The Goal of HIIT is to intensify your cardio for maximum fat loss without losing muscle. A study shows that working your “hardest” is essential when it comes to increasing metabolism, endurance, regulating insulin levels and losing body fat.
Rest Is a Key Ingredient of HIIT
One key element of a HIIT training program is rest periods. These are not only essential for the athlete but also beneficial to the body. Forcing your body to acclimate to two different extremes provides excellent cardio conditioning.
Franci Cohen, personal trainer and exercise psychologist, explains “When the body works to adapt from the anaerobic (high-intensity) period to the low-intensity recovery period in HIIT, this workload results in high caloric expenditure, which can lead to fat loss,” explains Cohen.
The athlete needs this rest period to recuperate from the intense expenditure of energy. This will allow them to perform at max effort again.
It’s Called HIGH INTENSITY For A Reason
Many people believe HIIT to be this omnipotent training method that will have you shredded in no time with little effort. This misconception leaves people frustrated and uninspired to continue. But the name says it all, High Intensity Interval Training, meaning you have to go all out on those active periods. If your not sweating, panting and heart racing at the end then you are not going hard enough. You have to work for the body you desire and HIIT is an excellent training program to help get you there. But you have to put in the work to get the results you want.
Core Elements of a HIIT Program
Proper HIIT program focuses on duration, intensity and frequency of work intervals.
For beginners it’s hard to determine what your max intensity is. Trainers use a Rate of Perceived Exhaustion (RPE) Scale to describe the effort on a scale of 1-10, 10 being i cant believe I’m still moving. Typically in periods of activity you should be reaching 8-9 on the RPE Scale.
The relationship between active and recovery intervals is important. Most HIIT programs call for a 1:2 work to rest interval for beginners. Meaning you will work for a length of time and rest for double that time. More advanced HIIT programs call for a 1:1 breakdown. Another popular form of HIIT training intervals is called “spring interval training method”. This involves 30 sec of all out effort followed by 3-4 minutes rest.
The duration of a HIIT session is typically short. The high expenditure of energy burns calories like crazy. The average HIIT session last around 30-45 min. Going longer than this could lead your body to go into a catabolic state. In this state your body will begin to burn muscle instead of fat.
Benefit of HIIT
HIIT has numerous benefits that will assists you on your fitness journey to a healthier lifestyle
- Helps build endurance- HIIT adapts to the cellular structure of muscles which enables you to increase your conditioning.
- Efficient – HIIT is great if you have a limited amount of time to work out. High Intensity Intervals allow for high caloric burn in a short time frame.
- Effective Energy Usage – Through interval training your body learns how to efficiently use the energy that comes from your body’s energy system. Alternating between extremes increases respiratory efficiency.
- Burn calories and fat hours after you leave the gym- When participating in such high intensity workouts your body’s repair cycle goes into hyper drive. This means in 24 hours after a HIIT workout your body is still burning calories and fat whereas in steady-pace workouts, you may not.
- No equipment needed– HIIT workouts utilize your own body weight, so any workout that gets your heart rate up quickly such as burpees, push ups and pull ups can be implemented into a HIIT workout.
- Lose fat and not muscle – HIIT workouts, combine “body” weight training and cardio to effectively allows athletes to preserve their muscle gain while still shredding off weight.
- Choose your own workouts – Any cardio can be broken down into HIIT sessions, simply choose your favorite!
- Challenging – HIIT workouts offer seasoned lifters a new challenge and beginners a quicker way to see results.
- Improved Heart Health – The combination of intensities makes it easier to reach the anaerobic zone where your heart is pumping and blood is flowing effectively.
- Overall Health – HIIT training can improve all aspects of your health, including endurance, blood pressure, muscle sculpting, mental health and more.
Specialize in Not Specializing
When describing Crossfit Training, Greg Glassman founder of Crossfit and former gymnast, says “Our speciality is not specializing”. Crossfit is a branded nontraditional strength and conditioning training method. It Involves HIIT, Olympic Weightlifting, plyometrics, powerlifting, calisthenics, strongman, gymnastics and other exercises. The training combines a wide variety of exercises to ensure that a full body workout takes place.
Crossfit created what they call the “10 domains of fitness” and has centralized their training on working across each of the domains. This is achieved by promoting neurological and hormonal adaptations across all of the metabolic pathways in the body.
10 Domains of Fitness
- Respiratory and cardio
However, due to the explosiveness of the training style, beginners attempting to take on this method should be able to perform exercises in all 10 domains without difficulty.
Want explosive exercises repeated in succession with little rest? Crossfit has you covered.
Crossfit offers an intense training method focused on performing challenging circuits with little to no rest. A typical Crossfit training program calls for 3-5 days of training with 5-15 minutes workouts.
The goal of Crossfit is explosive and balanced muscle growth over the whole body. This training method focuses on strength & speed while placing less emphasis on form. This irregular training style has created some controversy in the weight lifting community. However, die hard fans called “Crossfitters” have the results to prove the validity of this method.
This insane training style is extremely popular among individuals who like to push the boundaries of fitness and strength. It is especially popular among service individuals such as military, police, firefighter, EMS and others. The adrenaline rush they get from Crossfit training is nothing compared to the challenges they face everyday. But the intensity of this training style does seem to be an appealing factor for them.
Try The New WOD?
Crossfit post Workouts Of the Day “WOD” on their website. The WOD changes constantly and new workouts are posted daily. Many of the workouts are named after women or military personnel. The WODs are typically timed with the athletes completing as many rounds as possible.
Here are some example WODs:
On a 25-minute clock,
Run 1.5 miles
Then perform as many rounds as possible of:
11 chest-to-bar pull-ups
7 hang squat cleans, 155 lb.
7 push presses, 155 lb.
Complete as many rounds in 20 minutes as you can of:
245-lb. deadlifts, 9 reps
155-lb. squat cleans, 9 reps
30 rounds for time of:
5 Wall ball shots, 20 pound ball
3 Handstand push-ups
225 pound Power clean, 1 rep
As you can see these circuits are extremely intense and short in nature. There is little to no rest in between sets, meaning you are exerting maximum effort for 15-45 minutes straight!
Advantages of Crossfit
Crossfit’s explosive conditioning training method does work and there are numerous athletes that have the results to prove it. This form of exercise produces the most results in the shortest amount of time. Just below we have gone over some key benefits of Crossfit training.
- Intensity – Crossfit is a condensed, fast paced workout putting athletes through nonstop movements for a short period of time. The combined movements create a full body
- Increased Endurance – The nonstop movements force your body to increase it’s VO2max, causing an increasing in your cardio fitness and body composition.
- Time Efficient – Crossfit is the ultimate Super Set. Typical 15-45 min sessions will have you drenched in sweat and weak all over.
- Dynamic Workouts – Crossfit is a multi-dimensional program with routines that push your whole body to it’s limit. After all their Speciality is Not Specializing.
- Improved Heart Health – On average athlete’s heart rates will be reaching 80-90% maximum heart rate (HRmax). Fitness industry guidelines dictate that 64-94% HRmax is optimal for increasing cardio endurance.
- No Equipment No Problem – Crossfit incorporates numerous body weight movements. Although some WOD do call for free weights it can easily change to a body weight.
- Build Muscle Shred Fat – The combination of powerlifting and Olympic Weight lifting in a fast pace setting allow for athletes to pack on lean mass in a short amount of time.
- Crossfit Family – “Crossfitters” are enthusiastic athletes that seek to motivate and inspire others, while progressing and achieving their own fitness goals. The camaraderie involved in Crossfit is what makes the training experience so unique.
Bottom Line: Crossfit vs HIIT
Both Crossfit and HIIT are high intensity workouts with a system focusing on max effort for short periods of time. These training methods yield quality fast results due to the intensity of the training style. But the real question is, which training method is better?
First off, you should never base your decisions solely from other people. Make a decision once you have full understanding and first hand experience of each training style. Every athlete is different so it’s vital you forge and follow your own path.
It is our opinion that Crossfit is for more experienced athletes looking for an intense training system. Crossfit utilizes a lot of powerlifting and Olympic style weight lifting. The experience needed to execute these types of lifts properly and safely is a huge factor. In addition, Crossfit uses a nonstop rounds system where the athletes are pushing their hardest for 5-45 min straight. Lifting weights under these conditions is risky and should only be performed by experienced athletes with proper super vision.
On the other hand, any athlete can train with HIIT. The goal of HIIT is to perform any movement that elevates your heart rate followed by short rest periods. Forcing your body between these extremes burns calories exponentially. Furthermore, HIIT does not require any equipment making it extremely convenient to get a sweat going anywhere.
If your an experienced athlete looking to increase the intensity of your workout then Crossfit might be just the training method you need. However, if your new to fitness or an experienced athlete looking to increase cardio, shred off fat and retain your muscle then you need to start utilizing HIIT. Get creative and start creating your own variations and routines!
Watch the videos below. They are some example workouts from professional trainers in both styles.
Share your thoughts about the Crossfit vs HIIT styles in the comments below.