I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s the best way to do high intensity interval training (HIIT) on Zwift. After some testing, training and sweating, here are the results.
What is high intensity interval training (HIIT)?
A quick overview: it’s short bursts of high intensity exercises in between less intense exercises. The most popular one is probably Tabata and you can find Tabata classes in most gyms. HIIT is usually only done for a short time, like 5 minutes up to half an hour. You can do anything from cycling, to doing burpees, planks, sprints or other aerobic activity. But why?
Well, a study that compared people who did normal cardio for half an hour, 3 times a week to people who did 20 minutes of HIIT 3 times a week. Both groups of participants lots a similar amount of weight, but people in the HIIT group lost 2% of body fat while the “normal cardio” group onlylost 0.3%. People in the HIIT group gained nearly two pounds of muscle, but the regualr cardio group lost almost a pound of muscle (1)!
HIIT on Zwift
There’s not really one correct way to do HIIT so you can easily use Zwift for it. You could find an appropriate workout in “workout mode” or, with the new update, make your own! However, I find that you don’t really need that and can do HIIT while riding on Watopia or Richmond just as easily.
After deciding how many rounds I want to do (usually as many as fit into around 10-15 minutes) I do a quick warm up for 5-10 minutes. Then I just watch the timer and go ALL OUT, seriously, 100%, for 20 seconds and rest for 10 seconds. Rest doesn’t mean stop, just do less intensity. This I repeat for however long I decided beforehand. You can do it for a shorter amount of time if you’re exhausted or longer if you feel up for it, but I find it better to decide beforehand how many rounds I’m going for so I definitely push myself. Afterwards I take around 5 minutes to cool down.
TLDR; Warmup + (100% effort for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds) x 5-30 minutes + cool down.
- Sijie, T., Hainai, Y., Fengying, Y., & Jianxiong, W. (2012). High intensity interval exercise training in overweight young women. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness,52(3), 255-62.