If I were to head into the weight room and jump on a bench to ask: "Who's up for cardio?"
I bet the most common reply would be: "Cardio? Mate, I don't speak Spanish."
For some, cardio does indeed suck. It doesn't have to be a treadmill slog, but a session that turns an aesthetically pleasing physique into a well-rounded and high-performing athletic frame. Want it? Get to know the basics of HICT.
What is High Intensity Continuous Training?
HICT is an aerobic training session performed with high quality, weighted movements. Though it sounds (and is, hell-ishly) intense, during training you should be able to breathe through your nose and your heart rate should be around 150bpm. HICT is essentially long-duration resistance training.
Who's it for and why do it?
HICT is for those training for sport-specific purposes and high-level gym goers / bodybuilders. Fast-twitch muscle fibres are the most powerful in the body and exert massive amounts of force. HICT increases the aerobic capacity of those fast-twitch muscle fibres and density of mitochondria (the powerhouse of cells) in muscles – this equates to better recovery. With recovery comes better training sessions and improved athletic performance.
Depending on movement, the body uses three energy systems – ATP-CP, anaerobic, and aerobic. HICT is effective and efficient because it trains all three systems.
What does an HICT session look like?
Many coaches use step-ups as their HICT exercise of choice, as it's an explosive, compound movement. Using just bodyweight or perhaps a weighted vest / backpack (or holding a kettlebell), perform 10 minutes (sometimes up to 20 minutes) of the exercise with intensity – rest (in the 3-5 second range) when required, but keep pushing the effort for maximum conditioning.
Mix up HICT sessions with varied movements like push-ups, kettlebell swings, kettlebell goblet squats, or any simple, compound exercise. If your goal is aerobic conditioning, perform 1-2 HICT sessions per week, either as standalone sessions or prior to weight training.
Ahhhhhhh I hear you saying: "HICT sounds a bit monotonous, and I'm no athlete – I'm looking to train harder while shedding a few kilograms." Well? Read on, because HICT also stands for "High Intensity Circuit Training".
What is High Intensity Circuit Training?
Circuit training has been around for decades, then outdoor boot camp sessions arrived.
CrossFit took it to another level, and F45, Orange Fitness, and Barry's Bootcamp built similar houses with different coloured paint. And of course, you can even do HICT in your home gym.
HICT combines cardio and weight bearing movements in the same session. It's upper and lower-body – it's a total body routine that scientifically promotes leaning up and dropping kilograms with less time spent in the gym. The intensity from HICT sessions means they are shorter yet improves VO2 max and boosts metabolism
What does a HICT session look like?
There are infinite ways to put together a circuit training session. If you're on the road, it's too easy to make space in your hotel room for 100 skipping ropes, 20 squats, 20 push-ups, 20 sit-ups – as many rounds as you can in 15 minutes.
If you have gym space, set up 8 stations with varied movements – push-ups, kettlebell swings, star jumps, sit-ups, step-ups, planks, bent over rows, and single arm dumbbell clean and jerk. Perform repetitions at a high intensity for 30 seconds, then rest for 10 before heading straight into the next movement. Complete three or four rounds.
HICT… it's not an acronym you hear often, but it's damn effective. Whether you're an athlete adding aerobic capacity or a regular lad subtracting last weekend's booze and buffet bulge, there's a form of HICT that we should all be doing.
Passion for lifestyle change is the cornerstone for everything Michael Jarosky does. A Sydney-based personal trainer, he cajoled thousands of Executive Style readers to undertake his "Cut The BS" diet, and champions a charity weight-loss event, Droptober.