In today’s fitness-fuelled world, you would be hard-pressed to find an avid exerciser who hasn’t heard of, if not tried, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Often employed by those seeking to increase fat loss and enhance overall fitness, HIIT has become a mainstay in most workout regimes.
Backed by solid science and bolstered by its snappy staccato, HIIT is definitely here to stay, but there is one type of training that might actually beat HIIT when it comes to achieving a lean physique.
Allow us to introduce HIIT’s lesser-known but secretly brilliant, over-achieving big sister:
Supra Maximal Interval Training, otherwise known as ‘SMIT’.
HIIT vs. SMIT
But let’s back up for a minute. In order to understand the benefits of SMIT, we need to understand exactly how both HIIT and SMIT work.
“HIIT is exercise performed at a high intensity for a reasonable amount of time followed by short periods of active rest (low intensity movement), for example, a 45-minute cardio circuit at the gym with 30 seconds of recovery at each station,” shares Australian beach sprinting champion and Sydney-based fitness expert, Katie Williams.
The active intervals are performed at 90 to 100 percent of your VO2 max and should be approximately twice as long as the rest period i.e. 1 minute of exercise to 30 seconds of active recovery.
“Unlike HIIT, where the recovery periods are typically shorter than the duration of the effort, SMIT requires much longer recovery. SMIT efforts are all-out short bursts maxing close to or maxing out your heart rate,” explains Williams.
“An example of SMIT would be a hill sprint session of six 100 metre sprints going at 100 percent effort with two to four minutes of completely passive recovery between sprints.”
Broken down, SMIT is the exercise equivalent of “work hard, party harder”, with the active intervals done at maximal intensity performed above 100 percent of your VO2 max, followed by longer, passive recovery phases that allow the body and heart rate to return to resting state before going all out again.
What’s a VO2 Max and how can you go above 100 percent of it?
Put simply, your VO2 max indicates the highest rate of oxygen your body can take in and utilise in exhaustive exercise. Once you reach 100 percent, your body changes energy systems in order to produce enough energy to keep up with the intensity of the workout, and a SMIT workout enables this change.
What happens to the body in a SMIT workout?
“Your heart is pushed to its max, lactic acid is produced in the body, glycogen stores are being broken down at a fast pace and then body looks for excess fat stores to burn off as energy – you’ll increase metabolism and burn a lot of fat!” says Williams.
“You’ll actually be burning fat for hours after your training session and this is known as the ‘after burn’. Unlike steady state cardio exercise, such as walking, SMIT will have the body burning calories for hours, post workout. The higher intensity the training session, the greater the after burn effects will be, so there’s a lot of merit in saying ‘just one more rep’!”
Are there particular benefits to doing SMIT instead of HIIT?
“This type of training is a far more athletic approach, it will help to improve your speed, endurance and overall anaerobic performance – it’s a fast way to get fitter and a lot quicker,” explains Williams.
So, you want to try SMIT, but you’re not sure where to start?
Much like HIIT, SMIT can be done across multiple forms of training, both inside and outside of the gym. Swimming, running, cycling and body-weighted exercises are all great options to start creating a SMIT workout, as long as the active intervals are performed at all-out effort and the rest periods are completely passive.
Given the extremity of the workout, it’s really important to ensure you are fully warmed up before exercise and take time to cool down afterwards, in order to prevent injury and allow for proper recovery.
Ready to give it a go? Here are some of Katie’s suggested SMIT workouts!
Swimming – 2 fast laps, then 2 to 4 minutes of rest to let the heart rate slow down and catch your breath. Repeat 8 times.
Hill sprints – 100 metre sprint, then 2 to 4 minutes of rest. Repeat 8 times.
Treadmill sprints – 30 seconds sprinting, then 2 to 4 minutes of rest, placing both feet on the sides of the treadmill. Repeat 8 times.
Follow Katie: @katiewilllly