Over recent years, high-intensity interval training, commonly known as HIIT, has been a common training modality among gym-goers and fitness enthusiasts. This particular training modality has been in the spotlight for good reason, too!

HIIT has been shown to burn more calories in a shorter amount of time than many other training methods, helping to accelerate fat loss, improve oxygen consumption, and improve many health markers such as blood sugar, blood pressure, and resting heart rate.

While many of us have heard of HIIT, high-intensity functional training, or HIFT, is a slightly less known training modality. While there is not much difference between the letters, these training methods are distinctly different.

HIIT is described as short bouts of vigorous activity followed by rest or low-intensity recovery periods. HIFT, on the other hand, is characterized by constantly varied movements, incorporating different types of workouts and durations, with or without active rest periods.

Both of these training methods are excellent for helping to reduce body fat, maintain an active lifestyle, and improve overall health and wellbeing.

However, is one method better than the other? How do you know which training mode is best for you?

Read on to find out all you need to know about HIIT and HIFT!

What is High-Intensity Interval Training?

HIIT is a unimodal method of training, meaning that it incorporates one type of movement, for example, running, cycling, burpees, or jumping jacks.

This is a specific type of training that incorporates both high-intensity training and interval training to form HIIT. It is essentially aerobic/cardiovascular training for short bursts of time.

The primary objective of HIIT is to increase the intensity of training. Each burst of activity lasts for around 30-90 seconds, followed by a brief rest or active recovery period. It is then often repeated for a total of 20-30 minutes, or sometimes longer, depending on the individual's goal.

There has been a considerable amount of research around the benefits of HIIT, with studies showing that it improves cardiovascular endurance and helps burn more calories and body fat.

The main reason HIIT has become so popular over the years is that many of us find conventional forms of cardio monotonous and long if the goal is to simply stay in good shape.

HIIT allows for a shorter, more effective, and challenging form of cardio that can burn more calories in a shorter amount of time!

What is High-Intensity Functional Training?

HIFT is a training modality that has been propelled into the fitness scene in recent years, gaining immense popularity and commonly being marketed as “CrossFit” - a strength and conditioning program that consists of functional training, Olympic weightlifting, calisthenics, aerobic training, and gymnastics.

HIFT emphasizes multi-joint movements that can be modified and scaled to suit any fitness level and ability, making this mode of training far more accessible than HIIT.

HIFT workouts usually take place in a one-hour class in a group training setting. These workout sessions are normally comprised of 3 components; a dynamic warm-up, a strength portion, and a high-intensity workout.

After the class is over, it’s also common to perform some cool-down exercises, such as light movement and stretching, which help bring down your temperature and heart rate.

HIFT incorporates both aerobic and anaerobic movements or muscle endurance and strength training. This elicits greater muscle recruitment than repetitive aerobic exercises such as HIIT, meaning HIFT helps improve endurance, strength, and mobility.

So, what about the workout portion of the class? These consist of a few intersected multi-joint movements that are normally conducted for time or repetitions. Some examples of the workout structure include “for time”, “as many reps or rounds as possible”, “every minute on the minute”, or “chippers”.

HIIT Vs HIFT: What’s The Difference?

HIIT and HIFT are often terms used interchangeably, which is a misconception as these two training modalities are quite different from each other.

While they do share conceptual commonalities, such as their high-intensity nature and performance outcomes, there are plenty of differences.

The biggest differences between HIIT and HIFT are the use of rest intervals, resistance training, and constantly varied movements.

Unimodal Vs Multi-Modal

As we have established, HIIT is unimodal, meaning that it tends to stick to one type of aerobic exercise, such as running or cycling, for many sets.

On the other hand, HIFT is multi-modal, meaning that it uses multiple functional movements with no defined rest intervals. These functional movements include squats, deadlifts, thrusters, snatches, cleans, and pull-ups.

These types of weightlifting, powerlifting, and Olympic weightlifting movements are prescribed in a specific number of sets and reps, which elicits a hypertrophy response.

HIFT takes these kinds of movements and prescribes them as part of a circuit format performed at high intensity. This mode of training helps develop and improve muscle strength and power, as well as gaining muscle mass and improving aerobic endurance.

Studies have shown that HIFT methods have provided significant changes to body composition, muscle strength and power, and improved peak performance.

While HIIT has been shown to solely improve aerobic capacity, HIFT can provide additional improvements with muscle strength, power, and endurance, which is associated with the use of multiple movements using bodyweight or weight.

Rest Intervals

Another key difference between HIIT and HIFT is the rest intervals. The rest intervals for HIFT largely depend on the workout you are completing, as workouts are generally based around completing a certain number of repetitions within a time frame or lifting a maximum amount of weight, or something else similar.

Therefore, rest intervals vary from person to person depending on fitness level and experience, as they are essentially taken when needed.

On the contrary, HIIT prescribes set rest intervals. This training method requires you to perform a short burst of activity at maximum effort before taking a defined rest. This is then repeated for multiple rounds.

HIIT Vs HIFT: Which Is Better?

When choosing any training program, whether that be HIIT, HIFT, or something entirely different, it all depends on your goals and what you’re looking to achieve.

While HIFT is proven to include greater muscle adaptations, both HIFT and HIIT can improve body composition and aerobic capacity.

Both training programs are great for overall health and fitness, so in this regard, one isn’t better than the other, it simply just depends on what you want, how you want to look, your schedule, and your goals!

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