High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has become a familiar workout style. HIIT uses repeated high-intensity exercise bouts interspersed with brief recovery periods to improve endurance and efficiently activate fast-twitch muscle fibers. But what if you are a Strength Athlete or Powerlifter who avoids cardio because you’re afraid it will burn away all those hard-earned gains? Can HIIT work for you?
The short answer is, yes! In a 2017 study, men 25-70 years of age who performed 12 weeks of HIIT along with strength training experienced increases in VO2 max, insulin sensitivity, mitochondrial function, fat-free mass, and muscle strength. HIIT improved the oxidative capacity, or efficiency, of mitochondria regardless of age—as long as study participants did strength training and HIIT together. Participants who did strength training alone didn’t experience these benefits. 
HIIT can help you with quick fat loss for a more shredded look. If you compete as a strongman or woman, you can use HIIT to train your fast-twitch muscle fibers to excel at atlas stone carries, yoke walks, and log cleans. Powerlifters can use it to beef up their initial pull for the deadlift.
You can make these improvements by using a variety of exercises while doing short HIIT workouts in the middle of or after your weightlifting program. All you need is your body weight, some space, and, if you’re feeling adventurous, some simple equipment.
Squats, burpees, lunges, sit-ups, and push-ups—and the dozens of variations of each—are essential parts of a HIIT workout. You can also incorporate sandbags, kettlebells, barbells, dumbbells, and resistance bands.
A Typical HIIT Workout For Strength Trainers
A typical HIIT workout has 5-8 exercises performed for 30-60 seconds each, interspersed with 20-30 second rest periods. While bodyweight exercises are all you need to get an awesome interval workout, strength athletes may want to use weights in at least half the exercises in their HIIT workout. Lifters should also have 2-3 exercises that target the upper body during HIIT, which tends to go heavy on the legs.
Eddie Hall – 2017 Worlds Strongest Man explains how he uses the technique of 1 minute on and 1 minute off. He discussed how as a strength athlete you will never need to be fitter for more than 1 minute so any longer you are just wasting your energy.
One of my personal personal favourite is the rower. For this I normally incorporate a 15 second off and 15 second off method on the most resistant setting. This doesn’t sound hard but trust me a few minutes of this and you will feel it!
Overall I believe HIIT training is a great way of training that can be utilised in any strength / powerlifting programme either at the end of your workout or on your ‘rest’ days. It is a great way of burning extra fat without having to repetitive cardio for long periods of time!
1. Robinson, M. M., Dasari, S., Konopka, A. R., Johnson, M. L., Manjunatha, S., Esponda, R. R., … & Nair, K. S. (2017). Enhanced protein translation underlies improved metabolic and physical adaptations to different exercise training modes in young and old humans. Cell Metabolism, 25(3), 581-592.