CrossFit and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) are two popular and effective forms of exercise. They’re also among the most strenuous workout routines in existence.
How are CrossFit and HIIT alike, though, and what differentiates them? Especially important, which is better for you and your fitness goals?
HIIT-ing the Spot
HIIT, as we know it today, originated in the 1970s. However, people have been doing interval-style workouts for more than a century. They involve doing exercises in short, intense bursts.
To be more specific, HIIT bursts might involve 45 seconds of an exercise such as one of the following:
- Jump squats
- Flutter kicks
- Dead lifts
- Jumping jacks
- Overhead presses
Many other exercises are possible. And, between those intervals, you’ll rest, perhaps for 20 or 30 seconds.
Indeed, during HIIT bursts, you exercise as hard as you possibly can. You also get your heart pumping almost as fast as it possibly can: up to 90% of its maximum speed.
These days, many different forms of HIIT routines are available. There are workouts that include trampolines, calisthenics, military-style boot camps, and many other varieties.
Whatever type of HIIT routine you choose, it should activate your body’s anaerobic energy system. To clarify, cardiovascular exercises, or aerobics, are powered by oxygen. But, when you do anaerobic exercises, your body breaks down the glucose that’s stored in the muscles. Glucose is a sugar that comes from food.
Note that, while it’s possible to do HIIT workouts multiple days in a row, taking a 24-hour recovery break between these sessions is generally safer. It can also lead to better results. You might even prefer to wait 48 hours between your HIIT workouts. In the interim, you can do some gentler exercises.
HIIT training is not intended for exercise beginners. If you’re interested in these workouts, it’s a good idea to consult with your doctor or a professional trainer. That way, you can undergo a conditioning program ahead of time.
More on HIIT:
- High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
- What is HIIT and Why Is It So Effective For Burning Fat?
- HIIT Workouts for Beginners at Home
- 10 Short and Simple HIIT Workouts You Can Do From Home
- Interval Weight Training (IWT) – next level HIIT
A CrossFit State of Mind
When the CrossFit brand debuted in the early 2000s, it took the fitness world by storm. In part, that’s because it combined so many different types of workouts, including calisthenics, plyometrics, gymnastics, and Olympic weightlifting.
CrossFit workouts are usually made up of four parts. First, there’s the warmup. Next, there’s a session of strength training or gymnastics. Then comes the WOD, which is short for “workout of the day.” Finally, there’s the cooldown.
The WOD typically involves repeating one or two exercises multiple times. You might do 30 repetitions of the same intense move, perhaps one of these:
- Walking lunges
- Lunge and jump combos
- Handstand push-ups
- Box jumps
- Kettlebell swings
During CrossFit WODs, rest periods tend to be minimal. Those working out are asked to do as many reps as they can in a given timeframe. Or they might be tasked with the opposite: completing a certain number of reps as quickly as they can.
This approach often creates a competitive atmosphere, and many CrossFit enthusiasts are in excellent physical shape to begin with. Keep in mind, too, that the risk of injury is higher with CrossFit than with many other forms of exercise.
Therefore, you should only attempt a CrossFit program if you’ve already attained a certain level of strength and flexibility. Once again, your doctor or trainer can help you make that decision.
More on CrossFit:
Choosing Between HIIT and CrossFit
Because CrossFit and HIIT have different focuses, they offer different benefits.
HIIT can help you to lose weight. Indeed, one of its primary goals is to burn calories. As such, many new HIIT practitioners notice a relatively quick and steep decline in their body fat percentage.
HIIT can also help you control your glucose levels and appetite more effectively. Naturally, it builds strength and endurance as well.
HIIT is also ideal if your professional and personal schedules are hectic. You can complete a HIIT workout, after all, in less than 10 minutes.
You can also do HIIT routines at home with very limited equipment, making it an affordable and convenient fitness option. And, with this program, you can include practically any exercise you enjoy doing: swimming, bicycling, running, and so on.
Even so, if your main fitness objectives are to grow muscle mass and increase your strength, a HIIT routine is probably not right for you.
In addition, some people would have more success losing weight with a program that’s slower and gentler. For many individuals, such a regimen would be more sustainable over a long period of time.
For its part, CrossFit is intended to boost every aspect of your fitness to the highest possible level. In fact, there are 10 different areas that this routine addresses. In alphabetical order, they are:
CrossFit isn’t so much a type of workout as it is an exercise philosophy. And CrossFit-branded gyms, which are entirely devoted to this philosophy, are now commonplace.
Yes, CrossFit can help people to lose weight, but that’s never been its primary aim. And, if your main goal is to lose weight, there are ways to do so that are much less demanding.
In the end, both HIIT and CrossFit are exciting, varied, and powerful ways to get healthier. With a HIIT routine, you could be shedding calories, burning fat, and taking off pounds in short order. And, by taking on a CrossFit program, you could enjoy an even greater range of fitness benefits, including a stronger cardiovascular system, more endurance, and toned muscles.
Either of these routines can challenge you physically, mentally, and emotionally. You’ll have to bring your best fitness game every time.
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