I love HIIT workouts, but how can I avoid injury?

a woman in a yellow shirt
I love HIIT workouts, but how can I avoid injury? Hearst Owned

If you love nothing more than sweating it out in a fast-paced cardio gym class, but only want it to actually last 30 minutes, then we get you, but a HIIT workout could also make you more prone to injury.

High-intensity interval training, also known as HIIT, is a great full-body workout. They cover everything from spinning classes to sprinting, rowing, and even bodyweight classes. Typically lasting for around 30 minutes, a HIIT session can produce similar health benefits as if you were to take on twice as much moderate exercise.

But with such high-intensity workouts comes the risk of injury - this is because you're continuously pushing your body to the limit, even if it is for short bursts of time. Classes that include plyometric movements could also put too much stress on your joints as you land.

In fact, a study found that HIIT classes resulted in 4 million injuries (42% of those occurring in women), for people aged 20 to 39. So, how can you avoid injury while you do a HIIT workout? Women's Health Collective Trainer India Morse says, 'Warming up is essential to protect your joints, while wearing supportive shoes and getting your technique right is also important.'

Warming up

To protect your ankles, knees and shoulder joints she recommends starting with an ‘inchworm’ exercise. This is where you start standing and slowly crawl your hands forward, using them as if they were your feet, ending up in an extended plank position, she explains that this 'strengthens and stretches muscles along your posterior and anterior chain.'

She goes on to recommend: ‘a front lunge with rotation, that targets your hip flexor and your groin, hamstrings, obliques, glutes and lats. Then add in some toe touch squats - allowing time to stretch will make your joints more comfortable as you start the workout.'

The fitness coach also recommends banded arm circles, which she says is an 'underrated' exercise, as these can 'strengthen the shoulder and work wonders for upper back muscles.' To protect your knees, Morse says it is all about a safe landing. Using the box jump as an example, she explains you should land with your feet hip-width apart, bending your knees with your hips set back. But if the ‘thud’ of the jump does prove strenuous, 'you can always change to low-impact exercise that is still effective'.

Correct form

But form is the most important thing about HIIT workouts, according to India. She says: 'Because it’s a high-intensity exercise you can easily pick up an injury if you do not have the right form because it is so fast-paced.'

She advises that you shouldn’t let the timer rule your exercises, and instead slow it down and focus on your form, even if you don’t get as many reps in.

Opting for a lighter weight can also help with form: 'Once you become confident with the movement, increase the weight slowly so as not to pick up an injury.'

When lifting weights that all-important form can protect your back and shoulders from unwelcome strain. The fitness coach recommends, 'keeping your back straight and bracing your core, add movements that encourage your shoulder blades towards each other, as these stimulate strong muscle activation across the lats, traps, and delts.'

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