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How Does HIIT Increase Bone Density & Muscle Tone?

How Does HIIT Increase Bone Density & Muscle Tone?

What do Zumba, running, and HIIT all have in common? Besides the fact that they are all forms of exercise, they are all weight bearing and can help you maintain or potentially improve your bone mineral density. Though Zumba and running are both excellent weight bearing forms of cardiovascular exercise, resistance training is an ideal way to improve your muscle tone and maintain bone mineral density.

Let’s be honest, one common motive for beginning an exercise program is because we want to “improve” something about our bodies whether that means losing weight and/ or “toning up.” As a woman, you may be thinking “But won’t I get big muscles if I resistance train?” My answer to you is a resounding NOPE! Keep in mind that women do not have the same testosterone ratios as men and those women that you do see in the Olympics that are well muscled work extremely hard to obtain that physique.

For the everyday woman, resistance training is going to help you tone up, maintain your metabolism, and help your bones. Hypertrophy is another term to describe the muscle building effects of resistance training. Though the physical changes that may result from resistance training are highly motivating, bone health is crucial because osteoporosis causes more than 8.9 million fractures annually, resulting in an osteoporotic fracture every 3 seconds.


Where Does HIIT Fit In?

So where does HIIT play into all this? HIIT is a great option to fit in both your resistance training, and some heart pumping cardio. For everyday fitness, I might argue that it is even better than traditional training for two main reasons.

It’s more time efficient

Not only is HIIT a more time efficient form of resistance training because the use of intervals can help to keep you on task during your workout, but you don’t have to wait in line for that piece of equipment at the gym that you wanted to use. One study on women demonstrated significant improvements in the ability to maximally generate active leg muscle tension during resistance training following a short term interval training protocol.

It’s a calorie torcher

When doing the mundane routine of going from machine to machine or exercise to exercise you are probably not increasing your heart rate all that much, especially if you have to wait for the machine you needed for your next set or if you get caught up talking with someone as you’re walking to your next exercise. When your goal is to tone up, there is an ideal rest interval length and it is important not to exceed it.

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Rest Intervals

Often times we can get so concerned with the work interval and how many repetitions we are completing that the amount of rest that takes place during the workout gets ignored. However, the rest interval is just as important as the work interval and the length of it can dictate the type of result that you will achieve from that workout. One study in which women performed thirty repetitions of leg curls and leg extensions at various speeds demonstrated that those with the longer rest interval (160 seconds vs. 40 seconds) were able to produce greater increases in strength.

How long should you rest for to tone it up?

If you are completing around 10 to 12 repetitions of the exercise during your work interval, the National Strength and Conditioning Association suggests a rest period of 30 seconds to no more than a minute and a half. The reason for this is because if you wait longer than 1.5 minutes, your body will not produce those muscle building hormones. This amount of rest time also allows your body to buffer some of the hydrogen ions that make your muscles acidic and fatigued so that you can come back strong in your next set.

How long should you rest if you want to improve muscular endurance (your muscles’ ability to do many repetitions)?

Less than 30 seconds! Less recovery means that the buffering capacity of your muscle is going to be taxed more and with this little recovery, the workout will absolutely give you some aerobic as well as anaerobic benefits.


Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning

Johnell O and Kanis JA (2006) An estimate of the worldwide prevalence and disability associated with osteoporotic fractures. Osteoporos Int 17:1726.

Pincivero DM, Lephart SM and Karunakara RG (1997) Effects of rest interval on isokinetic strength and functional performance after short-term high intensity training. Br J Sports Med



Sarah Joseph

Sarah Joseph

Writer and expert


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