Carolinas HealthCare System
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HIIT List: The Ins and Outs of Interval Training

Intensive, organized conditioning programs like P90X and CrossFit can be great ways to get in shape fast, but failing to prepare correctly could lead to serious injury.

High-intensity interval training – workouts that alternate between intense bursts of high-energy activity and “cool down” periods – is an extremely efficient form of exercise. HIIT programs have been shown to result in improved cardiovascular fitness and promote growth of more lean muscle, resulting in a higher metabolism, more consistent fat burning and a healthier heart. And all in less time than other workouts, making it an ideal exercise program for on-the-go professionals, parents and young adults.

Train Smart

But, while the cardiovascular benefits of HIIT programs are well-documented, these intense workouts also have their drawbacks. Participating in physically exhausting exercise of any form will likely increase one’s risk for injury, but the sometimes-grueling regimens of daily HIIT programs can take a serious toll on the body – especially for beginners.

Anthony Martin, MD, a primary care and sports medicine specialist at Carolinas HealthCare System, said highly intensive programs like CrossFit and P90X can result in serious injury for inexperienced participants. While these programs have significant health benefits, there’s also a higher occurrence of injury – especially for people who may be unfamiliar with specific weight lifting techniques. Dr. Martin said he’s had a fair number of patients seek treatment after being injured in a high-intensity workout.

The most common injuries Dr. Martin treats are shoulder pain and back pain, with a significant number of patients reporting shoulder bursitis and tendinitis of the rotator cuff. Both of these ailments, he pointed out, are directly related to repetitive heavy overhead lifting moves often seen in workouts from CrossFit and similar organized workout programs.

 Dr. Martin stresses to his patients the importance of training to ensure proper technique before beginning an intense workout regimen. “I recommend a ‘stepwise [slowly increasing] approach’ to perfecting your form,” he said. “It’s also important for an athlete to realize his or her own limitations and avoid lifting weights that are too heavy.”

Despite concerns with technique, Dr. Martin said he believes most athletes actually do receive proper instruction before beginning a regimen. The problem, he said, is that their form breaks down as they fatigue, which leads to injury. “Listen to your body, know your limits and this will help prevent injury,” he said.

Have You Suffered an Injury?

Carolinas HealthCare System offers a dedicated network of experts who treat a range of spine, muscular and sports-related conditions for adolescents, adults and seniors.

With eight convenient locations, Sports Medicine & Injury Care offers same-day scheduling to ensure you receive treatment as soon as possible. You will be seen by a board-certified physician, who will work with you to find non-surgical approaches to care. For appointments, call 704-863-4878.