What’s a HIIT Workout?

What's a HIIT Workout

Have you ever asked yourself, “What’s a HIIT workout?” Perhaps you’ve come across the popular acronym and have some idea of what it stands for.

High-intensity interval training. Sure. That much is clear. But what would such a workout look like? More importantly, how can you design different kinds of workouts with the HIIT principles?

Today, we’ll take an in-depth look at HIIT, what these workouts are, what benefits they offer, and what options you can choose from. Let’s dive in.

What is HIIT (And What’s a HIIT Workout)?

HIIT, also known as high-intensity interval training, is a cardio workout routine where you mix short bursts of intense effort with periods of recovery. 

Ideally, these short bursts of intense activity should raise your heart rate to 80-90 percent of your maximum heart rate. Then, thanks to these periods of recovery, you would allow your heart rate to go back to normal before raising it again.

For example, you can do interval running. Run at near-maximum capacity for thirty seconds (fast jog or sprint) and follow that with a minute of rest, either walking or standing still. Alternate between running and resting five to ten times and call it a day.

Ten to thirty minutes of HIIT is more than enough for most people. If you’re just starting, aim for ten minutes, not including the warm-up and cool down.

Two Notable Benefits of HIIT Workouts

HIIT offers many benefits, but perhaps the two greatest ones are these:

  1. You get to have a fantastic workout without having to invest as much time. Compared to low-intensity steady-state cardio, you can have the same workout and reap the same benefits, but in half the time.
  2. You get to enjoy a decent excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) effect. This is a short-term elevation of your metabolic rate following intense training. It can result in hundreds of extra calories getting burned every week without you having to do anything.

Fun and Creative Ways to Do HIIT

HIIT is fantastic because you can use the training principles for all sorts of activities and create a great variety in your cardio routine.

Two great options are running and treadmill training.

For instance, you can do thirty seconds of near-maximum-speed running and follow that with a minute of rest. Alternatively, you can sprint for 10 to 15 seconds and again rest for a minute.

Indoors, you can hop on a treadmill and do intervals for 30 seconds and follow them up with walking for a minute.

You can also do HIIT on a stationary bike or elliptical trainer. Simply increase the intensity for 10 to 30 seconds and follow that up with 30 to 60 seconds of recovery between rounds.

Don’t have any cardio equipment? You can also do HIIT with a jump rope. Hop as quickly as you can for a short time, then transition to slow hopping or take a break altogether before increasing the intensity again.

Essential Considerations For HIIT Workouts

Before we wrap up this post, it’s vital to go over three things:

First, HIIT is not for everyone. You need a base fitness level before you should even consider HIIT. If you’re new to training or you’re overweight, start with less intense activities, gain a basic fitness foundation, and gradually increase the intensity. Plus, it’s always important to check with your doctor before doing HIIT. (1)

Second, proper hydration is vital. Your muscles will be prone to cramps if you do HIIT in a dehydrated state. So, make sure to drink up well the day before doing morning HIIT, or morning before an afternoon HIIT session.

Third, make your safety priority number one. Because of the intensity, HIIT can be dangerous, especially when done on a treadmill. You need to be conscious of the steps, your control, and how comfortable you feel. Sprinting outside is the same. Make sure you’re running with good form, and you feel in complete control of your body at all times. Here is some more on HIIT Safety. (2)

Click to see our 45-minute HIIT WorkoutClick to return to more HIIT.

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David Williams

A diet and fitness enthusiast, David is an ex-Army Airborne Ranger and Infantry soldier with decades of fitness and wellness experience. A West Point graduate with a degree in engineering, he focuses on technical research related to fitness, nutrition, and wellness. He loves the beach and working out, and spending time with his wife and daughters.

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  1. Harvey-Jenner, C. (2018, March 27). Why HIIT workouts don’t actually work for most people. Cosmopolitan. https://www.cosmopolitan.com/uk/body/health/a12791622/high-intensity-workouts-dont-work-for-everyone/
  2. Francois, M. E., & Little, J. P. (2015, January). Effectiveness and safety of high-intensity interval training in patients with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes spectrum : a publication of the American Diabetes Association. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4334091/

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