HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training, and it’s a popular, fun, very hard and effective workout for those looking to lose weight and improve their overall health, strength and wellness. If you want to learn more about HIIT workouts, this complete guide has everything you need to know, from what it is, to the benefits of HIIT training, how to get started, and suggested workouts. If you’re up to the challenge, all it takes is a little preparation and determination, and see results in no time.
What is HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)?
HIIT is a powerful workout strategy alternating between intense activity and slower recovery periods. You can use HIIT with any cardio workout, whether running, biking, jumping rope, using a stair climber, or rowing. Some people also use this method for weight training to improve their strength.
The high-intensity intervals are typically performed at maximum effort, pushing the body to its limits, followed by short periods of rest or active recovery. The idea behind HIIT is that these short bursts of intense exercise can provide similar benefits to longer, more traditional forms of cardiovascular exercise, such as running or cycling.
HIIT training has numerous benefits, including increased calorie burn, improved cardiovascular endurance, and increased muscle mass. Additionally, HIIT training can lead to improved insulin sensitivity, reduced blood pressure, and improved cholesterol levels. HIIT workouts can be easily modified to fit individual fitness levels and preferences, making it a convenient and versatile form of exercise. Overall, HIIT training is an effective and efficient way to improve overall fitness and health.
Cardio vs. HIIT
You may be wondering how HIIT is different than a typical cardio workout. High-intensity interval training takes cardio to the next level. Instead of exercising consistently, you’ll push yourself to a much higher intensity for short increments of time, then allow a short recovery period before repeating the cycle.
Most cardio workouts keep you in the aerobic zone, while HIIT workouts push you into the anaerobic zone. This changes how your body uses oxygen and where it gets energy from. Regular HIIT workouts can improve performance in both aerobic and anaerobic activities.
Many people who exercise regularly like to use interval workouts as an alternative to their typical cardio routine. Intense activity gets you sweating fast and really gets your blood pumping and feel-good endorphins flowing.
Can Anyone Do HIIT?
Although HIIT workouts may seem challenging, even beginners can do them if they have a basic fitness level. Start slowly by doing a few intervals for a short period of time, then build up the intensity as you get stronger and develop more endurance.
You need great motivation and perseverance to push yourself out of your comfort zone and truly benefit from this type of workout. Due to the intense nature, HIIT workouts may cause dizziness, strained muscles, or more severe injury if you aren’t used to this type of training.
HIIT may not be a good fit if you have a heart condition, muscle or joint problems, or are pregnant. Always check with your doctor before starting any new physical activity.
Benefits of HIIT Training
Many types of exercises are good for your body, but HIIT training has specific benefits that make it so popular and appealing.
One major appeal of HIIT workouts is how much time you can save. With a high-intensity interval strategy, you don’t have to work out as long as you would if you were to keep a steady pace throughout your workout to receive maximum benefit. Most HIIT workouts will be 10-30 minutes in duration, but they can provide benefits similar to exercising at a moderate pace for twice as long. HIIT training is the ideal time-efficient exercise if you have a busy schedule.
Easy to Start
Since you can use this training strategy with any cardio workout, starting is easy, and you don’t need any special equipment. You can exercise outdoors by running or biking, or indoors on a treadmill, stationary bike, or other cardio equipment. You can even incorporate other activities that increase your heart rate, such as jumping jacks, jumping rope, high knees, etc..
HIIT workouts are incredibly effective for weight loss. The goal is to burn fat while building lean muscle to lose weight. High-intensity interval training creates the perfect scenario since it forces your body to use energy from fat reserves while preserving your hard-earned muscles. As a bonus to HIIT, your body will continue to burn calories and stay in fat-burning mode long after you have finished exercising (about 3-16 hours based on recent research).
Not only do high-intensity interval workouts help you to burn fat and maintain muscle mass, but they can also help you to build muscle. This mainly occurs in people who were less active to begin with and in the muscles that are being used the most. To focus on increased strength, choose weight lifting as your high-intensity activity.
HIIT workouts increase your metabolism in the short term immediately following your workout and in the long term after many consistent activities. An improved metabolic rate will help you have more energy, receive better quality sleep, and make it easier to lose and keep weight off. A higher metabolism can also help your body get rid of toxins more efficiently for improved overall wellness.
Typically, the best way to improve oxygen consumption, or the muscles’ ability to use oxygen, is with endurance activity. However, HIIT workouts improve oxygen consumption by just as much with less fitness time. Increased oxygen levels throughout the body improve performance, boost energy, and burn more fat. Oxygen also helps clear the body’s pathways to support a healthy immune system and allow us to think more clearly.
Improve Heart Health
One of the essential benefits of HIIT training is improving cardiovascular health. Short bursts of intense exercise push your body into the anaerobic zone, strengthening your heart and oxygen consumption. It also helps to reduce heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels.
How to Get Started with HIIT Fitness
There are many ways to incorporate HIIT fitness into your exercise routine, so starting is easy.
First, choose your activity and ease into HIIT workouts to avoid strain and injury. For example, choose a type of activity your body is familiar with or a low-impact exercise to start.
Then, you can experiment with different lengths of time performing high-intensity activity with periods of recovery. Intense activity should be at most 30 seconds long. Anything longer than that will be difficult for your body to maintain the necessary intensity. Recovery length should be equal to the work duration or longer. Ensure you take long enough rest periods to sustain the intensity needed during your work period.
HIIT workouts are very demanding, so giving yourself enough recovery time between training sessions to avoid injury is also important. First, start incorporating intervals a few times a week, then you can slowly ramp up the number and frequency as you get stronger.
Types of HIIT Workouts You Can Do
There are many types of exercises you can use with high intensity interval training. Whether you prefer to work out at home or in the gym, cardio or weight training, you can turn almost any exercise into a HIIT workout.
HIIT Exercise List
Aside from popular cardio activities such as running and biking, you can also perform other exercises that get your heart pumping.
- High Knees
- Jumping Jacks
- Lunge Jumps
- Jump Rope
- Mountain Climbers
To turn these exercises into a HIIT workout:
- Perform one as quickly as possible for 30 seconds.
- Stand or walk for 30-90 seconds to recover.
- Repeat for 10-20 minutes.
You don’t have to choose just one body weight or resistance exercise to make a HIIT workout. You can also do circuit training as a form of HIIT. This type of training involves going through a sequence of exercises back-to-back. Design your circuit to be very intense over a short time, then allow yourself a recovery time before repeating the circuit again.
An example of a HIIT circuit may be 30 mountain climbers, 20 push-ups, 45-second plank, and 45-second jump rope performed in succession, followed by 1 minute of rest. Complete the whole circuit 3-4 times for your workout. Change the exercises to target different body areas and keep things interesting as you burn fast, build muscle, and enhance performance.
Running is one of the most popular types of HIIT workouts. You don’t need any special equipment, just hit the pavement in your neighborhood or head to a local park. If the weather is a factor, you can also do a HIIT running workout indoors on a treadmill at home or the gym. Treadmills actually work great for HIIT running workouts since you can set the exact intensity levels using speed and incline.
To start a workout:
- Warm up with a light jog and a series of mobility movements.
- Start with your high-intensity activity by sprinting for 15-30 seconds as fast as possible.
- Walk or jog at a slow pace for 1-2 minutes.
- Repeat this pattern until you get tired. Aim for about ten intervals or a total of 10-20 minutes.
Every person will have a different definition of what “high intensity” means to them. It’s important to push yourself during work periods while being careful not to injure yourself.
HIIT Workout on Bike
Biking HIIT workouts take a very similar approach to running. You can create your own workout at home or take a guided class.
To do a HIIT cycling workout out at home, start with a light warm-up. Then, pedal as fast as you can for 30 seconds, followed by 60 seconds of easy cycling. Repeat this pattern ten times, and finish with a cool-down.
For a fun and social HIIT experience, take a spin class. These popular classes are highly motivating and use a high-intensity interval training strategy. Check out your local gym or look into at-home programs such as SoulCycle and Les Mills Sprint to push your limits.
HIIT Rowing Workout
Do high-intensity interval training on a rowing machine for a great upper-body workout. Start by warming up for about 2 minutes. Then, row as fast as you can for one full minute, and rest for 2 minutes before repeating. Start with a 10-minute workout to build strength, then add on intervals for up to 20 minutes as you can. Rowing HIIT workouts are not only good for cardio, but they can also target just about every muscle in the body if done correctly and with enough resistance.
Aside from a treadmill, stationary bike, and rowing machine, you can use other HIIT trainers for your workout. For example, an elliptical machine or stair climber can be used at different resistance levels, making them ideal for interval training. Start on low resistance for 2 minutes, then increase to very high resistance for 1 minute. Alternate between low and high intensity in this way for 20 minutes.
There are also fitness machines designed specifically for HIIT workouts. This equipment is often extremely durable to withstand intense exercises and includes desirable features like heart rate monitors, preprogrammed workouts, and magnetic resistance.
HIIT Workouts at Home
Since HIIT workouts require little to no equipment, they are an excellent option for home fitness. Whether you can’t make it to the gym on a busy schedule or prefer to exercise solo, there are plenty of opportunities for HIIT workouts at home. For example, you can do body weight or resistance exercises, HITT circuits, or head outside for a run without needing any equipment. Or, if you own a bike or cardio exercise equipment, easily complete your high-intensity interval training at any time on your schedule.
HIIT Gym Workout
If you prefer to get your fitness time in a gym, there is often a more comprehensive range of equipment available you can use for HIIT workouts. Check out the cardio machines for running, biking, and rowing. Or, incorporate equipment like kettlebells, medicine balls, plyometric boxes, and battle ropes to target specific body areas and make your workout more challenging.
HIIT After Lifting
HIIT workouts are tough on the body, so for most people, it’s best to stick to one activity per day to allow yourself the proper recovery time. However, if you are highly trained, you can most likely fit in both strength training and cardio in the same session. In this case, starting with weights and following up with HIIT training is better. Also if you are at the gym, your fellow gym mates will appreciate you not using the workout equipment after you get super sweaty from your HIIT session.
Kettlebell HIIT Workout
A kettlebell HIIT workout is a high-intensity interval training routine that uses kettlebells as the primary piece of equipment. These workouts involve short bursts of intense exercise alternated with periods of rest or low-intensity exercise. The kettlebell is a versatile tool that can be used for a variety of exercises such as swings, snatches, and presses.
During a kettlebell HIIT workout, participants perform multiple rounds of intense kettlebell exercises for a set time period, typically between 30 seconds to 1 minute, followed by a short period of rest or active recovery. This type of workout can improve cardiovascular endurance, increase strength and power, and burn calories. It can also be easily adapted to individual fitness levels and preferences, making it an effective and convenient form of exercise.
HIIT Back Workout
HIIT back workouts can actually be very effective. Since there are so many ways to workout your back (dumbbells, machines, barbells, etc.) the options are vast. Since back workouts require a lot of energy, it is the perfect muscle group to target with some high intensity training. Doing deadlifts or barbell rows can be exhausting without incorporating them into a HIIT back routine, so you can only imagine the amount of calories you burn with the HIIT version.
HIIT for Seniors
HIIT workouts can be a great way for seniors to improve their overall fitness and health. However, it’s important for seniors to take precautions and consult with a healthcare professional before beginning any new exercise routine.
HIIT workouts for seniors typically involve low-impact exercises with shorter intervals and longer periods of rest. This type of workout can help seniors build cardiovascular endurance, improve strength, and reduce the risk of falls. HIIT workouts for seniors can also help improve cognitive function and mood. By working with a qualified fitness professional, seniors can safely and effectively incorporate HIIT into their exercise routine to improve overall health and quality of life.
HIIT swimming is a high-intensity interval training routine that involves short bursts of intense swimming followed by periods of rest or low-intensity swimming. This type of workout can improve cardiovascular endurance, build muscular strength, and burn calories.
During a HIIT swimming workout, participants may perform exercises such as sprints, kicks, and laps for a set time period, typically between 30 seconds to 1 minute, followed by a short period of rest or active recovery. HIIT swimming can be easily modified to fit individual fitness levels and preferences, making it an effective and convenient form of exercise for anyone looking to improve their swimming abilities or overall fitness.
Fasted HIIT Workouts
Fasted HIIT workouts involve performing high-intensity interval training while in a fasted state, typically early in the morning before breakfast. The idea behind this type of workout is to tap into stored body fat as a source of energy, rather than relying on food consumed prior to exercise.
Advocates of fasted HIIT workouts believe that they can increase fat burning, improve insulin sensitivity, and promote weight loss. However, it’s important to note that this type of workout may not be suitable for everyone, especially those with underlying health conditions or who are not accustomed to exercising in a fasted state. It’s important to listen to your body and consult with a healthcare professional before beginning any new exercise routine.
HIIT Workouts for Men and Women
Both men and women can benefit from high-intensity interval training. HIIT is an effective way for anyone to boost their fitness and improve their endurance while burning fat and adding muscle.
While HIIT is great for both men and women, workouts can differ. Interval training should be tailored based on fitness levels and goals. Also, men and women tend to want to focus on different parts of the body. Women tend to care more about legs, core, and shoulders, while men like to focus on arms, chest, and back.
Men often use HIIT workouts to complement a weight lifting or body-building routine since they are designed to reduce body fat and improve muscle tone. Interval training is also an excellent option for those days when you can’t get to the gym but want to burn some major calories since it can be done quickly at home.
Many women also prefer HIIT workouts because of their efficiency. Studies show that women can actually burn fat at a higher rate than men during high-intensity workouts. HIIT is also great for hormone balance, stress management, muscle retention, and bone density, which all women need.
High Intensity Interval Training Is Here to Stay
Now that you know all about HIIT workouts, are you up to the challenge? Give it a try yourself and enjoy the incredible benefits. Not only is interval training extremely effective at burning fat and toning muscle, but it can also improve overall health and fitness through the intense cardio and core work it achieves. Plus, it is easy to get started and start seeing results. Pick your favorite activity and start a HIIT routine to see for yourself!
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