How to Start High Intensity Interval Training (Plus Why HIIT Workouts Are So Popular)

4 min read

If you’re looking for a way to get a fantastic workout that doesn’t take an hour out of your day, high intensity interval training (HIIT) is a popular choice. You can burn a substantial number of calories and improve your cardio quite a bit. But, how doe sit work and where can you do it? Keep reading for everything you need to know about HIIT, including a few examples of HIIT workouts.

What Is HIIT?

As the name suggests, HIIT is a type of interval training where you mix short periods of high intensity exercise with lower intensity recovery periods. Keep in mind that you’re typically not resting during those lower intensity periods, only reducing how hard you go to recover for the next period of high intensity work. However, there are some HIIT workouts where the recovery period is an actual rest period.

The one key for HIIT is that you reach the appropriate intensity for those high intensity periods. You should be at 90 to 100 percent of your ability during that time frame. You can adjust everything else based on your current level of physical fitness.

For example, you could do just 10 seconds of high intensity exercise with a 50-second recovery period if you need that much time. As you improve, you can increase the high intensity time period and decrease your recovery time. You can also adjust how hard you go during that recovery period—for example, you could go from 30-percent effort to 50-percent effort.

A HIIT workout consists of a short warm-up, the HIIT portion and then a cooldown. The HIIT portion itself can be as short as five minutes. HIIT workouts typically range from 10 to 15 minutes.

Where Can You Perform HIIT?

Besides the short amount of time needed to get an effective HIIT workout, another benefit is that you can do it just about anywhere you want. HIIT has become far more popular in recent years, which means there are plenty of gyms that offer classes for it, but you could also try it at home or outside in the park. It’s a great workout for traveling too, since you can modify it and you don’t need a full gym to complete it.

Examples of HIIT Workouts

Perhaps the most common type of HIIT workout involves running, as that’s one of the easiest exercises to adjust your intensity at a moment’s notice. All you need to do is alternate between periods of sprinting and rest periods where you either jog or walk.

You can also do HIIT with just about any other type of cardio. If you’re riding a bike, exercising on an elliptical machine or swimming in a pool, you could follow the same HIIT pattern with any type of cardio.

Calisthenics exercises are another popular option when it comes to HIIT, but with these exercises, you’ll do HIIT where you actually rest during your recovery periods. Here’s one way to do this:

  • Choose an exercise and a number of reps that you can do easily, along with how long you’ll rest between sets.
  • Go through that pattern either a certain number of times or for as long as you can.
  • Example: Do 20 pushups, rest for 25 seconds and repeat that pattern until you can’t do the full 20 pushups anymore.

Benefits of HIIT

What makes HIIT so effective is that it gets you exercising at your absolute hardest. When you do, it gives your metabolism a boost, improves your endurance and helps you burn body fat.

The biggest benefit is that you’re not just increasing your metabolism during the workout: HIIT increases your oxygen consumption after your workout too. Since you’re continuing to consume more oxygen for some time after you finish exercising, you’ll also be burning extra calories, which can help combat things like sitting at a desk for work all day.

While HIIT is useful for anyone, it’s especially good for those looking to burn fat and athletes who are preparing for sports that require short bursts at maximum intensity. Football is a good example, since it consists of short plays with longer rest periods.

Making HIIT Work for You

HIIT may be just what you need to take your routine to the next level and improve your athletic performance. Start by trying it once or twice per week. In order for it to work its best, you’ll want to follow a varied routine with different types of exercise (try adding in yoga twice a week, or other types of longer-distance cardio).


Interested in what to eat before you get a workout in? Check out the five foods you should eat before a yoga class.

About The Author

Hannah Moses

Hannah Moses

Hannah Moses is a small-town Mississippi girl, exploring her new city of Memphis, TN. She is a digital marketer who graduated from The University of Mississippi, so her hello greeting sounds more like “Hotty Toddy!” She enjoys weekend trips, wine tastings and concerts in the city, and works with Orangetheory Fitness.



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