What Is HIIT Workout? High-Intensity Interval Training Explained

What Is HIIT Workout
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High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has become increasingly popular as one of the most effective forms of cardiovascular exercise.

HIIT is a workout methodology that involves short bursts of intense exercise followed by rest or recovery periods. Despite the popularity of HIIT, some people still wonder about its benefits and proper implementation.

In this article, we’ll provide an overview of HIIT workouts, examine the science behind this training methodology, explain how it differs from traditional cardio, break down the components of a HIIT workout, and provide tips on designing and incorporating a HIIT routine into your fitness plan.

Understanding HIIT Workouts

The Science Behind High-Intensity Interval Training

HIIT, or High-Intensity Interval Training, is a popular workout method that has gained much attention recently. The science behind HIIT is based on alternating periods of intense exercise and recovery or rest periods. During the high-intensity phase, your body experiences a greater demand for oxygen and energy, which leads to an “oxygen debt.” During recovery, your body repays this debt by burning more calories. The basic principle of HIIT is to work at a high level of intensity for a shorter period, followed by brief periods of rest.

Research has shown that HIIT can be an effective way to increase fitness and burn fat. In fact, studies have found that HIIT can be more effective than traditional cardio for burning calories and building muscle. This is because HIIT workouts typically involve more total work in a shorter time, leading to a greater calorie burn and muscle activation.

Benefits of HIIT Workouts

The benefits of HIIT are multiple. Firstly, HIIT increases the body’s metabolic rate, which means you will continue to burn calories long after you finish your workout. This is known as the “afterburn effect,” It can last up to 24 hours after your workout. Secondly, HIIT workouts are perfect for busy individuals with limited free time, as they are typically shorter than traditional cardio. This means you can get a great workout in less time. Thirdly, HIIT exercises can help boost cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure, and improve insulin sensitivity. Lastly, HIIT workouts can burn both fat and calories, leading to a leaner, more muscular physique.

One of the biggest benefits of HIIT is that it can be done anywhere, without the need for expensive equipment or a gym membership. All you need is a little bit of space and some motivation. HIIT workouts can be done at home, in a park, or even in a hotel room while traveling.

How HIIT Differs from Traditional Cardio

Traditional cardio exercises involve steady-state exercise, such as running, cycling or swimming, at a moderate intensity for an extended period at a consistent pace. Traditional cardio aims to raise your heart rate and maintain it for an extended period. On the other hand, HIIT involves repeated, short bursts of intense exercise, followed by brief periods of rest or recovery. HIIT is more demanding on the body, but it’s also much more efficient in burning fat and building muscle.

Another key difference between HIIT and traditional cardio is how they affect your metabolism. Traditional cardio can lead to a temporary increase in metabolism, but this effect is short-lived. HIIT, on the other hand, can lead to a sustained increase in metabolism, which can last for hours after your workout. This means that HIIT can be a more effective way to burn fat and lose weight.


In conclusion, HIIT is a highly effective workout method that can help you burn fat, build muscle, and improve your overall fitness. With its many benefits and flexibility, HIIT is a great option for anyone looking to get in shape, regardless of their fitness level or schedule. So why not give it a try and see the results for yourself?

Components of a HIIT Workout

Hiit Workout on Air Bike
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High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a popular exercise routine involving short bursts of intense activity followed by rest periods. This type of workout is highly effective for burning calories, building endurance, and improving cardiovascular health. Here are some of the key components of a HIIT workout:

Warm-Up and Cool-Down

Like any exercise routine, HIIT requires a proper warm-up and cool-down. A warm-up should be done for at least five to ten minutes to prepare the body for the workout and reduce the risk of injury. It can be a low-intensity cardio workout, light stretching, or mobility work. Some examples of warm-up exercises include jogging in place, jumping jacks, or arm circles. A cool-down should also be done for at least five to ten minutes to gradually bring the heart rate down and prevent post-workout muscle soreness. It can include gentle stretches or foam rolling, which can help release muscle tension.

Work and Rest Intervals

The work interval is the high-intensity phase of the HIIT workout, while the rest interval is the recovery phase. These intervals are typically repeated several times in a single session. Depending on the intensity and duration of the workout, the work interval can be as short as 20 seconds or as long as two minutes, while the rest interval can be between 10 seconds to two minutes. D

uring the work interval, the goal is to push yourself to your maximum capacity, while during the rest interval, you should focus on recovering and preparing for the next round.

Exercise Selection and Variations

The exercises selected for a HIIT workout can vary widely, depending on the fitness level of the individual performing them.

Popular exercises include bodyweight exercises like burpees, jumping jacks, and mountain climbers, but they can also include dumbbell work, kettlebells, and other equipment.

The intensity level should be adjusted to suit the individual’s fitness level and goals. Variations can be added to challenge the body and help prevent boredom. Some examples of exercise variations include adding weights, increasing the number of reps, or decreasing the rest time between intervals.

In addition to these key components, staying hydrated during a HIIT workout and listening to your body is important. If you experience any pain or discomfort, stop the workout and rest.

A HIIT workout can help you achieve your fitness goals and improve your overall health and well-being with consistent practice.

Designing Your Own HIIT Workout

High-Intensity Interval Training
Photo Credit: Annushka Ahuja / Pexels

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has become popular in recent years due to its effectiveness in burning calories and improving cardiovascular health. HIIT workouts involve short bursts of intense exercise followed by rest or recovery periods. If you’re looking to design your own HIIT workout, here are some things to keep in mind:

Choosing the Right Intensity

When it comes to HIIT, the intensity level is key. The goal is to work at a high level of intensity so that you reach your maximum heart rate during the work interval. This level of intensity will vary depending on your fitness level, but you should aim for a level that is challenging but still sustainable throughout the workout.

It’s important to note that pushing yourself too hard can lead to injury and burnout, so listening to your body and adjusting the intensity is crucial. The recovery periods are essential, so you can regain your composure and tackle the next work interval.

It’s also important to consider the type of exercise you’re doing during the work interval. Some exercises, such as sprints or burpees, are more intense than others, such as jumping jacks or lunges. Choose exercises that you enjoy and that challenge you, but also ensure they’re safe and appropriate for your fitness level.

Timing Your Intervals

The timing of the intervals is also crucial to designing your HIIT workout. Generally, shorter work intervals require shorter recovery periods, while longer work periods require longer recovery periods.

For example, if you’re doing 20 seconds of high-intensity exercise, you may only need 10 seconds of rest before starting the next interval. However, if you’re doing 60 seconds of high-intensity exercise, you may need 30 or more before starting the next interval.

It’s important to balance your work and recovery intervals to ensure they push you toward your limits while allowing you to recover adequately. If you’re new to HIIT, you may want to start with shorter work intervals and longer recovery periods and gradually increase the intensity and duration as you become more comfortable and fit.

Incorporating HIIT into Your Fitness Routine

HIIT workouts can be incorporated into your existing fitness routine in different ways. For example, you can substitute your regular cardio exercise for a HIIT session or add HIIT exercises after your strength training routine. Whatever option you choose, it’s essential to find a balance between HIIT and other types of exercise, so as not to over-tax your body.

It’s also important to give your body time to recover between HIIT sessions. Your muscles need time to repair and rebuild after intense exercise, so it’s recommended to do HIIT workouts no more than 2-3 times per week, with at least one day of rest between each session. Additionally, ensure you’re fueling your body with healthy, nutrient-dense foods and getting enough sleep to support your fitness goals.

Following these guidelines, you can design a safe and effective HIIT workout that challenges you and helps you reach your fitness goals.

Sample HIIT Workouts for Different Fitness Levels

HIIT workouts are known for their efficiency and effectiveness in burning calories, improving cardiovascular health, and building endurance. Here are some sample HIIT workouts for different fitness levels that you can try.

Beginner HIIT Workout

If you’re new to HIIT, this beginner workout is a great place to start. It involves a 1:1 work-to-rest ratio and can be performed anywhere without any equipment.

Before you begin, warm up with some dynamic stretches and light cardio for 5-10 minutes.

  1. Fast Bodyweight Squats: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and lower your body into a squat position. Keep your chest up and your knees behind your toes. Push through your heels to return to the starting position. Do this for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of rest.
  2. Mountain Climbers: Get into a high plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart and your feet hip-width apart. Bring one knee towards your chest, then quickly switch to the other knee. Do this for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of rest.
  3. Lunges: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and step forward with one foot, bending both knees to create 90-degree angles. Push through your front heel to return to the starting position, then repeat on the other side. Do this for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of rest.
  4. Jumping Jacks: Stand with your feet together and your arms at your sides. Jump your feet out to the sides while raising your arms above your head. Jump back to the starting position. Do this for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of rest.
  5. Repeat: Repeat the above circuit for a total of 3-5 times.

Intermediate HIIT Workout

If you’re looking for a more challenging workout, this intermediate HIIT workout involves a 2:1 work-to-rest ratio and requires dumbbells and a gym bench.

Before you begin, warm up with dynamic stretches and light cardio for 5-10 minutes. Choose dumbbells that are challenging but still allow you to maintain proper form.

  1. Dumbbell Thrusters: Hold a pair of dumbbells at shoulder height with your palms facing each other. Lower into a squat, then push through your heels to stand up while pressing the dumbbells overhead. Lower the dumbbells back to shoulder height and repeat. Do this for 30 seconds, followed by 15 seconds of rest.
  2. Bench Jumps: Stand facing a gym bench and jump onto it, landing softly with both feet. Step back down and repeat. Do this for 30 seconds, followed by 15 seconds of rest.
  3. Dumbbell Bent-Over Rows: Hold a pair of dumbbells with your palms facing your body and hinge forward at the hips, keeping your back flat. Pull the dumbbells towards your chest, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Lower the dumbbells back down and repeat. Do this for 30 seconds, followed by 15 seconds of rest.
  4. Bench Dips: Sit on the edge of a gym bench with your hands next to your hips and your feet on the ground. Lower your body towards the floor, bending your elbows to 90 degrees, then push back up. Do this for 30 seconds, followed by 15 seconds of rest.
  5. Repeat: Repeat the above circuit for a total of 3-5 times.

Advanced HIIT Workout

If you’re a seasoned athlete looking for a challenge, this advanced HIIT cycling workout requires a 1:2 work-to-rest ratio and a stationary bike.

Before you begin, warm up with some dynamic stretches and light cardio for 5-10 minutes. Adjust the resistance on the bike to make it more challenging.

  1. All-Out Sprints: Pedal as fast as possible for 30 seconds, pushing yourself to your limit. Follow this with 60 seconds of rest, allowing your heart rate to decrease. Repeat this for a total of 10-15 minutes. We like to perform this exercise on our Rogue Echo Bike which allows for a full-body workout with built-in tabata timing.

Cool down with static stretches and foam rolling to prevent injury and reduce muscle soreness.


HIIT workouts are one of the most effective methods of cardio exercise, offering a wide range of benefits. By incorporating HIIT into your fitness routine, you can burn fat, improve cardiovascular health, and achieve a leaner physique in less time.

To design your own HIIT workout, choose the right intensity and timing, vary exercises, and find the right balance between work and rest periods.

Want to add some functional training to your HiiT-based sessions? Check out our list of the best functional trainers for a home gym.

Written by James Kosur

James is a 20-year veteran of the digital media industry, an avid gym builder, and a dad to four kids, three dogs, and two cats. He's a DIYer who loves building stuff with his hands and a gamer who enjoys all facets of gaming.