Want to speed up your workouts and spend less time in the gym, then the BodyFit Definitive Guide to HIIT will do the trick.
A new year has arrived, and surprise! It’s just as tough to stick to your fitness goals in the new year as it was last year. After a few of years of setting the same weight loss goals and not meeting them, it’s easy to feel like giving up on setting new goals altogether to save yourself the embarrassment of yet another failure. (After all, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, right?)
But this year, let’s choose to dust ourselves off instead and see if a new way of exercising can pull us out of our rut. Enter HIIT.
What is HIIT?
HIIT stands for high intensity interval training, and it’s a style of exercise that involves alternating between short periods of strenuous exercise and short periods of rest. When you perform a HIIT workout, a few key changes go on in your body to create a perfect fat-burning environment.
During the high intensity periods your heart rate quickly spikes to an anaerobic level (about 80-90% of your max heart rate), meaning that your body is using glycogen instead of oxygen to fuel the movement of your fast-twitch muscle fibers. Then, during the rest period, your heart rate falls back down into the aerobic zone — about 40-50% of your max — where you can recover from the hard work because your oxygen intake increases again. Whew!
Bouncing back and forth between the aerobic and anaerobic zones exercises your heart muscle and increases your cardiovascular fitness in a tiny fraction of the time it would take to get the same effect from a steady-state cardio workout. That’s why HIIT is so popular — it allows you to get a workout in and then get back to your busy life.
Now that we know how HIIT workouts work, let’s break down their benefits.
Benefits of HIIT workouts
HIIT workouts are short. You want to get fit and stay fit, but you’re busy and don’t have hours each week to spend working out. Believe it or not, a HIIT workout can be done in as little as four minutes, but a typical HIIT workout lasts between 20 and 30 minutes.
You don’t need fancy equipment. While you can certainly utilize a treadmill, rower, or free weights for your HIIT workout, you don’t need to. It’s easy to put together a bodyweight HIIT workout that doesn’t require any equipment at all.
HIIT boosts your metabolism. Your calorie burn spikes during each high intensity interval, but it also continues for hours after your workout is complete. It takes your body a few hours to return to its normal state after a tough HIIT workout, and your body torches calories throughout that whole recovery period. This is called exercise post oxygen consumption, or EPOC.
You won’t get bored. Let’s face it: most of the time when we don’t follow through on our fitness goals it’s because we got bored with them.
HIIT workouts are easily customizable, enabling you to use the same simple work/rest ratio of 2:1, insert different exercises, and have a brand new workout every day.
As you complete your workouts, the constant switching between work and rest makes time seem to pass more quickly — there’s simply not enough time to get bored!
Choosing the right HIIT workout for your goals
First things first: identify your goal. Are you hoping to lose weight, improve your cardiovascular health, or increase your athletic performance? These things will have bearing on whether your ideal HIIT workout should include cardio, resistance exercises, plyometrics or a combination of all of the above.
HIIT for weight loss
If your main objective is to lose weight, start with a HIIT workout that includes both resistance and cardiovascular exercises. Building muscle is an often overlooked but extremely important part of any weight loss strategy — the more muscle you have, the more calories your body can burn at rest. A HIIT workout that includes all-out resistance training periods will fire up your fast-twitch muscle fibers and help them grow, and the spikes in your heart rate will boost your metabolism to help you burn fat fast.
HIIT for cardiovascular health
Any HIIT workout you choose will help improve your cardiovascular health, but this tip will make sure you get the biggest bang for your buck: on a 1-10 scale of effort, make sure to push yourself all the way to a 9 whenever you’re performing a work interval. Then, bring it down to a 4 or 5 during each recovery period. The quick switching between high and low effort challenges your heart, and as with anything, the more you practice the better you get. As your cardiovascular health improves, you can increase the length of the work intervals to push yourself even harder.
HIIT for athletic performance
You can customize a HIIT workout to improve your performance in any sport, or for a crosstraining challenge, try a sports performance HIIT workout designed for a sport you’re unfamiliar with. Here are some of our favorites:
After a 10 minute warmup jog, complete four rounds of 4 minute sprints and 4 minute jogs for a total of 16 minutes. This can be done on a treadmill or on a flat route outdoors.
Soccer or basketball
Agility drills are great examples of sports performance HIIT workouts that you might see a soccer or basketball team doing.
Example agility drill:
- Start on the sideline
- Sprint a quarter of the court/field and back
- Sprint to half court/field and back
- Sprint to three quarters of the court/field and back
- Sprint to the opposite sideline and back.
- Rest 1-2 minutes before performing to drill again for a total of four.
Try performing HIIT cardio up to an hour before a volume-based weight training session. (Avoid HIIT before a heavy, low-rep workout because it can cause central nervous system fatigue, which we commonly refer to as “overtraining”.)
Alternatively, turn your weightlifting workout into a HIIT session with a barbell complex: a handful of barbell exercises that can easily be performed back to back, keeping the same weight on the bar for all of the movements. Don’t rest between each exercise, but do rest for 1-2 minutes between each complex.
Example barbell complex (6 reps of each):
- Bent over row
- Hang clean
- Overhead press
- Good morning
- Back squat
Have we convinced you to give HIIT a try? Check out our free HIIT workouts.
If you’re looking for some HIIT workout inspiration, BodyFit has loads of free workouts available to stream or for download. Choose the one that will best help you reach your goals, click play, and go!
- Quick 2 minute warmup to perform prior to your HIIT session:
- Beginner fat burning HIIT workout:
- Core and abs HIIT workout:
- 6 minute plyometric HIIT workout:
- Full body strengthening 6 minute HIIT workout:
- 3 minute cool down:
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