Exercise and Fitness

A Short Guide To High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

By Ted KallmyerUpdated August 31, 2022
Guide to high intensity interval training

High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is an excellent option for those looking to lose weight quickly and efficiently.

HIIT is an exercise that alternates between short bursts of high-intensity activity and brief rest periods.

This type of workout is more effective at burning fat than traditional cardio exercises and can be done in a shorter time.

It will improve cardio health and aerobic endurance.

What are examples of high-intensity interval training?

The workout consists of alternating between an intense exercise and a low-intensity exercise.

  • Running upstairs versus walking
  • Burpees versus jumping jacks
  • Plank versus push-ups
  • Sprinting versus jogging
  • Jogging versus walking

Sometimes you can substitute rest for low-intensity exercise.

How long are the durations of intervals?

There is no definitive answer to this question as it depends on your goals, fitness level, and preferences.

However, a typical ratio for HIIT exercise durations to rest durations is 1:2 or 1:3, meaning that for every minute of HIIT exercise, the individual rests for two or three minutes.

What are common HIIT exercises?

  1. Treadmill sprints
  2. Stationary bike sprints
  3. Rowing machine sprints
  4. Burpees
  5. Push-ups
  6. Squats
  7. Lunges
  8. Jumping jacks
  9. Box jumps
  10. Kettlebell swings
  11. Medicine ball slams
  12. Sledgehammer swings
  13. Rope jumping
  14. Mountain climbers
  15. TRX rows
  16. TRX squats
  17. TRX lunges
  18. Pilates reformer sprints
  19. Elliptical sprints
  20. Stair sprints
Animation of multiple exercises.
Lots of exercises can be used for intervals.

How can HIIT help you lose weight?

Studies have found that HIIT workouts can help you burn anywhere from five to 20 percent more calories after the workout than steady-state cardio (such as jogging or biking).

Other research has found that HIIT is great for improving cardio-respiratory fitness, but the impact on body fat mass is less pronounced.

The key to successful HIIT training is the intensity level.

HIIT and Macro Counting

While macro counting is a method of losing fat where exercise is unnecessary, interval training is a good option for reducing exercise time.

If you consistently do an HIIT workout (say 3-4 times a week), you should set your activity level to Light on the Macro Calculator.

HIIT workouts for beginners

HIIT workouts can be done using equipment at home or the gym, or with bodyweight exercises.

Choose a high-intensity exercise that’s challenging but still doable. For example, if jogging is your chosen activity, try running upstairs instead of walking.

Do not exceed 80% of your maximum heart rate during your first workout.

6-minute HIIT workout

  • Jumping jacks – 1 minute
  • Push-ups – 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds rest.
  • Squats – 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds rest.
  • Mountain climbers – 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds rest.
  • High knees – 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds rest.
  • Burpees – 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds rest.
  • Rest – 1 minute

10-minute HIIT workout protocol

  • Warm up for one minute at an easy pace.
  • Choose your exercise
  • Then, increase the intensity for 30 seconds, followed by a 30-second recovery.
  • Repeat this cycle eight times for a 10-minute workout.

The benefits of HIIT

  • Time
    Instead of 60 minutes of continuous intensity cardio (like brisk walking), a much shorter 15-minute HIIT workout will accomplish the same.
  • Break a weight loss plateau
    If you’ve been doing steady-state cardio and are experiencing a plateau – switch to HIIT.
  • Cardio-vascular improvement
    The research is in agreement with this.
  • Retaining interest and fighting boredom
    Are you walking on a treadmill for an hour? No thanks. But a short, intense cycling workout – is much more enjoyable.

The downsides of HIIT

  • Injury risk for beginners
    Take it easy if you are starting.
  • Not for the faint-hearted 🔥
    It’s called high-intensity for a reason.

Popular interval training workouts

15-30 Minute HIIT Workouts

There are thousands of HIIT workouts on YouTube.

  • Some are geared to men.
  • Some are geared to women.
  • Some use weights.
  • Some use bodyweight.
  • Some are adapted for those with injuries or women who are pregnant.

Orange Theory

Orange Theory provides hour-long HIIT sessions with a coach in a class-like setting. It’s great for those who like the motivation a coach can offer and classmates’ support.

Participants can also get a great burn from Orange Theory, burning 500-900 calories per workout depending on your stats and how hard you go at it.

Military Training

You may not be aiming to pass the Army Combat Fitness Test, but military-based workouts such as GrittySoldier offer high-intensity mixes of strength and power, alongside cardio training.

CrossFit

Crossfit is another type of interval training with a lot of variation and a significant strength training component.

Participants work through a Workout of the Day (WOD) consisting of various movements with varying intensity degrees.

WOD Example

  • 30 box jumps
  • 15 clean and jerks, 65 | 95 lb.
  • 30 box jumps
  • 15 clean and jerks, 85 | 135 lb.
  • 30 box jumps
  • 10 clean and jerks, 115 | 185 lb.
  • 30 single-leg squats
  • 10 clean and jerks, 145 | 225 lb.
  • 30 single-leg squats
  • 5 clean and jerks, 175 | 275 lb.
  • 30 single-leg squats
  • 5 clean and jerks, 205 | 315 lb.

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References

References

  • Sultana, R. N., Sabag, A., Keating, S. E., & Johnson, N. A. (2019). The effect of low-volume high-intensity interval training on body composition and cardiorespiratory fitness: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports Medicine, 49(11), 1687-1721.
  • O'Keeffe, C. (2015). Systematic review of the efficacy of high intensity interval training versus continuous training for weight loss in overweight and obese individuals.