Complete Guide To High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Updated: May 18, 2020

10 things you need to know about High-Intensity Interval Training Workouts

High-Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT for short, is a great way to increase your overall fitness. Whether you're new to fitness or have been working out for 20 years, these workouts will push you to get better.

The good news is HIIT is for everybody. Athletes, moms, dads, teenagers, as long as you have the right information you can reap the benefits of HIIT workouts. That's where we come in.

We have all the information you need to get started with high-intensity interval training workouts. By the time you're done reading this you'll have everything you need to make your own workouts.

Workouts that you can make yourself to suit your own goals.

1. What is High-Intensity Interval Training?

First we need to know, what is High-Intensity Interval Training? High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a form of exercise in which a movement/exercise is performed with a burst of intensity, followed by a period of rest or low-intensity exercise.

For example, sprinting for 30 seconds and walking/jogging for 15 seconds, repeated multiple times.

The time you take to do each interval depends on several factors, such as the exercise you are performing, or the type of workout you are doing. In most cases the rest time will be equal to or less than the intense time.

This will keep up the intensity and give you the most benefit.

For an accurate measurement of how hard you are working, generally, the intense portions of these workouts are completed at 80% of your maximum heart rate.

If you want to keep track of your heart rate precisely then a heart rate monitor will be a great resource for you. This would be a bonus and is not necessary to get the full benefit.

To calculate what 80% of your heart rate is, use this free heart rate calculator.

What is HIIT?

Who Can Do It?

Are you ready? Absolutely anybody. If you want to get in shape and improve your overall health than I highly suggest adding one or two HIIT workouts a week to your workout plan.

2. When Should You Do a HIIT Workout?

If you are a HIIT workout beginner or new to exercise in general, you will want to start slow when it comes to high-intensity interval training.

This is because High-Intensity Interval Training can be very taxing on the body, which means you're going to need time, typically between 48 and 72 hours, to ensure a full recovery.

If you don't take this much-needed rest time and start doing a very intense workout every day, then your body will break down and your risk of injury is higher.

So to start, doing a HIIT workout 1-2x per week will give you the most benefits of interval training. This allows your body to be fully recovered before each session.

After 3-4 weeks you can start to do 2-3 interval workouts in a week, all while keeping the same 48-72 hour rule. At this point, your body will be better adapted to an increased load of intensity.

To avoid burning out or injury don't do any more than four HIIT workout's in a week. Make sure to rest a minimum of 48 hours.

3. Types of HIIT Workouts

High-Intensity Interval Workouts can take many different forms, it all depends on what you want. They can be done with any exercise for any amount of time.

You can combine resistance training (strength training) with a HIIT workout. You can also combine some different cardio exercises, such as swimming, biking, or running and do it that way. Even a mix of strength and cardio all in one.

Strength Training and HIIT

If you're looking to add a HIIT workout to your gym routine, then lifting weights with intervals is perfect. You can combine it with just about any exercise you want, whether that is with your favourite machine or with free weights.

This form of strength training will focus on muscular endurance, while also building muscular strength. Your rest between sets will be limited so you need to keep the number of reps down, but maintain a relatively high weight (will be different for everybody).

An example can be seen in an American Council on Exercise (ACE) study. The group doing HIIT resistance training performed 1 set at a 5 rep max of different exercises with limited rest in between each.

The great part about HIIT workouts is the equipment optional. You don't need a gym membership, you can do every workout without leaving your house.

You can still do strength workouts without the gym just by using your bodyweight.

If you don't have access to a gym you can do bodyweight HIIT workouts at-home.

Of course, there are limitations when only using your body weight, however, you can build a great foundation of strength and use variations of exercises to increase the difficulty.

Cardio and HIIT

Cardio and High-Intensity Interval Training go hand in hand. As we said before, the goal of any HIIT workout is to have the intense period be at >80% of your heart rate. This means that when doing it correctly no matter what form of HIIT you are doing, you will get a cardio benefit.

So this is pretty much to say, every HIIT workout is a HIIT cardio workout. However, let's get into some specifics.

Specifically speaking about cardio exercises and HIIT, you have unlimited options to play with. If you like swimming, you can do a HIIT workout in the pool, if you're a cyclist you can do it on your bike or if you're a runner you can do it anywhere you want.

You don't even need to leave your home to do one because you can translate any outdoor run workout into a HIIT treadmill workout.

You could even mix up the disciplines and alternate between biking and running. The logistics behind that could be difficult, but if you have a treadmill and bike trainer at home then it could be perfect for you.

4. HIIT vs Steady State Cardio

Let's take a look at some of the differences between steady-state cardio or low-intensity steady state (LISS) and high-intensity interval training.

HIIT Vs Steady-State Cardio

When comparing interval training and steady-state training, there are some glaring differences.

Steady-state refers to a constant state of exercise for a given time. No rest or breaks, just a continuous low-intensity effort

This could be a 45-minute jog, swim, bike, or even a 15-minute walk.

Intervals, on the other hand, are split into periods of high intensity and rest or low intensity.

With the high intensity comes a higher effort level and higher heart rate. While steady-state cardio will typically have a lower heart rate that is 60-70% of your max.

One benefit that is attractive to a lot of people is the fact that HIIT workouts don't have to take very long. You can do a workout in 20 minutes or less.

However, steady-state cardio doesn't quite have this luxury because of the low intensity. Meaning you may have to do it for longer to get better results.

A major difference between these two forms of cardio is the ability for muscle growth. A low-intensity jog will develop strength in your legs, but if your goal is to build muscle you are much better off with HIIT.

This is because HIIT workouts can be made based off of strength exercises and steady-state cardio has none of that. Incorporating movements like push-ups and squats will be much more effective at building muscle than a long-distance run.

Should you do HIIT or Steady-State Cardio?

The answer is both. If you want to get maximum benefits from your cardio workouts, including both interval and steady-state methods is a good idea.

LISS improves your body's ability to use fat as fuel instead of glycogen. This aids in fat burning because your body will use up fat stores for energy before starting to use glycogen.

Low-intensity training uses your aerobic energy system, while HIIT uses a combination of your anaerobic energy system and the aerobic system.

High-Intensity Intervals are very taxing on the body which means you can't do it every day.

Meanwhile, a LISS workout has a low intensity and can be done multiple days in a row.

This makes for a perfect combination.

Instead of doing two days of intervals in a row, you can do one day of HIIT followed by a day of low intensity.

When you're working at a very low intensity it allows your body to recover from the day before, while also giving you all the benefits associated with steady-state.

As a beginner start with 30-45 minutes of low-intensity steady-state cardio 3 times per week, combined with 2 days of HIIT spread out.

As your fitness increases, you will be able to handle more and you can start to do a little more volume.

Over the course of 1-2 months, you should build up to 60 minutes of LISS cardio.

Then you can add in an extra day of HIIT to equal 3 days of LISS cardio and 3 days of HIIT workouts.

If you're just starting out, a good HIIT training routine with LISS cardio could be the following:

Beginner HIIT Schedule

Monday: HIIT workout

Tuesday: Steady State Cardio

Wednesday: Rest Day

Thursday: Steady State Cardio

Friday: HIIT Workout

Saturday: Steady State Cardio

Sunday: Rest Day

If you've been doing HIIT for a while and are ready to increase your workload, a HIIT training routine could include the following:

Advanced HIIT schedule

Monday: HIIT workout

Tuesday: Steady State Cardio

Wednesday: HIIT workout

Thursday: Steady State Cardio

Friday: HIIT workout

Saturday: Steady State Cardio

Sunday: Rest Day

5. Why Should You Do HIIT Workouts?

So you've learned what a high-intensity interval workout is, but why should you do one? You should do a HIIT workout if you are short on time, want a challenge, or just want to get in great shape.

The best workout, if you don't have a lot of time, is a HIIT workout because you can choose how long you want it to be. You can fit one into a 15-minute break in the middle of the day or 30 minutes before work in the morning.

The sets and times are all up to you which means you can squeeze a workout into the busiest of schedules.

A great idea if you're in a rush is to set a 10-minute timer and do as many rounds as possible of a circuit of exercises. The goal is to try to take the minimum rest to get you through the 10 minutes.

The great thing about HIIT workouts is you're guaranteed to be challenged because of the high-intensity nature. It's pretty hard to take it easy when your heart rate is at 80% of its max.

The beauty is you don't need a lot of time either. Just like we mentioned, you could do a 10-minute HIIT workout and be dripping in sweat.

6. What Are The Benefits of HIIT?

You've decided you want to give HIIT workouts a try. The benefits of HIIT workouts are well documented.

The numerous health benefits include:

Burning Calories While You Sleep: HIIT workouts give you an increased caloric burn for two reasons. First of all, the high-intensity exercise burns more calories while you're working out vs its steady-state counterpart.

Secondly, a HIIT workout gives you the power to burn calories while you sleep. This is due to the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption effect.

After working out your metabolism is higher which allows you to burn a few extra calories even while sleeping.

Another way to keep your metabolism up is to make sure you're eating the right post-workout snacks.

HIIT Increases Your VO2 Max: According to the book The One Minute Workout, by Gibala and Shulgan, VO2 is one of the best indicators of overall health.

Independent of other factors, VO2 max is a predictor of all-cause mortality. Thus, a low VO2 max is more prominent in unhealthy individuals.

VO2 max is the maximal amount of oxygen one can utilize during exercise. A higher VO2 max shows a higher level of aerobic fitness.

A higher aerobic fitness means your body is more efficient at pumping blood throughout the body. A stronger heart means a lower risk of developing heart disease and further health complications.

Increase in HGH: One study of 6s and 30s sprints on a cycle ergometer detected massive changes in the production of HGH. When calculated, HGH concentrations after 30s were 450% higher than after 6s.

Human growth hormone (HGH) is a hormone secreted from the pituitary gland with many benefits. An increase in HGH that occurs naturally helps to build muscle, boost metabolism, and burn fat.

Benefits of High-Intensity Interval Training

The benefits don't end here, other benefits include, decreased blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and raises metabolism. There are still many studies around the world testing for additional health benefits of HIIT, one possibly being increasing mental health.

7. How to Make Your Own HIIT Workout

Now that you know everything you need to know about HIIT workouts, its time to make your own.

First, you should decide what you want the focus of this workout to be. A strength-based HIIT workout, a HIIT workout for cardio, or a mix.

Then you should decide what exercises you want to include in your training session. You should take into account if you want it to be a full-body HIIT workout or either the upper body or lower body. (if you've decided strength workout)

At the bottom of this page you'll see a list of some great exercises to add to your HIIT workout.

Next, you should decide how long you want the workout to be in total, as well as the length of the rest and exercise parts.

Easy so far? By now you have a workout type, a list of exercises to do, and how long you're going to do them for. What's next?

Do the workout! As easy as that.

Design Your HIIT Workout

If you don't want the distraction of looking at your phone to check how much time you have left, consider downloading a free interval timer.

8. Exercises For a HIIT Workout

Our 20 Best Bodyweight Exercises to put in your interval workout:

Lower Body



Wall Sit

Bulgarian Split Squat

Skater Hops

Glute Bridge

Squat Jumps

Lunge Jumps

Upper Body


Tricep Dips

Plank Up Downs

Incline Push-Ups

Decline Push-Ups

Diamond Push-Ups



Bicycle Crunches

Lying Leg Raises

Mountain Climbers

Russian Twists

Full Body


Mix and match any of these exercises to your desired workout.

9. Sample HIIT Workouts

Let's use the strategies we just went over to create some sample HIIT workouts that you can add to your schedule.

HIIT Workout: Cardio

This High-Intensity Interval Training workout can be done on the treadmill or outside. For the intense period choose a speed that challenges you.


45 seconds intense run

15 seconds jog or walk

Repeat 10x

HIIT Workout: Bodyweight Strength (Full Body)

Notes: Start a timer for one minute. Do 10 reps at the start of the minute and rest for the remaining minute. Do this for each exercise.


Squat Jumps


Skater Hops

Mountain Climbers


Bicycle Crunches

Repeat 4x

HIIT Workout: Strength (Full Body With Weights)

Notes: Do each exercise for 3 sets of 5 reps. Take 30 seconds between sets.



Bench Press (or chest press if you only have dumbbells)


Bent-Over Row

Romanian Deadlifts

Shoulder Press

10. More HIIT

We have a variety of HIIT workouts already available check them out below

HIIT Leg Workout

Tabata HIIT Workout

24 Minute Tabata HIIT Workout

25 Minute HIIT Workout

30 Minute HIIT Workout

There you have it, everything you need to know about HIIT workouts!

Will you start doing HIIT workouts?

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