When it’s time to hit the gym, you might want to try a HIIT workout to shake up your routine and get the most out of your workout. High intensity interval training, commonly referred to as HIIT, is a way of working out that involves short bursts of exercise followed by a period of recovery. HIIT workouts can take many forms and are often thought of as the opposite to steady steady workouts.
Types of HIIT workouts
A simple example of this would be running, either on a treadmill or in real life. Steady state would involve setting your treadmill speed, incline and workout time and running at a constant pace for the entire workout. In contrast, a HIIT workout might involve sprinting at your top speed for 20-30 seconds and then walking for two minutes to recover. You might end up running the same distance but they would be very different workouts.
The top benefits of HIIT workouts
The top benefits of HIIT workouts include:
- Shorter workout length
- Burning more calories
- Gain muscle and improve heart health simulatenously
- Lower blood pressure
HIIT workouts are a great way to challenge yourself and shake up your routine in the gym with plenty of serious benefits, the most obvious being time. The fast and intensive nature of HIIT workouts means you’re usually able to get your heartrate up quicker, your muscles working faster and burn more calories in a significantly shorter amount of time. Not only is this good for those of us who don’t have a lot of free time to spend in the gym, it’s great for those of us with short attention spans. You can do a comprehensive HIIT workout start to finish in 30 minutes without ever having enough time to get bored or distracted.
Burn more calories during and after a HIIT workout
Several studies have revealed that not only do HIIT workouts expend more energy and burn more calories during the workout, but post-workout calorie consumption is also significantly higher. A study in the National LIbrary of Medicine found that HIIT burned 25-30% more calories than other forms of exercise. Another study found that HIIT can increase your metabolism after exercise by more than jogging or weight training.
Gain muscle and do cardio at the same time
The intensive nature of HIIT workouts means you could end up utilizing more muscle groups as you train. In fact, apart from running sprints, the majority of HIIT workouts will typically incorporate multiple muscle groups, giving you the chance to grow muscle as you do your cardio.
Improve oxygen consumption and lower your blood pressure
Your ability of your muscles to use oxygen can be improved with high intensity interval training to a similar degree as other forms of endurance training. Improved oxygen consumption allows your muscles to work more efficiently and HIIT can allow you to improve a significantly shorter period of time.
There’s also significant research to indicate that HIIT can help to reduce your heart rate and blood pressure just as effectively as traditional continuous endurance training.
Type of HIIT workouts
Almost any exercise or workout can become a HIIT workout if you work for short bursts of intensive movements followed by a longer period of rest. These are the main types of HIIT workouts:
- Cardio HIIT
- HIIT with weights
- Bodyweight HIIT
- Full body HIIT
What’s important is that for that short burst you work at around 70-90% of your capacity. So no light jogging or slow, casual bicep curls. As long as you’re maintaining good form and proper technique, use that 30-60 seconds to go full on before you rest and recover.
Cardio HIIT examples
Cardio HIIT workouts are some of the most well-known, mainly because gym bros hate doing cardio and rave about a workout that gets it done as quickly as possible. But don’t let that put you off. To get a great cardio HIIT workout, it’s all about intensity. Whatever type of workout you do, find a way to maximize the intensity for a short burst of about 30 seconds, then allow yourself one to two minutes of slow activity for recovery.
- Hill sprints on the treadmill or in real life
- Rower sprints
- Assault bike
HIIT with weight examples
HIIT with weights workouts combines strength and cardiovascular training in one neat, sweaty package. While it’s vital to workout at high intensity for short intervals, what’s even more important is that you maintain good form to protect yourself from injury. So while you need to work at high intensity, that doesn’t mean you need to work heavy. So lower the weight you would use for traditional weight training and focus instead on bursts of intense work for about 30-40 seconds, and then rest for 1-2 minutes.
- Squat thrusters
- Clean and press
- Kettlebell swings
- Power press
- Snatches (alternating)
- Deadlift & row
- Med Ball slams
Bodyweight HIIT examples
If you don’t have access to weights, don’t let that stop you. Bodyweight HIIT workouts are a fantastic way to get an intense workout without the need for any equipment other than yourself.
- Push-ups – standard, plyometric press ups, walk-outs, incline/decline push-ups, there are loads to try
- Jumping jacks
- High knees
- Squat jumps
- Mountain climbers
- Tuck jumps
- Lunge jump
- Box jumps
- Ice skaters
Get a full body HIIT workout with supersets and circuits
A lot of the exercises listed above will involve multiple muscle groups, but in order to make sure you get a full body HIIT workout you can pair up any of the exercises or combine them into a circuit. Rather than performing one exercise at a time, make a list of about three or four and move through them three or four times. For example:
- Burpees (30 seconds + 1 minute rest)
- Push-ups (30 seconds + 1 minute rest)
- Lunge jumps (30 seconds + 1 minute rest)
- Power press (30 seconds + 1 minute rest)
Supersets are when you perform two exercises back-to-back,a dn these are an ideal way to get a full body HIIT workout if you combine two different exercises. So rather than supersetting two leg exercises, pair one up with push-ups or thrusters, for example.
Alternatively, rather than making up your own HIIT workout, look for a HIIT class near you to get some inspiration and motivation.
Are HIIT workouts any good?
In a word, yes. Any type of exercise that you enjoy, or can do regularly without hating your life, will have a positive impact on your health. If you’re like me and don’t have the patience or will power to do hour-long workouts but want to keep moving and active, HIIT workouts might be the answer you’re looking for.