If you’re ready to try a supercharged workout routine that gets you pumped up and delivers results, you should definitely consider starting with HIIT.
HIIT, which stands for high-intensity interval training, is an incredibly effective way to get a full-body workout and make progress on all of your fitness goals. Here’s everything you need to know about HIIT, plus how to get started no matter what your current fitness level is.
What Is HIIT, Exactly?
High-intensity interval training is a full-body cardio workout. HIIT workouts generally involve performing activities at maximum intensity, then switching over to lower-activity “recovery” periods that allow you to catch your breath in between.
This is different from other, more “classic” examples that may come to mind when you think of cardio, like running or swimming, which get your heart rate up more moderately and steadily. For example, HIIT might look like doing a series of sprints at maximum speed with pauses in between each set, rather than jogging, where you run at the same moderate intensity for a longer period of time.
So why should you be doing HIIT in the first place?
HIIT burns a ton of calories, which means that it’s an excellent tool for weight loss. Generally speaking, the high-intensity workouts you would be doing during a HIIT session should be getting your heart rate up to 80-95% of its maximum rate. This requires a lot of energy, so you’ll definitely be feeling the burn.
If you dread cardio because it means spending hours trudging along on a treadmill or bike, HIIT is an excellent option. Because it’s such a high-intensity workout, you can get your heart rate up and push your physical limits without having to dedicate a ton of time to each workout session.
Improved cardiovascular health
Your heart is a muscle just like any other, which means that you need to work it out to keep it strong. Cardio workouts work your heart hard, which means that doing them regularly can result in better blood flow, improved cholesterol levels, and reductions in high blood pressure.
Better overall fitness
Cardio of any kind is good for your physical fitness, but the problem with steady-state exercises like running and cycling is that they can sometimes lead to “plateaus.” After a while, your body begins to get used to these exercises, which means that you need to either do them for longer or at a higher intensity in order to continue progressing.
But because HIIT exercises always aim to get your heart rate close to its maximum every time, you can continue to progress without having to dedicate way more time to your workouts.
HIIT Workouts For Total Beginners
Remember, HIIT workouts can be intense, so listen to your body when you’re first starting out. These workouts should be mildly uncomfortable and push you to your limits, but not so much that you’re risking injury. If you’re a total beginner at working out, it’s highly recommended to work with a trainer or join an interval fitness class like those found at Studio Three so that you can explore your fitness level in a safe and controlled environment under the instruction of certified professionals.
Because HIIT involves timed intervals, you’ll want to use a stopwatch or keep your eye on the clock for these workouts. Also, these workouts are meant for beginners, but you can adjust the timing and intensity based on your current fitness level. Struggling to keep up? Shorten the high-intensity interval and allow yourself to rest for longer. Workout feeling too easy? Increase the duration of the high-intensity interval.
High knees is an excellent beginner’s workout move because it can quickly get your heart rate up, and you don’t need to buy any special equipment to do it. To perform:
- Stand with both feet on the ground and hold your hands palms down in front of you at hip level.
- Begin jogging in place while bringing your legs up one at a time to reach your hands at waist level. Move as quickly as you can to get your heart rate up (if this is too intense at first, try marching in place while bringing your knees up to the same height to get accustomed to the movement).
- Perform this move for thirty seconds, then stand still and rest for fifteen seconds, and repeat 8x.
Jump Rope Intervals
A jump rope is a great inexpensive tool for an effective cardio workout. To incorporate it into a HIIT workout:
- Warm-up by jumping at an easy pace for one minute.
- At the end of the warmup, start jumping as fast as you (safely) can. Do this for thirty seconds.
- Slow down and return to your easy pace for another minute. Repeat 8x.
It’s time to give that boring treadmill routine an upgrade! To make this classic cardio machine more engaging and challenging, try doing it HIIT-style:
- Warm up with a two-minute brisk walk.
- Increase treadmill speed so that you’re sprinting, and do this for thirty seconds.
- Slow back down to brisk walking pace for one minute, then repeat 8x.
Sprints are also a great option if you don’t have a treadmill. Simply go to your local park, track, or anywhere that has enough space, and repeat those same intervals.
HIIT doesn’t have to be strictly cardio either. You can also incorporate weight training into your workout to get the best of both worlds. Battle ropes are a classic example of this, since they combine both cardio and resistance training to get your heart rate up while also building seriously strong upper body, leg, and core muscles. To perform:
- Hold a rope in both hands and plant your feet firmly on the ground, squatting slightly.
- Move each arm up and down alternately so that you create “waves” in the ropes.
- Keep this movement going for twenty seconds, then rest for a minute. Repeat 5x.
Finally, HIIT cycling is a great way to get your cardiovascular workout in. For this workout, you’ll need access to a stationary or cycling bike with adjustable resistance options.
- Warm-up for two minutes at medium resistance.
- Increase machine resistance to “high” and cycle for thirty seconds, aiming to cycle at the same speed as you were doing your warmup.
- Change intensity to low and cycle at the same speed for thirty seconds. Switch back to high resistance and repeat 5x.
HIIT is an excellent exercise for beginners and seasoned athletes alike. If you’re doing it right, interval training gives you that “job-well-done” feeling every single time!
Remember to take it slow and test your limits at first, so that you can quickly grow and start reaping all the rewards that regular cardio can bring.