High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): A Beginner’s Guide

HIIT introductory course

Imagine being able to work out less and still burn significantly more calories? Well, that’s precisely what high-intensity interval training workouts allow you to do. Numerous studies have confirmed that with just 10 minutes of HIIT, you can work off far more calories than if you were to do 50 minutes of another type of cardio exercise. It takes the saying “work smarter, not harder” and turns it into a reality. If that doesn’t make you want to run to the nearest gym and sign up for the next HIIT class, the information in this article certainly will, as we break down all of the benefits and even give you some examples of how you can start training at home. 

What is High-Intensity Interval Training?

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a type of cardio workout that takes your exercise to a whole new level. Just as the name suggests, this style of workout turns your typical cardio up a notch – or several, to get you working at a highly intense pace and taking breaks in between. Yes, you read that right. These types of workouts consist of working up a fast sweat with intense movements/speed, and then backing off for a quick recovery period before jumping right back into another round of high intensity. It can be used with any type of cardio workout, whether it’s running, Zumba, rowing, jump rope, stair-climbing or something similar, and breaks it up into intervals.

For example, if you typically jog on a treadmill, turning it into a HIIT workout would mean that instead of jogging for 20 minutes, you would sprint as fast as you can for a couple of minutes and then go back down to a slight jog, and then run like the wind for another couple of minutes, and then go down to a walk for 30 seconds, and so on and so forth.

The intensity and energy is high, and it can be used by absolutely anyone who wants to get in shape and/or transform their body, whether you’re a beginner who hasn’t stepped foot in a gym in years or already have a strong commitment to regular exercise. 

Benefits of High-Intensity Interval Training

While it’s no secret that staying physically active is beneficial to your health, not all exercises are created equal. High-intensity interval training can give you the best of all worlds – from maximal health benefits to less time spent working out, and so much more.

You Burn A Lot More Calories in Less Time

Although this benefit was already mentioned previously, it’s definitely worth mentioning again. With HIIT workouts, you can burn more calories quicker than if you were to do a steady-paced workout. In fact, studies have found that you burn 25-30% more calories with HIIT than other forms of cardio exercise and in less time.

You Can Save Time Working Out

Due to the high intensity involved with this type of cardio, you don’t have to work out as long as you would if you were to keep a steady pace. Not only that but studies found that you can burn off significantly more calories with just 20 minutes of HIIT, than if you were to do 50 minutes of a consistent pace.

It Keeps You Burning Calories for 2 Hours Post-Workout

Doing high-intensity interval training ramps up your calorie burning during the workout, but it also keeps your body burning calories for 2 hours after you’ve finished. This metabolic boost is even more than what you would receive from weight training or jogging, according to studies.

It Reduces Your Heart Rate and Blood Pressure

Since HIIT workouts get your heart pumping, it has been shown to have many heart-related benefits such as a reduction in heart rate and blood pressure. Some studies have even found that these benefits tend to be greater than those who do moderate-intensity workouts more often.

Additionally, high-intensity interval training can reduce your blood sugar too and improve your insulin resistance more than traditional steady-paced workouts.

You Burn Fat and Build Muscle

If you’re going back and forth between whether you want to burn fat or build muscle or switching up your workouts to achieve both, you’ll be happy to know that HIIT exercises help you burn and build, all at once. In terms of weight loss, HIIT has been shown to reduce body fat and waist circumference. It’s also been found to be the most effective style of workout for fat loss in people with overweight or obesity.

Now, in terms of building muscle HIIT workouts can help you increase your muscle mass with every workout. This is particularly true in the areas that are being used the most, which tend to be your buttocks and legs.

It Improves Your Oxygen Consumption

Endurance training is often used to improve one’s oxygen consumption (your muscles ability to use oxygen). Typically, this consists of long sessions on continuous, steady-paced cardio, such as cycling or running. However, studies found that high-intensity interval training workouts can provide the same benefits in a shorter amount of time. In fact, doing 20-minute HIIT workouts for 4 days of the week for 5 weeks can improve your oxygen consumption by 9%, which is the same results you would receive if you were to do 40 minutes of cycling 4 days every week.

Examples of High-Intensity Interval Training

Any type of cardio exercise can be turned into a body-sculpting, fat-torching high-intensity interval training sessions. You just have to increase the intensity to the highest level possible and then bring down the intensity for a couple of seconds, before ramping it right back up.

Here are some examples:

  • HIIT Cycling: Pedal as fast and hard as you can for 30 seconds and then reduce to a slow, easy pace for 2 minutes. Repeat for 10-20 minutes. Spin classes are also a great example of HIIT on a stationary bike.
  • HIIT Jogging: Sprint as fast as you can for 20 seconds and then slow down to a walk for 1 or 2 minutes. Repeat this pattern for 10-20 minutes.
  • HIIT Squats: Do as many jump squats as you can, as quickly as possible for 1 minute and then walk on the spot for 30 seconds. Repeat for 10-20 minutes.
  • HIIT Bodyweight: Do a high plant for 30 seconds, then pushups for 20 seconds at a steady pace, and then 10 seconds of explosive pushups, and then rest for 30 seconds. Repeat.

A popular training format for HIIT workouts is the 20/30/40 style. This is where each exercise is performed for 20 seconds, and then 10 seconds of rest, and then 30 seconds of high intensity, and then 10 seconds of rest, and then 40 seconds of high intensity, and then 1 minute of rest.

However, you can also create your own intervals. For example, another popular training format for high-intensity interval training consists of:

  1. First 30 seconds: low-intensity
  2. 20 Seconds: moderate-intensity
  3. 10 Seconds: high-intensity
  4. Rest and repeat.

Less is more, they say – and that’s certainly true when it comes to high-intensity interval training. While you won’t be doing less in terms of energy exertion (the intensity is high, hence the name), HIIT workouts allow you to achieve better results in less time than if you were to do a steady-paced workout. This applies to weight loss, muscle burning, blood sugar reduction, oxygen consumption and so much more. So, instead of doing exercise at a consistent speed and achieving mediocre results, amp up the intensity with HIIT to workout smarter.

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