What is high-intensity interval training (HIIT)? The buzzword has been swirling around the fitness community for a few years as an elixir for fat loss, but what does it entail? Does it work? And how do you develop a HIIT training protocol?
Fear not, for PVL has all the answers. We’re breaking down what HIIT is, how to incorporate HIIT workouts in your regimen, and give you a HIIT workout for beginners so you can start absorbing all the benefits of high-intensity training no matter where you are in your fitness journey.
What Is HIIT?
HIIT stands for High-Intensity Interval Training. It’s a training style in which you perform short intervals (10-60 seconds) at a high intensity (over 80 percent of your maximum heart rate). An easy way to determine maximum heart rate is to subtract your age from 220. For example, a 30-year-old would have a max heart rate of 190. This makes 152 beats per minute the 80-percent mark to consider the workout high-intensity.
Intervals can vary, but a consistent way to do it is a 20-40 split, as in 20 seconds of 80 percent max heart rate, followed by 40 seconds of rest. Intervals can vary, but essentially, you want to spike your heart rate and bring it back down before hitting the interval again.
The number of intervals you do can vary as well. Anywhere from five to 20 sets is plenty to get the benefits of HIIT. The key is to keep your workouts short — 5-30 minutes — Since the workout intensity is high, not only do they not need to be as long to reap the benefits of a lower-intensity exercise, but it’s recommended to prevent overtraining symptoms. In addition, you don’t want to do them more than a couple of times a week.
As for movements, you can choose from a variety of exercises. Calisthenics or bodyweight movements like push-ups, pull-ups, burpees, and crunches are excellent options for a HIIT workout. Jumping rope or using light dumbbells is also worthwhile in a HIIT workout. You can even cycle through them in the same workout, keeping things interesting.
Benefits of HIIT Workouts
But what is the point of doing high-intensity intervals? Well, there are several benefits:
- Shorter Workouts: Burns a ton of calories in a short period.
- Increase Energy Expenditure Post-Workout: Continue to burn calories well after you’re done sweating.
- Better Body Composition: Studies have shown HIIT is effective for burning fat AND gaining muscle. (, )
- Optimized Oxygen Consumption, Heart Rate, Blood Pressure, and Blood Sugar: Overall health and wellness impacted for the positive.
- Increased Aerobic and Anaerobic Performance: Your athletic performance will improve.
HIIT Workouts for Men vs. HIIT Workouts for Women
Is there a difference between men and women when it comes to HIIT? This type of training works wonders no matter your age or gender. So long as you hit that 80 percent max heart rate range, you should see the benefits after a few weeks of consistent training.
The only caveat is whether you use free weights during your HIIT workouts. Then, safety is an even more of a priority when you train at a high intensity. Proper form should still happen, whether you’re doing dumbbell bench presses or push-ups. Injuries are never fun, so exercise caution when using gym equipment at a vigorous pace since injuries and improper form are more likely to happen when you move quickly and are fatigued.
HIIT Workout for BeginnersHere’s a quick and straightforward bodyweight HIIT workout you can do from anywhere in the world:
Do each exercise one after the other. Each movement is 20 seconds of all-out exertion, followed by 40 seconds of rest—total time: 15 minutes.
For the leg skips, do them in place, so double toe-tap with each foot, pumping your arms in the process. By the end of this workout, you’ll be out of breath and feeling the pain (in a good way).
Article by Terry Ramos
Blue, M. N. M., Smith-Ryan, A. E., Trexler, E. T., & Hirsch, K. R. (2018). The effects of high intensity interval training on muscle size and quality in overweight and obese adults. Journal of science and medicine in sport, 21(2), 207–212. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsams.2017.06.001 D'Amuri, A., Sanz, J. M., Capatti, E., Di Vece, F., Vaccari, F., Lazzer, S., Zuliani, G., Dalla Nora, E., & Passaro, A. (2021). Effectiveness of high-intensity interval training for weight loss in adults with obesity: a randomised controlled non-inferiority trial. BMJ open sport & exercise medicine, 7(3), e001021. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjsem-2020-001021