First Things First: What is HIIT, and What is a HIIT Workout?
HIIT, short for High-Intensity Interval Training, is a type of high-energy workout designed to burn fat and build endurance in less time than other forms of exercise. HIIT regimens are typically perceived as routines exclusively created for die-hard fitness aficionados; however, HIIT can be an excellent workout alternative for beginners regardless of fitness levels and goals.
HIIT vs. Cardio: What's the Difference?
There is no doubt HIIT is effective and provides real results, but is HIIT actually better than regular cardio? There is not a right or wrong answer as both types of workout have their specific pros and cons.
Pros of HIIT
- Improves stamina and physical performance
- Burns more calories in a shorter period of time
- Better at reducing abdominal fat (belly fat)
- May lower blood pressure and improve heart rate
- Speeds up metabolism
- Can help increase muscle mass
Pros of Cardio
- Faster post-workout recovery
- Less stress on the heart and body
- Improves endurance
- May lower blood pressure and stress levels
Cons of HIIT
- Can be uncomfortable at first if you don’t workout regularly.
Cons of Cardio
- Takes more time to burn calories
- May become boring after some time
- Leads to weight loss plateaus
What is the Optimal HIIT Heart Rate?
An HIIT workout will push your heart rate to extremely high levels to burn more calories than other types of exercise. The optimal HIIT rate is usually about 80-90 percent of your maximum heart rate, or the highest your heart rate can safely go. A good rule of thumb to calculate your maximum heart rate is subtracting your age from 220. For example, the maximum heart rate of a 30-year-old would be 190, which means his optimal HIIT heart rate is somewhere between 152 and 171 beats per minute.
What is a HIIT circuit?
A HIIT circuit consists of a series of short, high-intensity exercises with quick recovery periods in between sets. Due to the intense nature of a HIIT circuit, these high-energy workouts typically only last 30 to 50 minutes depending on an individual’s skill level and fitness goals. A HIIT workout routine incorporates a variety of exercises designed to work different muscles in your body.
Good Examples of HIIT Exercises
If you dread spending 30 boring, mind-numbing minutes on the treadmill or the elliptical, HIIT cardio exercises can provide you with a more stimulating and effective way to lose unwanted belly fat. The following bodyweight HIIT cardio exercises can help blast up your heart rate and burn fat at home fast. You can incorporate these exercises into one circuit by performing each for 20-30 seconds and repeating the entire sequence two to four times.
- High Knees
- Squat Jumps
- Mountain Climbers
- Alternating Jump Lunges
- Jumping Jacks
If you wish to make your weekly runs more challenging, add HIIT running exercises to your routines. HIIT running exercises include simple forms of running like sprints, jogging, and speed walking. A HIIT running circuit would look something like this:
- 1-minute slow jog
- 1-minute jog
- 30-second fast walk
- 1-minute run
- 30-second walk
- 1-minute run
- 30-second walk
- 1-minute fast run
- 30-second slow walk `
- 2-minute fast run
- 1-minute walk
Low Impact HIIT Exercises
Low impact HIIT circuits involve easy-to-perform workouts which are often bodyweight exercises making them a great option for beginners and those who are prone to injuries. Low impact HIIT exercises are still highly beneficial, and you will reap many benefits of HIIT including fat-burning and improved metabolism. Low impact body weight HIIT exercises include:
- Stationary Skater
- Jump-free Burpees
- Butterfly Squats
- Rising Lunge
- Marching in place
- Kicking Plank
- Single Leg Running
HIIT Weight Training Exercises
HIIT routines not only improve your endurance and overall fitness, but a HIIT regimen can also help you add muscle mass. Simply incorporate a dumbbell or kettlebell to bodyweight HIIT exercises like crunches and lunges. You can also transform your regular gym routine into a HIIT lifting circuit by doing fewer reps with heavier weights and shorter recovery periods.
Full Body HIIT Workout
A full body HIIT workout is one the fastest way to burn fat and get in shape. These circuits include intense exercises that work every muscle in your body. A full body HIIT routine can be done using your own body weight or dumbbells, or both. Want to give it a shot? Try this basic full body HIIT circuit:
- Jump Squat x 10 reps
- Decline Push-Ups x 10 reps
- Burpee x 10 reps
- Suitcase Crunch x 10 reps
- 40-Yard Sprints x 2 reps
Repeat this routine five times as fast as you can, resting as little as possible between exercises and sets.