I Want to Get Fit

How to Build the Best HIIT Workout for You

Get ready to HIIT your workout! (Image: filadendron/Getty Images)

HIIT — it's a short acronym that covers a lot of ground in the fitness world. But high-intensity interval training boils down to a pretty straightforward definition: alternating between periods of all-out effort and rest or active recovery.

From there, you can apply this concept to your favorite form of exercise, like cardio, strength training, body-weight exercises or plyometrics. And the rep schemes you can use are just as diverse as the types of exercises:

  • Tabata: A four-minute workout consisting of eight rounds of 20 seconds at max intensity and 10 seconds of rest. Like this 4-minute Tabata workout.
  • EMOM: Perform a set number of reps as quickly as possible every minute on the minute, then rest the remainder of the minute.
  • AMRAP: Do as many reps as possible (hence the name) in a given amount of time.
  • Circuit Training: Complete a series of exercises back to back, then rest for 30 to 60 seconds between sets.
  • Choose Your Own Adventure: Pick any amount of time to rest and work (ex. 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off or 45 seconds on, 15 off). Need more inspiration? Here's how to build your own HIIT workout.

About That HIIT Hype...

Does HIIT live up to the hype? We think so! (Image: kzenon/iStock/GettyImages)

HIIT is good news for mental and physical health, with loads of benefits that are all backed by science: It improves your cardio fitness, preserves muscle mass during weight loss, revs your metabolism and more.

But HIIT isn't for everyone. If you have heart problems, are brand new to exercise or are injured, you'll want to steer clear. But if you're healthy, injury-free and already exercise consistently, go for it!

Discover all the benefits of HIIT — regardless of your fitness level.

HIIT Workouts 101: Where to Begin

HIIT for beginners doesn't have to be intimidating. (Image: Hinterhaus Productions/DigitalVision/GettyImages)

OK, we've convinced you to give HIIT a shot. Before you jump into your first workout, though, there are some important things to know. For example, more isn't necessarily better. You should only do HIIT two to three days a week max, and never on consecutive days or you'll risk injury, overtraining and burnout.

Your first several sessions should also focus on full-body, body-weight movements to keep things simple and effective as you adjust to this new form of training.

Here's what every HIIT newbie should know, as well as workouts to get you started.

The Do-Anywhere Body-Weight HIIT Workout

You can do body-weight HIIT workouts pretty much anywhere. (Image: bernardbodo/iStock/GettyImages)

One of the great things about HIIT is that it's fairly easy to develop your own routine, no extra bells and whistles needed. Start with a rep scheme, pick some of your favorite exercises like squats, lunges, push-ups and burpees and get to it!

Running low on creativity? Riley O'Donnell, certified trainer at Fhitting Room in New York City, created this no-equipment plan for inspiration.

Try this four-move body-weight HIIT workout any time, anywhere.

A Fast and Efficient 20-Minute HIIT Workout

A 20-minute HIIT workout can reenergize you for the rest of the day. (Image: visualspace/E+/GettyImages)

Very few people have the time (or desire) to spend hours and hours at the gym each week. That's part of what makes HIIT a smart choice, especially for those with packed schedules.

You can fit a calorie-torching workout into your morning routine, lunch break or whenever else you have a little time to spare. From warm-up to cooldown, you're in and out in under 30 minutes.

Do this quick 20-minute HIIT workout and you're done for the day.

A Heart-Pumping HIIT Cardio Workout

A cardio HIIT workout is a great way to maintain heart health. (Image: Cavan Images/Cavan/GettyImages)

Though steady-state cardio workouts are perfect for those times you want to go for a long run on your favorite trail or take a bike ride along the beach, sometimes you just want to fly through your sweat session and get back to your to-do list.

On those days, you can hop on the treadmill or elliptical and bust out a few intervals. Or you can throw in some squat jumps and side lunges after a few hundred meters on the rowing machine. Mix it up with this workout from Meghan Hayden, certified personal trainer at Performix House in New York City.

Get your heart pounding, sweat pouring and calories burning with her HIIT cardio workout.

HIIT It at Home

At-home HIIT workouts can be as simple or as challenging as you want them to be. (Image: SolisImages/iStock/GettyImages)

No gym membership? No problem! You can get fit at home. Opt for body-weight workouts like the one above or invest in a few versatile pieces of equipment like dumbbells and resistance bands for added strength-building benefits.

Make sure you clear enough space so you don't bump into furniture, throw down a yoga mat or towel and get sweating. You might be surprised at what you can do in the comfort of your own home.

When your living room is your weight room, try these at-home HIIT workouts.


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