Want to Lose Weight With HIIT? Here's Your 7-Day Kickstart Plan

Following a HIIT workout plan for weight loss doesn't mean you should do HIIT every day.
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If you're looking for a fast, efficient workout that can help support your weight-loss goals, can we suggest HIIT?

HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, involves alternating short bursts (usually 20 to 60 seconds) of intense exercise with lower-intensity recovery periods. The method can be an effective way to burn fat and lose weight, according to a February 2018 review of 39 studies in ​Sports Medicine.​ Especially if you're short on time or get bored just thinking about doing cardio for an hour straight.

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Another big benefit: People seem to have an easier time sticking with HIIT compared to traditional workouts, according to a review in the September-October 2014 issue of ​ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal​.

"The rest or lower-intensity periods seem to have a lasting positive effect on people. Generally speaking then, HIIT seems to promote a more enjoyable experience with fitness," says sports dietitian and certified personal trainer Jenna Braddock, RDN, ACSM-CPT.

Want to give it a try? We tapped Braddock to develop a seven-day HIIT workout plan that can help you start working toward your fitness and weight-loss goals. It's designed with HIIT newbies in mind, but can easily be customized as your fitness improves.

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Ready to get started? Let's go!

Your HIIT Workout Plan for Weight Loss

Braddock's plan is a mix of three HIIT workouts paired with traditional steady-state workouts and active rest days. Three HIIT sessions per week is enough to reap big fitness benefits, according to another ​ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal​ study from November-December 2018, making it a good starting point for newer exercisers.

Doing HIIT some days instead of every day helps you steer clear of injury, burnout and fatigue too.

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While anyone can give HIIT a try, Braddock suggests considering how high-intensity intervals will fit into your routine as a whole.

"If you're already training at a high intensity and/or high volume, you may not benefit from simply adding in HIIT workouts," she says. In other words, you might need to cut back on something else to make room for HIIT.

Day 1: Cardio HIIT

Warm-up for 2 to 5 minutes with brisk walking.

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Do 10 cycles of HIIT:

  • Walk quickly or run for 1 minute with a goal of hitting 70 or 90 percent of your maximum effort
  • Walk slowly for 1 minute at 10 to 30 percent of maximum effort

Walk slowly for 5 to 10 minutes to cool down.

Day 2: Resistance Training

Warm up for 5 minutes with dynamic stretching exercises like arm circles, knee grabs and shoulder rolls.

Aim for 2 to 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions of four to six different full-body exercises, such as squats, push-ups, lunges and plank holds. Start with just your body weight if you're new to exercise, and work your way up to holding a pair of medium dumbbells.

Cool down with 5 minutes of walking and 5 minutes of static stretching exercises.

Not Sure Where to Start?

Day 3: Enjoyable Movement

Do a low- to moderate-intensity activity that you love, like biking, dancing, hiking, yoga or tai chi.

Day 4: Jump Rope HIIT

Warm-up for 2 to 5 minutes with brisk walking.

Do 10 to 15 cycles of HIIT:

  • 1 minute of jumping rope (or replace with another cardio machine option or jumping jacks)
  • 30 to 60 seconds rest

Walk slowly for 5 to 10 minutes to cool down.

Day 5: Moderate-Intensity Cardio

Walk, run, bike or row at a moderate intensity for 30 to 60 minutes.

Day 6: Resistance HIIT Training

Warm up for 5 minutes with dynamic stretching exercises like arm circles, knee grabs or shoulder rolls.

Do two sets of two movements for 30 seconds each, followed by 1 minute of rest. Complete five intervals (two different movements for each interval). Choose challenging moves such as wall sits, side lunges, burpees and triceps dips. Use just your body weight if you're new to exercise or up the ante by adding free weights, medicine balls or resistance bands.

Cool down with 5 minutes of walking and 5 minutes of static stretching exercises.

Need More Direction?

Day 7: Rest

Dedicate some time to stretching, if you'd like, or give foam-rolling a try.

How to Progress Your HIIT Workout Plan

You can up the intensity even more to keep your HIIT workouts challenging as your fitness improves. Braddock suggests:

  • Shorten your rest intervals (but don't cut them out completely, otherwise it turns into steady-state exercise).
  • Increase the amount of time of the working interval. But don't make them longer than 3 or 4 minutes, to ensure you're truly staying at a high intensity.
  • Adjust the total length of your HIIT session by adding more cycles.
  • Switch up your moves or activities. Here are 6 HIIT moves you probably haven't tried yet.

Remember: What You Eat Counts, Too

HIIT can support your weight-loss efforts, maybe even more so than traditional steady-state exercise. But as the old adage goes, you can't out-train a bad diet.

"Food and movement are equally important in my eyes," Braddock says.

Ultimately, you need to burn 3,500 calories to lose a pound of fat. You'll want to eat around 500 fewer calories per day to lose that pound in a week, per the Mayo Clinic. You can make that happen with a few tweaks:

  • Save high-calorie treats for splurges.​ You don't have to give up cookies or ice cream altogether. Just save the snacks for once or twice a week instead of every day, and limit yourself to a single delicious serving.
  • Cut your portion sizes.​ Use smaller bowls and plates and stick with just one helping at mealtime.
  • Pick more low-calorie foods.​ Fill half your plate with lower-calorie foods that are still satisfying, like fruits and vegetables. And find other ways to trim the calories from meals and snacks, like making an omelet with veggies instead of cheese or using mustard on a sandwich instead of mayo. Little changes like these can really add up.

Keep in mind, too, that drastically upping your calorie burn with HIIT means that your total energy needs will go up. If you find yourself hungrier than usual, you might need to reassess your total calorie intake to make sure you stay satisfied, especially before exercising.

"It's often thought that food intake should automatically be reduced, but this is not usually a wise starting place," Braddock says. "Make sure you're well fueled before going into a HIIT workout so you can get the best workout, having great energy."

Wondering how to calculate your calories for weight loss? Download the MyPlate app to do the job and help you track your intake, so you can stay focused and achieve your goals!

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