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Guide to HIIT Training

By Fitoru | 11 June 2018
woman doing an ab workout

To get something you’ve never had before, you’re likely going to have to do something you’ve never done before. So why not make it HIIT training—especially since it can get you exactly where you need to be physique-wise? Here’s everything you need to know about the HIIT fitness craze and how it can benefit you.

What Is HIIT Training?

HIIT, shorthand for high-intensity interval (or intermittent) training, involves giving maximum (and even extreme) amounts of effort—through quick, intense bursts of exercise—often over relatively short amounts of time. This first stage of the workout is complemented by short (sometimes active) recovery periods, for an approach that’s designed to burn more fat in less time.

Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption

Why is the HIIT exercise method such an effective fat-burner? It all comes down to Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC). Through these intense workouts, your muscles burn and you lose your breath. From there, your muscles begin to fill up with lactic acid (the chemical responsible for that burn) and your body’s oxygen stores become depleted, forcing your body to work harder to build them back up.

The result of this change in your physiology is more calories burned than if you’d exercised at a lower intensity for the same (or longer) period of time.

Think about it in terms of this simple formula: by doing more in terms of intensity you’re likely to get more in terms of weight loss. It’s a notion that’s backed up by hard scientific data.
Who Should and Shouldn’t Be Doing HIIT Training?

HIIT training may be a good fit if you’re:

  • looking to cut weight quick
  • wanting to maintain your muscle gains while also losing weight
  • an adrenaline junky
  • are already at a relatively high level of overall fitness
  • an athlete
  • looking to bust through a “fitness plateau

Conversely, HIIT training may not be a viable option if you’re:

  • a smoker
  • in poor health/ shape
  • on a low-carb diet like Atkins or Keto
  • already feeling burned out each week due to your more conventional workouts (attempting to add HIIT sessions to these may simply burn you out further)
The Science Behind the Trend

Stephen H. Boutcher, Associate Professor at the University of New South Wales School of Medical Sciences in Sydney conducted research to determine what (if any) relationship existed between HIIT-type training and fat loss. Note that in his light-shedding article that appeared in the Journal of Obesity, he actually refers to HIIT training as High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise.

Regardless of what you call this extreme intensity exercise, Boutcher’s findings suggest that the effect of its opposite—regular aerobic exercise—on body fat is negligible. Moreover that alternatives like HIIT may have a greater impact on body composition. Boutcher notes that emerging research examining high-intensity intermittent exercise indicates that this approach may be more effective—specifically as it relates to reducing subcutaneous and abdominal body fat.

Boutcher also reports that healthy young and older adult men and women can improve cardiorespiratory fitness (studied in terms of maximal oxygen uptake or VO2 max) 4% to 46% in training periods lasting from 2 to 15 weeks.

Pros vs. Cons

HIIT training has been trending pretty hard over the past few years—but does that mean it’s right for you? Here are its pros and cons to help you decide:

  • Increased metabolism (see Boutcher article above)
  • Convenience/(Relative) Lack of Equipment Needed
  • Range of exercises
  • The ability to maintain muscle gains while simultaneously “cutting” weight.
  • Improved cardiorespiratory fitness
  • The option of splitting your week—exercise-wise—with HIIT-type training AND other types of fitness (weight training and HIIT work well together, for instance).
  • Very strenuous/ demanding workout program
  • Significant injury risk for certain exercises like flutter kicks and rope training.
  • You need to be at a significant level of physical fitness PRIOR TO initiating a HIIT regimen (you and your doctor would be most qualified to determine if you meet necessary requirements).
HIIT Program Examples

Remember: one of the main selling points of HIIT training is its versatility. To give you an idea of just how versatile it is, here are some sample HIIT programs pins from PinterestIn it, you’ll find many of the 10 effective HIIT exercises we’ve listed below—and much more.

10 Effective HIIT Exercises

While it is possible to integrate free weights, when it comes to your HIIT exercise days, we recommend erring on the side of cardio in order to obtain the best results. Here’s a list of 10 of the best HIIT exercises that reflect this rule:

  • Treadmill sprints/field sprints
  • Stairmaster (3-minute HIIT intervals, 5-6 reps)
  • Jumping rope
  • Cycle sprints
  • Burpees
  • Heavy-rope training
  • Kettlebell swings
  • Boxing/Shadowboxing
  • Flutter kicks (a lesser-known exercise demonstrated here by ScottHermanFitness <>*)
  • Free squats

For info on how to do an at-home HITT workout, read this article!


  1. Do you have any DVDs on light exercises & keeping fit. I have cancer but would like to have a regime that would help me with fitness etc


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