What Is The Best HIIT Workout?

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has become a popular way to burn fat in the gym, but that’s not all this type of cardio training is good for.

The essential framework of high-intensity interval training is always the same: Brief, all-out work periods, separated by rest periods that you wish were just a little longer. The work-to-rest ratio can vary from 1:1 (for example, 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off) to 1:4 or more, and the rounds can be just a few or 15 or more. But no matter how long you rest, the key is that you bring everything you’ve got to your intervals.

HIIT can be used to lose as much fat as possible while cutting, to stay lean and conditioned while adding muscle, or to improve aerobic and anaerobic endurance for performance-focused athletes.

Below, you’ll find an approach for each type of athlete, plus guidelines for what movements to use, and even how to eat when you’re following the program.

High-Intensity Interval Training: The Essentials

While some coaches will recommend doing interval workouts with everything from bodyweight squats to machine bench presses, I believe that HIIT is cardio, and should be treated like cardio.

In other words, stick to either cardio machines or sprinting. Here are a few choices:

  • Treadmill sprints
  • Stairmaster
  • Jumping rope
  • Cycle sprints

In all cases, I recommend starting off with a short dynamic stretching warm-up and a 3-4-minute jog or light pedal before each routine, plus 4-5 minutes of light jogging or cardio as a cool-down. For both of these, go no higher than 50 percent of your maximum heart rate. Here’s the warm-up I recommend:

  • Toe touch 15 reps
  • Walking lunge 10 reps per leg
  • Side lunge 10 reps per side
  • Butt kick 25 reps per leg
  • High knee 25 reps per leg
  • Arm circle 20 reps per leg
  • Trunk twist 20 reps per side
  • Side bend 20 reps per side

HIIT Workout for Fat-Loss

Over the course of eight weeks, add one round per week to your HIIT workouts, gradually working up from 8 total rounds to 15.

HIIT Workout for Muscle Gain

  • Monday – Upper-body weight training
  • Tuesday – Lower-body weight training
  • Wednesday – HIIT workout: 30 sec. active rest (walk or jog), 30 sec. work/sprint, repeat 4 more times (5 rounds total)
  • Thursday – Upper-body weight training
  • Friday – Lower-body weight training
  • Saturday and Sunday – Rest

Add one round every two weeks, increase the number of repeats in your HIIT workouts from 6 to 10 by Week 8.

HIIT Workout for Improving Aerobic and Anaerobic Endurance

After two weeks of doing this workout three times per week, add two more rounds to each workout. After four weeks, add another two. After six weeks, add another two. For weeks seven and eight, add three rounds, for 16 rounds total.

How Should I Eat to Get the Most Out of My HIIT Training?

Along with training, your diet will mostly determine how your body responds to this intense training. Here’s how I recommend organizing it:

Fat Loss:

  • 500 calories under maintenance daily
  • High protein (40 percent of total calories)
  • Low carbs (20 percent of total calories)
  • High fat (40 percent of total calories)

Muscle Gain:

  • 500-1000 calories over maintenance daily
  • High protein (30-35 percent of total calories)
  • High carbs (45-50 percent of total calories)
  • Low-moderate fat (15-25 percent of total calories)

Improving Aerobic and Anaerobic Endurance, Maintaining Body Weight:

  • Maintenance calories daily
  • High protein (35 percent of total calories)
  • Moderate carbs (40 percent of total calories)
  • Moderate fat (25 percent of total calories)

What Kind of Results Can I Expect From HIIT?

HIIT will help accelerate fat loss and improve aerobic and anaerobic endurance. HIIT will most likely produce very fast results in a short period of time, which is why it has been gaining popularity ever since it was introduced to the bodybuilding community.

Nobody can promise any specific results, but it is feasible that after an eight-week cycle of HIIT combined with weight training, you and those around you will be able to notice a significant change to your body. Athletes will be able to perform better in their given sport and will outperform others toward the end of games when everyone else is getting tired.

What are the Best Machines for HIIT?

It’s possible to perform this training using a variety of methods, like with a Stairmaster, bike, or treadmill, but many find it works best with sprinting, either on a track or treadmill.

It’s been shown that the closer someone gets to their maximum oxygen intake (or VO2max) while exercising affects how much fat will be used for energy afterward. So, an activity where you can really go all-out, like running sprints, is your best bet for losing fat. But if running isn’t an option, bicycle sprints or the elliptical are also great choices.

Whatever machine or activity you choose, do it hard, fast, and leave a puddle of sweat on the machine. This isn’t supposed to be easy!

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High-intensity interval training (otherwise known as HIIT) is all the rage these days. Instead of the usual running-steadily-on-a-treadmill-for-30-minutes, HIIT training has you do things like sprint for a few seconds, and then walk fast for a few seconds, and then sprint again, and then walk again, etc.

This kind of interval training was originally designed to help track athletes pick up the pace, but study after study has found that it drastically improves body composition, and assists weight loss, better than traditional cardio.

You can also usually complete a full HIIT session in under 15 minutes, which is a huge bonus for those of us with busy lives!

There are tons of HIIT workouts out there, but a recent article in the New York Times highlights one called “10-20-30,” saying that almost all of the participants in a scientific study focusing on the workout saw results. Most of the participants lowered their blood pressure, and many “shaved an average of 38 seconds” off of their 5k run time after only eight weeks.

The 12 Minute Workout

This entire workout, including rest periods, should only take about 12 minutes.

You’ll need a treadmill, rowing machine, bike, StairMaster, or a flat surface to run on.

Warm up for a few minutes at a lightly moderate pace. Then do five intervals of the following:

  • 30 seconds of relaxed movement
  • 20 seconds of moderately hard movement
  • 10 seconds of a full on sprint

After you’ve completed five minutes of these intervals without stopping, rest for two minutes. Then do another round of five minutes.

Make sure that your 10 seconds of sprinting is the hardest 10 seconds you can possibly do. You want to use almost all of your 30 seconds of relaxed movement to recover.

The best thing about HIIT is that it’s hard to get bored — just when you start to feel comfortable, it’s time to change things up again. If you’re not the biggest fan of running or long-form cardio, try adding this method to your weekly schedule and see how much your endurance improves!

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Many people opt out of exercising because they feel like they don’t have enough time in their busy days. Well, what if we told you that there’s a type of workout that will make you sweat in just 10 minutes? Meet high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

When you hear “high intensity,” you might imagine CrossFitters climbing ropes or hauling heavy chains around the gym. And sure, that could be one version of a HIIT workout. But HIIT can actually be far gentler and more approachable than many people think, all while improving your health, slowing down your biological clock, and toning your body.

Here’s everything you need to know before you HIIT the pavement:

What is HIIT, or High Intensity Interval Training?

In a nutshell, HIIT is a type of workout that features quick, intense bursts of exercise meant to raise your heart rate. You work pretty hard (hence the “high-intensity” part) during these short bursts (the “interval” part). But here’s the thing: It’s super accessible, even for beginners, because when you’re not performing the high-intensity exercises, you’re catching your breath by actively resting—perhaps by walking, stretching, or lightly jogging.

Recover Like a Pro

Intervals are typically measured in a 1:2 work-to-rest ratio (or a 1:1 ratio for the more advanced HIITer). For instance, you might sprint for 30 seconds and then walk for 1 minute, then repeat until you’ve worked out for a total of 10 minutes. And because you’re putting so much energy into those high-intensity intervals, you don’t need to trudge on the treadmill for 45 minutes to get in a good workout. That’s one reason HIIT workouts are short—often just 10 to 20 minutes.

HIIT workouts are an efficient way to get fit, and a lifesaver on busy days. But there are other HIIT benefits to consider, too, that go way beyond weight loss.

Benefits of HIIT

1. HIIT workouts are flexible.

People sometimes think of HIIT as being for hardcore athletes, but you can customize the intervals to find a good starting point for you. Plus, HIIT can be done anywhere and without equipment, so you can get actually get started today.

2. HIIT burns fat and improves your endurance faster than other types of workouts.

A 2017 analysis of 18 studies found that HIIT training was associated with a larger reduction in body fat and greater improvement in heart and lung fitness in obese adults compared to traditional exercise (say, a 30-minute run).

3. HIIT turns back the clock on a cellular level.

One recent study published in the European Heart Journal found that interval training can actually increase the length of telomeres, chromosome caps that protect DNA and help you age healthfully. In other words, HIIT workouts might help you age better.

4. HIIT training revs up your metabolism.

Not only has this kind of training been found to help zap body fat, but HIIT allows you to workout harder than you would otherwise, since you’re doing the high-intensity parts in intervals. That increases your heart rate, so you burn more calories, fat, and carbohydrates during your workout—revving up your metabolism. And since it builds muscle, it also increases your resting metabolism, which means you’re burning more calories even when you’re re-watching a season of The Crown (a pretty sweet deal, if you ask me).

Mladen ZivkovicGetty Images

HIIT Workout Tips

Since HIIT workouts are designed to be quick and efficient, you want to make sure that every time you hit the gym that you’re maximizing your efforts. To reap as many benefits as possible, keep these tips in mind.

1. Push yourself during your “work” intervals.

If you’re giving 50 percent effort when you’re supposed to be giving 80, then your HIIT workout is not going to be the calorie-burning tool that you want it to be. Don’t be afraid to go hard during those work intervals — not necessarily “all out”. You want to maintain a challenging pace while keeping good form. Push yourself. See if you can get one more rep than you did the last round. Let the anticipation of that rest period motivate you to do the best you can. You can do it because relief is soon on the way.

2. Choose full-body movements.

You can do HIIT workouts with pretty much any exercise. However, if you want to hit all the muscle groups, try full-body exercises like burpees, squats, pushups and jumping jacks. When you’re comfortable, look for exercises where you can add weights like dumbbells, medicine balls, or kettlebells. This will help to enhance the growth of lean muscle mass. Generally for HIIT, it’s best to use lighter weights since these workouts are meant to test endurance rather than strength.

3. Don’t overdo it.

Aim for about 2 to 3 HIIT sessions per week, and mix in other types of exercise like endurance training (think a long walk) or strength training (think a weight-lifting session) other days of the week.

HIIT Workouts to Try

HIIT Workout 1: Charleston

Beginning in proper plank position (here’s how to troubleshoot your form), step one foot forward between your hands and power through that knee to lift the other leg up. Return to plank; repeat on the other side.

Pro tip: To make this move more challenging you can hop off your planted foot as you lift the opposite leg.

HIIT Workout 2: Thread the Needle

From plank, weave one leg long beneath your body and touch it with the opposite hand. Return to plank; repeat on the other side.

HIIT Workout 3: Pop Jack

From plank, jump both legs forward into a wide sumo squat with toes pointed outward. (Here’s how to do squats and lunges without killing your knees!) Place your hands in front of your chest, as if ready to catch a ball. Return to plank and repeat.

HIIT Workout 4: Push-Up Side-to-Side

From plank, bring your right arm and right leg further out to the side, then do one push-up (drop to your knees, if necessary). Return to plank; repeat on the left.

HIIT Workout 5: Thrust

From plank, jump your feet in, just behind your hands. Leap up high to the sky with arms outstretched, then tuck back down. Jump back to plank and repeat.

HIIT Workout 6: Plank Jack with Tuck

From plank, jump your legs out wide and then back in. Next, jump your feet forward, tucking your knees toward your tummy. Jump back to plank and repeat.

Pro tip: Learn the proper plan positioning here, before you start this move.

HIIT Workout 7: Superman

From plank, drop your body down to the floor. Raise your arms overhead and lift them slightly up (or lift arms AND legs, if your lower back allows). Drop to the floor and place your hands under your shoulders to press back up to plank. Repeat.

HIIT Workout 8: Lateral Tick Tock

From plank, jump both feet outside of your right hand. Return to plank. Jump both feet outside of your left hand. Repeat.

HIIT Workout 9: Inchworm

From plank, walk your hands in until they nearly touch your feet. Walk them back out to return to plank. Repeat.

HIIT Workout 10: Leggy Burpee

From plank, take your hands out slightly wider than your shoulders and do one push-up. Jump your feet in. Rise up and do two lunges (alternating legs), then leap up high. Tuck back down with feet in, then jump back to plank with wide arms. Repeat.



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Larysa DiDio Larysa DiDio is a personal trainer and fitness author with more than 20 years of experience helping celebrities, Olympians, professional athletes as well as moms, dads, and kids meet their health and fitness goals.

The best HIIT workout gear isn’t necessarily expensive, and HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is by this point definitely not a fitness fad. It’s a well established and proven way to get fit, improve your overall health, have a heart like a race horse and the body of a demi-god or goddess. Although there is no magic wand you can wave to tone up, lose weight and gain muscle quickly – so don’t believe all those spurious ‘get ripped in two weeks’ claims from dodgy products – a HIIT workout, performed a few times a week, is undoubtedly one of the best ways to increase your cardiovascular fitness, lose fat and look great.

High intensity interval training is all about fitting in a lot of work in a short space of time. We’ll tell you what a HIIT workout actually is, how to get started and the gear you’ll need to torch all that holiday fat and build your perfect body this year. Yes, it’s hard work, but you can make your life easier (and your body better) by using the right tools for the job.

  • Best dumbbells for home use
  • 5 reasons to try HIIT
  • Torch fat with the ultimate HIIT workout

What is a HIIT workout?

High Intensity Interval Training (or HIIT for short) is all about working out at maximum intensity over short intervals, pushing your heart rate up as fast as possible. Instead of jogging for 20 minutes, you’d be running flat-out for 30 seconds to a minute, resting for one minute, and doing that 10 times.

HIIT has been a staple of the fitness community over the last decade, with good reason: a study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that HIIT workouts burned fat 28% faster than moderate-intensity exercise like jogging.

Sounds good, right? It’s an efficient way to spend less time in the gym because HIIT achieves a calorie burn faster than steady-state cardio. It makes exercise easier to fit into your schedule and improves your capacity for aerobic exercise.

In terms of equipment, what you’ll need is something that will make you sweat and sweat quickly. This can be anything from a skipping rope to a full-blown skillmill. All exercise machines are a great way to get a HIIT workout, but you can also get an effective workout with just an inexpensive skipping rope.

  • Best treadmill
  • Best elliptical trainer
  • Best rowing machine
  • Best exercise bike, or for the hardcore, best turbo trainer

How to buy the best HIIT workout equipment

When it comes to buying fitness equipment, you need to approach it realistically. You could fill your house with pull-up bars and wattbikes, but you need to make sure you’ll be using the kit you buy. t’s worth being truly honest with yourself and come to a solid conclusion regarding fitness levels. It’s no good investing in pull-up bars, slam balls and heavy ropes if your base fitness level doesn’t stretch to lifting a can of beans above your head.

Plyo boxes (boxes that you jump on and off), Power Bags (heavy sacks for lifting), skipping ropes and Kettlebells are a good place to start, as they can be specified in a sliding scale of height – with regards to the plyo boxes – and weights. Beginners can start off sweating with a relatively small investment, with a whole range of ways to use a few inexpensive pieces of kit.

However, for a really effective HIIT workout, it’s hard to beat the more esoteric, hardcore likes of a 50ft Battle Rope, or high-end cardio machine. The Technogym Skillmill or Wattbike will give your exercise a new level of intensity. They will also provide a pretty testing workout for your wallet, whether you’re buying outright, or going to the sort of high-end gyms that have them.

  • Get big arms with these bicep and tricep workouts

The best HIIT workout gear to buy

(Image credit: Amazon)

1. BeMaxx Speed Rope II Fitness

One of the best skipping ropes on the market


Adjustable steel cable: Ball-bearing swivel joints:

Reasons to buy

+Light and fast+Adjustable for different heights+Free workout guide

Reasons to avoid

-Empty List

Skipping is often overlooked, but it’s one of the best ways to get a high-intensity sweat on while developing great co-ordination. Used by everyone from Crossfit pros to world champion boxers, to small girls, a skipping rope is one of the best ways to burn fat. Never tried it and think we’re kidding? Try skipping for two minutes and see how far you get…

This is one of the best ropes on the market, too. The BeMaxx Speed Rope II is adjustable, so you can get the perfect length no matter your height. It’s durable, lightweight and portable: a bit of open space is all you need for a great beginner-friendly HIIT workout.

2. Bodymax Battle Training Rope

The most iconic crossfit accoutrement, if not the most convenient

Material: Nylon Weight: 9.5kg Suitable for outdoors: Yes Thickness: 40mm +Great all-over body workout +Rapid sweat initiation +Easy to use -Takes up space-Noisy

Once the domain of combat sports, the battling ropes have been adopted by the cult of Crossfit. It’s exhausting, combining strength and cardio training all at once to torch fat, build muscle and annihilate your upper body (in a good way, of course).

It’s not just your arms getting a good workout. As you slam and whip the ropes your feet remain planted while you crouch in a squat position, activating the posterior chain of muscles in your body.

But it’s HIIT we’re talking about: a 30-second blitz on the battling ropes is enough to put your body to work. Get your heart rate soaring and muscles aching with this underrated bit of kit.

3. Bodypower Slam Ball

A more compact HIIT must-have

Weight range: 3-15kg Construction: Textured rubber Filler: Moving +Cheap+Easy to store+Multi-use -Noisy-Demands good form

If you’re wondering what on earth a slam ball is, it’s a heavy, rubber ball that you heave, slam down into the floor and repeat until you feel dizzy from exertion. If you’ve ever seen someone at the gym throw a medicine ball on the floor ad nauseum, that’s what they’re up to.

Slam balls are noisy and obtrusive, so they’re not for people who don’t like unwanted attention at the gym, but they are also versatile and work a huge array of muscle groups, giving an excellent all-round workout.

Performing HIIT with a slam ball requires dedication, lots of power and good form, to avoid any unnecessary strains or injuries. It’s worth it, though, as repeatedly mashing a heavy ball into the ground gets the blood pumping and feels awesome. You can also use them as a traditional medicine ball if you feel so inclined, using them to twist while doing sit-ups and other core exercises.

(Image credit: Amazon)

4. RDX Weight Training Power Bag

Heave, haul and heft your way to a better body

Leather casing: Four handle: Zip enclosure: +Versatile training tool+For outdoor and indoor use+Adjustable weight -Relatively bulky

• Shop RDX Powerbags at Amazon, from £20

Anybody who’s trained for rugby has encountered one of these. Powerbags are simply weighted leather sacks, usually filled with sand, that you can lift, throw and swing around your body.

Available in several different weights, ideal for both the beginner trainee and seasoned pro, the RDX Weight Training Power Bag can be unzipped, allowing you to adjust its weight further by pouring out (or adding more) sand to the receptacle. The tough leather will ensure it won’t split, while the bag is also waterproof so it can be used outdoors.

(Image credit: Amazon)

5. TRX Training Gravity Cast Kettlebell

Kettlebell swings are a fat-burning, muscle-building staple

Gravity cast-iron: multiple weight options: Versatile: +Essential fitness kit+Sturdy and durable+Can be used in a whole vista of ways -Empty List

You know what this one is. The kettlebell is a light-ish weight that can be used in dynamic movements such as kettlebell swings to get you sweating,. Five one-minute sets of kettlebell swings, with one minute of rest in between, is sure to get your heart rate up.

The cast-iron set by TRX is about as good as it gets. There’s a finite amount to say – it’s a good-quality lump of metal with a handle, in the weight you expect – but it’s pleasant to handle, has a splash of colour and will last you forever.

Best home gym machines for HIIT

6. Nordictrack E11.5

Elliptical cross trainer that can take a pummelling

Dimensions: H203 W81 L169 cm Foldable: Yes Flywheel weight: 10kg Built-in speakers: Yes Stride length: 18-inch +Foldable for storage+Perfect for torching fat+Adjustable to suit user -Bulky-Data screens aren’t great

Performing HIIT training on an elliptical machine is dead easy, Simply use the machine at a lower setting to warm up, then crank up the resistance for your 30-60 second set before hitting ‘cancel’ to cool off.

The elliptical motion works the whole body, while the built-in data screens – even though they are slightly budget – work well to judge interval timings. It’s a more pricey purchase than the balls and ropes, but one that’ll give you many happy years of excruciating high-intensity exercise pain. Yay!

7. Wattbike Atom

Best exercise bike for HIIT

Gears: 22 Gradient range: 0 – 24 per cent Smartphone connectivity: Yes Connectivity: ANT+ FEC/ANT+/Bluetooth Smart Control +Realistic riding experience+Great connectivity+Plenty of resistance levels

Many of the studies that have looked into the effects and benefits of HIIT have centred on the humble exercise bike, as it’s one of the easiest ways to exert maximum effort – you simply spin furiously until it feels like your lungs are about to explode. No wonder Soulcycle is so popular.

The Wattbike Atom is one of the most realistic riding experiences you can get without venturing outdoors, as it looks and feels like a lithe carbon road racer, yet it is easily connected to Zwift and other interactive apps that make the business of working out more fun. If you have a suitable bike of your own, you might alternatively consider one of the best turbo trainers.

8. Technogym Skillmill

The ultimate crossfit dumbbell replacement

Max speed: No limit Smartphone compatible: No Equipment weight: 180kg Surface width: 480mm +More intense than a treadmill+Improves agility -Bum-clenchingly expensive

Unlike a traditional treadmill, Technogym’s advanced Skillmill uses a resistance belt, rather than a traditional powered deck, to improve power, speed, stamina and agility.

It takes a bit of getting used to but the harder you work, the more the Skillmill pushes back, until it becomes a vicious cycle of glorious, healthy, HIIT-induced agony.

Throw in some funky high knees or a professional-style sprint and it’s possible to see heart rates spiking 170bpm in a matter of seconds, so in terms of HIIT fitness, it’s a proper gem of a machine.

It’s no wonder Olympic athletes and professional sports folk like to see a Skillmill in their local training facilities but for us mere mortals, it’s an expensive fitness shortcut. You can shell out around £10,000to own one outright, but it is one of the finest bits of fitness kit on the market.

Best exercises for hiit

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