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The Ultimate 8-Week HIIT For Fat-Burning Program

Not every new fitness trend lives up to the hype. But high-intensity interval training, aka HIIT, has been exactly what its name promises: a big “hit.”

This form of cardio workout intersperses intervals of all-out exercise, such as sprinting or fast-paced bodyweight work, with recovery periods of either low-intensity exercise, such as walking at a slow pace, or complete rest. It’s a huge departure from continuous steady-state, slow-and-steady cardio that most people do at a moderate intensity for 30-60 minutes.

During a high-intensity interval training routine, you’ll be running–or cycling or whatever–like a bat out of hell for brief stretches, and your heart rate will skyrocket. But when all’s said and done, your workouts will be shorter, and you’ll have improved cardiovascular fitness and better results in less time.

You don’t have to be an elite athlete to benefit from interval training, though. I’ll share the incredible science behind this style of training, and then give you a routine that can take any beginner into a conditioned HIIT beast in just 8 weeks!

The Beginner-To-Advanced 8-Week HIIT Program

  • It starts with a work:rest ratio of 1:4 in Phase 1 for a total workout time of just under 15 minutes.
  • Phase 2 bumps up the amount of time in the “work” phase, bringing the ratio up to 1:2 and the total workout time to 17 minutes.
  • In Phase 3, the rest ratio is cut in half, bringing the ratio up to 1:1. The total workout time increases to 17 minutes.
  • Finally, in Phase 4, the rest ratio is cut in half again, raising the ratio to 2:1 and the total time at 20 minutes.

During the “work” or high intensity periods, don’t just pick up the pace a little. You want to really go all-out. During recovery periods, make sure you slow down enough to actually recover.

The suggested time of each phase is just that: suggested. If you need to spend more than two weeks at a particular phase before moving up, go for it. If 15 intervals is way out of reach, do 10 and build up to 15. Ditto if a phase seems too easy and you want to jump right up to the next phase: Do it!

Do the workout 2-4 times per week. Start with 2, then gradually increase to 4 as your fitness improves.

You can do this conditioning routine using a wide variety of exercises. Here are just a few to consider:

Good Options for HIIT Workouts

  • Jump rope
  • Jumping jacks or other fast bodyweight moves
  • Sprinting
  • Sprinting in place
  • Stationary bike
  • Jumping in place
  • Jump squat
  • Bodyweight squat
  • Lightweight goblet squats
  • Kettlebell swings
  • Push-ups

Use your imagination. Just follow the work-to-rest intervals as indicated.

Phase 1 (1:4): Weeks 1-2

  • 15 seconds: High-intensity exercise
  • 60 seconds: Rest or low-intensity exercise

Repeat another 10 times, followed by a final 15-second high-intensity blast.

Total time: 14 minutes

Phase 2 (1:2): Weeks 3-4

  • 30 seconds: High-intensity exercise
  • 60 seconds: Rest or low-intensity exercise

Repeat another 10 times, followed by a final 30-second high-intensity blast.

Total time: 17 minutes

Phase 3 (1:1): Weeks 5-6

  • 30 seconds: High-intensity exercise
  • 30 seconds: Rest or low-intensity exercise

Repeat another 16 times, followed by a final 30-second high-intensity blast.

Total time: 17.5 minutes

Phase 4 (2:1): Week 7-8

  • 30 seconds: High-intensity exercise
  • 15 seconds: Rest or low-intensity exercise

Repeat another 25 times, followed by a final 30-second high-intensity blast.

Total time: 20 minutes

The Science Behind Interval Training

Interval training was developed decades ago by track coaches as a routine for conditioning runners. At the time it was known by the oh-so-catchy name of “Fartlek” training, a combination of the Swedish words for speed (fart) and play (lek). So it means “speed play,” which is a good description!

High-intensity interval training has crossed over to the fitness industry due to beneficial results established both in published research studies and word-of-mouth

Studies comparing high intensity interval training to continuous steady-state cardiovascular exercise have consistently shown that HIIT workouts are far superior for fat-loss, despite requiring less time to complete.

Benefits of HIIT

More fat-loss, less time

One of the first studies to dig deep into HIIT workouts was done in a 1994 study by researchers at Laval University in Quebec. They reported that young men and women who followed a 15-week HIIT fitness program lost significantly more body fat than those following a 20-week continuous steady-state endurance program. This, despite the fact that the steady-state program burned about 15,000 calories more during the routines themselves.

Overweight? Burn more with HIIT

A 2001 study from East Tennessee State University demonstrated similar findings with obese subjects who followed an 8-week program of HIIT workouts. These subjects dropped 2 percent in body fat, as compared to those who followed a steady-state cardiovascular program on the treadmill and lost none.

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Lose six times more fat

A study from Australia reported that females following a 20-minute interval training program, consisting of 8-second sprints followed by 12-second recovery periods, lost six times more body fat than the group who followed a 40-minute cardio program performed at a constant intensity of 60 percent of their maximum heart rate.

Post-Workout Calorie Burn: The Key to HIIT

The major reason that high-intensity interval training works so well to drop fat to a greater degree than continuous steady-state aerobic exercise appears to be the ability of all-out sprinting to boost your resting metabolism following a workout.

Round-the-clock burn

A 1996 study from Baylor College of Medicine backed this up, reporting that subjects who followed a high intensity interval training workout on a stationary cycle burned significantly more calories during the 24 hours following the workout than those who cycled at a moderate steady-state intensity. The 2001 East Tennessee State University study mentioned above also found that subjects following the interval training program burned almost 100 more calories per day during the 24 hours after exercise.

More calorie burn in a fraction of the time

In a study presented at the 2007 annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine by Florida State University (Tallahassee), researchers reported that subjects who performed HIIT workouts burned almost 10 percent more calories during the 24 hours following exercise as compared to those who performed continuous steady-state exercise, despite the fact that the total calories burned during the workouts were the same.

Boost your fat-burning machinery

In addition to the increase in resting metabolism, research confirms that high intensity interval training is effective at enhancing the metabolic machinery in muscle cells that promote fat burning and blunt fat production.

Boost fat-burning enzymes

For example, a 2007 Study in the Journal of Applied Physiology reported that young women who performed seven HIIT workouts over a two-week period experienced a 30-percent increase in both fat oxidation, and in the levels of muscle enzymes that enhance fat oxidation.

Create fat-burning muscle

The Laval University study that found a decrease in body fat with HIIT conditioning also discovered that the subjects’ muscle fibers had significantly higher markers for fat-burning than those in the continuous steady-state exercise group.

Decrease fat-producing enzymes

A study from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, reported that subjects with metabolic syndrome who followed a 16-week HIIT routine lost twice as much of the fat-producing enzyme fatty acid synthase as compared to subjects who followed continuous moderate-intensity exercise.

Use more fat for workout fuel

A new study published in the American Journal of Physiology sheds some light on another way that interval training burns more body fat. Researchers reported that six weeks of HIIT workouts increased the levels of special proteins in muscle that are responsible for carrying fat into the mitochondria, where fat is burned away for fuel, by up to 50 percent. Having more of these proteins means that more fat can be burned for fuel during workouts, but also when resting.

But Is HIIT A Hit For Bodybuilders?

In a word, yes. While many bodybuilders and trainers argue that going slower and longer with cardio is best to burn fat and protect lean mass, the opposite appears to be true.

Aerobic exercise done at a higher intensity, with the heart rate at 80 percent of max or above, will not only help you maintain your muscle, but can actually help you build more.

When you train at a slow and steady pace for a longer period of time, you are training your muscle fibers to be more aerobic and have greater endurance. Do you know how they adapt? By becoming smaller and weaker!

The smaller a muscle fiber is, the less time it takes for nutrients to travel within it. This speeds up the rate that the nutrients can be burned for fuel.

But even if you think of this from a common-sense perspective, it makes perfect sense. Stating that slow and steady cardio for longer periods of time is best for maintaining lean mass is similar to saying that curling 5-pound dumbbells for 30 minutes straight will build more muscle than curling 40 pound dumbbells for sets of 10 reps with 2 minutes of rest between sets.

Sure, both might work to a certain degree, but the higher-intensity workout clearly builds muscle better. If you think about it, weightlifting is actually a form of HIIT! In fact, the research backs this up.

Muscle gains with no lifting

One study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition reported that male subjects following a 6-week high-intensity interval program while supplementing with beta-alanine gained more than 2 pounds of lean mass after 3 weeks—despite no lifting during the program. The program wasn’t anything wild, either: Just 15 minutes, three days per week, at a 2:1 ratio of exercise-to-rest.

Boost testosterone 100% with HIIT workouts

In another study, New Zealand researchers had competitive cyclists complete four weeks of high intensity interval training involving 30-second sprints on a stationary cycle separated by 30-second recovery periods. One group sprinted with high resistance on the pedals, making it harder to pedal, while the other group used a lighter resistance, which was easier to peddle. Both groups peddled as fast as they could during the 30-second sprints.

The researchers found that the men peddling at the highest resistance increased their testosterone levels by almost 100 percent, while the group peddling at a lighter resistance only increased test levels by about 60 percent. Since testosterone is critical for boosting muscle size and strength, the takeaway is that HIIT with greater resistance may help with growth and strength.

More variety, less boredom

Interval training also helps you to maintain your sanity by getting you done with cardio quicker. I can’t think of anything more monotonous than being stuck on a treadmill, stairmaster, stationary cycle, or elliptical machine for a good 30-60 minutes straight!

With HIIT workouts, the intensity bursts may be more grueling, but they are short and challenging. That makes the workout more “fun” and completes it quicker, while raising your heart rate and conditioning your cardiovascular fitness to a greater degree.

Another benefit of HIIT is that you can do it almost anywhere with any piece of equipment—or without any equipment at all! Although it can be done on gym machines, you can also do bodyweight moves, like in a conditioning class.

The possibilities are virtually limitless. You can use it with a jump rope, with weights, with elastic bands, or just with your bodyweight.

So consider doing less slow and long workouts and do more HIIT. Think of it as “conditioning” rather than cardio, because you’ll be training like an athlete–and looking like one!

The benefits will be maximal fat loss due to a ramping up your resting metabolism and fat burning enzymes, while building muscle, all in a minimal amount of time.

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  1. Boutcher, S. H. et al. The effect of high intensity intermittent exercise training on autonomic response of premenopausal women. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 39(5 suppl):S165, 2007.
  2. Gorostiaga, E. M., et al. Uniqueness of interval and continuous training at the same maintained exercise intensity. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 63(2):101-107, 1991.
  3. King, J. W. A comparison of the effects of interval training vs. continuous training on weight loss and body composition in obese pre-menopausal women (thesis). East Tennessee State University, 2001.
  4. Meuret, J. R., et al. A comparison of the effects of continuous aerobic, intermittent aerobic, and resistance exercise on resting metabolic rate at 12 and 21 hours post-exercise. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 39(5 suppl):S247, 2007.
  5. Paton, C. D., et al. Effects of low- vs. high-cadence interval training on cycling performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 23(6): 1758-1763, 2009.
  6. Smith, A. E., et al. Effects of ß-alanine supplementation and high-intensity interval training on endurance performance and body composition in men; a double-blind trial. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 6:5, 2009.
  7. Talanian, J. L., et al. Exercise training increases sarcolemmal and mitochondrial fatty acid transport proteins in human skeletal muscle. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab IN press, 2010.
  8. Talanian, J. L., et al. Two weeks of high-intensity aerobic interval training increases the capacity for fat oxidation during exercise in women. Journal of Applied Physiology, 102(4):1439-1447, 2007.
  9. Tjonna, A. E., et al. Superior cardiovascular effect of interval training versus moderate exercise in patients with metabolic syndrome. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 39(5 suppl):S112, 2007.
  10. Trapp, E. G. and Boutcher, S. Metabolic response of trained and untrained women during high-intensity intermittent cycle exercise. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2007 Dec;293(6):R2370-5.
  11. Treuth, M. S., et al. Effects of exercise intensity on 24-h energy expenditure and substrate oxidation. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 28(9):1138-1143, 1996.

If you want to burn an absolutely monstrous number of calories in a single workout—we’re talking 500 calories or more—then the name of the game is intensity.

“To burn calories, it’s important to focus on your own rate of perceived exertion, and to try to keep your heart rate between 75-90% of your max,” says Liz Lowe, C.S.C.S., head program designer at Scorch Fitness, a high-intensity interval training gym in Sarasota, FL.

There are a number of ways to keep your heart rate that high—try cardio finishers, plyometrics, resistance moves, and bodyweight exercises, says Holly Perkins, C.S.C.S., Los Angeles-based trainer and author of Lift To Get Lean. “One is not better than another,” she says.

Adding sprints, explosive bodyweight exercises, and/or high-rep cardio moves can help spike your heart rate at the end of your workout, too, when your muscles are nearly spent. Workout finishers push your heart to the max faster because you’ve burnt up most of your strength and energy—and that in turn means you burn calories at a faster rate, Lowe says.

Of course, cardio isn’t the only way. “By incorporating weights into your HIIT routine, you not only burn 500 calories during your session, but also create more of an after-burn effect known as EPOC, which can increase calorie burn for up to 24-48 hours post-workout,” Lowe says. “By adding resistance training to HIIT, you’ll also gain lean-looking muscle, and increase your metabolism so your body can burn more calories at rest.”

To help get you to that fat-incinerating sweet spot, Lowe and Perkins have compiled seven fat-burning HIIT workouts to help lean out your physique.

The first three are courtesy of Perkins. You can add these workouts, every other day, to your existing weekly strength-training routine.

The last four come courtesy of Lowe. These workouts are meant to be done on four consecutive days, with one to two rest days at the end of the cycle. Perform these workouts for up to four weeks, then switch things up. “If you feel like your recovery is lacking and you’re getting more fatigued by the end of the week, then split the workouts up: two days on, one day off; 2 days on, 1 day off,” Lowe says. “This workout program is intense and not intended to be paired with exercise other than light yoga or long, slow-distance running as active recovery.”

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How To Get HIIT Workouts Right (Because They’re Easy To Get Wrong)

While the popularity of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) might have reached new heights in the past few years it’s far from a new concept. Over 100 years ago Finnish runner Hannes Kolehmainen spiced up his training for the Olympics with interval sessions, and hard-working Hannes was rewarded for his endeavours in the shape of gold in the 5,000m, 10,000m and cross-country events.

These days the term HIIT is used to describe a fairly wide range of training methods, which is why it’s not always clear what it is beyond the basics of work, rest, repeat. That description is not wrong, but it doesn’t get anywhere close to providing the full picture when it comes to what undertaking a HIIT session actually involves.

Below you’ll find all the information you need on how to incorporate HIIT into your regular workout schedule, and how it can benefit you no matter what your overall goals are – whether you’re trying to lose weight, build lean muscle or knock a few seconds off your 5K PB. Crucially, you’ll also learn how often you should do HIIT, because it’s not a style of training you should use every day – you’ll risk injury or burnout.

What Is HIIT?

While “hard work, short rests” is the essence of HIIT, there are five main variables that can change the nature of your HIIT workout massively. The first two are your work and rest durations. Working for 40 seconds and resting for 20 is significantly different to resting for 40 and working for 20, with longer work periods generally being better for improving endurance and shorter ones better for power.

Then there’s the intensity of the work periods. With HIIT you need to be pushing hard to get the most benefit from it, and it’s also important to try and maintain a consistent level of effort across the work periods. That means it’s not just about going all-out, because you won’t be able to sustain it across the workout.

“You need to know your target heart rate or understand the rating of perceived exertion (RPE),” says Philippe Ndongmo, a personal trainer at Dolphin Square Fitness Club in London. Rate the latter out of ten and try to keep the effort constant across every interval.

The fourth variable is the type of rest you do – are you stopping completely or engaging in active recovery, like pedalling slowly on an exercise bike? The latter can help flush out lactic acid ahead of your next work period.

Lastly there’s total volume, as in how many intervals you do. It’s easy to do too much with HIIT, which ends up being of no real benefit because by the end of the workout you’re unable to maintain the intensity. As a rule, start with low volume and go as hard as possible. When it feels easy, add a round or two, but drop the RPE slightly.

That’s just about it. There aren’t any hard and fast rules when it comes to HIIT in terms of the type of exercise you do. It can be done with bodyweight moves, cycling, running or weights, just as long as you’re able to do it at a high intensity. That makes some disciplines more suitable than others. Rattling out efforts on an exercise bike is significantly less dangerous than trying to do heavy barbell squats at a furious pace (please don’t do heavy barbell squats at a furious pace).

You can cycle through a circuit of different exercises for your HIIT session, or stick to one or two for all of your reps. The latter makes it easy to hit your time targets because you don’t have to switch exercise equipment during your rest periods, but doing a circuit containing a variety of moves means you can target more muscle groups during your workout.

The Benefits Of HIIT Workouts

Let’s start with the calories you’ll burn, which are many, not only during the workout but also in the hours afterwards. The latter comes from the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) effect, where your body burns more calories as it returns to its normal resting state after a workout and adapts to the exercise you’ve done. The EPOC effect increases with the intensity of the exercise you do, which is why HIIT is such an effective fat burner.

HIIT also increase your VO2 max, which is the amount of oxygen your body can use and is an indicator of cardio fitness. This is why any running or cycling training plan worth its salt has some form of interval training in it. Increasing your VO2 max is key to working harder for longer, helping you log a 5K personal best, for example.

There are also logistical benefits to HIIT, like the fact your workout takes less time so you can fit it into a lunch break. And while it’s tremendously hard work, the short, sharp challenge of HIIT ensures you’ll never get bored with your training.

When To Avoid High-Intensity Circuit Training

If you’re feeling worn down in the first place, HIIT isn’t the session to go for. “A common mistake with HIIT is the assumption that it trumps steady-state cardio at all times, which isn’t true,” says David Jordan from personal training gym The Fitting Rooms.

“HIIT is highly effective because it requires less time and burns calories during recovery. However, to reap the benefits of HIIT you need to attack it with a lot of energy. On days when you’re feeling less than 100% or, more importantly, you’re sore from your previous workout and are at risk of pulling a muscle, then steady-state cardio is probably more effective – and safer.”

Finally, it’s important to consider how often you can do “real” HIIT. “It’s true that HIIT can trigger protein synthesis but it also causes protein breakdown,” says Jordan. “Doing several HIIT sessions a week would be catabolic so while you’d lose weight overall, some of that loss would be muscle mass.

“If building muscle is a goal, proper weight training still needs to be your primary focus with HIIT as a supplement. A training split of two weights sessions and two HIIT a sessions a week would keep you lean, while making sure you aren’t overtrained.”

Remember: it’s supposed to be short, intense and infrequent, not an everyday effort. Recovery days are vital both for avoiding injury and for ensuring you can actually work at the intensity required for effective HIIT. Simply put, if you’re doing four or five HIIT sessions a week, it probably isn’t real HIIT, and you’re probably going to get injured.

Types Of HIIT Workouts

Beginner: Timmons Method

Developed by a team at Loughborough University, this one’s entry-level. Do 20 seconds of all-out work, followed by two minutes of active recovery (walking/freewheeling will do) or complete rest. Repeat three times, and you’re done.

Intermediate: 10-20

Also known as “reverse Tabata”, this doubles the rest and reduces the work intervals to shift the focus to anaerobic fitness. Use it if you’re aiming for power production, or if you don’t have the fitness for an all-out Tabata (explained below). Warm up for ten minutes, then do six to eight rounds.

Advanced: 10-20-30

Now things get complicated. In this plan, you’ll do five “blocks” of work, made up of 30 seconds at 30% intensity, 20 seconds at 60% and ten seconds all-out. Result? Lots of volume, at manageable intensity.

Nasty: Tabata

The most famous HIIT protocol is ideal for increasing VO2 max – as long as you do it right. Twenty seconds of all-out work, followed by ten seconds of rest, repeated eight times, improved endurance by as much as 30 minutes of steady-state cardio in a Queen’s University study. The key is keeping intensity high – if you can talk during the session, you’re getting it wrong.

Seven HIIT Workouts To Try

Kettlebell HIIT Workout For Fat Loss

A Louisiana University study that compared kettlebell swings, cleans and deadlifts with a more traditional sprint training programme found that maximum heart rate was only slightly higher in the sprints, while calorie expenditure was bigger with the bells.

Here’s one of our favourite circuits. Rest for 30 seconds at the end, then repeat for three to five rounds.

  1. Alternating swing (30sec) Similar to the traditional swing but alternating arms at the top portion of the lift.
  2. Clean and jerk (15sec left arm, 15sec right arm) Finish each 15-second work block by pressing the kettlebell over your head.
  3. Goblet squat (30sec) Hold the kettlebell close to your chest and keep your back straight.

All-Out Exercise Bike HIIT Workout

There’s a reason lots of studies use exercise bikes: going all-out on the pedals isn’t too technical, injury risk is low and you can ruin yourself. For “supramaximal” efforts, which stimulate every available muscle fibre, the bike is the perfect choice.

When looking to improve the fitness levels of Premier League footballers in pre-season, strength and conditioning coaches at the country’s top clubs have a particular favourite in the Tabata protocol. It’s used up to four times a week and typically performed on an exercise bike. You can reap the same rewards by following the plan: 20 seconds sprint cycle; ten seconds rest or slower cycle; repeat for eight rounds.

Battle Ropes HIIT Workout For An All-Day Burn

In a College of New Jersey study, battle ropes beat 13 other exercises (including burpees) for energy expenditure and produced the highest average heart rate. The protocol: 15 seconds of single-arm waves, 15 seconds of double-arm waves, 60 seconds’ rest, repeated eight times.

Burpee HIIT Workout To Improve Endurance

In the same New Jersey study, burpees beat four other bodyweight moves and every free weights exercise for VO2 response. If you’re short on time and space, use the Wingate protocol: 30 seconds all-out, then four minutes of rest, done four to six times.

Sprint Workout To Increase Power

“Production training” workouts improve your ability to work at maximum effort with short rest. They are ultra-short, super-hard exercise intervals combined with long rests for a workout that’ll improve your power. Use them when you’re chasing a 500m row PB or preparing for a boxing bout.

1 Mountain slider

Work 15sec Rest 1min 30sec Rounds 6

Start in a press-up position with your feet on a pair of small towels or Valslides, then bring one knee and then the other up to your chest as fast as possible. Think of it like a crawling sprint.

2 Thruster

Work 15sec Rest 1min 15sec Rounds 6

Holding a light pair of dumbbells at shoulder height or a light barbell on your shoulders, drop into a squat. As you stand up, drive the weight overhead, then lower straight into the next rep.

Endurance HIIT Workout To Improve Your 5K Time

“Maintenance training” workouts use longer work intervals and slightly shorter rests to increase your body’s ability to sustain exercise at high intensity, using both your aerobic and anaerobic systems.

1 Kettlebell swing

Work 30sec Rest 1min 30sec Rounds 6

Using a moderate-weight kettlebell, swing it back between your legs and then pop your hips forwards to swing it to eye level, letting it drop straight into the next rep.

2 Assault AirBike

Work 15sec Rest 45sec Rounds 10

The Assault AirBike forces you to use your full body for a short-but-nasty experience. Haven’t got one? A regular exercise bike also works.

HIIT Workout To Get Lean In Your Lunch Break

Shortening the rests and keeping the work rate high burns more calories during and after your workout, for maximum fat loss. This session from Ndongmo will get you lean in your lunch break. Do all three exercises to complete one round, and repeat eight times.

1 Jump lunge

Work 20sec Rest 10sec

Explode off the ground and change legs in the air on each rep. Rest for ten seconds, then go straight into exercise 2.

2 High knees

Work 20sec Rest 10sec

Run on the spot, bringing your knees as high as possible. Keep the intensity high throughout, then rest for ten seconds.

3 Jump squat

Work 20sec Rest 30sec

Drop into a squat and then explode off the floor, landing as softly as possible. Rest for 30 seconds before you start the next round.

If you’ve yet to try a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) cardio workout, consider this your invitation. Trainers everywhere love them because they’re usually fast, always efficient, and can be adjusted to just about any level of expertise. The only real key? Just move as fast as is challenging for you. You’ll get the best results when you’re actually making yourself breathless as you do each exercise.

This six-move workout below will certainly get you there. Some of the exercises in the circuit are higher impact, but they can be easily modified to be lower impact.

  • For butt kickers, try marching in place, focusing on using your core to pull your knees up to hip height each step.
  • For pop squats, do a classic squat and remove the hop.
  • For skaters, you can skip the jump and just take a wide step to each side instead.
  • If reverse lunges hurt your knees, try doing static lunges (or split squats) instead. To do those, you’ll begin with your feet in a staggered stance and then bend both knees to 90 degrees to drop into a lunge. You’ll do all the reps on one side, then repeat on the other. (For the purposes of the timed workout below, if you decide to do your lunges that way, you could do circuits 1 and 3 on the right side and circuits 2 and 4 on the left.)

Whether or not you are modifying the exercises, make sure you do a short warm-up first—we like this one or this one. Then get started with the workout.

Workout Directions:

Do each move in this HIIT cardio workout below for your selected interval. At the end of each circuit, rest for 60 seconds. Each circuit will be seven minutes total, including the rest period. Do the entire circuit four times for a total of 28 minutes. Note: You can easily adjust the length of this workout by simply adding or eliminating a circuit.

  • Option 1: 30 seconds of work, 30 seconds of rest
  • Option 2: 45 seconds of work, 15 seconds of rest

The Fat-Burning Effects of HIIT Workouts Are Exaggerated

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People who lift regularly will often say that if you want to get lean, you shouldn’t bother with steady-state cardio—it’s a waste of time. The key to losing fat as fast as humanly possible is to do high-intensity interval training (HIIT) instead, they argue.

That’s not necessarily wrong: HIIT can be a very efficient way to spend your time in the gym. In some cases, just 30 minutes of HIIT each week can improve various markers of cardiometabolic health to the same extent as two and a half hours of traditional cardio. The fat-burning benefits of HIIT, however, have been greatly exaggerated, and it doesn’t work nearly as well for fat loss as some like to claim. Here’s a closer look at the science on cardio and weight loss and what it all means for you.

For starters, as some Tonic contributors have argued in the past, cardio by itself is not a very effective way to lose fat. Back in the ’90s, researchers at the George Washington University Medical Center set out to determine if adding aerobic exercise to a low-calorie diet accelerates weight loss. After looking at 493 studies, they found that diet and exercise provides only a marginal benefit compared to diet alone.

The average weight loss after a 15-week program of aerobic exercise was seven pounds. Over the same period, dieting cut weight by roughly 17 pounds. When exercise and diet were combined, average weight loss was 20 pounds—just three pounds more than diet alone.

As part of the HERITAGE Family Study, one of the largest studies of its kind, researchers tracked more than 500 men and women as they embarked on a 20-week exercise program. Following a grand total of 60 workouts, the average amount of fat lost was slightly less than two pounds, prompting scientists to admit that aerobic exercise “is not a major factor” in weight loss.

That’s not to say steady-state cardio can’t deliver results, but you need to do a lot of it. In one trial, a group of obese men who did 60 minutes of brisk walking or light jogging every day lost, on average, 13 pounds of fat. While losing a little over one pound of fat per week is a decent result, the men taking part in this trial exercised for more than one hour, every single day, for three months. They were also obese and carrying around a lot of extra weight, which means they burned a massive amount of energy during their daily workouts. It’s the equivalent of a normal-weight individual walking around with a heavy rucksack strapped to their back.

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But let’s get back to HIIT for a moment. HIIT is often praised as being uniquely effective for fat loss—more so than steady-state cardio. That’s mainly on the basis that your body continues to burn calories at an accelerated rate after the workout is over. The size of this “afterburn effect,” as well as the extent to which it contributes to weight loss, however, have both been highly exaggerated.

Researchers from Colorado State University, for example, found that HIIT led to an average of 226 extra calories being burned over the course of the day. And that’s not just the calories burned after the workout. It’s the calories burned both during and after exercise. What’s more, HIIT had no impact on resting metabolism when it was measured 23 hours after exercise. All of the calories were burned during and immediately after the workout itself.

By way of comparison, an Appalachian State University study shows that 45 minutes of steady-state cardio at 85 percent maximum heart rate burned a little over 700 calories—519 during the workout itself and 190 after it had finished.

In 2017, a team of Australian scientists published a meta-analysis on the subject of HIIT, steady-state cardio, and fat loss. (A meta-analysis involves pooling the results from multiple trials on the same subject. Instead of lots of small experiments, you end up with one big experiment, conducted on lots of people. As a result, you’re left with a conclusion that’s more reliable than anything that could have been drawn from each of the smaller studies.)

The researchers pooled the results of 28 trials, covering almost 1000 people. After crunching the numbers, they found “no evidence to support the superiority of either high-intensity interval training or steady-state cardio for body fat reduction.”

A separate research team came to much the same conclusion after doing their own analysis of the research. High-intensity interval training and steady-state cardio are similarly effective, they say, and both elicit “modest improvements, and of similar magnitude, in body fat levels and waist circumference in overweight and obese adults.”

They do note, however, that HIIT is a more efficient alternative to steady-state cardio, delivering similar fat-loss benefits with less time spent in the gym. It’s also worth pointing out that exercise does have some potential downsides as far as fat loss is concerned. For some, a workout that burns lots of calories will stimulate your appetite, so you end up replacing the calories you’ve worked so hard to burn. There’s also a phenomenon known as moral licensing, where being “good” gives you permission to be “bad.” In other words, you may end up eating more food after a high-calorie workout because you feel like you “earned” it.

What’s more, some studies show that if you burn lots of calories via exercise, you tend to spend less energy elsewhere. Put differently, your body attempts to “cap” the amount of energy you use in day. Beyond a certain point, increasing the number of calories you burn in the gym won’t automatically lead to more fat being lost.

To sum it all up, there are many different ways to do cardio. All of them have their place at different times and for different people. While HIIT is a long way from being a magic bullet as far as fat loss is concerned, no type of exercise will do much to shift the weight in the absence of a good diet.

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High intensity interval training (HIIT) is one of the best ways to get fit quick – not just looking fit, but feeling fit, as well. It’s a great workout for burning fat, boosting endurance, toning up allover and building explosive speed and strength. If you’re looking to get or stay lean, HIIT workouts should show up in your routine between 1-3 times a week, depending on your goals, training intensity and fitness level, or how quickly you recover in between sweat sessions.

HIIT cardio is a fat burning powerhouse; the short intervals ask you to push yourself much harder than you would be able to if you were doing longer duration bouts of movement. Because it only lasts 20 seconds each time, you’re basically seeking out discomfort in the form of a pace that is not sustainable for much more than that short interval.

Related: We just lanched a brand new workout program that uses a smart combination of HIIT & Strength, check out 4 Week FB Burn!

This unsustainable, intense burst of energy output revs up the metabolism because the body does not instantly return to the normal rate of expenditure. Instead, it slowly normalizes itself over the next hours and sometime even days (depending on the intensity of the workout). While it’s returning to normal, you get the benefit of burning calories at a higher rate than normal – even while you’re just sitting around. It’s a great example of working smarter, instead of harder, though no one is about to argue that HIIT is not difficult.

My lower body was so thoroughly sore after this workout! Definitely sore in the glutes, inner and outer thighs, quads and hamstrings. It really pushed me and though I struggled my through the workout, I still felt really great by the time it was all over.

Related: What you can do NOW to prevent knee problems in the future

I’ve tried to make this no equipment workout as accessible as possible by using only bodyweight exercises, meaning that you can take this routine with you anywhere. This is not a beginner workout, but I’ve also included both low impact and advanced versions of each exercise all the way through, just in case you need a break from the more intense intervals or if you have neighbors living below you. Feel free to move back and forth between the different modifications shown as you need to; whatever you do, just make sure that you’re pushing yourself.

Workout Structure
After a cardio warm up, we jump right into the HIIT workout, which uses intervals of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds active rest, three times through for each set. The exercises target the glutes, thighs, and core, and there is a heavy emphasis on both cardiovascular and muscular endurance. Cool down and stretch is included.

Turn on some music that you love and get ready to work hard!

Warm Up Cardio: 25 seconds per interval
Jog in Place
Swing + Step
3 Torso Twists + Knee
Standing Pike
Warrior Jacks
Toe Touch Circles
Butt Kickers
Squats
Long Lunges
Other Side
Slow Burpee
Up & Over Hops
Up & Out Jacks
Plyo Side Lunges

Printable HIIT Workout: 20 Seconds on, 10 seconds rest, x 3 per exercise
Jump Squat Front Kick
Push Ups
Jumping Lunge
Skip Jump
X Burpee (just 2 rounds since I set my timer wrong; lucky you 🙂 )

Water Break

Squat Jacks
Heel Click Drop + Step
High Knees
Burpee + Side Kick
Tall Plank Leg Lifts
Squat Drop + Ankle Tap (alternating sides)
Broad Jump Forwad + 3 Squatted Steps Back
2 Runner Drops
Lateral Jump Squat Jack

Cool Down and Stretch

I really loved this workout; it kicked my butt. The “squat drop ankle tap” move really snuck up on me, as did the broad jumps (they always do). I think I will do this again with you guys once we’ve released it.

I would love to know what you thought; were you sore afterwards? Thanks for working out with me!

Table of Contents

In this era of specialized, advanced training, it may be a surprising concept to consider training the body using Full Body Workouts. Most people who begin a weight training program today immediately start off by splitting up the body into separate body parts in order to work each muscle group thoroughly and extensively. However, this is not necessarily the only way to train.

THE 50’s AND 60’s

Back in the 1950’s and ’60’s, full body workouts were the normal way to train. Bodybuilders and other fitness enthusiasts would train every major muscle group in a single training session. This is how everyone else did it in the era before specialized training by singling out individual muscle groups was born.

Even the superstar bodybuilders from that time period trained in this fashion. Legends such as John Grimek (1940-41 Mr. America) and Steve Reeves normally trained the whole body during their workouts. These outstanding bodybuilders were the best of their generation and developed their impressive physiques with full body workouts.


John Grimek and Steve Reeves

THE LATE 60’s AND EARLY 70’s

In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, bodybuilders began expanding their workouts by employing the “split routine”. This involved splitting up their training by only working a certain number of muscle groups in one workout and then training other muscle groups in a separate workout. Joe Weider, the publisher of Muscle Builder/Power Magazine and one of the most influential individuals in the sport of bodybuilding, promoted this split method of training in his magazine, boasting that his Weider Superstars were “Bombing and Blitzing their way to Bodybuilding Glory”.

THESE DAYS

Today, most people who begin a weight training program are instructed by their trainers or read on the internet that the proper way to train is to begin with a split routine. It can be argued that the split routine is a more advanced method of training, one to be followed after a year or more of following a beginner or intermediate full body training program.

When an individual has never weight trained before, their muscles are not accustomed to the stress of resistance training. As a result, it doesn’t take a lot of work to get the muscles to respond. Even a small amount of training will shock the complacent muscles into growing.

When you train a muscle, the overall volume of work is computed by taking the total amount of sets and multiplying that number by the total number of reps performed. The more exercises you perform for each muscle group, the higher the volume will be because you will be performing more total sets.


Arnold Schwarzenegger doing Squats

THE FULL BODY WORKOUT

When using a full body workout routine, you will be limiting the number of exercises per muscle group to one or two at the most. This is necessary because you will not be able to do several exercises for each muscle group when training the whole body. If you did, you would end up performing as many as 50 sets in one workout. In addition, the amount of work it would take to train every muscle group using 3-4 exercises would be so exhausting, you would probably never want to repeat that workout again.

A full body workout is ideal for a beginner because their muscles are not accustomed to doing much work. Even one exercise performed for a minimum number of sets will make the muscles grow. By limiting the number of sets for each body part, you will be able to train the full body in one workout without exhausting yourself by doing too many sets.

A full body workout is also beneficial to include every once in a while as part of a more advanced program, it’s a welcomed change for an intermediate or advanced trainee, since it gives the body a different set of challenges that it needs to work through. It can both help force the adaptation of previously ignored support muscles, as well as increase overall endurance through adaptive stress.

CHOOSING EXERCISES

When choosing the exercises to do for a full body workout routine, you should pick a basic, compound movement to train each muscle group. Because you are only doing one exercise for each body part, you want to make sure that it is a compound exercise that will train the muscle effectively and also involve as many other muscle groups as possible. Choosing an isolation exercise as your one exercise for a body part would be not nearly as productive.


Arnold Schwarzenegger Showing The Correct Technique on the Incline Bench

Another rule to follow when designing a full body workout routine is to train the bigger muscle groups first in the training session and work your way down to the smaller muscle groups. This makes sense because you will have the most energy at the beginning of the workout so you want to train the bigger muscle groups first and then work the smaller muscles after you have expended most of your energy on the larger muscle groups.

EXAMPLE PROGRAM

Let’s look at an example of how you can construct a Full Body Training Routine. You will be training the legs, chest, back, shoulders, triceps, biceps, calves and abs all in one training session. Most body parts will only utilize one exercise and you will do 3 total sets for each exercise.

Full Body Workout Routine:

# Exercise Sets Reps
1 Squats 3 8-10
2 Stiff Leg Deadlifts 3 8-10
3 Barbell Rows 3 8-10
4 Bench Press 3 8-10
5 Standing Military Press 3 8-10
6 Dips (Triceps) 3 8-10
7 Barbell Curls 3 8-10
8 Standing Calf Raises 3 10-12
9 Incline Sit-ups 3 20
10 Hanging Knee Raises 3 20


Franco Columbu Performing Barbell Curls

PERFECT FOR BEGINNERS

This full body workout is perfect for the beginner who is introducing their body to the rigors of weight training. By training the whole body in one workout, they will also build more endurance by having a higher total volume. In addition, by using primarily compound movements, they will build more strength and coordination amongst the muscle groups. There is no better way to get the muscles to develop strength and size than by using progressively heavier weights on the basic exercises.

A beginner should use a weight that they can comfortably handle for 3 sets of 10 reps on each exercise. Each week, the weight on each exercise should be gradually increased to build up the strength and development of the muscles. At the beginning stage, it’s possible to get stronger every week. Make small increases in the resistance to keep the exercise form correct and also feel the muscles working during each movement.


Steve Reeves Performing the Standing Barbell Shoulder Press

ADVANCED TRAINERS

The Full Body Workout Program can also be used by advanced trainers who are looking for a different method of training to shock the body into growing again. Instead of doing more for each workout, many individuals begin growing again when they cut back on the amount of training they are doing instead of increasing it. Those who are currently overtrained by doing too many sets and training too many days in a row can really shock their bodies into growing when they train the whole body in one full workout and rest more days per week.

Vintage Blast – Two-Stage Pre-Workout

An advanced trainer will be using much heavier resistance than a beginner will and this increased workload adds up to more stress on the central nervous system. As a result, an advanced trainer may need 2 full days of rest before they can do the next full body workout. A beginner should be able to easily handle three days a week of training because the resistance will be much lighter. This is not the case with an advanced trainer.

Here is an example of how an advanced trainer can perform a Full Body Workout Routine:

# Exercise Warmup Sets Sets Reps
1 Squats 2 3 10, 8, 6*
2 Stiff Leg Deadlifts 1 3 10, 8, 6*
3 Barbell Rows 2 3 10, 8, 6*
4 Incline Barbell Press 2 3 10, 8, 6*
5 Seated Dumbbell Press 2 3 10, 8, 6*
6 Close Grip Bench Press 2 3 10, 8, 6*
7 Barbell Curls 1-2 3 10, 8, 6*
8 Standing or Seated Calf Raises 2 3 15, 12, 10*
9 Kneeling Cable Crunches 0 3 20
10 Hanging Knee Raises 0 3 20

*Increase your weights each set.


Arnold Schwarzenegger Performing Barbell Rows

Because an advanced trainer is using more resistance on the exercises they perform, it’s necessary to do a couple of warm-up sets for each exercise before using the working weight they need to make the muscles grow. This is important to prevent any injuries to the connective tissues and get the blood into the muscles before using the heavy weights for the three working sets.

If you are looking for a different method of training, give the Full Body Workout a try! Let us know your thoughts and whether you’ve trained using a Full Body Workout before in the comment box below.

Body weight hiit workout

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