Rated as the No.1 fitness trend for 2014 by American College of Sports Medicine fitness professionals, high-intensity interval training is increasingly being used to make short workouts more intense. Although you may be getting results from HIIT training now, that doesn’t necessarily mean performance increases are being made in the long run. Follow these three HIIT tips to take your workouts to the next level, and make consistent body composition and strength improvements.

Timing matters

A typical HIIT session should last anywhere between 4 minutes (like Tabata) and 15 minutes. Overuse injuries can arise if workouts are too long; cap HIIT workouts at 30 minutes.

But instead of putting together a 30-minute, non-stop workout, break up your program into shorter all-out intervals with brief recovery periods. For example, three workouts of 5-7 minutes each with a short recovery between each one will allow for a higher level of intensity, and keep you from getting bored doing the same movements over and over again.

Make HIIT more intense

HIIT recovery periods can be active (such as a plank) or at full rest. Either way, a basic work-to-rest ratio is one minute work to two minutes rest. A good rule of thumb: you should not be able to talk and work out simultaneously during a well-programmed HIIT workout. Here’s an example of a basic HIIT rowing workout.

Basic HIIT rowing workout
4 rounds
250 meters rowing
Work to rest ratio: 1:2
Total time: 12 min.

To avoid hitting a fitness plateau, and to continue improving your conditioning, add an extra work interval and/or reduce the duration of rest periods in subsequent workouts. Here’s a progression of the program above:

More intense HIIT rowing workout
8 rounds
250 meters rowing
Work to rest: 1:1
(Resting for approximately 1 minute)
Total time: 16 min.

Integrate strength training and HIIT

Building and maintaining muscle is a critical component of conditioning. Not only is it safe to incorporate HIIT and strength training, it’s an efficient way to maximize lean body mass and maintain strength. To do this, try a strength-training workout that consists of 1-2 exercises and 5-6 sets of each. Here’s an example of a strength component of a workout routine:

Strength workout
Back squats (working up to 5RM)
Sets: 5
Reps: 5
Superset with
Sets: 5
Reps: 10

Here’s an example of how to tie all of this together, and structure an entire strength and conditioning session:

Full-body metabolic workout

Mobility and dynamic stretching
Duration: 10 minutes

Strength training
Duration: 15 minutes

Duration: 15 minutes

Cool down (stretching)
Duration: 5-10 minutes

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How long does a typical HIIT workout last?

How long do HIIT workouts last?

Due to the extremely intense nature of HIIT workouts, they typically last for no more than 20 minutes. An effective HIIT workout can actually be done in about 10-12 minutes if you structure it correctly. If you can last for significantly longer, chances are it is not intense enough.

Do I need a treadmill to do HIIT?

While running is the most common form of HIIT, it is possible to do HIIT on any cardio machine such as an elliptical, stair master, bike, or rowing machine. You can even do HIIT outside without any equipment.

How often and when can I do a HIIT workout?

You can do HIIT 3 times a week. You may try to do more, but if you are also doing heavy lifting, this may be overtaxing your body. While some people do their cardio on rest days, I prefer actually resting on rest days. Do not perform HIIT on rest days!

If you want to do HIIT, do it on your workout days. If the primary goal is to increase aerobic endurance or lose weight, then you should perform cardiovascular exercise first followed by strength training. If the primary goal is to increase muscular strength, then perform strength training first followed by cardio.

Do I need to do HIIT to lose fat?

No, HIIT or any type of cardio is definitely not necessary to lose fat. When trying to lose fat, the most important thing to do is to create a calorie deficit and perform some sort of resistance training to preserve muscle mass. You definitely can’t outrun a bad diet.

If you want to keep your workouts as short as possible and enjoy pushing your limits, then go for HIIT. Again, stick to a healthy schedule to avoid injury: no more than 3 HIIT workouts weekly, and work on that running form.

Advantages and Disadvantages of HIIT

Advantages of HIIT

  • It saves time.
  • Because HIIT is an anaerobic activity like weight lifting, it will actually help you preserve muscle mass.
  • You boost HGH levels, which help you burn fat and preserve muscle.
  • It mimics real life situations where you actually perform short intense bursts of activity.

Disadvantages of HIIT

  • It’s hard. If you’re going to do HIIT, then you can’t half-ass it. If you’re told sprint for 30 seconds, then you better perform your best attempt at an all out sprint for 30 seconds.
  • HIIT can impair recovery. This is not a workout that you can do every day.
  • HIIT does not go well with a super low calorie diet.

Source: What If I Can’t Do HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)? – FitnessFlash

High-intensity interval training has been all the heart-racing rage ever since it, er, hit the fitness scene many moons ago.

But the sweat set might not realize that the most effective part of the workout is also the very thing the majority of people get wrong. “They think high-intensity, high volume—instead of high-intensity, low volume,” explains Rachel Vaziralli, the creative manager of group fitness at Equinox and exercise-science expert. “You can’t perform at a true high intensity if is long.”

Too often HIIT is used as a synonym for “hardcore” to describe workouts that are 60 minutes or longer. Especially in boutique fitness classes, where intensity has become a near obsession, the term gets thrown around like a five-pound medicine ball. So what is the optimal amount of time to HIIT before you quit?

“If you can go longer than 30 minutes, you weren’t actually working hard enough.” —Rachel Vaziralli, creative manager of group fitness at Equinox

“If you can go longer than 30 minutes, you weren’t actually working hard enough,” Vaziralli says. The whole point, she explains, “is to push to unsustainable intensities.” (Having taken her new Firestarter class at the gym chain, I can attest that half an hour is plenty of time for HIIT—I could barely breathe after about 10 minutes.)

Of course, you (of sweaty ambitions) may be thinking, Why not just keep layering more intense intervals on for a longer, harder workout?

By doing so, you’re essentially putting in extra work for little additional gain—and your time is definitely precious. “What happens is your body just adjusts, so you hold back on the intensity,” Vaziralli says. “You’re spending more time than for the same results.” And perhaps most importantly, you’re too busy to deal with an injury—which might happen if you attempt to push to that unsustainable, aggressive intensity for an extended period of time.

Before you schedule seven, 30-minute daily HIIT workouts in a row though, take note: The same “HIIT it and quit it” logic also applies on a weekly basis. “There are countless types and formats of high-intensity training available without tested recommendations on how much is too much,” Jinger Gottschall, PhD told Shape.

Dr. Gottschall—who has rounded up data from HIIT lovers for years—recently partnered with global workout platform Les Mills to find out how much time per week you should actually spend training in your 90 to 100 percent max heart-rate zone in order to yield the best results.

In a small study of 35 people (28 being women), participants were asked to establish their baseline for three weeks, tracking their heart rate and mood throughout their normal workouts. Then, Dr. Gottschall’s team of researchers asked them to complete two 30-minute HIIT workouts, four hours apart.

Based on saliva samples collected before, directly following, and 30 minutes after the cooldown, researchers measured the participants’ cortisol and testosterone levels to see just how beneficial the extra dose of HIIT really was. The results? “I was surprised by the obvious difference between doing 30 to 40 minutes and doing more than 45 minutes. The difference in performance, stress-related feelings, and sleep quality were significant,” said Gottschall. In other words, too much high-intensity training damages your body similarly to the way overtraining does—yikes!

The bottom line: For the best results, choose between maxing out in shorter workouts or instead opting for longer, sustained cardio and strength-training sessions. And when you do plan out your sweat schedule for the week, make sure super-high intensity sessions only take up a half-hour slot.

Proof that you really can pack a lot of power in a little time: This 10-minute beach workout Halle Berry’s trainer swears by. If you’re reconsidering your fitness routines, try to avoid these 10 gym faux pas the next time you work out.

Originally published February 28, 2017; updated July 16, 2018, with additional reporting from Kells McPhillips.

How Long Should Your HIIT Workouts Actually Be?

We all know how important it is to be in a good shape, not just for good looks, but also for our health. It is very important to adjust your diet to be healthy and strong.

Therefore, it is crucial to choose a diet that would have a high impact on our productivity and energy.

But as much as we eat healthily, sometimes it is not enough to lose enough weight, at least not as much as we would want to.

Therefore, the only solution to that problem is a good old workout.

Yes, we can go for long walks and steady jogging, but if we wanted to lose weight faster and improve our physical ability and condition, we would require much more intensive training than just a simple walk.

That is why we are here today to introduce you to a very specific type of training, called “high-intensity interval training”, or in short HIIT.

We will explain what HIIT exactly is, why it is scientifically proven to be very useful and how it helps us reduce our weight faster.

After that, we will give some hints on how long should HIIT last, give some workout examples and mention some possible flaws of this type of training.

That said, stick with us and let us begin!


As mentioned above, HIIT is an acronym of High-Intensity Interval Training.

It is a technique of training where you do an exercise faster at a higher intensity for a specific amount of time, then swap to doing the exercise in a slower pace, by reducing its intensity, also for some time.

A good example of HIIT I tend to use is running 1 minute at full speed, then walking for a minute, then increase the speed slightly for some time and then doing the sprint again for 15 to 30 seconds, depending on how tired I am.

Of course, the workout doesn’t stop after just one cycle, but continues for a couple of cycles, depending on how many of them you can do.

Try to aim for around 7-10 cycles.

Basically, what you do, is swapping from faster to slower exercise in a couple of minutes.

That type of workout helps with boosting up your stamina and eventually, you should be able to hold much longer and to do several more cycles.

One of the people who has contributed the most to the use of HIIT workouts instead of using normal cardio workouts is Japanese scientist Izumi Tabata.

With the popularity of his research, he managed to popularize the overall technique with the type of HIIT interval called “20 seconds exercise, 10 seconds rest”.

You can find out more about Tabata exercise in the video below.

It is a very popular HIIT exercise used throughout the world by both professionals and amateurs.

Tabata exercise is considered the best HIIT workout when we consider the time needed to perform it, which is only 4 minutes.

Therefore, it is very time-effective for the people who work a lot but still wants to be healthy and fit.


Let us examine the study Izumi Tabata conducted on a group of Olympic skaters, where he had tested the influence of his “20 seconds work, 10 seconds rest” training against the influence of regular steady cardio training on their stamina.

The test was done by using room bikes.

Subjects who were subjected to the Tabata exercise did 8 cycles of his “20 seconds drill, 10 seconds rest” at maximum 170% of VO2, while those who were doing regular cardio exercise did a steady paced cardio, that is often used at maximum 70% of VO2.

The results were amazing! People who were doing Tabata’s exercise had their stamina increased more than the people who had been doing regular cardio training.

After that point, more studies have been conducted and all of them showed that high-intensity interval training is more efficient when it comes to weight loss and growth of stamina than the regular cardio exercise that has been used as the most efficient way of doing it until then.

To some people, this information was very shocking, because it would mean that 4-7 minute exercise gave better results than 30-40 minutes of riding a bike or jogging.

It means that very busy people could actually use this training to improve their health and stamina because they would need just several minutes instead of around full hour or more for the normal exercise.

That way, the people who were claiming they had no time to work out would not be able to do it again, hence, it could actually make them practice a bit more, because, as we have already said, it is very important to do some type of workout every day, in order to keep your body and mind healthy.

Yes, the workout is important for the brain as well.

Though there are some mindfulness exercises that help you train your brain, it is also important to do your workout regularly, because the brain is linked to all other parts of the body.


Previously, we mentioned that HIIT is more efficient in burning fat than some regular cardio training. Now, let us see why that is true.

Let’s start with explaining what the main goal of HIIT is.

When doing a HIIT, your main goal is to increase your heart rate to reach 85-90% of the maximum heart rate possible.

When your heart works within that interval, it means that your body is functioning anaerobically, or in other words, without oxygen.

This later leads to excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or in other words EPOC, which is also known by a different name, simply as the afterburn effect.

The afterburn effect represents the number of calories burned after you are done with your exercise.

It basically means that your body will need some time to recover itself from doing the exercise, and during that time it will burn more calories, even while you are resting because the exercise itself was very intense and your body needs some time to catch up to it.

Now, let us see what happens in your body when you go out for some jogging, for example.

Would you get the same results or not?

When we are running at some normal speed, our body does not use the anaerobic system.

On the contrary, the energy system it uses is aerobic, which is, as you might have already guessed, a complete opposite of anaerobic.

While working aerobically, our body uses oxygen to power itself and the muscles.

And because of that, there is no afterburn effect, leading to the conclusion, which is that your body will not burn additional calories after you have completed the exercise.

Well, now we know how exactly both HIIT and regular cardio training work.

We no understand for what reasons is the HIIT more efficient than its cardio competitor and why it is considered to be one of the most efficient ways of exercise for burning the fat and losing some weight.


Ha! Considering this question, there are a lot of different opinions.

Some claim it should last around an hour, some claim more, some even goes to the lengths to say that it takes just 7 minutes of a workout to do the efficient HII training.

Of course, all people are different, so some people can do HIIT a bit longer than others.

Therefore you should start small, with the recommended length and then adjust it to your needs and possibilities.

The general opinion is that if your HIIT exercise took you longer than 30 minutes, it means that you have not pushed yourself enough and that the afterburn effects that should have come out of it would be lesser and not on optimal levels.

Apart from that, some claim that if your HIIT exercise takes less than 15 minutes, it means that you did push yourself, but it also means that you overstepped and didn’t reach that optimal afterburn effect that you would have gotten if you had worked a bit more.

That’s why it is important to motivate yourself to be more open to doing a workout, even when you are not in the mood.

So, if you still want us to give you some specific interval to work out, we could say around 20-30 minutes.

Of course, as said above, it really depends on how much of it you can endure and whether you are motivated enough to continue even if you are not working enough.

As you have probably noticed in the previous text, when we had mentioned Izumi Tabata and the workout he brought to us, you can do his exercise in around 4 minutes, but in order for it to be effective, you need to do it for several cycles.

So, without any further due, try to keep that in mind and take your lifestyle and personal ability into account when you start planning your own HIIT, because it could either be longer or shorter, depending on a variety of different factors.

The general guideline to help you is, what we have already said, around 20-30 minutes, depending on your current stamina and physical readiness.

People who are more physically prepared are capable of doing longer and more intense HIIT, so if you are not one of those people, do not worry, you can workout at your own pace, by gradually increasing your workout times over time.


Despite being very useful for increasing your stamina level and reducing your weight, the high-intensity interval training is not for everyone, so you should think carefully whether it is for you or not.

So strap in and let us see what are the flaws of HIIT.

1. HIIT can cause a lot of stress

First of all, HIIT could cause a lot of stress, because it is very hard to do this type of exercise.

It can often get very demanding, both physically and mentally.

So, it is very important that you know your limits and finds out if you have what it takes to do this type of exercise.

Of course, people will say that some amount of stress is useful to both your body and mind and they would be right to say so.

Without any stress, our mind and body would become too dormant and kind of not interested in anything, which could lead to us not carrying about pain, other people and the things that are happening around us all the time, which is of course not good.

On the other hand, a lot of stress is also not good for us, because when we are overstressed, it can be seen by other people, and apart from that, it could also cause some damage to our body and mind as well, which is a very bad thing to happen.

We live in a modern time, where there are a lot of things happening around us that influence our stress levels.

Simple things, like a family fight, traffic jam or a bad day at work all contribute to the stress level and that is why they should all be included when we intend to plan how long would our HIIT exercise take.

If you lead a very busy life, it wouldn’t be too good to add another 45 minutes of stress with HIIT, so that’s why you need to take everything into account.

On the other hand, if you are well rested, you sleep well or just have something that you use to vent out your stress, then it would be a good idea for you to incorporate HIIT exercise during the week.

For example, 3-4 times per week with the HIIT lasting around 20-30 minutes each.

That way you will manage your stress level easily and be able to workout enough for you to reach that goal, whether it is to lose some weight or to increase your stamina level.

2. HIIT is not useful for bodybuilding

All throughout the text, we have mention how HIIT has the positive effects on stamina level, how it helps if you need to lose some weight and maintain very good muscular activity, but we have never mentioned anything about its influence on bodybuilding.

That is the case because there is no influence.

HIIT exercise is just not made for increasing your strength and becoming large like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

If your goal is just that, then you have to do another type of training, with more weight lifting included.

There are a couple of ways of doing this, but the traditional one is to focus on training one muscle family per training.

For example, people usually train biceps or triceps, leg muscles or back muscles independently.

There are a couple of more new ways of doing it, but it is not the topic of this text, but you can check other articles if you are more interested in that.

For now, we will focus on HIIT exercises and how it can help people who are ready to invest themselves in it.


There are a lot of types of HIIT exercises, depending on the time needed and exercises included.

You can also combine multiple simple exercises in order to create your own customized training.

Therefore we cannot recommend just one type of HIIT.

It all depends on your preference and your ability to do certain types of exercises.

Some may suit you more, some not, so try to find the best combination for yourself.

If you really have no clue which ones would you prefer and you do not have time to experiment, you can check this video, which describes my personal favorite HIIT exercises.

We will list some of the most common types of HIIT workout below, so stick with us and let’s find the perfect HIIT workout for you!

1. Walk, sprint, walk

This is the simplest HIIT workout you can do. The idea is to walk for 30 seconds, then to sprint for 30 seconds.

This way you will speed up your heart rate and reach that afterburn effect we had previously talked about.

Of course, you should do this in cycles, ranging from 10-15, depending on your current stamina level. The more the merrier, but make sure not to get too tired, because the point of this is not to fall down out of exhaustion, but to gradually increase your stamina.

2. Run, sprint, run

The same concept applies here, except that instead of walking you have to run.

This exercise is generally much harder, but if you feel ready enough you can start from this one, instead of starting with the first one.

However, if you feel like you are not capable of pulling it off, you should either start with the first exercise or reduce the number of cycles to around 5-7 and see if you can make it.

3. Push me up to infinity!

Yes, you have probably guessed this one right. As the name suggests, this exercise consists of doing infinite pushups.

The idea is to do 10 pushups at a time with 15-30 seconds rest between each cycle.

Since this exercise has infinity in its name, there is no real limit on how many cycles you can do.

But, even the most experienced people tend not to do more than 10 cycles.

So, if you are a beginner, try with a smaller number, of let’s say, maximum 5 cycles. You can also combine it with other exercises, and create your own cycle, which would contain several different exercises.

4. Squatting without stopping

Same as the previous one, this one is infinite, you can do it as many times you want and are physically able to.

The idea is the same, do 10 squats per cycle, and repeat it as much as you can, with 15-30 seconds rest between each cycle.

This can be very exhausting, so tread carefully and if you feel like you will drop, stop and take a longer rest, or just plan your squat cycles more appropriately so you maximize your efficiency.

5. Pushups + Squats

One of the most common exercises is to combine pushups and squats, and by squats, we mean air squats.

Again, the idea is generally the same, do 10 pushups, each followed by an air squat and then repeat for 10 cycles if you can endure it. If not, just reduce the number of cycles you are doing and you should be good.

Also, this one can also be very tiring so be mindful of that and make longer rest intervals or reduce the number of cycles so you would reach the optimal efficiency.

6. Infinite Burpees

If you hated the previous one, you will hate this one even more. It’s a combination of the previous exercise with some additional tweaks.

The general idea is the same as before, with the addition that rest intervals could be increased to 30-60 seconds.

So, do the same, 10 cycles, with the rest interval of 30-60 seconds.

7. Sit and Jump

What you need to do here is do 10 sit-ups followed by standing up and jumping vertically into the air as much as you can.

After each cycle, rest up for 30-60 seconds.

You can also combine this exercise with some of the previous ones to make it even harder if you think you are up for it.

8. Jumping Seal

No, you will not ride a seal! Don’t get your hopes up. This drill has gotten its name because of the navy seals.

Anyway, the idea is to do 50 jumps with your hands in front and then waving horizontally while jumping.

This should be done as fast as possible, but you need to make sure to maintain a good rhythm. If you feel like you are going too fast you can slow your pace.

The rest interval is between 45-60 seconds. Try to repeat this exercise as much as possible, but let’s say 10 cycles would be more than enough.


There you go, people! Now you know what HIIT really is, why it is very useful when it comes to losing weight or just improving your stamina level.

You know what are its benefits and weaknesses, so you can now start training and choosing the right HIIT workout for you out of the all we have mentioned or just combine some of the exercises and create your own HIIT workout plan if you feel like it.


10 Most Common HIIT Mistakes, According to Trainers

By now, HIIT training is well-known as a fast way to build muscle, increase aerobic fitness, and burn fat.

Most high-intensity interval training workouts are less than 30 minutes and alternate between maximum effort for a period of 20 to 30 seconds and shorter rest sets of lower intensity.

You can also customize HIIT for your body’s needs and apply it to running, strength training, or both.

The only downside? There are a lot of ways to do HIIT wrong, which not only leads to injury and fatigue but also prevents you from accomplishing your goals.

Here are ten common HIIT mistakes trainers see all the time, plus how you can fix them.

You’re skipping your warmup or cooldown.

Dr. Susan Fu, director of rehabilitation services at Providence Saint John’s Health Center, says a proper warm-up and cooldown are key because everyone has different injuries, needs, and aches and pains.

Stretching prepares your body for high-intensity exercise. It may minimize muscle soreness or aid in post-workout recovery.

HIIT Pilates instructor and wellness coach Melanie Kotcher adds, “HIIT involves intense cardio movements like jumping, which can be rough on your joints. So it’s important to remember to stretch to avoid potential injury.”

You’re not eating beforehand.

“HIIT is the one workout that is really hard to do without some carbs to pull from,” notes Aaptiv trainer Jessica Muenster.

“Steady cardio burns fat and can be done when you wake and without eating. But try to go to that HIIT workout on an empty tummy. You’ll not only have noticeably decreased performance but also likely feel sick and off-balance as your body scrambles for energy for the higher-intensity pieces but has nothing to grab.”

The solution is simple: Eat before your workout.

Your intervals are too long.

Personal trainer Stephanie Lincoln warns against any HIIT interval that lasts longer than 30 seconds or so. She recommends staying within the 15- to 30-second range.

During HIIT, the objective is to go as hard and as fast as you can during work intervals. You’ve got a small window of time to do so before hitting fatigue or failure.

“HIIT training is short bursts of effort, which are very tough, followed by rest periods,” explains Rob Jackson, a personal trainer at London-based Minimal FIT.

“Just like you can’t maintain a sprint for many kilometers, you can’t maintain HIIT workouts for hours on end. If you try to do HIIT for an hour, you are most likely going to go easy in parts of it, which defeats the purpose.”

Our HIIT interval workouts are designed by the best fitness trainers around.

Your form is wrong.

“This is one of the most frequent HIIT mistakes I see,” Lincoln says.

“HIIT is pretty intense and takes a big burst of energy and effort. So, people completely forget about keeping proper form in their focus on doing the hard work. I would rather people do fewer reps and do them perfectly to form than have crappy form and do more. Bad form can put too much strain on the joints, work the wrong targeted muscle groups, and make you susceptible to injury.”

If a HIIT workout feels too challenging, then modify. Andrea Levine, fitness instructor and wellness coach in New York City, says many people assume HIIT means taking the hardest variation available of an exercise, but that’s not true.

Rather than opting for poor form and more intensity, she suggests picking the version of a movement you can perform most effectively. As long as your heart rate is up, you’re still getting a great workout.

“A lot of exercises look more fun to do but may be more complex in the movement pattern than you realize,” Dr. Fu agrees. “Good form and technique should never be sacrificed for a high volume of work.”

You’re resting too long between sets or circuits.

“It’s important to make sure that you are staying strict with small breaks to bring your heart rate down in between exercises,” says Aaptiv trainer Meghan Takacs.

“You want to be able to work hard during the work periods and have a small recovery during the recovery periods. This type of training style allows you to burn more calories post-workout. Whereas 60 minutes of steady-pace cardio allows you to only burn during that time. The minute you step off the treadmill, that’s when the calories stop burning. There is no post-calorie burn.”

Your intensity isn’t high enough.

“HIIT is meant to be really intense and hard, hence the name,” says Meghan Kennihan, personal trainer and running coach in Illinois. “Unfortunately, many people, especially beginners, are not able to exercise at that intensity. If you are not in shape enough to work out at a high intensity, start with your general fitness and build yourself up to HIIT. If you are ready for HIIT, realize that pushing outside your comfort zone is not something that comes naturally. Follow the most important rule of HIIT: Do not hold back on the effort until it is your rest period.”

Lincoln thinks most people are used to pacing themselves for longer workouts. But with HIIT, you need to do the exact opposite.

Your workout is already super-short, and you won’t be at the gym for an hour. So if you push yourself hard, you can be done in about ten to 20 minutes.

Remember, high intensity doesn’t equal high impact, says personal trainer Jill McKay.

For those with physical limitations or joint pain, HIIT workouts can be done with resistance bands, while walking or swimming, or on an elliptical, as long as you bring up your heart rate and then recover before repeating.

“Hard work is a must to reap HIIT’s benefits,” says Rob Shoecraft, head trainer at Three Storm Fitness.

“Use the talk test to grade your effort. If you can hold a conversation after the workout, you didn’t work hard enough. If you can’t get through the “Pledge of Allegiance” without taking a break between conjunctions, you probably did it right.”

You’re wearing the wrong shoes.

“Wearing training shoes—aka those cute Nikes you’d never run in—is horrible,” Muenster says.

“HIIT typically includes a lot of jumping, which needs supported feet to support your knees, hips, etc. If you are training in shoes without stability and cushion built in, you will be prone to injuries and doing yourself a disservice. I always wear my running shoes rather than my training shoes when I do HIIT. I know my feet need just as much support for the impact of all the jumping moves.”

You’re skipping rest breaks.

“The interwebs and social media are littered with HIIT workouts that have unsafe and just plain poor ratios of work to rest,” McKay advises.

“Ideally, you want to work for a period (perhaps 30 seconds to one minute) and then rest for double (so one minute or two minutes, respectively). That would be an appropriate 1:2 ratio. For those looking to build muscle endurance or cardio endurance, a 1:3- or 1:4-minute ratio may also be appropriate. Rest is important. It’s how we get a quality workout.”

Muenster says many people hear “high intensity” and forget about the interval part, which is crucial for your body to get into a fat-burning zone.

True rest time also allows you to regroup and catch your breath for the next exercise, Dr. Fu says. So don’t resist active recovery time in between muscle groups. It is just as vital as the actual work itself.

“HIIT is designed to be a hard session, therefore it places lots of stress on the body,” Kennihan says. “You must take time to recover between workouts. Overtraining and under-recovering can lead to burnout, both mentally and physically. HIIT workouts are always about quality, not quantity!”

You’re overdoing it with heavy weights.

Dr. David Greuner of NYC Surgical Associates says it may be tempting to use equipment as a way to build muscle faster. But in reality, you don’t need racks of dumbbells for a successful HIIT workout.

Bodyweight, sprints, or anything that gets your heart rate up is more than sufficient. Using too many weights can defeat the purpose of HIIT.

Shoecraft adds, “People use too much weight. The goal of performing high-intensity intervals isn’t to increase absolute strength, nor is it to show everyone how strong you are. People who fail to realize this always get hurt. If your HIIT exercise selection includes a loaded variation (i.e., where you use weights), choose a weight where you can complete 15-25 reps before failure. When in doubt, start light. You can always go faster and bump up the load next time.”

You’re doing HIIT too much.

“The misconception that more is better often leads to burnout or injury,” McKay says.

“Consistency is important, but you only need to do HIIT workouts three to five days a week. Walking, stretching, getting good sleep, and eating well are all important, too. I see people who pay for a gym program that offers seven-days-a-week classes, so they feel to get their money’s worth and take classes at least six days a week. Your body needs rest to recover. That’s how muscles grow, by repairing. Listen to your body, and don’t overdo it.”

High-intensity workouts should only be performed two to three times per week, according to both Shoecraft and Levine, to make space for adequate recovery and long-term results.

Additionally, Levine discourages people from doing HIIT every day. “If you properly push yourself in HIIT workouts at high intensity, then your body needs time to recover and replenish your muscles before they are worked again,” she says. “Repeated HIIT workouts without recovery time can lead to injury.”

You’re not doing workouts you enjoy.

Finally, if you’re tackling HIIT workouts as a beginner, make sure to get the OK from your doctor first. More than anything, Dr. Greuner says, have fun with it!

“Don’t do any workouts that you’re going to give half-effort to because then you are just wasting your time,” he concludes.

“If you’re not comfortable with it, it causes any pain, or just simply don’t look forward to doing it, then avoid the workout. There are plenty of different options that you can use and still find the results you want.”

“As with any exercise, if you don’t enjoy it, you won’t stick with it,” McKay agrees. “Create a consistent routine of HIIT workouts to incorporate what you enjoy. Do you like to bike? Pedal fast from one telephone pole to another, and rest easy between the next two. Enjoy the rower? Pull harder during the TV commercials (about two minutes), and go easier (or decrease the ease) during the show (about eight minutes). HIIT doesn’t need to be complicated.”

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Posted on June 6, 2019May 29, 2019 by Jeremy Rolleston

HIIT is still the buzz word in the fitness world. So, you’ve heard of it, but are you still confused about what exactly constitutes a HIIT workout? Or, how long should a HIIT workout be? Or, how often you should be HIITing it? Then all the hype starts playing with your head as to whether shorter workouts are even effective for your weight loss and body transformation goals. Rest assured, we have ALL the answers.

What is HIIT?

HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. This type of workout focuses on numerous quick bursts of hard output followed by rest periods. Think of it as a quick hit of intensity, with a reward of rest…then you do it all again. You rapidly increase your heart rate and allow it to somewhat (but not fully) decline during the rest period between sets. What gets confusing is the diverse types of HIIT workouts.

Types of HIIT workouts

The term HIIT doesn’t just refer to gym-based weights workouts, they also come in a variety of cardio workouts. It could be a sprint running workout; a cycling based HIIT workout involving sprints; a rowing based HIIT workout with intervals. Paddling, swimming, rowing, running – they can all be HIIT based workouts. What’s common is the short bursts of high intensity and varying heart-rate of the workouts.

That’s what makes HIIT workouts different to your regular low intensity steady state (LISS) form of exercise where you just run, ride, swim or row continuously at the same pace or effort.

Why would I bother with a HIIT workout?

Studies suggest that you burn calories both during and long after your HIIT workout has completed. Say what?! Yes, it’s a bonus. This process known as “afterburn” is where your body is forced to use more energy to make up for the impact that high intensity exercise had on your energy stores. Meaning you can burn more total calories overall with a shorter time-efficient HIIT workout. This is the main reason that HIIT based workouts have become so popular in recent times. They are quick, convenient and effective workouts for weight loss and fitness.

How long should a HIIT workout be?

After a rhythmic style warm-up, your HIIT workout should typically take between 15 to 25 minutes. Remember a HIIT workout is all about making the high intensity part really work for you, so if your workout is going longer, you may not be pushing yourself hard enough during the ‘high intensity’ parts.

Ideally, your HIIT workout will see you elevating your heart rate to your maximal heart rate zone during the workout periods. This is why everyone’s HIIT workout is individual to them. The key to maintaining high intensity for each rep is to have adequate rest periods.

HIIT workouts can come in a variety of work-to-rest ratios to suit your current training needs. You may want to start with a 1:2 ratio of intensity to rest. This means if you are doing a 1-minute high intensity sprint, you recover for 2-minutes with a slow jog or walk to bring your heart rate down before repeating your next 1-minute sprint.

As you progress with your HIIT workouts you may shorten the intensity period, for example, a 1-min sprint goes down to a 45-second sprint. But the intensity should be harder in that 45-second interval than your 1-min interval. Remember you should also reduce the length of your rest in this scenario too.

How important are the interval rest periods?

The rest periods are what prepares you for the ‘high intensity’ part of the HIIT workout. If you are putting in maximal effort for the high intensity set, you will be loving every second of your rest period. Adequate rest periods allow you to remain consistent with your intensity across your workout, which is what you should be aiming for.

It is important to remember that the risk of injury is generally higher during HIIT workouts if/when your technique becomes compromised due to fatigue, making the rest periods even more important.

How often should I HIIT it?

HIIT workouts are high intensity in more ways than one. They are both physically and psychologically demanding. This means it can be taxing on your muscular system (be warned, you will feel sore!) as well as feeling drained from mentally having to push through your workout. Of course, this may also have positive impacts in building mental resilience and associated self-confidence in knowing you will transform your body.

HIIT or miss?

HIIT workouts are effective and we like them, but not every workout can or should be high intensity. They form an essential component of an overall balanced program. If you’re following an Active8me program, your HIIT workouts are scheduled alongside LISS cardio, resistance exercise and recovery periods. If you’re following your own routine, make sure you have at least one to two days between HIIT workouts and consider capping them at two per week.

HIIT Workouts: Your Questions Answered!

What is the difference between LISS and HIIT?

Low-Intensity Steady State or LISS cardio is a form of cardio where you maintain the same pace for a set period of time. This could be an activity such as walking on a treadmill, hiking, cycling, swimming or rowing.

The main difference between LISS and HIIT is the intensity. With LISS, the aim is to exercise at a steady, consistent pace — maintaining the intensity for the whole training session.

With HIIT, the workouts tend to be shorter but the intensity of the workout should be much higher.

What are the benefits of HIIT cardio?

There are two reasons why people love a HIIT cardio workout — it can help to burn more calories and it can produce something called the ‘afterburn’ effect.

In basic terms, after you finish a HIIT workout, you can continue burning fat. Your body works harder to deliver more oxygen to your muscles, which means you are burning calories for longer.

How long should a HIIT workout be?

Typically, a HIIT workout should be done within 15-20 minutes, not including a warm up and cool down. If the workout is going for longer, you may not be pushing yourself to the intended intensity — and potentially not giving yourself the chance to reap the most benefits.

The goal of high-intensity training is to elevate your heart rate into a zone that is close to that of your maximum heart rate during the work periods. This relates back to what I was saying earlier regarding an intensity that is hard for you. Your target heart rate zone is a personal guideline, so getting close to your maximum heart rate may be something to work towards — initially, you might aim to get your heart rate within the lower end of the target heart rate zone as a starting point.

HIIT workouts can also be tailored by varying the work-to-rest ratios. For example, beginners may use a 1:2 ratio, training all-out for 60 seconds and then resting for twice as long. People who have been doing HIIT for longer may transition to a 1:1 ratio; that is, training at high intensity for 60 seconds and resting for 60 seconds before repeating.

As you progress with HIIT training, you may choose to begin shortening the ‘work’ periods slightly — for example, going from 60 seconds to 45 seconds. Shorter work periods means you can reach a higher intensity (thanks to your increased fitness level) because you don’t have to sustain the work period for as long. Just remember you want to progress to a tougher work-to-rest ratio, so you should reduce the length of your rest too.

It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that more is more when it comes to fitness. It’s common to see people running to the gym as often as possible when they’re trying to lose weight, or they opt in for extralong workout sessions. But there are times when less really is more, and that applies to HIIT (high-intensity interval training) cardio.

This will likely be music to your ears if you’re not a fan of cardio, but the HIIT workouts you’re doing are probably too long. Diksha Gautham, NPC bikini bodybuilding competitor and NASM Certified Personal Trainer in progress, told POPSUGAR, “A typical HIIT workout should be done in 15-20 minutes. Longer than that and you’re probably not pushing yourself to your max intensity.”

This news might be both a blessing and a curse, and here’s why. Diksha said HIIT is meant to target your anaerobic system, “which isn’t used for endurance,” so the goal is to get your heart rate very high in the short working segments. It should reach 90 percent of your max heart rate. In other words, you should be so tired at the end of each segment that you absolutely need the rest portions of HIIT workouts.


It’s precisely because you’re working this hard that HIIT sessions shouldn’t last more than 20 minutes (this doesn’t include warmup and cooldown, though). If your workouts go over this time limit, you’re probably not pushing yourself enough.

Diksha also said that you need (and deserve) to recover after a tough HIIT workout. “Our bodies need time to recover from HIIT cardio,” she said. “Let your body recover for a day or two instead of doing HIIT and leg day back to back.”

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Rima Brindamour

HIIT training is all the rage these days, and with good reason! Not just a passing fitness fad, high intensity interval training, or HIIT, combines cardio and strength training into short, manageable workouts that blast fat and maintain muscle in the process.

We know that the above explanation does little to answer the questions you may have about HIIT. What exactly is it? How does it work? And how long do you have to do a workout to burn the most fat? Read on because we’ve got the answers!

So, what is HIIT training?

Simply put, HIIT training has you alternate between periods of intense, maximum effort work, and shorter periods of less intense work, or rest. Generally, HIIT workouts prescribe a set time limit for both these intervals. Many programs, like Tabata style workouts, use 20 seconds of work, followed by 10 seconds of rest. This can vary from program to program. If you’ve ever done a learn to run program, you are familiar with this concept.

How does HIIT work?

HIIT has been held up as a super fat burning workout, but why? The goal of HIIT exercises is to boost your heart rate to 85-90% of it’s maximum which puts you in an anaerobic state. This means, your body is going through the motions without much oxygen. This leads to EPOC or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. Otherwise known as the afterburn effect, this means your body will burn more calories after your workout is finished in an attempt to return your body to it’s natural state of rest. Of course, for this to really work for you, you have to make sure you are really pushing yourself. Studies indicate that you have to be pretty close to your maximum heart rate for these benefits to kick in. This is why HIIT training is no walk in the park!

How long should a workout last?

One of the things that makes HIIT so popular is that you don’t have to spend hours at the gym! A good, solid, HIIT workout should last between 20 and 30 minutes. That’s right, you could be shredding fat in under a half hour. If you are able to go longer than 30 minutes, you are likely not pushing as hard as you could be. Anything under 15 minutes and you’ve not likely spent enough time in the anaerobic state to have much of an impact on your fat burn levels.

So, are you ready to give HIIT a try? At BodyRock, we love it and have been doing it for years! No matter where you are in your fitness journey, we’ve got a HIIT workout for you. From our Beginner Bootamp to the Advanced Bootcamp, from 7 day challenges to month long programs, we’ve got you covered with SweatFlix℠. With over 80 hours of on demand workouts, and new content being added all the time, you’ll always be able to find something fresh and challenging! What are you waiting for? Check it out!

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