One of the biggest fitness trends to hit the industry in recent years is HIIT.  This form of exercise activity has revolutionized the fitness world, not to mention it has boosted the success of weight loss for various adults.  If you have never performed a high intensity workout, you are in luck.  Listed ahead is a complete, detailed guide on HIIT and how it can take your health and fitness to the next level.

What is HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)?

High intensity interval training, most commonly called HIIT, is a type of exercise program in which you perform short bouts of full-effort exercise followed by some form of rest period.  There are virtually endless ways in which you can perform HIIT workouts, and usually this style of exercise requires 100 percent effort when you work.  Since you are giving 100 percent effort in your working phase, your workouts tend to be shorter, more efficient, and highly effective in various ways.  Let’s take a look at how effective high intensity training is for your fitness levels.

How Effective is HIIT for Fitness?

One of the primary methods for determining your fitness level is to measure your VO2max.  The VO2max is a measurement of how much oxygen you take in your body and distribute to your working cells.  This measurement is often performed by qualified professionals, but your VO2max fluctuates throughout your life based off your age, workout type, and your overall ability to perform exercise.  High intensity interval training is widely considered to be the most effective way to boost your VO2max level and generally it is a fast adaptation.  A recent study lasting for six weeks found HIIT workouts to be beneficial for improving fitness levels, suggesting this form of exercise induces fast results.

In a similar study, researchers assessed the differences in VO2max between lower intensity, long duration cardio exercise and HIIT exercise.  In as little as three days of workouts per week for two months, this study found that this exercise style was significantly better than lower intensity, longer duration exercise for improving overall fitness levels.  Prior knowledge suggested that the best way to burn fat in the body was to perform long duration and low intensity exercise, but this study details new logic that higher intensity is better for your fitness levels.

What about HIIT for your Health?

Many adults are shifting to exercise as a way to boost overall health and studies continue to find promising results for this reason.  High intensity interval training is gaining popularity among young and older adults as a way to reduce overall disease risk, especially heart disease.  With that said, interval training can help to boost your overall heart performance by improving your heart’s stroke volume (the amount of blood pumped with each heart beat).  To the standard adult, this improvement in heart health is seen by a reduced resting heart rate.

Should I do HIIT for Weight Loss?

High intensity interval training is gaining popularity in the fitness world as well as in the weight loss industry.  Since this style of exercise is highly efficient, weight loss generally is fast.  Let’s take a look at some studies that have shown HIIT to be beneficial for weight loss.

    • Studies have shown HIIT to be effective for weight loss, especially for reducing abdominal fat. When compared to moderate intensity training, HIIT was found to be more effective for reducing belly fat compared to its lower intensity counterpart.  Some of this is largely due to a reduced time constraint with HIIT.
    • A recent meta-analysis demonstrated that HIIT is superior to traditional exercise when it comes to improving fitness levels as well as in weight loss among adults. This large analysis examined 18 different studies comparing traditional exercise among obese adults and HIIT and found there was a greater body fat reduction in the HIIT group.  This demonstrates that HIIT may be a suitable and effective means for obese adults to lose body fat weight.
  • This last study mentioned here looked at HIIT from a different perspective. The study involved six weeks of low frequency interval training (one session per week).  This six week program found there to be significant results in lean body mass, suggesting HIIT to be highly effective at boosting muscle mass.  Consider this type of exercise as a way to improve muscle growth in short time periods.

The Best HIIT Workout Plan

Since high intensity interval training came in the fitness world, there have been many variations upon which you can choose.  There are various types of high intensity training workouts that you can utilize as a way to boost your weight loss and to shred fat from your body.  With that said, finding the right elements of an interval workout is important.  Let’s take a look at some key elements you should look for when searching for the best interval workout plan.


Various HIIT workouts are designed at getting your heart rate up and keeping it elevated for a long time.  For this reason, the longer you work at a higher heart rate means your body burns more calories and fat.  In addition, the longer your workout, your energy burn becomes significantly more effective with each passing minute, so consider finding workouts that re at least 20 minutes in duration.

What Kind of Work and Rest Periods are there?

One important aspect in finding the best high intensity workout plan is how it is blended with rest and work.  It is seemingly impossible to give 100 percent effort if your workout lasts anything longer than five minutes, which means you should find a good mix of work and rest.  With that said, consider a 1 to 2 work to rest ratio if you are performing interval cardio, but minimal rest is something you should expect when performing functional exercise.

Is your HIIT Training Functional or Cardio Based?

The last element in selecting your interval workout is to determine if your workout is cardio or functional.  Functional exercise tends to utilize a mixture of body weight, resistance, as well as cardio workouts and they are typically some of the best for your fitness.  In addition, interval cardio can have great benefits when it comes to getting your body in shape and for reducing the amount of fat on your body.  Consider both methods if you want the best success with weight loss and for improving your fitness.

Top HIIT Workouts

There are virtually endless kinds of interval workouts around.  Some of these workouts include using your body weight and simply designing full out activity with a little rest.  Here is a list of HIIT workouts that you can start with if you are interested in basics, but listed ahead are some of the most popular HIIT workouts.


One of the most popular workout methods around is CrossFit.  It is a specialized high intensity interval training method that has swarmed gyms all over and for good reason.  CrossFit utilizes short bouts of intervals as a way to improve functional training to boost fitness levels, so that you can get healthier and look better.  Quite honestly, it is one of the most effective workouts around when it comes to getting results and many of the workouts are only 20-30 minutes.  Consider CrossFit if you are strapped on time each day and you desire weight loss.

Boot Camps

The next common interval workout you find in gyms are boot camps.  Most of these types of workouts are geared at various resistance and body weight exercises blended with short periods of rest.  This style of exercise is designed to boost your muscular health while shredding the fat.  Consider an interval boot camp as a fun way to reach your health and fitness goals.

HIIT Cardio

The next interval workout you can find is cardio.  High intensity interval training with cardio is very effective at improving your performance as well as losing body fat.  Most interval cardio workouts use a 1 to 2 or 1 to 1 work to rest ratio so keep this in mind when starting your high intensity training cardio program.

What are the Best HIIT Exercises?

There are many exercises that you can do when you are in a HIIT program.  For starters, any kind of exercise is allowed in this program, but it seems some are better than others.  Each style of high intensity workout has different exercises, so finding the best interval exercises depends mostly on the type that you perform.

CrossFit workouts tend to blend Olympic weight training with functional activities such as jump ropes, jumping, pushing, as well as rowing exercises.  In addition, this style of exercise includes some biking, weighted walking, as well as sprinting to get you results.

As far as boot camps, there are technically no limits when it comes to the best exercises.  You should expect weight training, jump roping, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, as well as sprints.  Boot camps are fast workouts and they are fun to do with a group of friends.

Lastly, if you are performing interval cardio workouts, the best method for improving fitness is by running.  Interval sprinting mixed with rest periods can help to improve your overall performance as well as boost your fitness level.  In addition, interval biking is a great way to improve leg strength and to tone the lower half portion of your body, so consider this an option as well.

Is HIIT for Me?

High intensity interval training has many benefits that can improve your appearance, energy levels, as well help you to lose weight.  Considering that studies have demonstrated that obese individuals can benefit from this type of exercise, it is assumed that these types of people are safe to do this workout.  However, interval training is not always the best option, especially if you have known or suspected heart issues.

It is recommended that before starting any workout program that you consult with your doctor to see if exercise is right for you.  In addition, given the high intensity nature of HIIT workouts, it is especially important to inform your doctor that you are looking to perform this kind of exercise, so that you can be evaluated before starting.  While exercise is generally safe for the population as a whole, there are some individuals with whom it is unsafe.

Wrapping up HIIT

Now that you have a complete guide on what high intensity interval training is, what it entails, and some popular ways to get started, you should consider taking the steps towards this exercise.  Provided that you are healthy and cleared for this type of exercise, interval training can help you to regulate your blood pressure, shred abdominal fat, as well as improve your fitness levels.  Consider joining a specialized HIIT gym (such as CrossFit) or even consider hiring a personal trainer as a way to get your program started.  With everything mentioned above, you should have a good idea as to what to expect upon starting this workout.

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