WHAT IS A HIIT WORKOUT?
HIIT stands for high intensity interval training. In a nutshell, the workouts involve intervals of intense exercise that get your heart rate up high (approx. 85-90% max heart rate) followed by rest or active rest. For example, 20 seconds intense burst of exercise, 10 seconds rest, repeated for a certain number of rounds.
The ultimate goal is to have a period of near max heart rate followed by a rest period that doesn’t allow your heart rate to drop below ~65% max. So, by the time your heart rate starts to hit 65% or so, you will perform another intense set to bring it right back up.
The concept is quite easy, but the workouts are NOT. That said, the workouts can be tailored to different fitness levels. There are plenty of ways to go about high intensity interval training. They can be done with sprints, cycling, bodyweight exercises or even weights, using various work-rest intervals. The myriad options for creating HIIT workouts allows you to always keep things fresh and challenging.
Now that you know what HIIT is, it’s important to understand the “science” behind it...
The general purpose of HIIT is to burn calories, lose weight, and even build muscle.
It’s quite different from traditional cardio (steady state low intensity running or cycling). HIIT workouts are anaerobic NOT aerobic, meaning your muscles don’t use oxygen as their primary source of energy. Like weight training, due to the shortage of oxygen for energy consumption, your body relies on glucose and creatine phosphates (ATP) to fuel your muscles with energy. As such, HIIT is more like weight training than cardio. BUT, it does share some major benefits with cardio, as it does weight training.
If you combine weights with HIIT at the same time, things can get really serious!
Finally, it should be noted that because HIIT is so intense (it’s in the name, right?), you can’t have long workouts like you can cardio. Work intervals are generally no more than 60 seconds and the entire workout around 20 minutes or less. Thankfully, that’s all you need to have positive effect with HIIT. It’s not like cardio where you need 30+ minutes to actually get an effect.
IS HIIT GOOD FOR WOMEN?
HIIT is just as good for women as it is for men. In fact, many experts claim that HIIT is especially beneficial for women because (if done properly) it is fantastic for hormone balance, muscle retention, and bone density. Not to mention, stress management.
All things us women need.
What’s more, research shows that women burn more fat during HIIT than men AND they can handle more work in the gym when it comes to fat loss. Basically, women are better at burning fat during workouts than men, but not during rest, which makes HIIT even more attractive for women.
Now, of course, HIIT is also great for men. However, that doesn’t mean the workouts have to be exactly the same. High intensity interval training can be effectively tailored to women based on their fitness level and strength.
BENEFITS OF HIIT FOR WOMEN
The benefits of HIIT for women are twofold considering...
Women have more potential for burning fat during intense workout than men (and they can handle more workload with this kind of training).
Women are more susceptible to thinning bones, which HIIT helps combat.
Women have monthly hormonal changes, which HIIT can help mitigate.
AND, they get all the same benefits of HIIT as men too, which are...
HIIT workouts achieve a lot in a short period of time. With just ~20 minutes of high intensity interval training, you can burn as many calories as a long duration traditional cardio workout does in around 40 minutes. Plus, you get additional benefits that cardio can’t give you, such as muscle growth.
Now, it’s not to say that HIIT is better than cardio, but in terms of calorie burn, it’s definitely more efficient. On average, long duration low intensity cardio burns around 10 calories per minute, whereas HIIT burns 15-20 calories per minute. However, the point of how HIIT burns more calories doesn’t end there...
2. Metabolism (EPOC)
After a HIIT workout, your post exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) will be much higher, which means for hours after your workout you will be burning calories at a considerably higher rate. This is because your body is working to restore itself back to pre-exercise levels.
As such, the calories burned with a HIIT workout must also include the EPOC, making it even greater than a traditional cardio workout which doesn’t create the same reaction.
Overall, this has a great effect on your metabolism, which will help you to shed fat and keep it off.
3. Muscle Growth
HIIT is puts a lot of stress on your muscles similar to weight training, which means it can also promote hypertrophy (muscle growth). If you continue making your HIIT workouts a little more difficult over time, you can continue building muscle and strength. At the VERY least, HIIT will ensure you maintain muscle mass (and strength), unlike cardio where if done in certain ranges of time and speed can potentially cause some muscle loss. For even better results, pair HIIT with strength training to see some serious muscle definition. Between HIIT, women's back exercises, exercises for saddlebags, and these awesome breast lifting moves, your physique will be better than ever!
4. Versatility & Scalability
HIIT workouts are both versatile and scalable.
In terms of versatility, you can use different workout times, workout formats and intervals, exercises, and even equipment. This ensures your HIIT workouts never become stale.
As for scalability, because they are so versatile, you can make them progressively harder. HIIT workouts can be highly effective from beginner all the way to elite levels.
On top of all that, HIIT will help you build a strong and healthy heart, improve flexibility and range of motion (bodyweight HIIT workouts are like a form of dynamic stretching), stronger bones, and overall athleticism (balance and coordination). PLUS, you’ll get a serious flow of endorphins soon after you finish!
Is HIIT really better than cardio?
HIIT and traditional cardio have plenty of similarities in that they are both effective for burning calories and thus losing fat. HIIT just does so in a more efficient manner.
Because of that, HIIT and cardio are often interchangeable.
BUT, the two are different. Cardio isn’t just about burning calories, it’s about cardiovascular health. While HIIT has some benefit on cardiovascular health, it’s not to the same degree as long duration low intensity cardio simply due to the nature of the two workouts (cardio is low intensity which keeps you in the cardiovascular range and provides your muscles with oxygen for energy, HIIT doesn’t).
HIIT also isn’t just about burning calories, even though it is superior in terms of calorie burn efficiency. It helps promote bone density, muscle growth, strength and more. Basically, you can think of HIIT like a hybrid of cardio and strength training.
As such, we can’t say HIIT is better for cardio because they are different. Ideally, you should be doing both.
However, if the question is which is better for burning calories quickly and overall fat loss goals, HIIT reigns supreme because it can help you build muscle and keep your metabolism running strong, which is crucial for staying lean.
Is HIIT more effective for weight loss?
HIIT is highly effective for weight loss because it causes you to burn more calories at rest long after the workout is over and it boost your metabolism through this and the fact that it promotes muscle growth. Most people want to lose weight in the form of fat, in which case HIIT is more effective for that kind of weight loss.
Are HIIT workouts good for belly fat?
HIIT is great for losing belly fat. While you can’t spot reduce fat, HIIT is shown to be the most effective form of exercise for fat loss. Studies show it will significantly reduce abdominal and visceral fat mass with regular practice.
Remember, all the ab exercises in the world won’t help you get a nice toned stomach or six pack unless you bring down your body fat percentage. If you want that, you need HIIT.
HOW LONG CAN A HIIT WORKOUT BE?
HIIT workouts can range from 4 minutes up to 30 minutes, but the best average time length is around 10-20 minutes.
Beginners should start with around 10 minutes for HIIT workouts. However, as you become more advanced, you can work your way up in time (and/or intensity of the exercises itself - i.e. rather than doing sets of air squats do jump squats).
Overall, you need to listen to your body. Remember, HIIT is supposed to be INTENSE. Your body can only sustain a high level of intensity for so long. At some point, intensity will diminish, so when you go on too long and your workout is no longer intense, it won’t even be a HIIT workout anymore. AND if you try to push yourself too far, overuse injuries can occur.
Like with any kind of exercise, you need to start somewhere and then progress. A 5 minute very high intensity workout will be much better than a 10-15 minute mediocre intensity “HIIT” workout.
HOW OFTEN CAN I DO HIIT WORKOUTS?
Two to three HIIT workouts per week is good. Essentially, you want to give your body at least a full 24 hours of rest and recovery between session. This includes other kinds of strength training workouts that you may be doing.
If you are a beginner and you are already doing some form of resistance training, start with just one HIIT workout per week, then work up in frequency from there.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE FOR HIIT TO SEE RESULTS?
It really depends on the individual, how hard your HIIT workouts are, how often you are doing HIIT and what other physical activities you are doing. However, generally speaking, with 2-3 HIIT workouts a week, you should see some great results in as little as 4 weeks. If you stick with 2-3 HIIT workouts per week, especially in addition to other moderate intensity resistance training, you will get into the best shape of your life before you know it.
1. Power Squats
2. Side Shuffle with Touch
3. Lunge to Knee Drive
4. Jumping Jacks
5. Lateral Walk with Hop
6. High Knee with Pause
7. Good Morning Lunge
8. Step Back Burpee
9. Knee Push Up
10. Elevated Mountain Climbers