If you are a fitness enthusiast and a regular gym-goer, chances are you already know about HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), the new workout routine that has caught everyone's eye big time.
It helps you burn more calories, lose more fat and improve your cardio health as well as insulin sensitivity without spending long hours in the gym. Researchers have also been able to determine that by doing HIIT workouts, you stand to gain health benefits that you simply cannot get from doing regular aerobics or exercises!
That being said though, HIIT is very demanding physically and it certainly isn't meant for everybody. Before anyone decides to take up HIIT, he/she should know whether their body is prepared to undergo such an intensive workout routine.
Better yet, they should know whether they actually need it or not. This article attempts to sort out all such doubts, queries and concerns about the High Intensity Interval Training programs, and present to you the bare facts related to this new workout regime. Take a look!
HIIT - What is it and How does it work for you?
HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training is a popular form of workout routine that involves exercising at a high intensity level for short periods, separated intermittently with slightly longer intervals of low to moderate intensity level exercises. By incorporating short but intense bursts of physical activity in a workout, HIIT is able to deliver all the benefits of a traditional workout and then some more.
Studies have shown that HIIT allows the human body to burn adipose tissues more efficiently than the traditionally low intensity workout routines. It also helps to speed up the metabolism rate and provide a boost to the aerobic/anaerobic endurance and performance of the body.
Because a person has to put in 100% effort in a very short duration when performing HIIT, it forces the body to push past the upper end of its "aerobic zone", something normal workout routines are not able to do. HIIT gets and keeps the heart rate up and beyond the normal aerobic zone, thus allowing the body to burn more fat in an incredibly lesser amount of time.
A more scientifically detailed explanation of the HIIT modus operandi can be constructed as follows.
Performing HIIT workout increases the body's oxygen requirement drastically and ends up creating a shortage, this in turn causes the body to ask for more oxygen than is regular. This whole phenomenon is termed as Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption or EPOC. By combining high intensity workout with EPOC, the body is able to burn up to 9 times more fat than the normal rate.
What is incredible about the HIIT program is that it results in a long-lasting metabolic boost, which means that your body will keep burning fat at a higher rate even after you have stopped working out. Another advantage of HIIT is its extraordinary adaptability. You can apply the HIIT principle to a wide range of physical activities and exercises such as running, biking, swimming etc. and derive more gains from them than you normally would.
Benefits of HIIT Training Program
1) Ideally Suited for Busy People - Research has shown that by doing high intensity interval training routines, a person is able to achieve better and faster results in much lesser time than by doing the traditional workouts. For example, with only 2 weeks of high intensity interval training, you stand to improve your aerobic endurance by the same amount you would by undergoing 6-8 weeks of traditional endurance training.
You can also gauge the high efficiency of the HIIT program by the fact that it allows you to burn more calories in a 10-minute high intensity interval training cardio routine, than by spending half-an hour on the treadmill!
2) HIIT Works During the After-Hours Too - By putting your body under intense workout regime, you make your body enter a state of hyper drive where the metabolism rate remains high for as long as 48 hours after completing the HIIT routine. This means that your body continues to burn fats and calories even after the workout, resulting in a greater fat loss than after, say, a long steady-paced jog.
3) Dramatic Improvement in Endurance - By subjecting the body to a high intensity workout, you make it get used to working of its comfort zone or more technically, out of the normal "anaerobic zone". A 2006 study showed that after following 8 weeks of HIIT workouts, a person was able to ride the bicycle for twice as long as before. 
4) Requires No Equipment - You can add HIIT to anything ranging from running, biking, skipping or swimming etc. They all can be modified to incorporate HIIT principle based routines. The best part though is that you don't need any additional equipment to carry out the HIIT workouts.
This is because HIIT routines use only your body weight to get your heart rate going above and beyond the normal speed and then, keeping it there. So, all you need to do is perform some high knees, fast feet or some fast lunges to push your heart to its max. No need for even any dumbbells!
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5) No Muscle Loss - HIIT workouts allow you to retain those biceps (and other muscle mass) that you earned over a long and hard period of gym training. At the same time, it allows you to shed fat and gain extra amounts of stamina and endurance. None of this is possible while doing a steady state routine like cardio.
6) Boost in HGH (Human Growth Hormone) - A unique advantage of following HIIT routines is that it provides a tremendous boost to the production of human growth hormones or the "fitness hormones" in the body. By doing so, it ups the HGH production rate in the body by as much as 450%! 
For those who don't know, HGH is responsible for increasing the calorie burning capacity of the body as well as slowing down the overall ageing process. Neither the aerobics exercises nor the traditional cardio routines are able to grant this advantage to the human body.
7) You Can Do it Anywhere - Since they don't require any equipment or any extra room, the HIIT workouts can be easily carried out anywhere and at any convenient time. You can do it at the gym, at your home or even in your office space. At most, the HIIT exercises will take 30 minutes of your time but if you are willing to follow the Tabata training method, you can complete an effective HIIT workout in under 5 minutes!
Things You MUST Know Before Following HIIT Workouts
HIIT can definitely help those who are not satisfied with their current progress at the gym using the traditional, steady-state cardio or other routines. However, since it is a very intense regime, not everyone may find HIIT to be their cup of tea. It is better if you knew a few essential bits about HIIT workouts before you start doing them.
1) HIIT is basically for those who want to boost their overall cardio fitness, endurance and fat-burning rate of the body.
2) HIIT is ideally suited for those who are already undergoing some sort of fitness regime or other steady state workouts. It has been stated that before starting any HIIT routine, you must be able to exercise for at least 30 minutes without exhausting your heart.
3) Since HIIT is incredibly demanding, it is always better to warm up first and then cool down for a bit, before you hit it hard. Also, while chalking out a HIIT workout program, you should gradually build the intensity over a suitable duration of time instead of going full throttle right from the start. (A good sample duration for a complete HIIT workout program could be 6-8 weeks).
4) While doing the HIIT exercises, make sure that you are giving your 100% and allowing the body to enter the anaerobic zone. Experienced athletes or gym-goers can sustain the high intensity workout for as long as 3-4 minutes while in their anaerobic zone. Therefore, for non-athletes, it is advisable to keep the duration of HIIT workouts below that mark just to be safe.
5) Keep a track of your heart rate during an HIIT routine and ensure that it drops back to the normal rate of exercising (about 70%) during the recovery intervals. If you find your heart rate in an excess of 80%, you should try to shorten your high intensity workout intervals and increase the recovery intervals.
6) As said before, HIIT is NOT for beginners or for people with poor health conditions. So, if you have a history of any cardiovascular disease or if you suffer from a respiratory disease or diabetes, you should not attempt HIIT. Not unless you have been given a clearance by your physician for following HIIT routines specifically.
Types of High Intensity Interval Training Workouts
There are several kinds of high intensity interval training workout variations in practice currently and there is no set definition that classifies them under separate categories. However, here are some of the more popular and effective HIIT workouts that you can try on your own.
1) HIIT by Using the Tabata method - Named after a Japanese researcher, the Tabata method involves a 20-second, all-out drop-dead workout followed by a 10 second recovery period. The entire cycle is repeated eight times overall. The Tabata method for its grueling intensity is recommended only for those who are incredibly fit and have very little time to go through a more traditional workout. Here is what the Tabata Squat set looks like:
- Start with your feet separated a little wider than your hips, squat until your thighs are almost parallel to the ground. Ensure that your chest is lifted and arms raised in front as you go lower. The entire body weight must be shifted to your heels.
- Do the body-weight squats for 20 seconds followed by a 10-second recovery period.
- Repeat the cycle eight times.
2) HIIT while Biking - A low-impact way to get your heart rate up and maintain it there. Here is the outline for doing HIIT when on a bike.
- Start the ride at a normal pace.
- Continue for at least 90 seconds.
- Bump up the speed to your fastest and keep it there for 45 seconds.
- Ease back to the normal pace.
- Repeat for 20 minutes.
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3) HIIT while doing Burpees - First, you should know how to do a perfect burpee.
- Stand up, then squat down and place both hands on the floor.
- Lift your legs into a planking position.
- Drop to a push up (chest touching the floor).
- Push up to return to plank position.
- Jump the feet back to your hands.
- End with a vertical jump with arms stretched above your head.
Right. Now, to include HIIT into the perfect burpee, here is what you should do next.
- Do 10 burpees.
- Run 400 meters.
- Repeat the steps every 3 minutes.
- Go up to 4-6 rounds.
While doing the burpees with HIIT, remember to take the time remaining after the 400m runs as the recovery period.
4) HIIT Sprints - The good old sprints can be given a solid tweak by incorporating the HIIT principle. Here is how you can do it.
- Start with 10 minutes of brisk walking.
- Follow it with 5 sets of 10-30 second high intensity workout intervals.
- Take 1-4 minutes of rest between the workout intervals.
- End with a 10 minute brisk walk.
Repeat this routine 3 times per week for six weeks.
How to Do the High Intensity Interval Training?
HIIT is only a tool and it should not be overused or used in a wrong way. It is a high intensity training program and so, should be carried out for only 3-4 times a week. Also, if you are a regular gym goer, ensure that you are not undergoing a tough HIIT workout immediately after a high intensity workout at the gym.
You must also realize that everyone has a different anaerobic threshold and therefore, the results post HIIT workouts will vary person to person. The suggested recovery interval of 10-30 seconds is therefore to ensure that every one gets enough time to recover during the workouts.
Experimentation is the key when doing HIIT, and so you will have to determine yourself which HIIT routine suits you best. For example a high intensity interval training cardio blast can range anywhere between 30 seconds to 5 minutes, depending on your fitness level and the time it takes to get your heart rate up to 80%-90% of its highest rate.
A Sample HIIT Workout Plan
Outlined below is a very effective and highly efficient (not to mention super intense) complete HIIT workout routine for you. It can be done anywhere and does not require any additional equipment. All it requires is a 100%, drop-dead effort from you. However, do remember to sneak in a 30-second recovery period during each of the high intensity interval workouts.
HIIT Workout #1: Sit-ups
- While laying on your back, bend your knees with your feet still on the floor.
- Sit upright with your hands behind the back of your head and your back completely perpendicular to the floor.
- Pull in your abs and slowly lie back down.
- Repeat 50 times.
HIIT Workout #2: Jump Squats
- Keep your legs at a shoulder width, with arms at your sides.
- Squat down bending your knees, keeping them in line with the feet.
- Jump a little and then go back to the original position.
- Repeat 40 times.
HIIT Workout #3: Push-Ups
- Place both hands on the floor and spread your legs about hip wide. Ensure that your hands are directly under your shoulders. You are now planking.
- Push down till your chest touches the floor. Ensure that your elbows stay tucked against your sides.
- Rise up and return to the original position.
- Repeat 30 times.
HIIT Workout #4: Jumping Lunges
- Stand with your legs apart hip wide.
- Move your right leg forward and left leg backward, while jumping slightly above the floor and landing in a forward lunge with the right knee bent over the toes and the left knee bent in line with the hip.
- Jump again but this time reverse the stance of the legs.
- Repeat 20 times.
HIIT Workout #5: Triceps Dips
- Get on all fours while facing the ceiling and your hands shoulder-width apart on a bench or a stable chair. Ensure your fingers are facing forwards and the back is sitting upright.
- Bend the elbows to lower your body to as close to the floor as you can, with your legs extended out in front.
- Get back up to the original position.
- Repeat 10 times.
HIIT Workout #6: Burpees
- Put your hands on the floor and jump your legs backwards in a planking position.
- Do a push up and then quickly jump your legs back towards the hands.
- Jump to stand up quickly with arms stretched over your head.
- Repeat the burpees for 30 seconds.
For best results, you should follow the complete HIIT workout every other day of the month and in conjunction with traditional strength exercises at the gym. With every passing day and cycle, you must aim to complete these different workouts in less time than before.
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HIIT Workout for Beginners
Like said before, HIIT is an intense workout routine and so, the best way for anyone planning to start with it is to build on the intensity level gradually over a few weeks’ time. Begin with keeping things simple and then, progress from there. Here is a HIIT workout plan aimed especially for beginners.
Step 1: Warm-Up for 1-4 minutes by jogging at about 50% effort. (Minutes 1-4)
Step 2: Start the build up with a 30 second sprint at maximum effort. Follow it up with a relatively toned down jog for 30 seconds. (Minute 5)
Step3: Sprint at maximum effort for another 30 secs. Follow with a jog/walk for 30 seconds. (Minute 6)
Step 4: Sprint at maximum effort for 30 seconds, then jog/walk for 30 seconds. (Minute 7)
Step 5: Sprint at maximum effort for 30 seconds, then jog/walk for 30 seconds. (Minute 8)
Step 6: End by jogging at 50% effort to cool down. (Minutes 9-12)
In case you find this workout plan to be either too difficult or too easy, you can make certain adjustments to ensure that it matches your current fitness level. You can do the modification by changing the duration and/or number of high intensity intervals as you find suitable. For instance, if you think you can extract more effort from your body and heart, you can opt for a 20 sec sprint at maximum effort, and then jog/walk for 60 seconds.
HIIT Workout for Weight Loss
A 1991 research conducted at the Laval University, Quebec, Canada showed that a person following the HIIT program was able to reduce body fat nine times more than by following the traditional steady-state endurance training (ET) program. 
Another notable part of the study was that while the total energy cost of undergoing the ET workout program came around to be 120 MJ (approx.), the HIIT program required less than half of it (57.9 MJ) and was able to produce much better results in a shorter time.
So, if you are getting frustrated with no noticeable reduction in your belly fat even after following weeks of the traditional gym workouts, HIIT is the best option for you.
Here is a 15-minute fat burning cardio workout that incorporates the HIIT principles and is guaranteed to deliver astonishing results at losing weight.
Step #1: Start with 15 weighted jump squats using 5-15 pound dumbbells. Follow it by a 1-minute rest.
Step #2: Continue with body-weight only jump squats for 15 times, then followed by a 1-minute recovery period.
Step #3: Do an abdominal plank for 45-90 seconds. Then jump immediately to the next step.
Step #4: Do Jumping Jacks 100 times or for 1-2 minutes continuously, whichever takes the maximum effort. Take a 1-minute rest when done.
Step #5: Continue with 20 push-ups (chair or elevated or board or with dumbbells). Follow the next step immediately.
Step #6: Do Ski Steps 100 times or for 1-2 minutes at 100% effort. Take a longer 2-5 minutes of recovery interval.
Step #7: Repeat the entire workout routine for 1 to 3 times.
Step #8: Once you have followed this workout plan for 2-4 times, you can try to up the intensity by resting less between the exercises or by increasing the number of Jumping Jacks or Ski Steps.
Ideally, this entire high intensity interval training weight loss plan should take 25-40 minutes to complete and it is strongly recommended to do it only 3-4 times a week. This is because it is one of the most grueling, advanced and fast-paced weight loss workout routine out there and not everyone will be able to do it in the same time.
For best results, you should follow this plan while doing a weight loss diet plan at the same time. If followed correctly, you stand to lose 4 lbs. every week once you start doing this HIIT workout for weight loss!
Which HIIT Workout is Best for You?
The best thing about the high intensity interval training workouts is that they are immensely adaptable (you can do any activity with HIIT such as running, swimming etc.) and can be scaled or modified to suit any fitness level. For a person looking to burn calories and fat at a fast rate, your goal while doing HIIT exercises must be to push yourself to 90% of your maximum effort during the intense intervals.
There are several variations to the HIIT workout program in existence today, however, any HIIT workout follows a few basic principles. You can use these as a guideline to follow before doing any form of the high intensity interval training program.
- Before the intense intervals, ensure that your body gets a proper warm up of at least three minutes.
- Plan the first intense workout interval for 30 seconds. Make sure that you give it your all-out, 100% effort. You should be gasping for breath by the end of it and your body in the anaerobic zone.
- Set aside a 60-90 second recovery interval for yourself.
- Repeat the high intensity workout and the recovery interval at least 3-4 times. Once you have found out how much higher or lower you can go with the same intensity, you can up/lower the duration of the workout intervals accordingly.
- Ensure your body gets a proper cool down period of a few minutes after the HIIT workout.
Remember, in most cases, a HIIT workout is required to be done only 3-4 times during a week. But that does not mean you should do no exercise at all on the remaining days. Instead you should incorporate other fitness activities such as strength training, core exercises, yoga, stretching as well as non-exercise activities into your program to gain faster and better results. By rounding off your HIIT workout program with the more traditional exercises, you will be able to gain greater balance in your workout plans and avoid overtaxing or damaging any particular area of the body.
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