This HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) guide is probably the best interval training guide in the galaxy.
My justification for making such a bold statement?
We are really good at this stuff and we have dinosaurs and muppets.
Plus, many great gifs:
We create custom interval training programs like this guide for our 1-to-1 online coaching clients, including workouts for at home, at the gym, or even while traveling.
Would you like a HIIT training program that you actually enjoy? Learn more:
In this ultimate guide to interval training, we'll cover:
What is interval training? What is HIIT?
In 2018, the High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) was ranked number one by the American College of Sports Medicine. (1)
Essentially, HIIT only follows a specific pattern in which you vary your speed and intensity during a shorter run, swim, bike, or rowing.
Any exercise can be a form of HIIT, but here is a common routine:
Jog lightly for three minutes.
Push harder for a minute (running or sprinting).
Repeat this cycle 4 more times.
Because everyone is busy and overwhelmed, quick results in no time will cause most people to discover HIIT.
You may be asking: “Steve, how short and intense are we talking here? Your new haircut also looks chic. "
Thanks you are very nice.
So let's examine the pros and cons of intervals.
What are the advantages of HIIT? Why should you do interval training?
The groundbreaking 1996 Tabata study showed the benefits of extreme HIIT. (2)
Dr. Izumi Tabata from the Japanese National Institute for Fitness and Sports was obsessed with interval training.
The doctor wanted to know exactly what gains were achieved through short, intensive training periods. He carried out an experiment with Olympic athletes on stationary bicycles and subjected them to intensive training sessions, followed by short periods of rest.
The results were fascinating.
HIIT had a greater impact on improving BOTH compared to normal cardio:
Aerobics increases (endurance).
Anaerobic increases (strength).
Even crazier? Tabata was able to demonstrate improvements in his athletes straight four Minute bursts.
Simple: your heart is a muscle.
If you keep your heart beating constantly and never stretch it outside its comfort zone, it will never get stronger.
By introducing chaos and pushing your muscles out of their comfort zone, they have to adapt and become more resilient to survive.
Intensive interval training challenges your heart by forcing it out of its comfort zone.
In other words, progressive overload – the same concept behind building strength.
Since Tabata's 1996 study, many other studies have shown the positive effects of interval training.
Here are some of the benefits of high intensity interval training:
# 1) HIIT for weight loss. A study in the Journal of Obesity found that after a HIIT program, participants could lose more body fat compared to normal cardio. (3)
This makes sense, as other studies indicate that high-intensity interval training burns more calories than training at steady state. (4)
To speed up your efforts, you need to consume more calories. If you are interested in HIIT for weight loss, you may be on the right track.
Interval training can also take less time than stationary cardio.
The average interval training is 20 minutes or less.
However, I should note that a meta-study (a review of several studies) did not show any real difference in fat loss between HIIT and steady-state cardio. (5) We'll talk about it later and about the effects of diet on weight loss.
# 2) HIIT to lower blood sugar. Dealing with blood sugar is really important for health, not just for diabetics.
Those who are trying to lose fat should be aware of their blood sugar and insulin levels.
The good news for our current discussion? HIIT has been shown to help lower and control blood sugar levels. (6)
# 3) HIIT for heart health. HIIT has been shown to help improve overall cardiovascular health when it comes to anti-fragility issues.
This is done in the same way as traditional endurance training, but at a fraction of the time (almost half). (7)
Before you accuse me of being a shill for Big HIIT, I would like to mention that many of the comments that "HIIT is the secret of fat loss" are exaggerated.(8) We'll go into that more later.
First, let's talk about how you actually do interval training.
What is an example of interval training? How to run interval runs
The key to HIIT is to switch from “easy” to “difficult”. You can take all possible exercises there:
Body weight (strength training).
Resistance (strength training).
HIIT is generally associated with running (aerobics), so we dedicate this section to that.
The easiest way to experiment with HIIT would be to run.
Learn how to start basic HIIT running training. Go to a park in your neighborhood. Warm up with light jogging, high knees and flexibility – leg swing, arm swing, etc.
And then start your training!
Run / jog at a brisk pace for 30 seconds.
Jog / run 2 minutes slower.
Shoot for another 30-second run / jog after your break.
Continue until you get tired or after about ten "push / rest" intervals.
And BAM! You just did HIIT.
Don't be discouraged if you stop frequently in your first week of HIIT training.
You will be surprised at how quickly you can improve this!
"Running" or "jogging" is also subjective. Whatever walking fast means for you is great. Do that for your intensity periods.
It should be noted that the entire “Couch to 5K” concept is based on interval training through running.
It is all divided into "walking", "jogging" and "running".
If you are curious, read our extensive couch to 5k test. If you want to start interval training, "Couch to 5K" is a great way to do it.
More of an indoor person?
Imagine a treadmill on which the intervals are set for you depending on the desired level of difficulty.
Just be careful …
We'll talk a lot more about machines in the next section, but a treadmill is all you need for a HIIT workout.
Experiment with the speed and incline to find a setting that you would consider "intense". Many machines can be programmed to switch between this and a "simple" setting.
And you know what that means … boom! It was developed for HIIT.
Would you like us to tell you exactly what to do and how to exercise? Brilliant. This is what we do for a living and where we are really good.
Training doesn't have to suck. Let us put together a fun training for you:
How do HIIT workouts work? (More HIIT cardio to choose from)
There are many different aerobic exercises for HIIT cardio.
For example, you could jump on a bike that runs like HIIT but with wheels (duh):
Each spin class is based on HIIT cycling (SoulCycle, Flywheel or even your local gym now offers spin classes).
They are popular for a reason and you can find a friend or two!
Here are some more examples of interval training:
Elliptical. If it has a resistance wheel, it can be used for interval training. Go low resistance (level 0-2) for a few minutes. Then turn the resistor on for a minute (up to 8-10). Repeat this process 12 times to get a 20 minute workout.
Stair climber. Similar to the elliptical trainer, you switch between periods of low intensity for two minutes and between one minute for high intensity. The difference to the climber is that the dial controls the speed of the stairs. Caution.
Rowing machine. Start with a two-minute warm-up. In the third minute, however, you row for 60 seconds as if you were being followed by the octopus. Then hold your breath. The rowing machine may be difficult to use for 20 minutes because of the large torso. Shoot ten minutes first.
Jump rope. Skipping rope is a full body exercise. It's fun too. There is no dial here, your own body controls the pace of the jump. Follow the same two minutes lightly, one minute intensely as above. Skipping rope can also be made with friends!
So far we've only talked about aerobic exercise.
Let's cover our other categories of body weight and resistance.
What are the best HIIT exercises? (Two other forms of interval training)
"Steve, it all sounds great. But I hate running! "
Confession: Me too.
So I get my cardio in other forms!
Here are some bodyweight exercises to get started with HIIT:
Burpees. Get up, crouch, kick your legs out, do a push-up, put your legs back in, and explode in one jump. Try doing 20 reps, then rest for two minutes. Repeat until you hate yourself:
Pushups. Do as many pushups as you can for 20 seconds. Rest. Then do it again. If you're worried about the right shape, read our push-up guide and take a look at the following:
Pull ups. Same idea as above, do pull-ups for 20 seconds and then rest. If you can't do a chin-up, we covered you in our chin-up progress guide:
Now let's chat some examples of strength training for HIIT:
Kettlebell swing. Do 20 kettlebell swings per minute for ten minutes. This will be intense and deserves congratulations when you are done. In our 20-minute kettlebell training for beginners, you will find everything you ever wanted to know about kettlebells.
Battle ropes. If your gym has combat ropes, these are a great tool for HIIT. For the intensity, the extent of the sag in the rope determines the load. The looser the rope, the harder and more intense the training. Don't just get stuck in up and down movements. Some variations help address different muscles.
Lifting weights. The critical piece moves from one exercise to the next, for example the bench press to the lat bar: we call this circuit training!
You can also do circuit training as a form of HIIT.
The circuit training runs through a sequence of exercises or stations in a row.
Push-ups to pull-ups, back to push-ups, just a short break from one exercise to the next.
Circuit training is perfect for integrating it into HIIT training because you can design your circuit training to be very intense.
In our post you will find 15 circuit training routines to choose from.
A Batman training is also hidden there. You're welcome.
We create custom HIIT programs for busy people like you who are REALLY fun. If you're looking for a supportive coach to guide you and tell you exactly what to do every day, you've come to the right place!
Exercise doesn't have to suck. Find out more about our coaching program!
If you just want a beginner's track to start withyou can try our beginner bodyweight workout routine. You can also download a free worksheet to track your progress with this circuit when you join the following rebellion:
Grab your worksheet for routine body weight beginners. No gym required!
Perform this workout at home with no equipment required
Avoid the most common mistakes everyone makes when doing bodyweight exercises
Find out how you can finally get your first pull-up
Oh, what's this? Would you like to have even more fun while taking advantage of HIIT? Let's think outside the box:
Basketball, tennis, soccer and Ultimate (Frisbee) are AMAZING practice styles that use interval training (everything starts and ends!).
Run here, catch this and wait for the next round to begin.
This is what we are looking for in HIIT training.
So choose a form of FUN exercise that makes your heart race faster and slower throughout the activity (yes, I assume that even THIS activity would count).
Is HIIT good for losing weight? Is interval training good for losing weight?
I suspect you're reading this article because you're trying to get the most efficient "bang for your buck" when it comes to getting in shape.
And HIIT is a great form of exercise and could help you lose weight.
However, I will lower some of these fancy claims that exist in the media.
For example, Time Magazine calls HIIT "wonderful" in an article. (9)
That's a bit much, even for me, who makes a living from why you should exercise and likes to use exaggeration for the effect.
Seriously, I'm better at it than EVERYONE ON THE PLANET.
Cardio, strength training and HIIT have many advantages.
HIIT deserves praise, but exercise in general deserves praise. As we discussed in our “Cardio vs HIIT vs Weights” post, all three types of training have their place, and the best one for you is the one that you actually do.
And strength training. Always strength training.
To answer your question: is HIIT the secret and only weapon for weight loss?
No, it's just a great exercise.
And movement is important.
However, if you want to lose body fat, the way you eat is responsible for 80% of your success or failure.
This means that I don't care how many intervals you do. It won't help you lose weight if you don't correct your diet as well.
You can read our beginner's guide to nutrition if you want more information.
If you'd like to download our free 10-step nutrition guide to improve your diet starting today, you can do so by signing in the box below:
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First steps with interval training
Keep the following in mind if you want to advance your intensive interval training:
Frequency. This would be the number of intervals in your workout.
Intensity. How heavy are you in each interval?
Time. How long are your intervals and rest periods?
Maybe you start doing 3 intervals of intense running.
Once it becomes routine, bring it up to 4.
Perhaps you turn the resistance of your stationary bike to "8" during your intense interval. If it becomes normal, set it to "10".
Maybe you do pull-ups for 20 seconds. If you have a good grip on it, aim for 30 seconds.
You will develop this setting further in interval training.
Consistency is the name of the game. Even if you only do HIIT training once a week, you can make progress in all three categories.
Would you like a program that adapts to your progress every month? Learn more:
Mistakes to avoid during high intensity interval training
There is a lot to consider when starting a HIIT practice.
No matter what routine you end up with, make sure you follow these words of wisdom:
Just in. As the saying goes, "You have to go before you can run." The importance is building a HIIT practice. If you need to become "less intense" before moving on to "intense", that's fine. This helps build your aerobic skills (stamina), which is important when working on intensity. Start walking.
Keep the right shape. If you perform your movements correctly, you can avoid injuries. Find out how to work properly here. This is even more critical at later intervals when you may be exhausted and tired. If you find that you are breaking the shape, continue and slow down. Intensive is not worth an injury.
Rest. Our body actually builds muscle while we rest. So take a few "days off" from your HIIT practice. Would you like to stay active on these days? Do some fun exercises!
Make yourself comfortable, concentrate on your form and make sure that priority is given to rest.
HIIT timer recommendations
HIIT focuses on intervals.
In one moment it is intense, in the next you take a short break.
A good way to know when it's time to move from one sequence to the next is a timer. A loud beep can tell you when it is okay to catch your breath or when to change gear.
Here are 5 HIIT timers you can try:
Runtastic. Don't be fooled by the name, this free app is more than just running. You can customize for many different interval workouts depending on which exercise you work with. And the surface looks chic.
Seconds. It's free and customizable to any form of HIIT. It can also integrate with your music, which is pretty cute.
Seven. If you're new to HIIT, Seven is a good app for you. It is free and contains pictures for exercises. You can also customize your own virtual personal trainer, which can be the future of fitness. The bots are coming …
Sworkit. First, it's a smart name (taken from "Simply Work It"). Second, it's free. Third, it can show your workout, goals, and calories burned. I like this.
J&J Official seven-minute training. This free Johnson & Johnson app is really great. It has pre-made workouts that you can choose or customize based on your fitness level to make it your own.
We also have to talk about interval timers. Most of the apps referenced are fully customizable.
For example, you can change the intensive interval from 120 seconds to 90 seconds.
This is important because it is up to you to decide how long you can train intensely for rest.
Generally people recommend one minute of intensity and then two minutes to rest at HIIT.
However, this all depends on the person and the exercises performed.
For example, burpees are more difficult than jumping over a rope:
So make changes like 30 seconds of intensity and three minutes of rest. Do it yourself.
Whatever you chose to do with HIIT, it's fine as long as you actually do it. The benefits of HIIT come into play when you get tough on yourself.
In other words, you don't have to be an Olympic athlete to take advantage of HIIT. (10)
Light jogging totally works. Just don't do it in a mascot costume.
As we have discussed, you will improve if you are consistent.
So don't worry about where to start.
First download an app and get started.
I hate multiple choice. Choose HIIT training for me!
Let’s Power Walk as our form of HIIT.
This is an example of a HIIT training for beginners that we could prescribe for our coaching clients who are starting training for their first 5 km.
Let's do seven intervals of two minutes each:
Warm up. Walk at a gentle pace for three minutes.
Intervals. Power Walk in the first 60 seconds like trying to hit someone at the top of Starbucks.
Just go for the next 60 seconds.
Repeat six more times.
Cooling down. You can walk a little easier, or a little stretching would be great.
Total time: 20 minutes.
I want to emphasize that you can do almost any exercise in exchange for this routine. Just minus "Power Walk" and add "pushups and squats"
It will still be a great HIIT workout.
"But Steve, that's still multiple choice!"
Right, right … sorry. Stick to power walking! Done!
How to start interval training now
Do our power walking routine above. It is a great place to start.
Remember, our goal at this stage is to "build the habit".
We can work on "whoa, that was intensive" later.
If you are looking to do more, we have a few options for you:
1) Check out our popular 1-to-1 coaching program. You work with our certified NF teachers who get to know you better than you and program your workouts and nutrition for you.
Our coaching program is fun. Let us help you achieve your goals!
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Training routines for body weight AND strength training.
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There are countless ways to do HIIT. So don't let the options paralyze you.
Pick one and get started.
Interval training in any form is a solid choice for fitness and a great exercise in the training arsenal.
Which HIIT training style is your favorite?
Leave it in the comments below!
PS: Read the rest of our interval training content:
The HIIT workout for at home
How to do tabata sprints
Should you make couch up to 5K?
You can find all picture credits in this footnote. (10)