Fitness Articles

High-Intensity Interval Training

Take Your Fitness and Fat Loss to the Next Level

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General HIIT Guidelines

  • HIIT is designed for people whose primary concerns are boosting overall cardiovascular fitness, endurance, and fat loss, without losing the muscle mass they already have.
  • Before starting any HIIT program, you should be able to exercise for at least 20-30 minutes at 70-85% of your estimated maximum heart rate, without exhausting yourself or having problems.
  • Because HIIT is physically demanding, it’s important to gradually build up your training program so that you don’t overdo it. (The sample training schedule below will safely introduce you to HIIT over a period of eight weeks.)
  • Always warm up and cool down for at least five minutes before and after each HIIT session.
  • Work as hard as you can during the high intensity intervals, until you feel the burning sensation in your muscles indicating that you have entered your anaerobic zone. Elite athletes can usually sustain maximum intensity exercise for three to five minutes before they have to slow down and recover, so don’t expect to work longer than that.
  • Full recovery takes about four minutes for everyone, but you can shorten the recovery intervals if your high intensity intervals are also shorter and don’t completely exhaust your anaerobic energy system.
  • If you experience any chest pain or breathing difficulties during your HIIT workout, cool down immediately. (Don't just stop or else blood can pool in your extremities and lightheadedness or faintness can occur.)
  • If your heart rate does not drop back down to about 70% of your max during recovery intervals, you may need to shorten your work intervals and/or lengthen your recovery intervals.
  • HIIT (including the sample program below) is not for beginner exercisers or people with cardiovascular problems or risk factors. If you have cardiovascular problems or risk factors should NOT attempt HIIT unless your doctor has specifically cleared you for this kind of exercise.

A Sample Progressive HIIT Program


Please adhere to the general HIIT guidelines above for this program. To maximize fat loss, maintain an intensity level of 60-70% of your maximum heart rate (RPE of 5-6 on the 10-point scale) during warm up, cool down and recovery intervals.

 Week   Warm  up  Work Interval (Max Intensity)  Recovery  Interval
(60-70% MHR)
 Repeat Cool
 down 
 Total 
 Workout  Time
 1  5 min.  1 min.  4 min.  2 times  5 min.  20 min.
 2  5 min.  1 min.  4 min.  3 times  5 min.  25 min.
 3  5 min.  1 min.  4 min.  4 times  5 min.  30 min.
 4  5 min.  1.5 min.  4 min.  2 times  5 min.  21 min.
 5  5 min.  1.5 min.  4 min.  3 times  5 min.  26.5 min.
 6  5 min.  1.5 min.  4 min.  4 times  5 min.  32 min.
 7  5 min.  2 min.  5 min.  3 times  5 min.  31 min.
 8  5 min.  2 min.  5 min.  4 times  5 min.  38 min.

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About The Author

Dean Anderson Dean Anderson
Dean Anderson has master's degrees in human services (behavioral psychology/stress management) and liberal studies. His interest in healthy living began at the age of 50 when he confronted his own morbid obesity and health issues. He joined SparkPeople and lost 150 pounds and regained his health. Dean has earned a personal training certification from ACE and received training as a lifestyle and weight management consultant. See all of Dean's articles.

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