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.

Member Comments

  • HITT workouts are true game changers...they amp up one's fitness leve with the killer cardio boosts and truly help melt away me! Most fitness gurus now offer options that are both high or low impact. Leslie Sansone has a HITT walking option, and Jessica Smith offers a playlist that provides options. Incorporating HITT workouts has been one of the best things I have done for me recently! Try one... - 8/18/2015 6:57:57 AM
  • DC_FREE
    this was super helpful. I think one of the most helpful bits in this article was the advantages Dean made on HIIT. He affirms the benefits of HIIT and makes a convincing argument for the endurance and functional strength you gain by participating in this kind of training. I might even add the indirect argument against long distance cardio is made because you are including anaerobic and aerobic exercise in your workouts. - 7/13/2015 9:32:53 AM
  • PJACKSONRN1
    DEAN CAN U HELP ME FIND A BEGGINERS LOW IMPACT HIIT TRAINING PROGRAM THAT I CAN BUILD UP TO 30 MINS DAILY 3 TO 4 X WEEKLY? I ALSO LIKE DOING THE KETTLE BELL WORKOUT. I HAD A TOTAL KNEE REPLACEMENT 4 MONTHS AGO. AND HAVE NOT HAD ANY MAJOR PROBLEMS WITH IT OTHER THAN THE NORMAL ADJUSTMENT THAT IT GOES THRU. I NEED HELP IN THIS AREA TO STAY MOTIVATED LEARNING HOW TO EAT HEALTHIER AND STAY COMMITTED - 1/17/2015 8:33:32 AM
  • I just started with Hitt a week ago, now I got another routine. - 9/10/2014 5:19:46 PM
  • JRFITPRO
    They just brought in a new sprinting machine at my gym that kicks ass...itís called the HiTrainer. The 3 minute interval protocols are beyond what I've ever done. After 2 weeks of doing it 3 times a week I already feel a big difference. Check out their website to see some videos www.hitrainer.com - 8/12/2014 4:15:58 PM
  • Good Article. - 6/10/2014 2:35:22 AM
  • MARYO125
    HIIT really does WONDERS. I got turned onto this type of workout about two years ago and I feel toner than ever. I use 'HIIT Mix' a coached HIIT music-based workout on my iPod by a company called Motion Traxx. Fitness trainer Jessica Smith talks you through the entire workout, letting you know when to start, stop, keep the pace, and how much longer till the next interval. Itís absolutely amazing and has made HIIT one of my go-to workouts! I recommend to everybody I know: http://motiontrax
    x.com/mixes/h
    iit-mix/. - 2/26/2014 12:49:11 PM
  • PEACENCARROTS
    Good article. I like trying HIIT workouts. They are great. Makes you feel like you accomplished something in a little bit of time. - 2/11/2014 9:08:08 AM
  • MCSCRAPM
    thanks for this article Dean. I am going to try this! - 8/21/2013 1:52:38 PM
  • This is the natural way for martial arts to be practiced, so I'd say as a form of exercise it goes back several centuries at least. I've done this type of workout since my early 20s, and now at 59 I'm very healthy and in good shape; genetics has something to do with that I'm sure but so does my method of exercise. I've always listened to my body as the saying goes when doing this kind of exercise: I just do the movements as fast and hard as I can until I get so tired I have to stop, then rest until I'm ready to do it again. If you do martial art movements right you get a full body workout: there is a good variety of movement, and all of it involves the whole body, especially the midsection. - 8/7/2013 12:58:38 PM
  • Love the article. Thank you LJOHNES - 8/6/2013 10:23:13 AM
  • WANDAC2013
    "run and hide after saying the wrong thing to your spouse"...kinda scary thing to joke about considering the prevalence of domestic abuse. I get it that Dean didn't mean it in an abusive situation, but as a survivor it hit me wrong. I'm sure a better, equally "funny" example could have been found. - 8/5/2013 12:23:35 PM
  • AZYOURLILY:

    I think you can do it just by tracking time spent and distance/reps. For instance, if you're running/walking it will take you less time to go 1 mile doing HIIT than it would just walking. I think :P
    Hope that works!
    - 7/30/2013 2:48:55 PM
  • BEACHYDREAMN
    Does anyone know how to track this on the fitness tracker, in terms of calories etc? - 7/3/2013 11:49:25 AM
  • PESKIGIRL
    HIIT is the best thing! :) - 6/14/2013 8:47:41 PM

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