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High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) | What Is It and How To Do It

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) | What Is It and How To Do It
Amy Golby
Level 3 Personal Trainer1 year ago
View Amy Golby's profile

Want to give high intensity interval training (HIIT) training a go but not sure where to start? Or maybe you're not quite sure what it actually is? Well, look no further. Here's all you need to know about it and how to get started need to get started. 


What is High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)?  

 High intensity interval training (HIIT) is a challenging form of cardio that alternates between high-intensity periods of exercise followed by short rest periods. This type of training is designed to push your heart rate up through a working phase before allowing a short rest period. The workouts tend to be quick and time-efficient, making it a great option for those with busy schedules.   


What are the 3 stages of HIIT?  


Take the time to warm up your entire body before hitting the main workout. This will help to prevent injury and prepare your body for the workout.

Try skipping, biking, or using a treadmill for 5-10 minutes, gradually increasing the speed each minute until you're working at around a 5-6 out of 10. Also include some dynamic stretches, working down the body and holding each movement for 30 seconds. 



Once you're warmed up, it's time to take on your workout. HIIT follows an interval-based principle of work vs rest, with the main aim of getting your heart rate up to 90% of your maximum during the working phase.    

  • Interval timing: You can choose your work vs rest ratio based on your fitness level, eg 1:1 (30 seconds rest vs 30 seconds work) or 1:2 (30 seconds rest vs 60 seconds work). As you get fitter, you can reduce the rest or increase the work period.   
  • Exercises: Mix up your workout by trying different exercises. You can use cardio equipment like a treadmill, exercise bike, or stair climber, or try a circuit-based approach with a combination of bodyweight exercises and some dumbbells or kettlebells for extra resistance. High-impact movements like burpees, man makers, and mountain climbers will really get your heart rate up too.   


It's important to cool down after working out to ensure your body can recover efficiently and prevent injury, tightness, or strains. Reduce your heart rate by biking or using a treadmill for 5-10 minutes at a steady pace of 5-6 out of 10. Then, follow it up with some static stretches, working down the body and holding each movement for 30 seconds. 


What are the benefits of high intensity interval training (HIIT)? 

There are many benefits to high-intensity interval training (HIIT). It not only improves cardiovascular performance and health, but can also be beneficial for people with a variety of fitness goals such as losing weight or building muscles.   

Moreover, HIIT can improve blood flow within your body, eliminate lactic acid build up a lot more fluently and ramp up your cardiovascular capacity - making those rests in between sets feel much sweeter!


Who can do HIIT?

The truth is, everybody can do HIIT, but... for all of the beginners out there, whether starting off or coming back from a break from the gym, it's recommended that you build up a good level of fitness before you start any type of interval training. If you exercise often, lead an active life and have a good fitness level already, then you're good to go!


What workouts work with HIIT? 

HIIT can be a great way to add a new element to your training, overcome plateaus, or accelerate results. It can be used for weight loss, building muscle, and toning up.   

HIIT workouts for weight loss 

For weight loss, HIIT can be particularly effective because it allows you to burn more calories in a shorter amount of time, and it can also help the body to use fat stores as energy. It has also been shown to increase the body's metabolic rate post-workout, which means you'll continue to burn calories throughout the day.   


HIIT workouts for building muscle  

HIIT can also be great for building and maintaining strength and muscle mass. Because it uses fat stores, it can help to maintain muscle mass while cutting fat. It can also train muscles to be stronger and more effective during intense workout periods, and to recover more quickly. HIIT isn’t the best exercise if you want to put on muscle, but it can play a role. 


HIIT workouts for toning up  

For toning up, HIIT can be beneficial because it can help with body fat loss, leading to better muscle definition.   


The different types of HIIT workouts  

There are loads of different ways to do HIIT workouts, no matter your fitness level, training location, or even the types of exercises you enjoy. The idea behind HIIT is to push your body as hard as you can for a set amount of time, then recover for the rest of the time.  

It can be done using a variety of time periods, circuits, and equipment, your own body weight, a cardio machine, or even when going for a run or swim. 


Using cardio machines such as treadmills, bikes, rowers, SkiErgs, and cross-trainers to work in intervals. You can add speed, incline, or resistance during the work phase and remove it for the recovery phase.  

Going for a run, swim, skip, or bike ride. If you want to get out of the house or gym, you can still get a HIIT workout in. Aim to go as hard and fast as you can with good form for the work phase and slow down during the recovery phase. 


AMRAP (as many reps as possible)

This training method involves completing as many reps/rounds as possible of 2-3 exercises in the circuit during the work phase. Try to beat that number each workout phase. 


EMOM (every minute on the minute)

This method involves using a minimum of 2 exercises. You must complete the set reps or work for the set time at the start of every minute. The remaining time before the next minute is your rest time. 



Tabata is a traditional high-intensity workout style that involves two exercises performed one at a time for 20 seconds, taking a 10-second break, then going on to the second exercise for 20 seconds and repeating for 5 minutes. 



Ladder training is a great way to increase intensity slowly. Starting with two exercises, you complete 1 rep of each back-to-back then rest, then you perform 2 reps of each back-to-back and rest. Continue this up to the set number of reps needed. 



Complexes involve a selection of exercises that need to be completed immediately one after the other with no rest until all the reps/exercises are complete. 


How to do a HIIT workout properly  

If you're looking to give HIIT a go, it's important to remember that pushing yourself to your limits during the working phase is key, but it's also essential to follow a few guidelines to make sure you're safe, injury-free and getting the best results.   


Warm up properly 

First up, make sure you warm up properly. It might seem like a bit of a chore, but it's crucial to get your body ready for the intense workout to come. A proper warm-up will help you avoid injury, aid recovery, gradually raise your heart rate, and help you mentally prepare.   



Stretching and working on your flexibility is also important. People who take the time to work on this aspect of their fitness tend to get better results, move more efficiently during workouts and recover quicker. Prep your muscles before and after your workout to reduce injury and soreness.   


Understand each workout 

It's also important to understand each workout thoroughly before you start. HIIT workouts are designed to test you physically and mentally, so it's a good idea to start with bodyweight exercises to get used to working under intense movement for a period.  

Once you've mastered that, you can start to introduce weights or resistance to progressively overload your body. But make sure you fully understand the movement before you add in any weights.   


Know the importance of recovery  

Don't underestimate the importance of recovery. HIIT can be tough on your body, especially if you're new to it, so make sure you give your muscles time to repair and build. Recovery is a key part of any training plan, and those who take it seriously see better results as they can work hard through sessions without fatigue, injury or needing to take larger rest periods between sets/reps.  


How often should I perform HIIT?

They say 'too much of something can be bad for you', now that’s up to you to decide, however, due to the pure intenseness of interval training it should be carried out no more than 3 times a week.


The basics to getting started with a HIIT workout  

Before you get started, it's important to make sure you have everything you need to make the most of your workout. 

First things first, make sure you know exactly what you're going to be doing. Write out your session clearly and take some time to familiarise yourself with the exercises. You can also invest in some training equipment, such as an RPM Rope or a Resistance Band Set, to add an extra challenge to your workout. 

It's also important to make sure you're properly fuelled before hitting a session. There are loads of delicious protein bars on the market that make for a great snack to keep you going throughout the day.  

Try out favourites like our Protein Brownie or best-selling Layered Bars. If you need an extra boost before your session, our Alpha Pre-Workout comes in a range of tasty flavours. Or you can grab some BCAA Energy Drinks for a fuss-free option. 

Looking good and feeling good go hand in hand, so make sure you have all the gear you need to train at your best. Our women’s and men’s ranges include everything from leggings and sports bras to shorts, T-shirts, and hoodies, so we've got you covered. 


Take Home Message  

No matter your goal or fitness level, adding HIIT training to your plan can have many benefits for your training. The quick and efficient sessions will keep you on your toes, boost fat burning, build cardiovascular endurance, and improve heart health and muscle endurance.   

So, whether you're hitting the gym, working out at home, or getting some fresh air, you can try a HIIT session that will have you working hard and feeling great. 

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Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you're concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.

Amy Golby
Level 3 Personal Trainer
View Amy Golby's profile
Amy has a BSHons in psychology where she was a sports scholar, as a sportswoman for over 18 years playing rugby and netball up to a national level. She is a level 3 qualified personal trainer with a diploma in sports and exercise nutrition. She has been training in a gym and weightlifting for over 13 years, participating in CrossFit, Bodybuilding and many other events such as hyrox, triathlons and marathons. She has a passion for extending her learning through latest studies and with a great passion for getting more women into fitness. Amy has created programs as a coach for the last 4 years as well as around sport and fitness for Red Bull, Hyrox, Spartan UK, as well as Mental Movement UK around how fitness can help improve your mental health. She is also a advocate for female confidence and being awareness to mental health and body confidence. She can be found here –