Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness and nutrition courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+.
Have you heard people talking about their latest “hit” workout and wondered whether it was some new kind of boxing class? Actually, the term is HIIT, which stands for high-intensity interval training. This style of training means alternating short periods of intense aerobic exercise with less-intense recovery periods. If you haven’t tried it yet, you’re missing out on a fun workout that yields quick results.
“In my opinion, HIIT is currently the most popular workout,” says Tiffany Smith, a certified personal trainer who is passionate about a holistic approach to healthy living and splits her time between Los Angeles and Kauai. “You can get an amazing workout in just 30 to 50 minutes! My clients see fat loss quicker and stay motivated because the workout can be short and sweet.”
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, HIIT training has been shown to improve blood pressure, cardiovascular health, insulin sensitivity and cholesterol profiles while lowering abdominal fat and bodyweight without losing muscle mass.
“HIIT workouts are effective at reducing body fat compared to other forms of cardio such as jogging, running, walking,” says Smith. “HIIT also helps improve heart health, including for those with high blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and cholesterol. Finally, it may even benefit people with mental illness, helping to reduce the severity of depression.”
The best part? Almost anyone can do it. “I have clients who range from early 20s to late 60s. They all love it and have seen great results,” Smith says. “And HIIT workouts can be as short as 5-10 minutes and still be effective, so it’s not time consuming. People see real results, making it a type of workout that can easily be part of a dedicated routine.”
Ready to give it a try? Smith shares eight tips for HIIT newbies.
8 Tips for Successful HIIT Workouts
- Start small. Begin with a 10- to 15-minute workout, and work your way up.
- Learn how. Try a class for guidance on correct form and extra motivation. While a HIIT class can be intimidating for beginners because of the high energy and quick bursts, just take it slow and ease your way in.
- Modify if needed. If you try to push beyond your means, you’ll either wind up injured or too sore to try it again. With every workout, you will gain more strength and endurance, and you will eventually be able to jump more, run faster, do push-ups that aren’t on your knees, etc.
- Listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. If you need to catch your breath, take a break.
- Sprinkle it in. Start with two times a week for a month, then increase to three times a week — but be sure to allow ample recovery time. Try adding it in after your strength workouts a couple times a week. If you want a bit more HIIT once you get used to the workouts, add one longer session each week.
- Skip the equipment. When you’re just starting out, try bodyweight or band HIIT workouts instead of reaching for weights.
- Set a timer. In only 5 to 10 minutes, you’ll get your heart pumping. Try a session after your strength workout.
- Do it anywhere. The beauty of HIIT workouts is that you can do them anywhere — including your house, a hotel room or a park.
HIIT workouts can vary greatly to help deter boredom and focus on different muscle groups. “My favorite thing about HIIT workouts is you can really get creative and literally use any piece of equipment or nothing at all, and you can do it at home, at a park or in the gym,” Smith says. “My final tip is to have fun!”
Smith’s At-Home HIIT Workout
- Set of light and heavy weights or just your bodyweight (If you have a circle resistance band or booty band, that’s a bonus!)
- Furniture (chair, couch, ottoman)
- A timer or interval timer app (Set timer for 50 seconds on and 10 seconds of rest for each exercise.)
Round 1: Use a booty band, resistance band, light weights or just bodyweight. The band goes above your knees.
- Perform walking squats side to side.
- Hold a squat and press your knees out, really squeezing your glutes and pressing into your heels.
- Perform squat jumps in and out (with legs hip width and legs wide), pressing into your heels.
- Execute a plank with alternating leg lifts.
Round 2: Add weights if you’re more advanced.
- Perform lunge jumps, really making them explosive.
- Do burpee squat jumps (plank and then land in a squat and squat jump).
- Perform mountain climbers.
- Do push-ups (option — feet elevated on furniture).
Round 3: Use heavier weights if you’re feeling strong.
- Hold a low lunge, then do biceps curls to shoulder presses.
- Perform triceps kickbacks, switching legs, slightly bent over.
- Do plank alternating rows (modification can be on knees).
- Perform alternating oblique roll-ups, lying on your back, reaching opposite hand to opposite foot, lifting your entire upper body off the floor.
Repeat this entire workout three to four times for a 40- to 50-minute workout.
Smith’s 5-Minute Gym HIIT
Set an interval timer for 40 seconds on/20 second rest. If you’re advanced, go for 50 seconds on/10 second rest.
1. Goblet squat jumps. Holding a dumbbell at your chest, squat and get low. Press into the back of your heels. Power up from the heels of your feet and jump, landing back into the squat. Repeat. Try and use a challenging weight here.
2. Weighted jacks. Hold the same weight at your chest, then do a basic jumping jack — but when you bring your legs together, press the weight up to the ceiling and then back to your chest as your legs jack wide. Repeat.
3. Plank knee-ins. Holding a plank, bring one knee in at a time (slowly and controlled). You can make this more advanced by doing mountain climbers as well.
4. Alternating squat to press. Holding a challenging weight in one arm, squat down with your chest open, reaching for the floor. As you stand up, press the weight to the ceiling. As you’re going back into the squat, pass the weight to your other arm and repeat.
5. Combo deadlift and squat and press. Using a challenging weight, do a straight leg deadlift, feet hip-width apart, with a nice flat back. Hold the weight with straight arms and reach toward your ankles until you feel your hamstrings engage. Then, with your back still controlled, squeeze up. As you’re coming up, bring the weight to your chest and go into a squat. Then come up from the squat and push the weight to the ceiling, going into a press. Repeat this combo until the timer goes off.
Repeat this workout 2-3 times for a total of 15 minutes if you’d like. To boost intensity, add a booty band and you’ll feel an ultimate burn in your glutes.