What Is a HIIT Workout?

HIIT means alternating short periods of intense aerobic exercise with less-intense recovery periods.
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HIIT means alternating short periods of intense aerobic exercise with less-intense recovery periods.

Have you heard people talking about doing “hit” workouts and wondered whether that 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. And 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 has been shown to improve blood pressure, cardiovascular health, insulin sensitivity, cholesterol profiles, and abdominal fat and bodyweight while maintaining muscle mass.

The best part? Almost anyone can do it. “I have clients that range from early 20s to late 60s — and they all love it and have seen great results,” Smith says.

Ready to give it a try? Smith shares five tips for HIIT newbies:

  1. Start small, with maybe a 10- to 15-minute workout, and work your way up.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. If you need to catch your breath, take a break. 
  5. Start with two times a week for a month, then increase to three times a week and so on.

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, a park or the gym,” Smith says. “My final tip is to have fun!”

Smith’s HIIT Workout You Can Do at Home

Equipment:

  • A 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 the timer for 50 seconds on and 10 seconds of rest for each exercise.)

Repeat this entire program three to four times for a 40- to 50-minute workout.   

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