High-intensity interval training (or HIIT as it is commonly abbreviated) is one of the most popular types of workouts among serious athletes, primarily because it is a great way to quickly and efficiently condition your body and get it into shape. HIIT is also one of the most challenging types of exercise because you put your entire body (including your nervous system) under a great deal of stress, not just your musculature. It’s important to note that HIIT can be quite challenging for the beginner athlete, and that’s why many people give up on it. This is mostly due to people overestimating their abilities and underestimating just how much of a challenge a proper HIIT workout can be.
There are numerous benefits to performing HIIT: it significantly boosts your metabolism which means that you’ll burn a lot more fat, and it’s great for your overall cardiovascular health. HIIT is also known to trigger the secretion of anabolic hormones, which is tied to muscle expansion and growth, which means that HIIT is one of the best ways to pack on some serious muscle while burning only fat, and quickly.
The basic idea between HIIT is using intense exercises to push your body to its limits in short bursts (and as you progress, longer ones), and then resting for short periods of time before pushing yourself again. There are various kinds of exercises that fall under this category, so be assured that whatever type of workout you’re looking to do, you can incorporate it into an HIIT-type routine.
The best way to approach an HIIT workout is methodically and patiently, knowing exactly what to do and when to do it, or it won’t be as effective. In this article, we’ll introduce to you a simple 4-step plan for getting started with HIIT, so you get all the benefits of this ingenious workout philosophy without wanting to quit after a single session.
1. Choose the Exercises
There’s no single best HIIT workout out there, and it all depends on what you want to accomplish. If you want to increase your endurance and stamina, you want to include a lot of cardio into your routine; whether it’s swimming, sprinting or cycling, it doesn’t matter, just as long as you approach them as HIIT exercises. There are also a lot of bodyweight-only exercises that you can perform for this purpose, such as jumping jacks and burpees.
If you’re more interested in gaining muscle and strength training, your exercises are going to look a bit different. We highly recommend that you pick compound exercises that aren’t too complex and target more than one muscle group since these are generally better at tiring you out and putting stress on your musculature and your nervous system. Squats, deadlifts, dumbbell and kettlebell swings and even sledge drags are great exercises for strength training that you can incorporate into your HIIT workout and achieve great results. Just remember to pick an exercise that is capable of tiring you out after very short periods of time, because the very idea of HIIT is to exhaust you and force you to take a break before you push yourself to your limits once again.
2. Volume Progression
As mentioned already, HIIT workouts can be pretty challenging, and it’s, therefore, easy to overtrain when you’re just starting off. Overtraining can lead to some pretty unwanted outcomes, such as actually losing your muscle mass and compromising your immune system, something you definitely don’t want. After all, we exercise so we can look good and feel good, right?
This is why it’s very important to take it easy with HIIT in the beginning, and stick to a single session of 20 minutes per week. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t exercise at all for the rest of the week, just don’t do any more HIIT until your body is a bit more used to it. As you progress, you can up the volume to twice a week for 20 minutes, and then three times when you’re comfortable with it.
I know this seems like it’s not nearly enough and that you think you can do more (and maybe you can), but trust us that people vastly overestimate themselves when it comes to HIIT. It’s better to start slow and have consistency than burn yourself out and risk overtraining or even injury.
3. Work on Your Intensity
The intensity of an HIIT workout depends on the ratio between the workout time and the rest time. The smaller this ratio is, the more intense and the more difficult the exercise is. If you’re just starting off with HIIT, we highly recommend that you start with a relatively high ratio, such as 1:9. For example, this means that if you perform a workout for 10 seconds, you’d rest for 90 seconds, and for 30 seconds of work, you get 270 seconds of rest.
Unfortunately, there is no set rule on the exact numbers, as studies have found that different people react very differently to various workout lengths. One person might find it easier to exert themselves for 30 seconds and then rest for 270, so you get more work in, but you also get a significantly longer rest period. Other people might recuperate faster so they don’t need that much rest, but they might also exhaust themselves faster, requiring a break after just 10 or 20 seconds.
The best advice we can give you here is to pick whatever’s the most difficult for you, so you’re really pushing your body to its limits. Regardless of which length you choose, the goal is to decrease the ratio and get to a low one, such as 1:3.
It might be a good idea to use a stopwatch and a fitness app to keep track of your progress here (just make sure to use a expressVPN as well, because fitness apps are highly insecure these days), as it’s easy to lose track of how much you’ve improved when you’re pumping away with the weights.
4. Increasing the Load
One way to up the difficulty of an HIIT exercise, as we just mentioned, is to increase the intensity, and that should be your primary goal at first. Once you’ve found that you can handle more intense workouts with shorter rest times, you can try increasing the overall external load of the exercise, to challenge yourself even further.
This is where the real magic begins. Increase the resistance on your chosen cardio machine, add some incline, and increase the overall load on your weights. The moment that an HIIT exercise becomes too easy, it means that you either need to up the intensity or add some load. The only difference is that the latter is a lot easier, and often more efficient to do.
Hopefully, you now know all you need to in order to start your own HIIT routine and start getting in some serious shape. To quickly sum up everything, in order to build up a good HIIT program, you first need to choose the correct exercises based on what you wish to improve concerning your overall physical performance.
Then, you want to start off at a low volume and intensity, then when you’ve progressed a bit in both, slowly start to increase the overall external load. If you stick to this program, we guarantee that your HIIT routine will do wonders for your overall physical appearance, endurance and strength. Good luck!
Adam Ferraresi is 23 years old, but he first became interested in writing when he was in high school. Today he’s a successful web developer living in Dallas, Texas, and one of the most trusted writers at wefollowtech.com. In his free time, he’s an avid mountain climber and enjoys playing basketball with his friends.