HIIT workouts have become increasingly popular in the last couple of years, and for good reason.
A proper HIIT session is highly efficient and it can deliver all the things you look for in traditional cardio, like calorie burning, increased lung capacity, and a stronger heart, to name a few.
Even better, you can achieve these results with shorter workouts compared to a classic cardio session, with the added bonus that your body will stay in fat-burning mode during recovery.
If you’re one of those people who loathes the treadmill or shudders at the idea of putting on your trainers and going for a jog, HIIT might be the cardio workout “miracle” you’ve been looking for.
What Is a HIIT Workout?
HIIT (high-intensity interval training) consists of a series of short high-intensity cardio exercises, each one followed by a quick period of rest.
HIIT is all about intensity and you’re sure to break a sweat. This type of training is also incredibly versatile — you can do it with the help of a personal trainer (who can customize activities according to your own pace), you can join HIIT classes, or you can do it alone in the comfort of your living room.
If you’re new to exercise or feel you could get into better shape, giving 100% effort on the first few sessions is not recommended. Instead, focus on working out at a moderate intensity that feels good to you, and slowly increase your intensity as you feel stronger.
The thing that makes HIIT so attractive is that during rest periods between exercise intervals — and even hours after you’ve completed your session — you still may burn fat and calories, even more than jogging or weight training[*].
A well-rounded HIIT workout combines cardio with strength training and it’s designed to stimulate your whole body, increase your heart rate, and promote weight loss.
Benefits of HIIT Workouts
HIIT training aims to get your heart rate up, make you sweat, improve your lung capacity, build muscle, and so much more. Here are some other health benefits of adopting this type of training[*][*]:
- It can help boost your metabolism. Studies have shown that HIIT helps to decrease body weight, while at the same time increasing insulin sensitivity. This action makes your body’s cells use blood glucose more efficiently, which may promote further fat loss.
- It can help build strength and resistance.
- It can reduce blood pressure.
- It promotes improved cardiovascular function.
HIIT Workout Exercises
One of the best things about HIIT and what makes it accessible is the diversity of activities it offers. HIIT can be changed every day, making for a fun and challenging workout that can be customized to your own needs and preferences.
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Since a HIIT session is usually shorter than traditional cardio classes, you can squeeze it into your lunch break or add it as a quick and effective after-work training.
If you’re curious about this type of training, there are plenty of free online videos available with different levels of intensity and duration, so you can try it out and see if it captivates you.
Personalized online HIIT programs are a popular option for tailor-made exercises that can help you reach your health goals faster.
While HIIT varies, below are some of the most common types of exercises included in a typical HIIT workout.
#1: Classic Lunges
This exercise is great to work your hips, glutes, quads, hamstrings, and core.
- You start in a standing position, with your feet hip-width apart.
- Place your hands on your hips and take a controlled step forward with your right leg. Make sure you keep your back straight, and lower your hips until both your legs form a 90° angle.
- Bring your right leg to its original position.
- Step forward with your left leg and repeat.
Burpees are also known as “squat thrusts.” They’re an excellent exercise for both the upper and lower body as they work arms, chest, quads, hamstrings, and abs.
- Start in a standing position and then move into a squat position with your hands on the ground.
- Jump your feet back into a plank position and keep your arms extended.
- Immediately jump your feet back into a squat position and stand (or jump). Repeat as necessary.
#3: Jump Squats
Jump squats help tone calves, hamstrings, glutes, core, and quadriceps.
- Begin with a regular squat.
- Engage your core and jump up explosively.
- Once you land, lower your body back into a squatting position again.
Together with crunches, push-ups are arguably considered the epitome of all things fitness. Push-ups help tone shoulders, triceps, and pectoral muscles.
When they’re done in the proper form, push-ups strengthen the core muscles as well as the lower back.
- Facing the floor in a plank position, place your hands at shoulder-width distance and keep your arms straight. Engage your glutes and core muscles.
- Place your feet in a way that feels more comfortable to you (either together or at shoulder-width). The balls of your feet should be curled up.
- Bend your arms and lower your body until your nose, chest, or forehead touches the ground.
- Straighten your arms and push your body up. Repeat.
#5: Mountain Climbers
Mountain climbers can be one of the hardest types of HIIT exercises. They get your heart rate going, making them one of the best workout routines to burn calories and help lose fat.
Mountain climbers engage various muscles, including the abdominals, biceps, chest, deltoids, obliques, quads, and hamstrings.
- To start, get into a classic plank position.
- Activate your core and bring your right knee forward and under your chest.
- Keep switching legs and pick up the pace until it feels like you’re running (or climbing a mountain).
#6: Side Lunges
This move is a sure way of toning your inner thighs and glutes while helping to release any tightness in the hip and groin area.
- Start by placing your feet shoulder-width apart and step out your right foot as wide as possible.
- Drop your hips down and outward and stretch your left leg.
- Move back to the starting position and do the same sequence on the opposite side.
#7: Jumping Jacks
Jumping jacks can take you back to your childhood. This whole-body exercise can be a fun and easy way to warm up. In addition, even though they are relatively low-volume, jumping jacks have been shown to improve muscular endurance.[*].
- Stand upright with your feet together and your arms resting at your sides.
- Bend your knees slightly and jump up.
- As you jump, spread your legs and stretch your arms out and over your head.
- Jump back into the original position. Repeat as necessary.
#8: Plank Jacks
This exercise routine is probably one of the hardest to complete on a HIIT circuit. It’s considered a total-body toning workout.
- Start in a classic plank position with your feet together.
- Then, like the leg motion of a jumping jack, jump your legs out and wide and then back to their original starting position.
Tabata is a type of HIIT workout where every exercise interval lasts 4 minutes. During this period, you’ll complete 8 rounds, in a 20-10 pattern: 20-second intervals of workout, spaced apart by 10 seconds of rest.
Tabata is comprised of a combination of the exercises explained above and more, performed at an explosive pace to achieve the maximal results of HIIT.
Tabata is very popular since standard workouts last between 15-30 minutes with similar results to those of longer, traditional cardio sessions.
HIIT Workout and Keto
No matter what diet, regimen, or lifestyle you follow, exercise is an integral part of your well-being.
If you’re starting your keto journey, HIIT could be an effective complement to your new lifestyle.
Not only will you have more vitality and energy, but you’ll also be supporting ketosis by helping your body burn stored carbs and deplete its glycogen stores[*].
If you’re already a HIIT follower, the ketogenic diet could be an effective way to support your active lifestyle and weight loss goals.
If you lead a very active life, the CKD (the cyclical keto diet) or the TKD (targeted keto diet) might be the perfect fit to give you the energy you need. To learn more about these variations on the keto diet and how they can help you achieve optimal health, check out the following guides:
- The Cyclical Ketogenic Diet: Strategic Carb Intake for Keto Athletes
- The Targeted Ketogenic Diet: Everything You Need to Know
- Working Out on Keto: How to Exercise When You’re In Ketosis