If you’ve been at the gym lately, you might have noticed the recent hype around HIIT, which stands for High-Intensity Interval Training. HIIT workouts are designed to maximize effort and intensity, pushing your limits in a matter of minutes.
HIIT workouts are often short — sometimes as few as 10 minutes — and high in physical demand. They’re a fantastic complement to longer, low-impact endurance workouts and perfect for people who want to fit exercise into a busy schedule.
Why Should You Do HIIT?
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, HIIT can provide the same amount of benefit as endurance workouts, but in less time. HIIT also burns more calories than other workouts, especially during the post-exercise period.
Your body continues to burn calories after you finish a high-intensity workout. It’s almost as if your body is still working out even when it isn’t! Because of this post-workout burn, be sure to fuel properly before and after you hit the gym.
In addition to its physical benefits, HIIT workouts offer a mental challenge that long endurance workouts don’t. Although I love letting my mind wander during long runs and bike rides, I also love the focus and intensity required by a 15-minute HIIT session.
Many HIIT workouts also rely on counting repetitions (“reps”) or increments of time. As the clock ticks down or your reps go up, you’ll find a mental focus that’s refreshing.
What Does a HIIT Workout Look Like?
HIIT workouts can often be done with basic equipment or body weight, meaning you can squeeze in a HIIT workout at home, at your gym or in a hotel room. You can find sample HIIT sessions online or download apps and videos with instruction. Some of my favorite apps are Nike+ Training Club, 12 Minute Athlete and Grokker.
Popular HIIT sessions feature a mix of strength and endurance movements, with little if any rest between exercises. My favorite HIIT exercises are burpees, jumping rope, mountain climbers, thrusters, kettlebell swings, plyometric lunges and wall balls.
If you’re a member of a fitness center that offers group classes, chances are that boot camp and functional training classes incorporate bursts of HIIT sessions. Sign up and give it a try!
Design Your Own HIIT Workout
One fun way I like to design HIIT workouts is by using a deck of cards. Depending on your fitness goals and the amount of equipment you have available, pick four exercises and assign each exercise to a suit.
For example, burpees could be assigned to hearts, squat jumps assigned to diamonds, push-ups assigned to spades and mountain climbers assigned to clubs. Each card represents the number of reps you have to do of each exercise.
So if you turn over a four of diamonds, you have to do four squat jumps. Face cards represent 11 reps. If you’re working out with a partner, it’s fun to make aces “wild” and choose a new exercise when an ace is revealed.
Once you’ve selected four exercises, gathered any required equipment and shuffled the deck, let the workout begin. Turn over each card one by one, completing exercises as indicated by the card suit and number.
Depending on your fitness level and the types of exercises you choose, the workout can last 20-35 minutes — and will likely burn energy and calories long after you’re finished. Embrace the HIIT hype and get started!
Consult your doctor before beginning any diet or exercise program.