Long workouts are absolutely ridiculous. After all, why would you spend hours at the gym if you can avoid it? If you want to break out of your mental and physical training plateau, a few quality HIIT workouts can help. Just like most of the other training styles, HIIT workouts, that is high-intensity interval training, can be tailored to fit your needs and goals.
That being said, no matter what your personal goals are, when you engage in HIIT workouts, you are in for a heart rate and character testing challenge. The best way to get started with HIIT workouts is to establish your goal and go from there. You can integrate your favorite (and not-so-favorite) exercises to create your ideal HIIT session- whether you are looking to increase strength, improve body composition, or tighten your conditioning.
In this article, we’re going to explain exactly what HIIT workouts are, the benefits associated with them, and who should engage in HIIT workouts. Finally, we will explain the top 5 best HIIT workouts to help you hit your fitness goals.
Defining HIIT Workouts
HIIT, also known as high-intensity interval training, workouts are short bursts of intense activity followed by a brief, structured rest period. The idea behind this is to significantly increase your heart rate, like in a sprint interval, with a predetermined rest period between each effort.
The rest periods accommodate your immediate energy systems, that is glycolytic and phosphagen, that power hard lifting. This allows you to repeatedly work at a high level without getting winded too quickly. Therefore, HIIT sessions typically only last about 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the exercises and rest periods you decide to implement.
What are the Benefits of HIIT Workouts?
One of the best things about HIIT workouts is that they are time efficient. They are also a major challenge to your cardiovascular system. However, the benefits of HIIT workouts do not start and stop with your heart. Due to the variety of exercises and implements available, with a little bit of creativity, HIIT workouts can be used to meet a variety of training goals at the same time.
Below, we’ll explore some of the benefits of HIIT workouts.
As mentioned, HIIT workouts are fast-paced between the exercises, sets and reps, and the structured rest periods. Most of the time, they will only last about 10 to 20 minutes.
While this doesn’t sound like a lot of time to spend on working out, the repetitive bursts of high-intensity activity stimulates your cardiovascular system to improve without the need for an hour-long exhausting workout session
Studies have proven HIIT workouts have similar cardiovascular benefits as other steady-state training styles. The repetitive spike and readjustment of your heart rate are effective for improving your cardiovascular power and capacity and the brief recovery times build up endurance as well.
Additionally, improvements in body composition from HIIT workouts are comparable to those achieved through moderate intensity steady state cardio training sessions.
One of the biggest disadvantages of traditional cardio training is that it’s long-form. This means it’s composed of rhythmic, mind-numbingly boring repetitive sessions on a piece of equipment or pounding the pavement outdoors. However, when you engage in HIIT workouts instead, you can tailor your session with a variety of different exercises based on your preference and goal.
As long as you are using full-body movements with short rest periods between as the main focus of your workouts, you are on the right track.
Who Should Be Doing HIIT Workouts?
A well-crafted HIIT workout can be effective for almost anyone, with the focus of the training style being based on making positive changes to your cardio in a short amount of time. However, the term “high-intensity” implies a few conditions that should be covered in experience level and safety considerations prior to getting started.
One of the first things you need to consider when you’re getting started with HIIT workouts is your personal experience level. The more experience you have, the more exercises you can include in your HIIT session. This boosts the limits of effectiveness and keeps things from getting boring due to using the same workout moves over and over because you lack the technical skill required with bigger and badder exercises.
Another thing you need to consider in regard to your experience level is where your cardio fitness level is starting out. As we have mentioned a few times, HIIT is high-intensity and unless you’re highly experienced with this type of training, it may be best to tone down the difficulty of your exercises, increasing rest periods (not by much), and loading downward to make sure that you’re being safe and not setting yourself up for pain following your HIIT session.
HIIT workouts often involve explosive, advanced techniques to drive the heart rate up- but if you have not done certain exercises within other training styles before, there are certain exercises that should be tailored to your skill level.
Some of the various hinges, cleans, or other strength/power exercises may be risky to do as part of a HIIT session as you become fatigued. If you need to, it’s fine to choose less complicated variations that match your personal experience and strength level.
Make sure that you are using plyometric exercises sparingly. Though they are popular, they load the body differently than more muscle building exercises. Repetitive, explosive plyometrics should not be used as part of a HIIT workout due to the risk of small errors in technique or the repetitions needed to peak your heart rate are especially hard on your joints.
5 Best HIIT Workouts
Below, we’re going to explain the 5 best HIIT workouts to meet various goals.
- HIIT Workout for Fat Loss
- HIIT Workout for Endurance
- HIIT Workout for Strength
- HIIT Workout for Conditioning
- HIIT Workout for Muscle Growth
Best HIIT Workout for Fat Loss
Improving your body composition involves reducing body fat and increasing lean body mass at the same time. When you incorporate HIIT training into your body composition goals, you should be focused on big exercises that burn lots of calories. Also, the more muscles that are included, the better off you will be.
One great way to create an easy flowing HIIT workout is to incorporate dumbbells or kettlebells. Keeping things fast-paced is essential for maintaining time efficiency and peaking your heart rate. A few great compound exercises performed in the proper order will keep you moving and work out your entire body.
Please note that you should go through this circuit 5 times with a rest period of 1 to minutes between each round.
- Double Kettlebell Clean 1 x 8 reps
- Double Kettlebell Front Squat 1 x 12 reps
- Kettlebell Shoulder Press 1 x12 reps
- Kettlebell Romanian Deadlift 1 x 12 reps
- Double Kettlebell Swing 1 x 15 reps
Best HIIT Workout for Endurance
HIIT workouts for endurance are a very unique experience. Combining the sprint efficiency of HIIT workouts to reach the goal of building your endurance means you have less rest time. By challenging your body with limited rest periods, you force yourself to be more efficient at recovery during and after each round.
In order to get the most from an endurance HIIT session, it makes sense to combine full-body, high rep exercises with short rest periods. You can also use “spike” exercises along with direct muscle group exercises to increase your heart rate and keep it high during the entire workout session.
Please note that you should go through this circuit 5 times, with a rest period of 30 to 45 seconds between each round.
- Burpee 1 x 12 reps
- Rack Position Kettlebell Reverse Lunge: 1 x 12 reps per leg
- Mountain Climber 1 x 30 strides
- Push-ups 1 x 15 reps
- Kettlebell swing 1 x 15 reps
It’s important to note that load per exercise needs to be tailored to your personal current cardio fitness level.
Best HIIT Workout for Strength
If your goal for your HIIT workout is to increase strength, it’s a good idea to know which aspects of training have the most influence on producing force. Both strength and power are in the upper end of the force production continuum. Though it may not be easy to implement absolute strength exercises into a HIIT session, you can easily use power exercises, which improve the rate of force production.
A well-designed HIIT session should feel like a sprint- your HIIT efforts are followed by a short period of rest. In order to improve your strength, you’ll include a variation of the exercise you want to get strong at- such as a squat. Then, you’ll go through a series of exercises, increasing the explosiveness of each along the way, to keep your heart rate high and challenge the speed of force production to round it out.
Please note that you should go through this circuit 5 times with a rest period of 2 to 3 minutes between each round.
- Goblet Squat 1 x 8 reps
- Front-Rack Kettlebell Thruster 1 x 8 reps
- Jump Squat 1 x 8 reps
It’s important to note that in the case of HIIT workouts for strength, you need to choose your loads based on rep count. Start with a heavy load for the Goblet Squat, moderate for Kettlebell Thruster, and use bodyweight for the Jump Squat.
Best HIIT Workout for Conditioning
HIIT is absolutely perfect for reaching your conditioning goals. That being said, a poorly designed workout can overload your energy system in some terrible ways. By carefully choosing exercises and doing them at just the right time, you can utilize HIIT for conditioning. Basically, you will be preventing each energy system from fully recovering before the next challenge slams into you.
A few barbells and a prowler push can directly impact several of your major muscle groups while also increasing your heart rate every time you feel like you’ve hit a plateau. HIIT workouts for conditioning are not for the faint of heart. You can scale each of these exercises up or down based on the challenge you need.
Please note that you should perform this circuit 5 times, with a rest period of 2 minutes between each round.
- Medicine Ball Slam 1 x 12 reps
- Prowler Push 1 x 30 strides
- Kettlebell Reverse Lunge 1 x 12 reps per leg
- Prowler Push 1 x 30 strides
- Medicine Ball Slam 1 x 12 reps
Best HIIT Workout for Muscle Growth
When it comes to muscle growth, you need more volume and less rest than you do when you are increasing strength and power. You can take advantage of this by creating a muscle building workout session in a HIIT format. One great way to do this is to choose non-competing exercises that target various muscle groups and taper down to smaller movements as you begin to feel fatigued.
Combining leg and shoulder training into one HIIT session is a great way to keep the exercises and your heart rate flowing without being interrupted. You are going to want to be as recovered as possible for preservation of technique- so do the leg exercises first. Then, transition to dumbbell exercises to light your shoulders on fire.
Please note that you should perform this circuit 4 times, with a rest period of 1 minute between each round.
- Dumbbell Roman Deadlift 1 x 12 reps
- Dumbbell Walking Lunge 1 x 12 reps per leg
- Dumbbell glute Bridge 1 x 15 reps
- Dumbbell Z-Press 1 x 12 reps
- Dumbbell Lateral Rise 1 x 15 reps
- Dumbbell Upright Row 1 x 15 reps
Be sure that you begin your workout with your dumbbells already pre-arranged, tailored for your personal goals and skill level for leg and shoulder exercises.
HIIT workouts are a great way to train your cardiovascular system while you’re meeting a variety of other goals. You can include these on your off days or as part of your standard workout. While they are extremely versatile, the idea behind HIIT workouts is the appropriate manipulation of work/rest ratios to give you the best bang for your buck when you’re working out.
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