The HIIT Workout Guide That Will Change Your Health

Your play-by-play for all things High-Intensity Interval Training.

By: Emily Freeman

HIIT is not going anywhere, and for good reason. Top fitness experts can’t get enough of this super-effective workout trend. It has been proven to burn more calories and build muscle quicker than other forms of exercise and makes you feel like a total rockstar (we love a good pump)! This guide will show you exactly how to start incorporating HIIT workouts into your routine so you can start seeing better results and reduce your chance of injury, no matter what your fitness level. 

What Does HIIT Stand For?

HIIT stands for High-Intensity Interval Training. This challenging type of workout can be applied to any type of cardio. Whether you prefer to run, climb stairs, or go on the elliptical, you can turn the fat-burning on by adding intervals of all-out effort to your steady-state cardio

What is a HIIT Workout? 

High-Intensity Interval Training, is a style of workouts that combine short, all-out bursts of activity followed by brief rest periods. The “sprint” portion of your intervals, where you give all your effort, usually lasts between 15 seconds to four minutes, depending on the intensity and activity. Because of their intensity, HIIT workouts can sometimes be as little as 10-minutes and usually do not last for more than 45-minutes. Can we get a “heck yeah!” from the busy peeps?! The exercises in HIIT workouts are intended to spike your heart rate, so most HIIT workouts include compound movements that target multiple body parts at once and/or plyometrics (jumping exercises). However, it is possible to design a HIIT workout with low-impact exercises if you tend to get any joint discomfort or want to prevent overuse. 

HIIT Workout Benefits 

HIIT is one of the most effective workouts to burn more calories in less time. However, that’s just the beginning of the laundry list of benefits you can get from incorporating HIIT exercises in your routine.

HIIT workouts can help you maintain and even build muscle mass while reducing body fat, burn additional calories upwards of 24-hours after your workout is over, support cardiovascular health and endurance, boost your mood, focus, and productivity, and improve speed, power, and agility

How Many Calories Do HIIT Workouts Burn?

The number of calories you burn during a workout varies depending on your weight, resting heart rate, workout intensity, and fitness level. However, to get an idea of just how many calories HIIT workouts can burn, here’s the approximate amount of energy a person will expend in 30-minutes based on weight and activity type. 

Calories Burned When Doing 30 Minutes of HIIT Aerobics 

A 125-pound person would burn roughly 210 calories, a 155-pound person would burn roughly 252 calories, and a 185-pound person would burn about 294 calories. 

This also doesn’t take into account the “afterburn effect” of HIIT workouts. This is where your body expends extra energy (aka calories) for upwards of 24-hours after intense exercise. 

Does HIIT Burn Fat?

You bet it does! HIIT workouts have been proven to reduce body fat, with focus on the abdominals. For anyone wanting to lose belly fat, we’re talking to you! Though recent studies showed no difference in effectiveness of belly fat reduction between high-intensity and moderate-intensity workouts, participants were more likely to stick with the HIIT regimen since it required far less time to attain results. 

HIIT can, however, be more effective than long, steady-state cardio at maintaining muscle mass. Because of its short duration, your body is less likely going to need to tap into your muscle stores for energy

Does HIIT Build Muscle?

The short answer, yes, HIIT can build muscle, especially if you include plyometrics and compound movements in your HIIT workouts. These explosive movements break down muscle tissue, so as long as you’re getting adequate calories and protein, this should result in lean muscle mass. However, in order to optimize strength and muscle gains, your body has to go under progressive overload, meaning, you have to continually lift more weight to keep building more muscle. At a certain point, your body will adapt to the amount of weight you’re lifting. Sure, you could keep lifting more weight, but this is where things can get tricky. 

Since HIIT is performed at high speed, it can be easy to lose your form and potentially injure yourself if you’re lifting heavyweights. It also doesn’t allow for enough rest time between sets, so you’re never fully recovering during a HIIT workout. 

If you want some muscle gains, HIIT is a great way to see progress. However, if you’re looking to put on mass, it’s better to take it down a notch and focus on strength training. 

RELATED: Is Chocolate Milk Really The Ultimate Post Workout Drink?

How to Get Started With HIIT 

If you’re ready to reach your fitness goals with HIIT, you’re probably wondering where to start. And, if you’re new to exercising, the word “intensity” may sound a little intimidating. Smash those limiting beliefs to the ground! HIIT can truly be modified to any fitness level. If you’re already exercising but are ready to bust through a plateau, you’re in the right place. 

How Long Should a HIIT Workout Be?

A recent study found that doing more than 90-minutes of high-intensity exercise per week can actually harm your health. This is why your HIIT workouts should be no more than 45-minutes, and ideally kept under 30-minutes. When you push yourself beyond half an hour of intense exercise, your body has depleted enough energy stores where your performance will become hindered. This can put you at further risk of injury and, well, you’re not making much progress at that point either. Keep your HIIT workouts short and sweet so you can give them your all and reduce any risk of overtraining syndrome

RELATED: What is Overtraining Syndrome + Why it May Stall Results 

How Often Should You Do a HIIT Workout?

Your HIIT workouts should always fall on non-consecutive days. This gives your body enough time to recover, which helps you avoid injury or burnout. So, if you’re following the 90-minute per week max rule, this means you can do two 45-minute, three 30-minute, or four 15-minute HIIT sessions per week to allow for enough recovery time between workouts.  

Examples of HIIT Workouts 

When you’re crunched on time, have minimal equipment, and want a good sweat, these are some of the most effective exercises to add to your HIIT workouts.

Jump Squats

#1 Start standing with feet slightly wider than hip-distance, parallel. Make sure your toes are pointed slightly outwards. 

#2 With your abs pulled in tight, bend your knees into a squat position. 

#3: Push through your heels as you come back up to standing and jump up into the air. 

#4: With control, come back down to the bottom of your squat for one rep.

#5 Continue for 30 to 60 seconds. 

Mountain Climbers

#1 Start in a straight arm plank position. 

#2 Pull your belly button pulled in towards your spine and make sure your hips are in line with your back.

#3 Drive your right knee in towards your chest. 

#4 Come back through center and drive your left knee into your chest. 

#5 Continue alternating knees as quickly as you can, it should feel a little bit like you’re running in place, for 30 to 60 seconds. 


#1 Start standing with feet hip-distance, parallel.

#2 Squat down and place your hands on the ground in front of your feet. Heels can be raised off the ground, like you’re crouching. 

#3 Jump or step your feet back into a straight arm plank position. 

#4 Perform a push up.

#5 Jump or step your feet back in between your hands. 

#6 Explode off the ground to standing and then jump up into the air. This is one rep. 

#7 Continue the movement for 30 to 60 seconds. 

Russian Twists 

#1 Start seated, knees bent, feet planted on the ground in front of you. 

#2 Option to hold a weight in both hands in front of your navel. Otherwise, clasp your hands. 

#3 As an added challenge, lift your feet off the ground into a table top position.

#4 Pull your abs in, keep your back straight, and lift your chest. 

#5 Rotate side to side with your torso tapping your hands or the weight beside you with each rotation. 

#6 Continue to alternate sides for 30 to 60 seconds. 

Jump Lunges 

#1 Start with your right foot a couple feet in front of your left, back left heel should be raised off the ground.

#2 Keeping your belly button into your spine, shoulders away from your ears, and weight evenly places between both feet, bend your knees into a lunge position.

#3 Drive through your front heel, squeeze your glutes and jump off the ground. 

#4 Switch your legs in the air so your left foot is forward. 

#5 Land back in a lunge position on the opposite site with your left foot in front. 

#6 Continue to alternate for 30 to 60 seconds. 

The Best HIIT Workouts at Home 

HIIT is one of those awesome workouts that leaves you feeling euphoric (we call it a post-workout glow) and delivers results. One of the best parts of starting a HIIT workout routine is that it doesn’t take any fancy equipment. In fact, many routines require zero equipment at all, so you can do them from anywhere. If you’re planning to do your HIIT workouts at home, we got you. Head on over to the HIIT category on the free FitOn app for a library of effective workouts you can do from home. 

Creating a Custom HIIT Workout Routine 

The perfect HIIT routine for you is here! The best HIIT workout plan is the one that fits your schedule, fitness level, and is something you enjoy doing (at least most of the time). If you aren’t into sprints, try kickboxing! Keeping your HIIT sessions to under 90-minutes per week doesn’t mean you can’t be active the other days. It’s important to have a well-rounded fitness routine so use these days to try yoga, take a Pilates class, get in some extra strength training, or hit the trails for a moderate hike. And don’t forget to warm up before your HIIT workout and stretch after!