HIIT workouts: what are they?
Wednesday, March 29, 2023

By Jon Michaels, Personal Trainer - Master Level 1 at Center for Health & Fitness

For those of you who haven’t heard of the term HIIT as it applies to exercise, the letters stand for “high-intensity interval training”. HIIT is a challenging mode of working out. It takes your workout to another level, as you push your pace out of your comfort zone. You can use HIIT with any type of cardio workout, whether it's running, using a stair climbing machine, rowing, or jumping rope. You can also do a strength based HIIT workout, using dumbbells, kettlebells, or any other combination of resistance equipment. The idea is to work at a very intense level and then back off for a slower recovery period, followed by another round of high intensity. There are different types of HIIT workouts, such as Tabata, where you move very quickly during 40-second work intervals, resting for 20 seconds, and EMOM (Every Minute on the Minute) where the work intervals are 60 seconds long. Using any of these, you’ll work up a sweat fast, challenging your body more than you think you are.

HIIT workouts are very good for your heart and lungs. You’ll lose weight, build muscle, and boost your metabolism. You don't have to work out as long as you would if you were keeping a steady pace.

There’s also a post-workout bonus: you’ll continue burning calories for about two hours after you exercise.

Intensity Level: High

It’s all in the name: High Intensity. You’ll work harder than you do when you do a typical cardio workout. But you’ll do it in spurts of 30 seconds to 3 minutes. Then you’ll have a chance to recover for about the same amount of time or longer.

Questions Answered

Is it good for beginners? Yes. You can start slowly with just three to four work intervals, then ramp it up as you get stronger. HIIT is not for everyone. You need great motivation and physical stamina to push yourself to the limit. If you’re not used to this type of training, start with short work intervals, and add time as you get fitter.  

Can a HIIT workout be done outdoors? Yes. You can walk, run or bike outdoors. You can even try chasing your dog for each speed interval.

Can a HIIT workout be done at the gym: Yes. This is a great workout to use on the treadmill, elliptical trainer, or stationary bike. Or you can do weight-lifting intervals using dumbbells or kettlebells.

Equipment required? None, unless you plan to work out on cardio equipment like a treadmill, elliptical trainer, or stair-climbing machine, or with weightlifting equipment.

Is it okay for me to try if I have a health condition?

Getting and staying fit is part of managing conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or heart disease. And HIIT is a great way to lose weight and boost your overall health.

This type of workout places big demands on your heart, so you should check in with your doctor to see if HIIT is for you. You should also start slowly, doing a few intervals for a short period of time.

You may not be able to do HIIT if you have joint challenges, like arthritis. Ask your doctor first.

If you're pregnant, you did HITT before the pregnancy, and you don’t have any other medical issues, then it may be a safe option for you during your first trimester. Check with your doctor first.

In the second and third trimesters, you may have physical limitations on your activities. You should only do high-impact training if you have your doctor’s approval. Make sure you drink plenty of water and don’t overheat.

High intensity interval training is a great option if you’re looking to try something new. If you exercise regularly, a HIIT workout is a great alternative to your routine. It offers many benefits and can be done in almost any location, with many different types of fitness equipment, or no equipment beside your own body. And when you’re done, a HIIT workout really gets the feel-good endorphins flowing.

To learn more about HIIT training, talk to a trainer or schedule an appointment here.