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How to Design an Effective HIIT Workout

Last Updated on March 9, 2018 by Jeff

3 Tips For Fitness Enthusiasts of All Ages and Levels of Expertise

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts have been exploding in popularity over the past few years – and for good reason. A multitude of scientific studies have shown that HIIT exercises are the best way to optimize muscle gain and cardiovascular benefits while minimizing the catabolic effects that longer cardio exercises tend to cause. And, just as importantly in today’s busy world, HIIT exercises can usually be completed in as little as 20 to 30 minutes.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty details of designing a HIIT workout that fits your specific needs, let’s review a few of the basic HIIT facts that every fitness enthusiast should know:

  • Warming up before HIIT sessions is crucial to risk reduction and long-term health.
  • 2 to 3 HIIT sessions per week is enough to yield results. More than 4 can actually be counterproductive.
  • A one-day break between HIIT sessions is necessary for adequate recovery.
  • HIIT exercises that incorporate strength training have been scientifically proven more effective than HIIT workouts based entirely on cardio.
  • A “base training” of one month is recommended before beginning HIIT.
  • The core principle of HIIT: quality over quantity.

With those basic tips out of the way, let’s take a more in-depth look at how to design an effective and efficient HIIT routine.

1. Work Your Whole Body.

The longer a HIIT session goes on, the more efficient its calorie-burning effects are. This is why HIIT session that focuses on just one muscle group (such as the legs during a HIIT run) are ultimately ineffective. Instead, try to design interval training that alternatives muscle groups. 40 seconds sprinting, 20 seconds rest, 40 seconds of pushups, 20 seconds rest is ultimately far more effective than a mere alternation between sprints and rests, because it allows you to keep the HIIT going for much longer.

2. Find the Right Work to Rest Ratio

Working too hard can hinder your progress nearly as much as working too little – which is why finding the right balance for your skill level is so crucial. The following list offers a pretty good breakdown that you can use to discover your current skill level:

  • Beginners should feel challenged by a 1:2 ratio. (i.e. 30 seconds exercise followed by 1 minute of rest.)
  • Low-intermediate level fitness enthusiasts should strive for a 1:1 ratio.
  • High-intermediate trainers should strive for 2:1. (i.e. 1-minute exercise followed by 30 minutes rest.)(
  • Expert-level athletes can go as high as 5:1 (i.e. 50 seconds training followed by 10 seconds of rest.)

3. Keep in Mind the Principles of Progressive Training

In order to get stronger, you should be constantly challenging yourself with slightly more physical work than you were doing before. This is why you should be monitoring your HIIT program each and every week in order to ensure that what you are doing now is harder than what you were doing one or two weeks ago. This can be achieved through increasing running speed, by increasing the number of reps or sets, by increasing the amount of weight lifted, or by shortening your rest periods – but it must be done, no exceptions!

Continue your HIIT journey by visiting our High Intensity Interval Training Archives at Top Fitness Mag today!