HIIT Workouts | The Definitive Guide to High Intensity Interval Training

I remember the very first time I performed a HIIT workout.

Click Here to Read About "High Carb Fat Loss" - My Dieting Approach That is the Opposite of Keto.

I gave it a shot after reading a magazine article in Muscle Media 2000 in the beginning of 1996.

The article was titled “Pick Up the Pace! A High-Intensity Approach to Cutting Up”.

HIIT wasn’t a thing back then.

Everyone was still walking or jogging on a treadmill at a slow pace for 30-60 minutes to burn fat.

I gave HIIT a shot the very same day I read that article.

My gym was NOT ready for this.

HIIT on a treadmill[I distinctly remember there was a pretty girl about my age jogging next to me. She looked over at me like a crazy person, stopped her treadmill, then quickly walked to the locker room.]

The ladies like smooth running.

Back in 1996, sprinting alternated with walking was considered “creepy psychopath cardio”.

Unfortunately, I was quickly hooked on HIIT.

It got me lean, but the price was a much less interesting social life.

high intensity interval training to lose weight[I imagine this guy probably walked for 30 minutes straight, NONE of that herky-jerky HIIT cardio stuff.]

The bottom line?

I’ve been doing HIIT for a long, long time.

Scaring the ladies since 96′. 

Note: Luckily people fully accept HIIT now. Also, if I’m being honest, I have never dated a woman by meeting her in a gym environment.

I’ve also written about HIIT for over a decade.

I thought it would be cool to write one comprehensive blog post on the subject.

A High Intensity Interval Training mega-post…

Table of Contents

Part 1: What is HIIT
Part 2: Benefits of HIIT
Part 3: HIIT Timing and Calorie Burn
Part 4: HIIT Workouts for Fat Loss
Part 5: HIIT Workouts for Anaerobic Performance
Part 6: HIIT Workout Ratios and Hormones
Part 7: How Many Days Per Week Should You Do HIIT
Part 8: HIIT Cardio Machine Workouts
Part 9: Metabolic Resistance Training: HIIT Workout With Weights
Part 10: Bodyweight HIIT
Part 11: Jump Rope HIIT
Part 12: Sprint Intervals
Part 13: HIIT Group Classes
Part 14: Summary & Final Thoughts

Note: Since this post is large, I’ve included clickable navigation. Click any of the links to go directly to that section.

At the end of each section, I have a “Back to Table of Contents” link which will return you here.

Or you can just read from start-to-finish, beginning here…

What is HIIT?

HIIT is short for High Intensity Interval Training.

The general idea is to perform an intense activity alternated with rest -or- intense activity alternated with a less intense activity like walking (active rest).

HIIT can be performed with just about any form of exercise.

  • Cardio machines
  • Free weights
  • Bodyweight training
  • Jump rope
  • etc.

I will discuss all of these forms of HIIT and a few others along with sample HIIT routines for each of these methods.

My goal with this online guide is to give you a deep understanding of HIIT and how the routines I provide work for getting lean.

hiit workouts at home

[I’ll do my best to make it easy to read and will include lots of pretty images to go along with the explanations.]

Once you know how this all works…

You will be able to create your own customized HIIT workout perfect for your fitness goals.

So why do HIIT at all?

I’ll explain the benefits of HIIT next.

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The Benefits of HIIT

Most personal trainers and general fitness sites will tell you that HIIT is effective because it allows you to burn calories long after the workout has finished.

This is often referred to as “the afterburn effect”.

The scientific term is EPOC: Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption

The idea is that although HIIT workouts may be short, you burn calories long after the workout is complete.

I USED to believe this was the case.

It turns out that although there is an afterburn effect, it is MUCH smaller than we have been led to believe.

Battle Rope HIIT Workout

A game-changing paper came out which studied all of the various EPOC studies over the past 30 years.

LaForgia J et. al. Effects of exercise intensity and duration on the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. J Sports Sci. 2006 Dec;24(12):1247-64.

“…the earlier research optimism regarding an important role for the EPOC in weight loss is generally unfounded…The role of exercise in the maintenance of body mass is therefore predominantly mediated via the cumulative effect of the energy expenditure during the actual exercise.”

This paper came to these conclusions:

  • EPOC = 6-15% of the calories burned during the actual exercise.
  • Steady state cardio averages close to 7% EPOC.
  • Intense intervals can approach 14% EPOC.

What does this mean in actual calories burned?

If you walk for an hour on a treadmill at a steady pace and burn 600 calories, you will burn an additional 42 calories after the workout is over (7% of 600).

HIIT workout on a treadmill

If you perform HIIT on a stair climber for 20 minutes and burn 400 calories? You will also burn an additional 56 calories after the workout is over (14% of 400).

These aren’t exact numbers or anything.

The main point is that focusing on calories during the ACTUAL workout is more important than any small afterburn effect benefit.

This doesn’t mean that HIIT is useless.

HIIT has benefits outside of calories burned after the workout.

The intense portion of each interval typically is spent above your Lactate Threshold.

*I will explain lactate threshold in the next section.

This is the IDEAL level of intensity for rapid calorie burning and glycogen depletion.

HIIT Rest Periods

You can’t train at this level for very long, which is why the rest portions of the interval are important.

But…

Spending a portion of your workout in this rapid calorie-burning zone helps immensely if fat loss is a goal.

High Intensity Interval Training also has these benefits:

  • Releases Free Fatty Acids from Fat Cells
  • Improves VO2 Max
  • Increases Lactate Threshold
  • Increases HGH Release

In short, HIIT is a way to rapidly burn calories and stored glycogen while improving overall fitness.

Improving VO2 Max is especially interesting because people with a high VO2 Max burn more calories doing the EXACT same activity as someone who is less fit.

I wrote about this in detail here:

Aerobic Fitness for Fat Loss

How Aerobic Fitness Speeds Up Fat Loss

Another benefit of HIIT is improving the stroke volume of your heart.

I thought this was pretty cool…

During the recovery periods of intervals, your heartbeat slows down faster than blood flow. Because of this, the heart pumps more blood per beat (higher stroke volume).

There is even a recent study showing that interval training slows down the aging process on a cellular level.

I wrote about this study in detail here:

Interval Training and Aging

How Interval Training Slows the Aging Process

So although HIIT doesn’t have as high of an afterburn effect as we once thought.

It is extremely effective for fat loss, heart health and possibly a bit of anti-aging as a bonus.

Now that we know the benefits…

Let’s discuss the various setups of HIIT.

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HIIT Timing and Calorie Burn

This section will be a little more technical than the others, but I’ll do my best to simplify parts to avoid making it mind-numbing.

For fat loss, the main thing we are after is maximum calorie burn. The zone that does this most efficiently is training at (or above) your lactate threshold.

Here’s my simple explanation of Lactate Threshold.

At rest, your body produces a small amount of lactate and it also removes lactate at a similar rate.

When you perform a low-intensity exercise, like walking, blood lactate production and blood lactate removal balance out.

This is why you can walk for hours (if you wanted to).

At some point, when exercise intensity becomes intense enough, you produce more blood lactate than is getting removed.

lactic acid training zone and fat loss

This intensity level is called the Lactate Threshold.

This is one of the reasons you can’t sprint at your top speed for 10 minutes straight.

If we are using running as an activity, Lactate Threshold would be a fast jogging pace that you can’t maintain for very long. If you jogged at a slower rate, your blood lactate would still be removed at a slightly faster rate than it was getting produced. No lactate buildup, because you are still jogging below Lactate Threshold level.

This whole concept of Lactate Threshold is important to HIIT.

Think of HIIT as spending a portion of time above Lactate Threshold and a portion of time below Lactate threshold.

  • Walking = below Lactate Threshold
  • Sprinting = above Lactate Threshold

I’m just using walking and sprinting as an example, but HIIT can be also done with weights.

Lifting weights uses a higher percentage of fast twitch fibers, which use stored glycogen for fuel. A byproduct of this is an increase in blood lactate levels.

usain bolt lactate threshold

[If lactate threshold didn’t exist, Usain Bolt would probably hold the world record in the 400m, 800m, mile, and the marathon.]

There is a time element to activate lactic acid. The effort has to be intense enough for a long enough period of time for lactic acid to accumulate in the muscles.

Here are the energy systems used in exercise, based on time.

  • Less than 30 seconds: mainly anaerobic (100m sprint)
  • 30-45 seconds: anaerobic + lactic acid (200-400m sprints)
  • 45 seconds – 3 minutes lactic acid + aerobic (400-800m sprints)
  • 3 min+ mainly aerobic (jogging long distance walking)

These could all be duplicated with weightlifting. I’m just using different forms of running as an example.

For fat loss, I believe the sweet spot is in performing efforts in the lactic acid training zone, roughly 30-second to 3-minute efforts.

lactate threshold training

Training at a high-intensity level for 30 seconds to 3 minutes is very uncomfortable but is the most efficient way to burn calories and create a deficit.

In fact, I’d say all-out running for 2-3 minutes is probably the pace and time that burns through the most muscle glycogen.

This is pure lactic acid burning hell.

It doesn’t have to be running.

Any activity that becomes super challenging at the 2-3 minute mark will get the job done.

This could be burpees, a bodyweight circuit, etc.

Here’s where it gets a little tricky.

You can make short anaerobic efforts like weightlifting hit the lactate threshold, by reducing rest periods in between these efforts.

I’ll use a set of 5 reps in the squat as an example.

A heavy set of squats is mainly anaerobic (similar to a 100m sprint).

anaerobic HIIT workouts

The anaerobic system takes about 3 minutes for close to full recovery.

If you do another set of squats or another sprint BEFORE full recovery?

The energy system used starts as mainly anaerobic, then the lactic acid system kicks in and begins to contribute more to the effort.

The shorter the rest period in between anaerobic efforts, the more the lactic acid system contributes to these efforts.

This is one of the reasons people who do Crossfit are typically lean…

They are using weights in a way to train above the lactate threshold and burn a ton of calories.

Using weights in this way is called Metabolic Resistance Training. I have a section in this guide dedicated to this specifically.

So what work-to-rest ratios should you aim for?

It depends upon your goals.

I’ll discuss intervals for fat loss vs intervals for anaerobic performance.

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HIIT Workouts for Fat Loss

Remember, for fat loss, we are after training in a way that activates the lactic acid system.

So the goal will be to either train with each work portion of the interval between 30 seconds and 3 minutes.

Or…

If efforts are under 30 seconds, make sure the rest periods are short enough that you only get PARTIAL anaerobic recovery.

partial anaerobic recovery

This will mean that the lactic acid system has to kick in to assist.

There is a famous interval method called the Tabata Protocol that worked using this exact strategy.

The work portion was 20 seconds, but the active recovery portion was ONLY 10 seconds.

Because the rest was so short, the anaerobic system didn’t have time to recover. This meant that each work portion became fueled more and more by the lactic system.

I’m guessing that the final few efforts are largely fueled by the lactic acid system and since the effort is so intense it burns calories at a rapid pace.

If the work portion of your intervals are already over 30 seconds to 3 minutes, you don’t need to shorten the recovery periods as much.

I like to look at the ratios like this…

2-to-1 HIIT Work-to-Rest Ratio

This is the setup described in the Tabata Protocol. The work sessions are twice as long as the rest periods.

This is a physically demanding setup that works the lactic acid system hard.

If you are well rested or have a lot of energy I would say that alternating 2 minutes of work with 1 minute of active recovery is an effective way to rapidly burn calories.

It’s also pretty rough.

Save the 2-to-1 stuff for when you are really ready to push hard.

1-to-1 HIIT Work-to-Rest Ratio

This one isn’t as rough as a 2-to-1 setup. What I like about this setup is it is easy to track on a cardio machine.

A simple HIIT workout would be to hop on a stationary bike for 20 minutes and alternate 1 minute of hard pedaling with 1 minute of easy pedaling.

Another example?

You could do 30 seconds of kettlebell swings alternated with 30 seconds of rest.

1-to-2 HIIT Work-to-Rest Ratio

This one is good if you want enough recovery time to really push an exercise hard. The extra bit of rest means more anaerobic recovery.

A good example of this would be to go to a track and sprint for 30 seconds alternated with 1 minute of recovery.

The next sprint will still tap into the lactic acid system for a good calorie burn, but will also use more anaerobic power than if you only rested for 30 seconds.

1-to-3 HIIT Work-to-Rest Ratio

This workout setup is beginning to get into the range of where it switching over from max calorie burn to performance. It still is good for fat loss. It just doesn’t tap into the lactic acid system as hard as shorter rest periods.

This type of interval isn’t as taxing as the ones I have mentioned above.

An example of this would be pedaling on a stationary bike hard for 30 seconds alternated with 1.5 minutes of recovery.

Once the rest periods become much longer than the work periods we are getting into HIIT workouts aimed at anaerobic performance.

I’ll talk about this next.

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HIIT Workouts for Anaerobic Performance

All of the HIIT fat loss workout ratios I’ve listed above improve performance.

This is especially true when it comes to increasing lactate threshold, aerobic capacity, etc.

But…

If the goal is speed or power, the rest periods need to be long enough for as much anaerobic recovery as possible.

In this case, I really don’t recommend focusing on ratios as much. I would aim for a brief explosive effort followed by a timed rest period.

HIIT anaerobic rest periods

How long of a rest period should you aim for?

Max anaerobic recovery happens in 3-5 minutes. That is a long recovery period. I would recommend sticking to 2-3 minute recovery periods.

The reason I personally don’t include HIIT aimed an anaerobic performance is that this is essentially what you are doing when lifting weights.

Heavy squats followed by 3 minutes of rest have a lot in common with doing 100 meter sprints followed by 3 minutes of rest.

This is one of the reasons world class sprinters have muscular legs.

sprinting HIIT for leg definition

The reason I wanted to mention this type of HIIT?

Exercises like short sprints can be focused on fat loss if the rest periods are SHORT enough -or- increasing power and fast twitch muscle if the rest periods are LONG enough.

Knowing how to setup a HIIT workout for fat loss vs anaerobic power is good knowledge to have.

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HIIT Workout Ratios and Hormones

I just wanted to quickly mention that the ratios affect the hormones differently.

In the past, I’ve been taught this about HIIT and hormones:

Intense anaerobic efforts separated by long rest periods have the potential to increase testosterone levels… and when rest periods are shortened and the lactic acid system contributes, growth hormone becomes elevated.

This helps with fat loss, and maintaining muscle, etc.

We may have been wrong about this.

Apparently, shorter rest periods increase both testosterone and growth hormone more than longer rest periods.

HIIT Workouts and Hormone Levels

At least, that is what this study found:

Hormonal responses and adaptations to resistance exercise and training

Protocols high in volume, moderate to high in intensity, using short rest intervals and stressing a large muscle mass, tend to produce the greatest acute hormonal elevations (e.g. testosterone, GH and the catabolic hormone cortisol) compared with low-volume, high-intensity protocols using long rest intervals.

Either way, if you are after max strength and explosive performance aim for long rest periods.

*You are covered here if you do a typical resistance training workout with longer rest periods.

If you are after fat loss, shorten those rest periods up a bit.

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How Many Days Per Week Should you Do HIIT

There isn’t a set recommendation for how many HIIT workouts someone is able to do per week. A lot of this depends on how intense the workouts are or the fitness goals, etc.

I would say 1-4 HIIT workouts per week is a good guideline most of the year.

I also believe there is a benefit of doing a more aggressive HIIT approach maybe 1-2 times per year. I recommend 6-8 weeks of pushing hard to take increase your lactate threshold and aerobic capacity (VO2 Max).

After hitting peak aerobic fitness levels, you can back way off while still enjoying an enhanced ability to burn body fat.

This aggressive fat loss approach is one of the main topics I discuss in Visual Impact Cardio.

visual impact cardio

When you aren’t doing a 6-8 week push, you should back off a bit and follow these guidelines:

  • If your HIIT intensity is insane and incredibly draining, I would recommend keeping it to 1-2 days per week.
  • If you aren’t smoked after your HIIT workout, then perhaps 2-3 HIIT workouts would be fine.
  • If you purposely keep your HIIT sessions short or less intense, then up to 4 would be okay.

Make sure and listen to your body.

If you are experiencing chronic fatigue, back off on HIIT.

Remember…

Lifting weights in the gym is in some ways a form of HIIT with long rest periods.

One more thing…

If you are aggressively dieting with a strong calorie deficit, you have to be extra cautious with HIIT.

If you feel drained or worn out, walking is always a great option.

Instead of doing a 20 minute HIIT workout, hop on a treadmill and elliptical and walk at a slow pace for 40 minutes.

Walking is one of the only exercises where I’d say “the more the better.”

walking for fat loss

So when in doubt, walk.

Now that you know how HIIT works, here are some specific routines.

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HIIT Cardio Machine Workouts

I believe cardio machines are underrated.

Cardio machines allow you to make small incremental adjustments with precision. This is hard to duplicate without these machines.

The main reason I pay for a membership to LA Fitness is to have access to commercial grade cardio machines.

I could probably afford to buy enough free weights to have great resistance training workouts at home, but a high-end StepMill costs $4,000+.

If you have a gym membership, take advantage of these spendy machines.

Sample Stepmill HIIT Cardio Workout

“The Incremental Interval StepMill Workout”

Stepmill HIIT Cardio Workout

You are going to use a 1-to-3 HIIT ratio here (30 seconds of sprinting followed by 1.5 minutes of walking).

Increase the speed each time you do the sprinting portion of the interval and keep the walking speed the same.

This will make better sense, once you see it written out.

The Incremental Interval StepMill Workout

Level 6 for 1.5 minutes
Level 15 for 30 seconds
Level 6 for 1.5 minutes
Level 16 for 30 seconds
Level 6 for 1.5 minutes
Level 17 for 30 seconds
Level 6 for 1.5 minutes
Level 18 for 30 seconds
Level 6 for 1.5 minutes
Level 19 for 30 seconds
Level 6 for 1.5 minutes
Level 20 for 30 seconds

This takes a total of 12-minutes.

If I’m feeling energetic I will work my way back down from 20 sprinting speed to 19, 18, 17, etc. If I accomplish this, I rename this HIIT workout and call it “The Pyramid Interval StepMill Workout”.

Usually, the regular 12 minute workout is plenty, but about once per month I’ll complete a full pyramid interval on the StepMill machine.

Note: You can use this exact same setup on other cardio machines, but StepMill is my go-to machine for short and intense HIIT.

Sample Stationary Bike HIIT Cardio Workout

“The Stationary Bike Lactate Threshold Interval”

Stationary Bike HIIT Cardio Workout
Remember, the lactate threshold is a level where you begin to get a buildup of lactic acid.

The idea with this workout is that you are training at a speed slightly above lactate threshold for a period of time, alternating with a speed slightly below the lactate threshold for a period of time.

This doesn’t have to be exact.

For me, around level 10-11 is where I experience a bit of discomfort on the exercise bikes in my gym.

In this case, I’ll choose level 12 for the work portion and level 8 for the active recovery portion.

To really torch the calories, I’ll push the lactic acid system for 2 minutes for the work portion and limit the recovery portion to 1 minute.

So a 2-to-1 HIIT ratio.

The Stationary Bike Lactate Threshold Interval

Level 12 for 2 minutes
Level 9 for 1 minute
Level 12 for 2 minutes
Level 9 for 1 minute
Level 12 for 2 minutes
Level 9 for 1 minute
Level 12 for 2 minutes
Level 9 for 1 minute
Level 12 for 2 minutes
Level 9 for 1 minute
Level 12 for 2 minutes
Level 9 for 1 minute
Level 12 for 2 minutes
Level 9 for 1 minute

You can use this same approach with any cardio machine, but I find the stationary bike lends itself well to this type of HIIT.

An easy way to do this on a treadmill is to max out the incline and walk at a decent pace above and below lactate threshold levels.

The one downside of the stationary bike is that it can create a “pump” in the legs and build up the thighs more than some of the other cardio machines. If your thighs are larger than you would like, I would recommend doing this lactate threshold style routine on a treadmill at an incline or on a StepMill.

These involve the butt more than a stationary bike and won’t pump up the legs as much.

Sample Elliptical HIIT Cardio Workout

“The Simple 30-30 Elliptical Workout”

Elliptical HIIT Cardio Workout

I recommend the elliptical when you don’t have the energy for more intense HIIT, but you want to challenge yourself more than simply walking.

This is as easy and basic as it gets.

Choose a level higher than your lactate threshold (the level where you begin to experience discomfort) and choose an easy level for recovery.

Alternate every 30 seconds.

The Simple 30-30 Elliptical Workout

Level 13 for 30 seconds
Level 8 for 30 seconds
Level 13 for 30 seconds
Level 8 for 30 seconds
Level 13 for 30 seconds
Level 8 for 30 seconds
etc…

Keep alternating until you hit your desired time.

I recommend about 20-30 minutes.

This is different than a “lactate threshold interval” since the recovery portion is well below lactate threshold. Plus the 30 second time at a low intensity like this isn’t ideal for pushing the lactic acid system hard.

The elliptical is nice because it is a gentle way to get in HIIT, when your body is too worn down for more intense efforts.

It’s almost a therapeutic version of HIIT.

In fact, I’ve had clients do this in the past as a way to speed up recovery if they were excessively sore from a resistance training workout.

Sample Treadmill HIIT Cardio Workout

“The Increasing Incline Treadmill Workout”

Treadmill HIIT Cardio Workout

Most of the time when people use the treadmill for intervals, they do so by adjusting the speed.

This is fine and works well…

But there are times when you simply don’t have the energy or concentration needed for sprinting on a treadmill.

In this case, I recommend keeping at the same speed and adjust the incline for the work and recovery portions of the interval.

Before you choose a walking speed, you need to figure out the fastest speed you are able to walk when at the highest incline grade your treadmill reaches (level 15 incline typically).

I know I am able to walk at a walking speed of 4.0 mph at the max incline level of 15 that the treadmill of my gym reaches.

So in my case, I’ll choose a walking speed of 4.0 mph.

The Increasing Incline Treadmill Workout

Incline 2.0 for 2 minutes
Incline 10.0 for 2 minutes
Incline 2.0 for 2 minutes
Incline 11.0 for 2 minutes
Incline 2.0 for 2 minutes
Incline 12.0 for 2 minutes
Incline 2.0 for 2 minutes
Incline 13.0 for 2 minutes
Incline 2.0 for 2 minutes
Incline 14.0 for 2 minutes
Incline 2.0 for 2 minutes
Incline 15.0 for 2 minutes

I’d say this is a moderate HIIT workout.

It’s not crazy easy, but definitely not as demanding of some of the other HIIT workouts that really push the lactic acid system hard.

It is probably best to keep both the rest and the recovery session long when doing intervals that involve adjusting the incline on a treadmill.

The main reason is that it can take up to 10 seconds for the treadmill to change and reach your desired incline level.

It would be pretty hilarious to see someone attempt a 20/10 Tabata Interval using this method.

Sample Rowing Machine HIIT Cardio Workout

“The Full Body Rowing Machine HIIT Warmup”

rowing machine hiit cardio workout

This is one cardio machine I haven’t used as much as I probably should have. The irony is that I am probably built for rowing (a little over 6’3″ and around 195 pounds with crazy long arms).

What is cool about the rowing machine is that you don’t have to manually adjust speed or tension, so it would work well for a true 20/10 Tabata workout.

If you are experienced with rowing give that a try.

I plan on using rowing machine HIIT workout as a full body warmup before lifting weights.

I think the biggest strength of rowing machines is that they work almost every muscle in the body.

This is ideal for warming up for activities like lifting weights.

Here’s what that workout will look like.

The Full Body Rowing Machine HIIT Warmup

Slow and Steady Rowing 1 minute
Moderately Fast Rowing 1 minute
Slow and Steady Rowing 1 minute
Moderately Fast Rowing 1 minute
Slow and Steady Rowing 1 minute
Moderately Fast Rowing 1 minute
Slow and Steady Rowing 1 minute
Moderately Fast Rowing 1 minute
Slow and Steady Rowing 1 minute
Moderately Fast Rowing 1 minute

The goal is to push the work portion a bit above lactate threshold level and the slow portion a bit below lactate threshold level.

This is similar to the “Stationary Bike Lactate Threshold Interval”, except it is a bit shorter since I’m using this as a warmup.

These 10-minute warmups will give me time to really get the feel and timing for rowing.

Here’s a video of 2 US Olympians showing the proper form when using a rowing machine (they obviously know ideal form).

Once I become proficient at rowing, I may begin trying true Tabata intervals with 20 seconds of work alternated with 10 seconds of active recovery.

If for some reason this doesn’t make me sweat, I can alternate 2 minutes of intense rowing with 1 minute of active recovery.

Like I mentioned earlier, 2 minutes of intense effort is when lactic acid becomes evil. Most people don’t like to mess around with 2-minute efforts. You typically find people gravitate towards short efforts, like weight lifing or longer efforts like jogging.

If you want to maximize calorie burn, make sure you visit the 2 minute HIIT discomfort zone every once in a while.

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Metabolic Resistance Training: HIIT Workout With Weights

Metabolic resistance training (MRT) is essentially what CrossFit is designed around.

The idea is that you are getting an intense calorie burning workout while increasing strength and muscle mass with weights.

It works well too.

My main criticism is that I believe that if you are interested in gaining strength, you will get stronger following a more traditional strength training workout with rest periods in between sets.

This is also a pretty intense way to get a lactic acid-focused HIIT workout in.

With cardio machines, you can adjust intensity with more precision based on how much fatigue you are feeling.

HIIT with weights and barbell

If all your HIIT is based around MRT, you are probably only able to get 2-3 of these workouts in per week or you risk overtraining.

* Some people who push CrossFit too hard have been known to get a condition known as rhabdomyolysis.

Another criticism I have is that these are tough to accomplish in a typical commercial gym.

Most MRT HIIT workouts require you to hop between 3-4 different pieces of equipment. This is unrealistic in a busy commercial gym.

About 10 years ago, a reader of my fitness newsletter emailed me a pretty killer metabolic resistance training workout.

The brilliance of this workout is that it can be done with one barbell in one section of the gym.

Sample Metabolic Resistance Training Routine

“The One Barbell HIIT Circuit Training Routine”

Metabolic Resistance Training With One Barbell

Grab a barbell with a 10 on each side (65 lbs total), perform exercises with no rest in between (increase or decrease weight depending upon strength):

Perform these exercises back-to-back without taking a break in between exercises.

The One Barbell HIIT Circuit Training Routine

10 Romanian Deadlifts
10 Bent Over Rows
10 Hang Cleans
10 Front Squats
10 Push Presses
10 Lunges, each leg, with barbell on back
Rest 2-3 minutes, repeat 3 times

Try to work up to doing this 6 times in a workout, by the time you can do this 6 times your body will be torching a ton of calories.

This actually shares a lot in common with what I consider the most painful form of cardio, the 2-3 minute 800-meter race pace. Think of this as an 800-meter race, but you are using a variety of intense exercises over a 2-3 minute period instead of just running.

Since a lot of anaerobic effort is required, I’d say that you need to be cautious with this one.

If you are adding this in addition to doing a more traditional resistance training routine, I’d limit this to once per week.

If you are only doing this as your main workout, you could probably get away with doing this 3 times per week.

With metabolic resistance training, less is more.

I do think that daily exercise is important for long-term health, so on “off days” either choose one of the lower intensity HIIT cardio machine workouts or simply walk for 30 minutes.

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Bodyweight HIIT

One of the biggest benefits of bodyweight training is that it is possible to get a workout with minimal equipment.

Heck, some bodyweight HIIT workouts require zero equipment.

If you master bodyweight circuits you will have the ability to get a killer HIIT calorie burning workout done even in small spaces.

bodyweight HIIT

A hotel room, for instance.

Several years ago I was living in a tiny 18 ft X 18 ft apartment near the Amazon headquarters in Seattle.

At the time I lived there, I was managing a men’s suit store.

During the holidays I was working 65-70 hour weeks and simply didn’t have time to go to a gym.

I used this exact bodyweight HIIT routine.

Sample Bodyweight Circuit Training Routine

“The Crazy 8 Bodyweight Circuit”

This circuit involves 8 exercises.

Going through the work portion takes about 3 minutes. The exercises are done back-to-back with no rest in between until the 8th exercise is completed.

The recovery portion is 1 minute.

As I mentioned before, 2-3 minutes of work is right at the peak of lactic acid training and max calorie burn.

It’s a tough workout.

The Crazy 8 Bodyweight Circuit

60 Jumping Jacks
15-20 Spiderman Pushups
Walking Lunges (20 steps)
Spiderman Climb (10 per side)
Wall Squat (45-60 seconds)
Planks (60 seconds)
5 Burpees
High Knees (50 total)

I used this for about 2 months.

What is cool is that it helped me maintain most of my muscle while keeping body fat low.

To this day, this is the bodyweight circuit I will use when traveling.

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Jump Rope HIIT

I remembered doing jump rope as a kid and it being pretty easy.

Not so much as an adult!

Jump rope training exposes your weak points and my calves were hurting the first time I did these in as a full-grown adult.

Incorporating the jump rope into your workouts help to improve athletic ability while burning fat… especially when done as a HIIT workout.

I have written a detailed article on the basics of jumping rope and how to adjust your rope, etc:

Best Jump Rope Workout for Fat Loss

I have 2 different workouts outlined in that article, but here is a third.

Sample HIIT Jump Rope Workout

“The Jump Rope Tabata Workout”

jump rope HIIT workout

This may or may not be true Tabata level intensity. It’s hard to reach peak intensity levels in 20 seconds when jumping rope.

The Jump Rope Tabata Workout

1 minute slow jumping warmup
1 minute of rest
20 seconds of double unders
10 seconds of rest
Repeat 20 seconds of double unders and 10 seconds of rest at least 8 times (4 minutes)

With an exercise machine like a stationary bike you can increase the resistance to where 20 seconds is extremely tough.

With double unders?

They are challenging at first, but become easier over time.

Here’s a tutorial on timing of double unders.

Once they become easy, consider doing 30 seconds on and 30 seconds off for 10-15 minutes.

Even if this isn’t “true” Tabata, it is still a decent HIIT workout.

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Sprint Intervals

In the early 2000’s Phil Campbell came out with a book called Ready, Set, GO!.

Phil is a USA Track and Field Masters champion in the 100-meter dash and a few other events.

I remember picking up his book on Amazon and had a blast going to a track to do his workout.

Sample HIIT Sprint Interval Workout

“The Sprint 8 Workout”

HIIT sprint interval workout

This workout uses a 1-to-3 HIIT work-to-rest ratio, which is a combo of calorie burn while improving anaerobic performance.

Since he was a track competitor, it makes sense he would want a fat burning workout aimed at increasing speed as well.

The Sprint 8 Workout

Warm up by jogging for 3 minutes
Rest for 2 minutes
Sprint for 30 seconds
Active recovery for 90 seconds
8 total sprints followed by the recovery period

For more lactic acid calorie burn, you could shorten the rest periods to 60 seconds.

…but that would mean your sprints wouldn’t be as explosive.

The rest periods dictate whether it is geared more towards the lactic system or anaerobic system (as I discussed earlier in this article).

Simply adjust depending on your goals.

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HIIT Group Classes and Group Workouts

Crossfit is one example of a HIIT group workout.

It is extremely effective, but…

I want to discuss some other emerging HIIT type of gyms that are emerging, but maybe not as well-known.

Orangetheory Fitness

This one isn’t exactly unknown.

Orangetheory Fitness recently opened their 1,000th location.

CrossFit, in comparison, has well over 10,000+ locations.

I wanted to make sure to cover Orangetheory, because it is a HIIT workout that I may test out at some point.

orangetheory fitness hiit

I’m thinking of adding it in on Wednesdays.

Lift weights at my gym Mon, Tues, Thu, and Fri and then do an intense calorie burning Orangetheory HIIT workout on Wednesdays.

What is an Orangetheory Workout like?

I have not tried this workout yet, but found a detailed blog post that outlines a typical workout.

My First Orangetheory Fitness Class

Here’s is a brief outline of the Orangetheory Workout.

Orangetheory Workout Outline

There are three stations in the workout: treadmill, rowing machine, and weight room floor.

An instructor leads the class through rotating between these stations (workouts vary depending upon the instructor).

You wear a heart rate monitor and your heart rate is tracked and displayed on a big flat screen monitor along with the other people in the class.

The goal is to hit the “Orange Zone” (85+ percent of max heart rate) for about 12-20 minutes of a one-hour workout.

What is the price of Orangetheory?

The first workout is free and they provide you with a heart rate monitor. After that, you will need to buy a heart rate monitor which they sell for $99.

The price of classes vary by location, but I hear it is about $28 per class if you buy separate or can pay less per class if you buy monthly packages: Basic (4 classes for $59/month) Elite (8 classes for $99/month) Premier (unlimited classes for $159/month).

TITLE Boxing Club

I believe there are less than 200 locations (as I write this).

I’ve wanted to mix in a bit of boxing into my workout ever since Rocky Balboa was chasing chickens to get in shape.

They have a TITLE Boxing Club about 5 minutes from my house.

I don’t see a chicken coup outside of the building, so maybe it is BYOC (bring your own chicken).

title boxing club

This is a group HIIT workout done with 100-pound heavy bags.

The bags are spaced out evenly and a trainer leads you through the workout.

Here’s an article of a woman describing her first TITLE boxing HIIT workout:

A Knockout Workout With Title Boxing Club

Here’s a brief outline of the workout.

TITLE Boxing Workout Outline

 15 minutes of warmup and conditioning exercises. This is called a warmup, but it is more like a body weight HIIT workout.

 8, 3-minute rounds of boxing exercises (a total of 24 minutes). You are taught combinations and switch after repeating for a set time.

 15 minutes of core work involving planks, the medicine ball, etc.

As I have mentioned several times in this article, 3 minutes of intense effort works the lactic acid system hard and burns a lot of calories.

This workout uses 3-minute rounds.

I haven’t tried a TITLE Boxing workout yet, but my guess is that it is extremely effective for calorie burn and fat loss.

What is the cost of a TITLE Boxing Club membership?

It can vary by location, but here is what I have verified from a few different sources: $79 per month plus a $149 enrollment fee. It looks like you can pay as little as $59 per month if you pay for 12 months upfront.

CycleBar

There are a few different nationwide spining class boutique gyms.

Why did I choose to highlight CycleBar?

Well, this is what I imagine a spin class would look like in the newest Blade Runner movie.

The exercise room, called the CycleTheater, is lit up like an 80’s New Wave dance club.

(Hopefully, it doesn’t smell like hairspray and clove cigarettes.)

They have a state of the art sound system and audio-visual presentation.

This place looks clean, crisp and shiny.

Some people like spit buckets and chalk when they are working out hard (not me).

I like clean.

Here’s an article describing the workout.

CycleBar Review: A New Way to Ride

The workouts vary quite a bit, so I will just highlight what makes this place fancy and futuristic.

CycleBar Highlights

The state of the art CycleTheater has a concert-like feel with sound, lights and energy.

The theater is filled with Schwinn Carbon Blue Indoor Cycles (fancy spinning bikes).

Signup online with height, shoe size, and seating preference. Special cycling shoes will be waiting for you in a cubby and your bike seat will be set to the proper height.

Whenever you want to go to another class, you simply log in and choose your seat. Your shoes will be in the cubby matching your chosen seat number and the seat of your bike will be set to the ideal height.

There is a location about 4 miles from me.

They NEED to have an 80’s New Wave session each week.

If they decided to do this, Im in!

The cost of a CycleBar workout?

The first ride is free. After that, it’s $18 per class, but the price drops if you buy classes ahead of time in bulk. Each class lasts 50 minutes.

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Summary & Final Thoughts

Social media is loaded with various HIIT workouts.

In the articles and videos, the “afterburn effect” is emphasized.

I am surprised that the afterburn effect (EPOC) is STILL the big selling point of HIIT.

Here’s a link to the comprehensive HIIT study I mentioned earlier along with an excerpt:

“…the earlier research optimism regarding an important role for the EPOC in weight loss is generally unfounded…The role of exercise in the maintenance of body mass is therefore predominantly mediated via the cumulative effect of the energy expenditure during the actual exercise.”

We found out 12 years ago that we were wrong about the significance of the afterburn effect of HIIT.

afterburn effect of HIIT

The good thing is that many of the HIIT workouts I see online are designed well.

HIIT can work wonders if enough time is spent above lactate threshold, in a way that doesn’t lead to overtraining.

Maybe it doesn’t even matter if people know how all of this works (I barely know how this computer works that I’m typing on).

I do have a favor to ask.

If you see a Youtube’r or someone on Instagram or Facebook talk about how “many more calories are burned after the exercise is complete”?

Can you point them to this article?

Click here to learn how to get ultra-lean by eating a high carb diet (opposite of keto).

This article/guide will gently teach them the real magic behind HIIT.

Cheers,

-Rusty Moore

As a former fitness coach to fashion models, I can teach you how to increase muscle definition without adding size.

Click Here to check out my premium courses.

I've been writing about HIIT for 10+ years. I thought I'd give a shot at creating the ultimate high intensity interval training article (workouts included).