Everyone loves HIIT workouts for many good reasons! They're not time-consuming, burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time, can be done anywhere (no equipment required), and are extremely versatile. They can fit into anyone's busy schedule and fit anyone's lifestyle and goals – that's what makes them so great!
Although some HIIT workouts may look super complicated, yours doesn't have to be. We're going to give you a few tips on how you can create a HIIT workout plan that fits your lifestyle and fitness goals!
Get the structure down
The first, and probably most important, HIIT workout tip is to figure out how you want to structure your workout. There are so many different ways to go about it, and it all depends on the amount of time you have, your fitness level, and whether you want to use equipment or not.
So, if you don't know how to structure your HIIT workout, here are four elements to keep in mind:
- Intensity: Depending on your fitness level, the intensity of your HIIT session will vary. For beginners, performing at 60-85% of your max heart rate is good and helps you get the hang of it, but for more advanced trainers performing at 95% of your max heart rate should be the goal. But if you don’t have a fitness tracker to see where your heart rate is at, just make sure to give all that you’ve got. Intensity is key when doing HIIT workouts!
- Total workout time: The total workout time for HIIT sessions usually ranges between 15 and 30 minutes depending on the time that you have available and your endurance level, but it can be shorter than that. You can choose to work out for 10 minutes or even 5 if that’s what you feel you can do on that day. With time, you’ll build your endurance and last longer, but when you’re just starting just focus on getting it done so that you can grow used to that level of intensity.
- Working and resting times: HIIT workouts consist of short bursts of intense exercise followed by short rest periods, and you get to choose how much time you spend doing each. Ideally, your work periods will be longer than the recovery periods, but at the beginning you can twist the ratio so that you rest for a little longer, giving you time to catch your breath and prepare for the next exercise. A good example would be working out for 30 seconds at full intensity followed by 60 seconds of rest. You can also play with the intensity here, working out for 1 minute but at a lower intensity so that you don’t get tired quickly, and then resting for 2 minutes. Eventually, you’ll be able to work at the max intensity for longer periods and with little rest in between.
- Exercises: There are countless exercises that you can choose to include in your HIIT session, but that also depends on what you have available at the moment. HIIT workouts can fit any situation, so you can choose bodyweight exercises if you don’t have any equipment, go for weight training with dumbbells and kettlebells, or use gym machines such as the stationary bike if they’re available.
Here’s an example of a HIIT workout with no equipment:
Complete 3 rounds, 45 seconds per round, and 15-second rest in between each exercise. Rest for 1-2 minutes in between rounds.
- Reverse lunges
- Triceps dips
- Jumping squats
- Butt Kicks
This HIIT workout will take roughly 17-18 minutes depending on the amount of rest taken. But if you’re short on time, reduce the amount of time spent per exercise, or pick three exercises instead of five.
Alternate really hard exercises with easier ones
The point of HIIT is to give it your all in a short amount of time... but you also don't want to overwork yourself to the point of exhaustion. You want to make sure you maintain the same intensity throughout your entire workout, and one way to do that is by alternating hard exercises with easier ones.
For example, you don't want to do jumping exercises back to back, like going from burpees to jumping squats. Instead do burpees, Russian twists, and then jumping squats. This will give you a little time to catch your breath and make sure you're giving the next jumping exercises your all.
Another thing, don't work the same muscle group back to back! If you're including weights or resistance bands in your workouts, avoid going from one lower body exercise to another. Instead, start with a lower-body exercise and then move on to an upper-body exercise, and keep alternating. This will help you work your entire body, but also give your muscles enough rest before tackling another set!
Choose exercises you can do in one place
HIIT is very fast-paced, so you don't have a lot of time to run to another station or grab a piece of equipment. So, when choosing your exercises, make sure you're able to do them all in one place. This is easier when you're only doing bodyweight exercises, but if you're including different weights, make sure to keep them nearby so they're easy to reach!
Keep it simple (if you want)
Keeping things simple might help make HIIT more sustainable for you. Yes, HIIT workouts can be intense, but do they also need to be complex? Not really! A lot of people like to include a bunch of exercises in their HIIT session, and that’s perfectly fine if they’ve prepared for it, but it’s not necessary and you can have a perfectly good session with only 1 or 2 exercises, what matters is the intense and fast-paced aspect of it. Either route is fine, just pick the one that works for you.
If you have less time and want to go the simple route, sprint intervals and jumping rope are two examples of cardio exercises that can make up your entire HIIT routine because they make you work hard in a short period. This works best for those who don’t have time to schedule their workouts and just want to get them done without stressing out too much about what and how to do it, and it’s also easier for those who are just starting since you can better focus on your form and slowly but surely get the hang of it.
Modify when needed
Whether you plan your routine yourself or a personal trainer/app does it for you, if you feel like you need to change something, then go ahead and do it! Don’t stick to one routine because you feel like you should be able to do it no matter what. Modifying your workouts is a key part of any fitness journey in order to do what’s best for your body at all times.
You can lower the intensity of your workout if you’re feeling more tired than usual on a given day, or maybe you realize it’s too tough for you so you choose to keep it that way for a while. If you’re injured or have a hard time doing certain movements, you can always modify them so that you’re still working hard without putting your body under too much stress.
Modifying your routine also means increasing the intensity when you feel like you’ve plateaued and need more challenging movements to keep building your strength and resistance. Always make sure to listen to your body and respect its limits, and don’t think twice about modifying your HIIT session whenever you feel like it’s needed!
Fuel your body properly
HIIT workouts are intense, so you need to prepare your body beforehand so that it’s prepared for the challenge. First and foremost, make sure to drink lots of water! Hydration is important when doing any kind of exercise, and you know this, but it’s particularly crucial when you know you’re going to be breaking a sweat. Don’t forget to constantly hydrate during the session too, and after, to ensure that you’re making up for the amount of liquid that you lost during the workout. Your muscles need it for good performance and proper recovery, so always keep a water bottle with you or an electrolyte drink to keep your body in tip-top shape.
Besides keeping hydrated, fueling your body also means getting the nutrients that you need to crush your workout because they help keep your muscles in good shape while also giving you enough energy to burn during your session. Eat a nutritious snack 1 to 2 hours before your workout, and try to include enough protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats in it so that your body is covered on all bases. And make sure to refuel after! A good post-workout snack can be a protein bar or a shake made with your favorite protein powder to properly recover after an intense HIIT session.
Don't do more than 3 HIIT workouts a week
More doesn't necessarily mean better or that you'll get faster results! So, how often should you do HIIT workouts?
We recommend no more than three times a week, and make sure to have 24-48 hours of rest in between each session. This will allow your body to properly rest and recover from the intense training. Also, if you're already implementing a strength training routine, don't overdo HIIT. Both styles of training are high-intensity so doing them too much can lead to overuse and stress injuries!
You're ready to conquer your HIIT workouts
These tips will help you get the most out of each fat-burning HIIT session! Remember to hydrate a lot and to modify your routine according to your fitness level.
And if you need help structuring your routine or creating a plan for your next HIIT session, check out the Fit With Iulia app! Iulia plans new goal-focused workouts each week to help you get better and more effective results, and you can also use the app to track your macros, your progressive overload, and much more. Try your first workout for free by downloading the Fit With Iulia app, choosing a goal, and starting your first workout with Iulia – no subscription required!