Finding time to work out is hard. Between work, family, and friends, there's just no room for spending two hours at the gym. A HIIT workout can help. HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. It's a kind of circuit training that can give you a great workout in a short period of time, so it's easy to fit it into your schedule.

As the fitness world continues to evolve, more and more people are turning to HIIT to get in shape. HIIT training puts you through a series of short exercises, done at high intensity, to get you burning calories and building muscle. HIIT training is highly adaptable, meaning it can benefit anybody, regardless of age, gender or goals.

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What Does A HIIT Workout Look Like?

woman working out

HIIT training is a style of circuit training which replaces slow-and-steady reps with shorter bursts of increased workload. Each circuit consists of multiple exercises that you do back-to-back, with short rest periods in between. One minute of exercise and 30-second rests is a common structure. Once you complete a full pass through the circuit, you take a longer rest period, before going back through the cycle again. HIIT workout cycles are highly customizable, so there is no mandatory number of exercises or sets to complete. A common structure for a HIIT workout is five exercises per cycle for three sets, with a brief rest between sets.


Benefits Of Interval Training

man working out

If you've never done a circuit workout before you may be wondering what the big deal is. It's just working out faster for less time, right? Wrong. Changing the pacing of your workout creates an entirely new workout experience. Even exercises which wouldn't normally be strong cardiovascular exercises will get your heart pumping. With no station lasting more than a minute in most HIIT workout programs, it's also much easier to keep yourself or students engaged. There's no time to get bored with an exercise before it's time to move on to the next one.

HIIT programs are also highly customizable. This is particularly useful if you're looking to workout with one or more friends and you don't have similar fitness levels or goals. Everyone doing a HIIT workout sets their own pace, so even if you and your partner have vastly different fitness levels, you can both push yourselves to the limit by simply changing the speed or weights involved. It's also very easy to adjust the target of your workout.


Working Out At Home Vs. Working Out At The Gym

woman working out at the gym

A HIIT workout gets the job done whether you have access to a gym or not. Training at the gym likely means you will have access to more potential exercises, but have competition for space. You might have to train during non-peak hours. You'll also have to consider your fellow gym users' time and needs.

Working out at home likely means fewer kinds of available equipment, but more access to it. Thankfully there are many different exercises for circuit training which use only body weight. By making just a few simple purchases, such as a bosu ball, kettlebell and agility ladder, you can put together many different circuits.

And whether you work out at the gym or home, a HIIT workout offers the chance to build an individualized program that you will enjoy.


Tweaking Your HIIT Workout To Hit Your Goals

With a HIIT workout, there are many ways to make small but effective changes to meet your needs. And if you're working out in a group, a customizable HIIT workout chan let people with different goals and skill levels work together.

Muscle Building Vs. Weight Loss And Toning

A common misconception with a HIIT workout is the belief that it's only useful as a cardiovascular burn. Circuit training workouts are also excellent for building cardio. If you want to increase muscle tone, use lower weights at with higher and faster repetitions. For muscle building, the weights go up, with a slower rep speed. The key in both scenarios is to keep working at a steady rate which pushes your limits over the course of the interval.

Your Pace Is The Right Pace

New students in a circuit class may be intimidated seeing individuals they perceive as being in better shape in the same class. This shows a misunderstanding of the best part of a HIIT workout -- everyone is working at their own pace. While the exercises at each station are the same for every student, there's no shame in changing the weight or going at a slower pace than another student. As long as a student is trying their best, the interval training will deliver benefits.


The Best Exercises For Interval Training

man and woman working out

Variety is the spice of life and a great tool for keeping your HIIT workout fresh. Mixing and matching exercises with different equipment opens up a world of possibilities, with a nearly limitless number of combinations using no more than a few pieces of workout equipment. Here are some great exercises options using common circuit equipment to get you started.

Body Weight Exercises


Body exercises remain a staple of most workout plans for two very simple reasons. First, don't need any special equipment. Second, they work. But don't let the fact you aren't using any added weights fool you into expecting an easy time. Used correctly, body weight reps can be an effective part of your HIIT workout program. Here are a few exercises you might already be familiar with.

Pushups

Place both palms flat on the ground with your arms straight. Extend your legs out and support your weight on your toes or, for lighter work, knees. Bend at the elbow until your chest is near the ground, then extend back up.

woman doing push up

Bicycles

Lie on your back with your right leg extended six inches off the ground, and left knee bent toward your chest. Place your hands behind your head and peddle your legs as if on a bike. To add more effectiveness, turn your core to touch each elbow to the opposite knee when it is bent toward your chest.

 

 

 

 

Bicycling Maximum Overload for Cyclists: A Radical Strength-Based Program for Improved Speed and Endurance in Half the Time: A Radical Strength-Based Program ... in Half the  Time (Bicycling Magazine)

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Wall-Sits

Sitting against a wall with no chair may look easy, but it's not. Sit with your legs bent to 90 degrees and your back flat against the wall, then hold for the entire interval. For a lighter load, alternate between 90 degrees and a few inches above 90 degrees in ten-second bursts. To keep your heart rate up you can add in speed punches.

Burpees

The full-body burpee has become a workout mainstay. Stand upright then place your hands flat on the ground. Jump your legs back to push-up position, complete one and jump them back to between your hands. Stand up and jump to complete the burpee.

Agility Ladder Exercises

The agility ladder forces you to move your feet quickly and precisely. In addition to being great for balance and agility, ladders also build your cardio. You can purchase a ladder or, if you have a dedicated training space, simply mark one on the floor with tape.

Toe Touches

Begin at one end of the ladder and run through on your toes, touching each foot down in each square.

Icky Shuffle

Step into the first square with your right foot then your left, then step outside to the right with your right foot and lift your left foot. Crossover to the other side of the ladder by reversing the steps, then continue down the ladder alternating as you go.

Two-in Two-out

Jump into the first square with both feet, then jump forward and spread your legs. Land with one foot on either side of the ladder level with the next rung. Continue down the ladder jumping into squares and on either side of the rungs.

Sidesteppers

Stand next to one end square with the foot nearest the rest of the ladder in the square. Hop and move that foot out while touching your toes of your other foot in the square. Move to the next square with a hop, touching your lead foot down, then another hop to move it out and replace it with your second foot as you move across the ladder.

Bosu Ball Exercises

The Bosu Ball combines a rounded side like an exercise ball with a flat plastic side to build balance while forcing your stabilizing muscles to engage with every rep. This allows users to customize the difficulty of exercises on the ball. Place the flat side on the ground for a standard rep, or go ball-side down to crank it up.

Squats

Stand atop the ball with your feet hips-width apart and perform squats atop the ball

Walk-ups

Assume the push-up position with your hands atop the ball. Lower your left arm so the forearm is lying on the ball, then repeat for your right arm. Push up with your left arm, then your right arm, to return to starting position.

Around The World

Stand facing the ball then hop and touch the top with your left foot. Hop again bringing your left foot back and touching the top with your right foot. Continue alternating while moving clockwise around the ball.

Crunches

Lie atop the Bosu ball with your lower back resting on it, and your knees bent toward your chest. Place your hands behind your head then crunch forward until your elbows touch your knees.

Heavy Ropes Exercises

Heavy ropes are long, thick, and hefty to wield. With the middle of the rope anchored around an immovable object, users grab the ends and move them to feel the burn. While they may not look like much from the outside, heavy ropes make your heart race and muscles work.

Alternating

Stand in a shallow squat with one end of the rope in each hand. Raise your right hand and lower your left, then rapidly move both arms up and down for the duration of the interval.

Slams

Stand as if ready for alternating, but keep both hands together at waist height. Bring both ropes up, then sharply down, repeating for the duration with a steady rhythm.

Clappers

Maintain a shallow squat with one end in each hand, starting with the two ends together at waist height. Extend both arms out to the side then bring them back together, repeating until the interval is complete.

Rope Jacks

Stand up straight with your feet together and arms at rest at your sides. Jump up and move your legs out to shoulder width while extending your arms over your head in arcing motions. Jump again and return your hands and feet to the starting position.

Cardio Exercises

Every exercise in a HIIT workout will get your pulse elevated but a dedicated cardio stage always helps. The key to using cardio in your circuit is to push it. With such a short period on the exercise, there's no need to worry about maintaining your pace.

Cone Sprints

Set up a series of cones in a line, with 5 to 10 yards between each cone. Beginning at one end run down to the first cone, then back to the start. Then run to the second cone and back to the start. Repeat, adding an extra cone each time until running the full distance with each lap.

Treadmill

Be sure to set a higher speed than if you were just using the treadmill on its own, as you will only be doing a short sprint.

Stationary Bike

Increase resistance for a more muscle building ride, or go fast on light resistance to focus on cardio.

Rowing Machine

The rowing machine is a great circuit station, providing a full-body cardio workout.


The Secret To A Successful Circuit: Doing It

At the end of the day, the best workout plan for you is one you'll complete. Designing a perfect program provides no value if you hate it and quit after the first session. With a HIIT workout program, you're in control. Exercises you don't enjoy get the boot for the next session, replaced by something better. The more circuits you complete, the better understanding of your own body you'll acquire. Over time you'll learn what works for you and what doesn't, and plan from there.

Quit wasting time worrying about finding the perfect program to start, and just get started. See what works for you and what doesn't every session and keep improving. Remember, there's no such thing as a wasted workout. Even if you have to complete a circuit with no weight while others are lifting heavy, you're still finishing class better off than when it started. If you're ready to get started building the best you that you can be, pick five of these exercises and go!