Getting Started with High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Getting Started with High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Mar 19, 2021

Are you just getting started on high-intensity interval training? Here are some of my favorite tips and HIIT exercises.

Working out at home offers a number of advantages. You don't need a costly gym membership, you no longer have to waste time traveling to and from the gym and you can enjoy working out in privacy, without all those other eyes watching. However, many athletes assume they just can't get a truly difficult workout in at home. High-intensity interval training is the answer to that concern.

What Is High-Intensity Interval Training?

High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is a relatively simple method of training that can produce big results. A HIIT workout consists of short but difficult periods of exercise. The periods of exercise can be anywhere between 10 seconds and 5-minutes long. The most important element of an HIIT workout is to exercise as hard as you can for the duration of the exercise period (source).

Benefits of HIIT

High-intensity interval training is a relatively new way of working out, but research is regularly unveiling new benefits of this form of exercise. In fact, one study of active men and women published in the American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, showed that only two minutes of interval training with sprints improved mitochondrial function as well as 30 minutes of steady, moderate exercise. That means just two minutes of running as hard as possible can be as beneficial to your fitness as 30 minutes of running or performing another moderate exercise.

According to Eraldo Maglara, N.S.C.A.-C.P.T., “HIIT has demonstrated to be the most effective training protocol for losing weight, building stamina, conditioning your body, and revving up your metabolism.

HIIT vs. Steady-State Exercise

Once you've discovered HIIT, you may be wondering if you should completely ditch your usual running, walking on the treadmill, swimming or other steady-state exercise routine. Afterall, who wants to work out for 30 minutes or an hour when you can work out for two or four minutes? But experts suggest that both forms of exercise are important, and blending them can be most beneficial to your health and fitness.

"The truth is that both high-intensity interval training and steady-state cardio are effective in their own ways," Jonathan Mike, MS, CSCS, says.

HIIT vs. Tabata

There really is no versus when it comes to high-intensity interval training, because Tabata is a form of HIIT. However, the Tabata method, named for founder Dr. Izumi Tabata, only requires four minutes to complete. High-intensity interval training is a term that encompasses all workouts that include short bursts of intensity followed by short periods of rest. Tabata is a more specific form of HIIT, which involves 20-second bursts of intensity, followed by 10 seconds of rest for four minutes in total. When performing a Tabata, you perform the same exercise for the full four-minute round.

Instead of pitting one against the other, experts suggest giving both methods of exercise a try. Tabata workouts can be extremely beneficial for those days when you just don't have time to squeeze in a longer workout, while regular HIIT workouts can be longer and include more workout variety in a single session. Both encourage you to be competitive with yourself, trying to beat your number of reps every time you perform the same exercise (source).

Do's and Don'ts of HIIT Workouts

Like all exercise programs, there are ways to perform HIIT workouts correctly and incorrectly. The following are some of the do's and don'ts of high-intensity interval training.


  • Focus on form before performing exercises too intensely. Exercising intensely with improper form can result in sprains, strains, muscle imbalances, posture problems and more.
  • Consume protein to repair torn or damaged muscle fibers. HIIT exercises result in small muscle tears, and consuming protein after working out can ensure you're healthy and prepared for your next workout.
  • Rest and recovery is an essential part of every workout program. We know you want to see results immediately, but it's recommended to rest 48 hours between full-body HIIT workouts. Use the "off" days to perform your steady-state cardio routines.


  • Don't limit your workout energy by limiting your nutrition. HIIT workouts are demanding, and you'll need plenty of protein and carbohydrates to complete them. Instead, reduce your intake of processed, high-sugar and high-sodium foods, and make healthier choices when choosing or cooking meals.
  • Unlike some weightlifting routines, HIIT isn't meant for working a single muscle group throughout the entire session. HIIT is most effective with full-body exercises, such as bodyweight squats, jumping rope, mountain climbers, rowing or sprints.

Learn more: High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): The Ultimate Beginners Guide

HIIT Routines You Can Do At Home

One of the greatest benefits of HIIT is that you can perform complete exercise routines quickly and in the comfort of your home (or backyard).


Complete each of the following exercises for 45 seconds (maximum intensity) followed by 15 seconds of rest (source).

  • Stationary skaters
  • Burpees (with or without jump)
  • Seated tuck jumps
  • Plank with kick
  • Butterfly squats
  • Rising lunge


Perform each exercise for one minute, followed by one minute of rest.

  • Hand-release push-ups
  • Plyo push-ups
  • Russian twists
  • Single-leg burpees
  • Superman with lateral raise
  • Lateral lunge with hop
  • Tuck-ups
  • Mountain climbers
  • Plank Jacks
  • Squat thrusts
  • Plank-ups
  • Flutter kicks
  • Star jumps

Learn more: 13 Killer Exercises to Mix Into Your HIIT Workout


These exercises are split into groups of two. For each group, perform 20 seconds of exercise A, followed by 20 seconds of exercise B, then rest for 20 seconds. Perform this same routine to complete four rounds for each group.

Group 1

A) Squat jacks

B) Pushups with oblique knee (alternating sides)

Group 2

A) Star jumps

B) Mountain climbers

Group 3

A) Thigh slap jumps

B) Squats with front leg slide

Group 4

A) High knees

B) Jumping lunges

Learn more: Advanced HIIT Workout - Total Body High Intensity Interval Training