High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is an intense workout that effectively boosts aerobic capacity and overall health in a shorter amount of time than traditional workouts.
Former pro-athlete, celebrity trainer, and founder of Platinum Fitness, Peter Park, recommends HIIT workouts for his clients at every fitness level. He suggests one-to-two HIIT workouts per week, in addition to three-to-four days of low-intensity cardio exercise, such as walking or biking for 20 minutes to an hour.
“Cardio workouts build endurance while HIIT builds muscle strength and higher-end aerobic capacity,” says Park, author of Foundation Training: Redefine Your Core, Conquer Back Pain, Move With Confidence and Rebound: Regain Strength, Move Effortlessly, Live Without Limits.
Park has 23 years of experience training elite athletes and has designed the following HIIT routine:
Warm up: Perform five reps of the exercises in the graphic at a slow and controlled pace, modifying as needed, and repeat.
Main set: Perform eight reps of the exercises at a faster pace with minimal rest between each exercise, then take a 45-second rest. Repeat with nine reps, then 10 reps for a total of three cycles.
- Body weight squats: Perform squats to parallel while extending your arms fully as you descend. Ensure you engage your core and maintain proper posture throughout the movement. Aim for a complete range of motion, focusing on squeezing your quads, core, and glutes at the top of each repetition. Maintain a steady tempo while staying in control.
- Modification: Sit in a chair and stand back up.
- Push-ups: Keep your core engaged and maintain proper posture while performing push-ups. Maintain a controlled tempo and form.
- Modification: Perform the push-ups on your knees, or against a wall or table.
- Jumping jacks: Stay smooth and controlled throughout the movement.
- Modification: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and perform the jumping jack movement with your arms only.
- Stand-ups (aka Burpees): Begin by lying on your stomach on the floor with your hands at chest level. Jump your feet forward, contracting your abdominals, and stand up quickly. Return to the lying position and repeat the process.
- Modification: Press hands into floor and step back into a high plank position, then step forward and return to a standing position.
Tips for HIIT at Every Fitness Level
Beginner: For individuals just starting out, focus on incorporating intense periods of exercise lasting at least one minute into one’s regular training routine. For example, one could speed up sections of a morning walk or finish a workout with a burst of all-out effort. Don’t worry if you become breathless and have trouble speaking – this is how you’re building your aerobic capacity!
Intermediate: Individuals who already participate in regular exercise but are relatively new to HIIT should focus on incorporating two-to-three HIIT workouts per week into their regular exercise regime. Any exercise modality can be turned into an IT protocol as long as one can push themselves into near maximal or maximal exertion. To optimize benefits, research suggests higher intensities and longer intervals are best.
Advanced: In well-trained individuals, intense exercise is necessary to generate additional improvements in exercise performance and overall health. To achieve these benefits, extremely high-intensity sprint interval training (SIT) or long-interval HIIT at least three times per week may be necessary.
Prepare your body before engaging in HIIT: The intense nature of HIIT can be problematic for individuals with weaker musculoskeletal systems or chronic health issues. Additionally, healthy individuals unfamiliar with this workout type also risk injury. So, remember to build up your capacity for this workout by gradually incorporating periods of higher intensity into your regular exercise routine.
“Pushing your body to its physiological limits without proper training can lead to injuries, compromising your overall health and performance,” says Park.
Don’t perform interval training every day: While it may be enticing to engage in HIIT daily due to its wide-ranging benefits, this workout can strain the body and hinder physical adaptations when performed too frequently. Instead, opt for one-to-two HIIT sessions per week and mix them with low-intensity activities such as walking or yoga for active recovery.
Have fun: While incorporating HIIT into your exercise regimen, remember to prioritize your safety and comfort, but also do your best to make it enjoyable so that you stick with it. “HIIT workouts are much more fun with a training partner,“ says Park. “So, grab your spouse, friend, or co-worker and help each other get out of your comfort zone!”