HIIT For Beginners – The Ultimate Guide

HIIT For Beginners

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is more popular now than ever before. If you looked at the fitness industry, you’d see a ton of branded programs such as P90X, Insanity Max, Tabata, Les Mills Grit, SoulCycle, Sprint 8, Turbulence Training, CrossFit, and much more.

All these workouts are based on variations of HIIT. There are differences between each program for marketing purposes and branding. Yet, the core principles remain the same.

Maximum effort during the exercise followed by short breaks… they are repeated over and over for the duration of the workout session. Usually, HIIT workouts can last anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes.

You really don’t need to do more than that. If you’re giving it your best, 15 minutes is more than enough. The branded workouts may last longer, but you don’t need to follow those. You can easily structure your own HIIT workout and do that at maximum intensity for 10 to 15 minutes.

In this article we’ll cover this areas:

  • Discover the 6 Amazing Benefits of HIIT
  • Are You Healthy Enough for HIIT?
  • What does a good HIIT Set look like?
  • 9 Common HIIT Mistakes to Avoid
  • Making Time for Your HIIT Workouts

Now let’s look at the benefits of HIIT and why everyone is so crazy about it.

Discover the 6 Amazing Benefits of HIIT

Benefits of HIIT
Benefits of HIIT

Less time

Unlike long steady state cardio sessions where you jog for an hour, HIIT is fast. You can squeeze in a workout in 15 minutes. It requires no equipment if you’re doing bodyweight exercises, and it doesn’t need much space.

In fact, you could pump out a quick workout during your lunch break at work. The cubicle has enough space for you to do a HIIT workout only comprised of burpees and jumping lunges. This is just an example, and you could do much more… whatever it is, you’ll be gasping and sweating like you ran a marathon. That’s how effective HIIT is.

Faster results

HIIT puts your body in a fat burning mode for 12 to 16 hours. You’ll be burning calories and fat throughout the day. This will translate into faster fat loss overall. Your results will come much quicker, and you’ll be even more motivated to keep going.

Interesting

Unlike boring old cardio sessions where you can let your mind wander to the last episode of Game of Thrones, with HIIT you’ll barely have time to breathe.

Things will be much more interesting because the exercises will be different, and you’ll be moving from one exercise to the next. Your body won’t get the time to adapt or get into a rhythm.

Boosts your metabolism

HIIT makes you burn more calories even when you’re in a rested state by boosting your metabolism. This is the secret to keeping off the fat that you burn. Your body is functioning optimally, and it will be harder to gain weight when your metabolism is high.

Increases your strength and stamina

High intensity will improve your cardiovascular endurance. It’s far more effective than long cardio sessions because the intensity places a very high demand on your body that’s forced to adapt.

Strengthens bones and prevents arthritis

HIIT workouts usually tend to be full body workouts. So, you’re doing resistance training moves at a rapid pace. You’ll also get the benefits of resistance training – one of which are stronger bones. This will help to prevent arthritis too.

These 6 benefits should convince even the most diehard skeptic that HIIT is highly beneficial and effective. It isn’t easy, but it works wonders when it comes to fat loss and getting ripped. Do give it a try today.

Are You Healthy Enough for HIIT?

HIIT exercise
High-intensity interval training

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is one of the most demanding types of workouts out there. It’s highly effective at helping one to shed the suborn fat and get insanely fit. However, because of its extreme nature, this style of training is not suitable for some people.

There are some questions below that you should ask yourself before you embark on HIIT. If your answer is no to any of the questions below, HIIT is not for you.

Has your doctor cleared you?

It’s best to ask your doctor before starting on a new exercise regimen. You may have certain medical conditions that make HIIT workouts hazardous to your health. Speak to your doctor first.

Any existing/past injuries?

HIIT is not for you if you have past injuries that might get worse by hard training. For example, if you have bad knees, sprinting repeatedly is only going to inflame your knees and put you out of commission the next day.

You need to know your body well. You can still lose weight and get fit without aggravating your health issues.

Have you experienced chest pain?

This is a HUGE problem. If you have chest pain now and then, HIIT is definitely not for you. The exertion and panting will wreak havoc on your breathing and cardiovascular system.

Someone without chest pain may only feel exhausted. However, someone with other conditions may feel breathless and even collapse. There are records of people dying due to excessive training.

Do you have blood pressure problems or a heart condition?

Once again, having these two health issues will mean that HIIT is not suitable for you. Especially when you’re on medication to treat these conditions. While studies have shown that HIIT can reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure, the risks are too high to take a chance.

You’re better off with moderate intensity cardio and weight training. Nobody needs to force themselves to do HIIT to lose weight or get fit. You can easily achieve both goals with a sensible diet and training program.

People usually do HIIT to accelerate their progress and see results faster. But if your health conditions prevent you from adopting this protocol, you’re not lost. You still have options that will take you to your goals.

They may take longer, but you’ll be safe… and you’ll reach your destination.

Do you have dizziness, balance problems, etc.?

If you suffer from vertigo or you’ve been known to get dizzy or even faint occasionally, HIIT is not for you. High-intensity training requires you to be fast, fit and coordinated.

Balance and full alertness are expected. The goal is maximum effort. Most HIIT athletes don’t even need to give dizziness and balance issues a second thought. They’re focused on expending all their effort on doing the most reps as they can.

If you’re worried about getting dizzy, or if hard workouts make you feel light-headed, you’re better off with cardio that’s moderate and manageable.

Finally, if you know of any other reasons why HIIT is not a good fit for you, trust your instincts and avoid it. HIIT is great for many people, but it’s dangerous to some. It’s always better to err on the side of caution.

How to Structure a HIIT Workout

HIIT Structure

Structuring a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is not that hard. You don’t need to spend a hell lot of money for Les Mil Grit or SoulCycle classes if you have a tight budget.

You can easily create your own HIIT workouts and choose whether to do them at home or outside or even in the office. You can either use bodyweight training or weights. HIIT is very flexible and your imagination will only limit your workouts.

Now let us create our own HIIT workout.

Duration

For starters, you need to know just how many minutes you’re going to train for. 15-minute workouts are perfect for giving your maximum effort and having sufficient rest intervals in between.

You can either train for 45 seconds and rest for 15 seconds or you could train for 30 seconds and rest for 30 seconds. Ideally, you shouldn’t rest for more than 30 seconds per interval.

You want to maintain the intensity of your workouts. It’s common to see people doing 30-minute HIIT sessions, and you may wonder if you’re missing out. The truth is when you’re giving your maximum effort, you’ll be exhausted within 15 minutes.

At most, 20 minutes will leave you drained. There’s no point in dragging out the last 10-minutes with less than maximum effort. Short, excruciatingly hard workouts are the way to go.

Full-body workouts

Now that you know how long to train for, you need to know what exercises to do. Your goal should be to make your workout a full-body workout. Unlike bodybuilding where you train one or two body parts per day, with HIIT, the goal is to work the entire body.

Your workout will be more effective for the more muscle groups you recruit. So, your exercises should mostly be compound movements.

Squats, burpees, pushups, kettlebell swings, box jumps, jumping lunges, etc. will work for several muscle groups at once. You just need to choose a few effective compound exercises to include in your set.

Do note that you should be able to immediately go into the exercise the moment your rest period is over, and the beeper starts beeping. So, avoid picking exercises like the bench press which will require you to lie down and get the bar up and be careful.

All that takes time and it’s time that you can’t afford to spare. Burpees are a perfect exercise for HIIT workouts. The moment you hear the beep – BOOM! You’re off and moving. No time to think or set up.

Rest intervals

Your rest intervals will depend on your level of fitness. The fitter you are, the less rest you need… but no matter what, do ensure you have a rest interval for your heart to get a break.

In the Tabata protocol, the rest period is only 10 seconds. Your rest interval could be anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds. So, plan a workout that leaves you exhausted but you should have enough energy to keep going after the rest period is up.

Don’t overwork yourself to a point where you’re wiped out by the second set.

Bodyweight or dumbbells

You can choose to either use bodyweight training exercises or dumbbells. Of course, there are other pieces of equipment like kettlebells, resistance bands, stability balls, etc. that you can use to make your workout more challenging.

Whether you choose to go with bodyweight training or weights is up to you. Initially, you may wish to stick to bodyweight exercises… and when you’re fitter, you can progress to weights.

As you can see, it really isn’t that difficult to put together your own workout. You can Google or search on YouTube for bodyweight HIIT routines and so on. You may choose to either follow those or create your own. As long as you make HIIT a part of your training program, you’ll be on the right track.

What does a good HIIT Set look like?

The exercises you choose to do in an interval training session does not have to be complicated. In fact, complexity and intensity don’t go well together. When structuring a HIIT workout, you don’t want more than 5 exercises in a set.

This will make it easy to remember what you need to do next. For example, if your routine looks like this:

  • Squats (40 seconds)
  • Rest (20 seconds)
  • Burpees (40 seconds)
  • Rest (20 seconds)
  • Pushups (40 Seconds)
  • Rest (20 seconds)
  • Jumping Lunges (40 seconds)
  • Rest (20 seconds)
  • Skater Hops (40 seconds)

HIIT workout routine
HIIT workout infographic

At one glance, you’d know which exercise you need to do next. This is very important because when you’re training at maximum intensity, you’ll be exhausted and even remembering the simple routine may be difficult.

You may wish to write it out and stick it on the wall. This will be an easy reference when you’re catching your breath during the rest interval, and you’ll know what you need to do next.

The key to choosing a good exercise is to pick one where you can transition between rest to action without losing any time. Avoid exercises where it takes time to build up momentum or requires some set-up time.

Cardio-based HIIT

Using cardio-based activities really simplifies the entire workout. For example, if you’re sprinting, you know that for 40 seconds, you’ll be sprinting and running as fast as you can. The moment it’s your rest interval, you can stop.

When the timer beeps, you’re off like a bullet again. It’s very easy to stop and start. The training, however, is going to be really arduous, but that’s how HIIT is. There is no relaxing high-intensity workout out there.

You can choose one of the exercises below for cardio HIIT. There are many more out there, but these are probably the best.

  • Sprinting
  • Spin bike
  • Rowing

Bodyweight exercises

Bodyweight exercises are perfect for those who do not want to get a gym membership and wish to work out in the privacy of their own home. You can also do these in a hotel room, office cubicle, etc.

You really don’t need much space to train. As always, you’ll be training at maximal aerobic capacity. When doing bodyweight workouts, mix up a few exercises so that you get a full-body workout. You’ll burn more calories and become leaner.

Below, you’ll find some exercises that you can use. You can always find more online or on YouTube.

  • Running on the spot
  • Lunges
  • Pushups
  • Burpees
  • Bodyweight squats
  • Jumping jacks
  • Skater hops
  • Box Jumps

Adding weights

All your HIIT sessions can be made more challenging by using some weights. You do not have to use very heavy weights because you don’t want the excess poundage to slow you down.

Using dumbbells while you do box jumps, lunges or squats will make the exercises more challenging. The same applies when you use resistance bands to do pushups, squats, etc.

To wrap things up, just know that the exercises you choose should be simple to do and be done as fast possible. You want to aim for as many reps as possible (AMRAP)… and transition from action to rest and back to action fluidly.

Do 3 HIIT sessions a week and ensure that you take a day’s break between each workout. With consistency, you’ll see a big improvement in about 3 to 4 weeks. You’ll be leaner, stronger and fitter.

9 Common HIIT Mistakes to Avoid

HIIT Mistakes
HIIT Mistakes

High-intensity interval training is great for weight loss and boosting your overall stamina. If your target is to increase the capacity of your muscles and get shredded, HIIT is right for you.

Or not?

In this article, we’ll look at 9 of the most common mistakes people make when engaging in high-intensity workouts. Be mindful of them and steer clear of these pitfalls. This will allow you to get the best rewards from all that sweaty effort and exhaustion.

Not enough effort

HIIT workouts are tough. There’s no denying that. The good news is that they’re not long workouts. Ideally, you should not train for more than 15 minutes. Beyond that and diminishing returns will set in.

During the 15 minutes you’re training, you must work with maximum intensity. You absolutely must not hold back. Give it your best. It’s normal to gasp and pant and groans. That’s just how it is. Not expending maximum effort will diminish the effectiveness of your workout.

Training too long

As mentioned earlier, try to stick to 15 minutes or less. The Tabata Protocol, which is considered as one of the most effective HIIT workouts lasts for only 4 minutes.

Training for an hour at high intensity is not right. Hardly anybody can… and you don’t need to. Short, intense sessions are the key to getting lean and fit.

Training too often

When you’re starting off, you can do HIIT twice a week. As you get fitter, you may go up to 3 or 4 times a week. Always try to have a one-day break between each HIIT sessions. Separating them into breaks is better than doing them consecutively.

Many beginners try to do them daily and end up exhausted and drained. The workouts become dreary, and there will be a tendency to skip workouts and finally quit. So, take a break.

Insufficient recovery time/too much recovery time

You need sufficient rest intervals between each exercise. Ideally, a 15 to 30-second break will do before you move on to the next exercise in your set. If you go from exercise to exercise with no rest, you’ll be too tired to give your best.

The rest is meant for your heart to slow down a little so that you can put full effort in the next round. On the other side of the coin, don’t have a 2-minute interval between each exercise. That’s too much time for the workout to be effective.

Not prioritizing the workouts

The biggest mistake of all is not working out. Prioritize your HIIT workouts over your TV time, social media, etc. All you need is 15 minutes. That’s just 1 percent of your day. Everybody has time for a quick HIIT session.

Using weights that are too heavy

HIIT is about speed. If your weights are too heavy, you’ll be struggling to move the weights. So, pick a weight that will allow you to do about 15 reps in quick succession during your training phase. HIIT is not the same as training for hypertrophy.

Not warming up

Spend 2 minutes walking on the treadmill or cycling on the stationary bike. Get your heart pumping a little. Doing a HIIT workout with cold muscles is not a good idea.

Training on an empty stomach

HIIT is NOT fasted cardio. Eat a light meal about an hour prior to your workout. This will raise your blood sugar levels a little, and you’ll have more energy for your workout.

Don’t worry about insulin spikes, etc. The workouts are so hard that you’ll burn through the fat stores in no time at all.

Poor form

Never sacrifice form for speed. Maintain proper form at a high pace. Doing the exercises with poor form will make them less effective, and you may get injured.

These nine mistakes are to be avoided at all cost. It’s inevitable for some of them to creep up when you’re not expecting – especially poor form and too much recovery time. These occur when you’re exhausted.

So, be alert and watch out for them. Use HIIT to get shredded and fit. You’ll look and feel better than you’ve ever felt in 3 to 4 weeks.

Making Time for Your HIIT Workouts

Making Time for HIIT
Making Time for HIIT

If you were to think of the most common excuse when it comes to working out there’s only one that comes to mind – “I don’t have the time to exercise!”

The good news is that with high-intensity interval training, you really don’t need that much time at all. At most, you need 2 minutes to warm up and about 15 minutes to train. That’s about 1 percent of your day.

Yet, even with HIIT, people still make excuses that they don’t have the time for it. In this article, you’ll discover 5 ways to find pockets of time for you to get a quick workout into your daily routine.

It may all seem obvious… yet, common sense is not a flower that grows in everyone’s garden. Now and then we need reminders to get us on track.

Let’s see how can we make some spare time to exercise:

Get off social media

This is without a doubt the biggest ‘time waster’ these days. What most people do after waking up is they check their social media accounts.

They’re hooked on social media and can’t take their eyes off their mobile phone screens. If you can get off your social media using habits for a while and get the workout done.

You will be surprised by seeing how much time saves. It’s an addiction that no one is talking about. So, get the workout done first, and when you’re laid out on the floor in a heap of exhaustion, you can pant and scroll through your Facebook or Instagram feed.

Now, you’ve achieved something productive, and you still can have indulged in your social media and have fun while recovering.

Work out during your lunch break

Got an hour lunch break at work? Train for 15 minutes in your office or cubicle. A set of burpees, jumping lunges and pushups will not require much space. When you’re done with 15 sets, you’d have completed your workout for the day.

Just remember to bring your workout wear and do check if there are shower facilities at your workplace.

Delegate tasks

When you delegate tasks, you will be amazed by how much time you can save. You can either ask your spouse to help you with a few chores or pay someone to do it for you.

Don’t gasp yet. Save it for the workout. Paying a kid on vacation to mow your lawn will only set you back by a few bucks. You could use that time to train.

The same applies to ordering a food delivery service that saves you time from cooking or using a laundry service, etc. You don’t need to free up a lot of time. These workouts are short. So, you won’t be breaking the bank.

Ads waste your time

Record your TV shows so that you can ‘fast forward’ during the ads. An average hour-long TV show is usually 45 minutes of content and 15 minutes of advertisements. Don’t waste time sitting through the ads.

You save 15 minutes by not watching ads and 15 minutes is all you need for a workout. Isn’t it fantastic how it all fits in so neatly?

Wake up earlier

The simplest way to get the workout over and done with is to get up 30 minutes earlier. Consume half a glass of a sports drink so that you raise your blood sugar level a little, and then get started on your workout.

15 minutes to train and the remaining 15 minutes to sit under the fan and cool down. You can then go about the rest of your day without constantly worrying about having to work out.

A HIIT workout only needs to be done 3 times a week. That’s about 45 minutes in total a week. You can always find time to do it.

“If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.” – Ryan Blair

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