How to Get Great Results with High Intensity Interval Training

Herba Blogger

Variety is the spice of life. This saying definitely applies to effective exercise. And High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, has variety in spades. I believe finding a good workout balance is key, and an HIIT workout with a mix of cardio, resistance training and stretching might help you meet your fitness goals.

Sound too good to be true? Not when you learn how HIIT works. A typical HIIT workout involves exercising intensely for short periods, followed by periods of rest or lower-intensity exercise. Think about the way a car uses fuel: you get the best gas mileage when you travel at a steady pace without braking or accelerating. Your car burns gas more quickly, though, when you have a lot of stop-and-go traffic, or when you’re revving your engine waiting for the light to turn green.

When it comes to HIIT, think of your body like you would a car. While an HIIT workout might not burn more calories than a traditional steady workout, you can burn an equivalent amount of calories in a shorter period of time. What’s not to love about that?



HIIT 101: Benefits of an HIIT Workout

Other than being a great timesaver, an HIIT workout has many other advantages. Here are three key benefits of HIIT training:

      1. Interval training can increase your aerobic capacity (your body’s ability to utilize oxygen), and it can increase it faster than working at a lower intensity level

      2. Interval training can improve your lactate threshold (the ability for your muscles to cope with lactic acid buildup)

    3. Interval training may improve your insulin sensitivity, which can help you become more efficient at storing glucose in the muscles, rather than storing it as fat.

Another great thing is that getting started with interval training is easy. You can do it almost anywhere, and you don’t necessarily need to use any equipment. You can run, cycle, use a rowing machine, or you can even use a simple jump rope.

How to Choose Your Workout

The type of HIIT workout that you choose should be based on your current fitness level and include activities that you enjoy. If you already exercise regularly and can manage a steady 20-30 minute cardio workout 2-3 times per week, you’re probably ready to begin integrating HIIT workouts.

If you’re a little newer to fitness, don’t be discouraged. You should try to build up your overall aerobic fitness before adding in an HIIT workout. But the good news is that if you stick with an aerobic routine for a few weeks, you’ll soon be ready to get started with HIIT.

Before I lay out a few sample HIIT workouts, let me explain a few ‘rules’ with regard to the work and rest periods.

The Rule of Ratios

The intensity of the workout is dictated by two things:

  • The length of the interval
  • The length of the rest period

The shorter the interval (or work period), the harder you’re able to work. For example, if your interval is 20 seconds, you could probably work close to maximum effort. Whereas if your interval is 60 seconds, you will probably not be able to maintain maximum effort the entire time.

Shorter rest periods increase the difficulty of an HIIT workout. It’s easier to plan the intensity of your intervals by using ratios. Think of your ratios as an interval-to-rest period. So, if your ratio is 1:1, your work period is equal to the rest period—say, 20 seconds of work followed by 20 seconds of rest. Following in that line, with a 2:1 ratio your rest is half the length of your work period.

Three Sample Routines for Every Fitness Level

Start by picking your favorite style of cardio exercise, and try using the following varied interval times to improve your fitness level.

Beginner HIIT workout routine (1:2)
  • 60 seconds work (give it 70% effort; you want to push yourself but not exhaust yourself)
  • 2 minutes active rest (50-60% effort; keep your heart pumping and your body moving)
  • Repeat five times, then take a 2-minute rest

Repeat the entire HIIT set 2-3 times.

Intermediate HIIT workout routine (1:1)
  • 10 seconds work followed by 10 seconds rest
  • 20 seconds work followed by 20 seconds rest
  • 30 seconds work followed by 30 seconds rest
  • 20 seconds work followed by 20 seconds rest
  • 10 seconds work followed by 10 seconds rest

Take 2-3 minutes rest

Repeat the entire HIIT set 4 times.

Advanced HIIT workout routine (2:1)
  • 20 seconds work followed by 10 seconds rest
  • Repeat 6-8 times
  • Rest 2-3 minutes

Repeat the entire HIIT set 4 times.


As you can see, it’s not about the type of cardio you do, but the way in which you do it. This is a great chance to experiment with different cardio workouts to find which exercises you most enjoy. With HIIT, there are plenty of ways to mix it up to keep your workout new, fun, and challenging. Just remember to work at your own fitness level, always listen to your body, and smile—exercise should be fun.


By Samantha Clayton, AFAA, ISSA – Vice President, Worldwide Sports Performance and Fitness

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