Now that you know the basics, here’s how to make sure your workout is HIITing the right note.
“The rules of HIIT are pretty simple: work really hard, rest, then work really hard again,” says Sulaver. If you’re taking a group fitness class or working out with a trainer, they’ll time your sets and rest periods and guide you as you go. But you absolutely don’t need a fancy gym, workout plan, or even any equipment at all—just find an activity that gets your heart rate up, and then apply the HIIT format to it.
A good place to start for beginners is with a 1:2 ratio of work to rest. So basically go all out on a chosen activity for, say, 30, 60, or 90 seconds, rest for twice as long, then start on the next set. (As you get better you can transition to a 1:1 ratio.) “Within those confines the possibilities are endless," Sulaver says. "You can sprint. You can use the assault bike. You can run stairs. It’s all technically HIIT, as long as it’s intense,” Sulaver says.
A typical HIIT session is about 20-45 minutes of working and resting. (Another popular workout similar to HIIT is Tabata training, where you are on for 20 seconds, off for 10 seconds, repeated for four minutes. If you want to try that routine, we've got all you need to know right here.)
Here are some SELF-approved at-home HIIT workouts you can try on your own:
HIIT is a great workout, but it isn’t the only type of training you should be doing.
And in fact, too much is definitely not a good thing. Overkill will prevent you from working at your true maximum capacity during each session, explains Cohen, so don’t schedule a HIIT session every day of the week. A better approach? “Try HIIT three times per week with another two days of moderate cardio,” says Cohen.
And HIIT isn’t for everyone. If you’re training for a specific goal or race, you’ll want to follow the appropriate training program—and HIIT may or may not be a part of that plan. Due to the intensity level involved, you should always check in with your doctor before starting HIIT, as with any exercise program.
One last piece of advice: If weight loss is a goal, the old saying that you can’t out-train a bad diet is true, even if your workouts are super demanding. HIIT isn’t an excuse to neglect your diet, so experts stress to keep it clean, calculate your daily calorie needs, and plan your carbs (read: energy!) around your workouts. When you incorporate effective HIIT training into your exercise regimen and keep your diet in check, that’s when you can really see results.
Now you’re primed and ready to get the most out of your next HIIT session. Just remember this mantra: If you’re not working your hardest, you’re not doing HIIT.