What is HIIT? 5 Benefits and How to Get Started

Written by
8fit Team @ 8fit
HIIT-vs-tabata-high-knees
Written by
8fit Team @ 8fit
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HIIT is the acronym for high-intensity interval training, an incredibly effective way to burn calories and build muscle. You don’t need any devices to do it, just your bodyweight and space at home. And in just 20 or so minutes, you can get a workout in, get in shape, and save money by ditching the gym.

If you’re still asking yourself, “What is HIIT?” and “how does HIIT training work?”, you’ve come to the right place. We’re going to clear up all of your questions around HIIT.
Know enough? Dive in with this 16-minute HIIT workout at home.

How does HIIT work?

Every HIIT workout consists of intense (high-intensity, in fact) exercise followed by short breaks. A well-known exercise that speaks to the HIIT philosophy is a sprint. When you’re sprinting, you’re using all of your energy and strength during the run. Then, you rest on your walk back to the start.

But before you start a HIIT training session, you’ll need to warm up so that your muscles are prepared for the stress of the workout. Dynamic stretching is a particularly good way to get ready for a HIIT workout where you stretch a muscle for two or three seconds before relaxing and repeating. About 10 or 15 reps ought to suffice.

During training, it’s important to make sure you’re performing the exercises properly. With proper technique, you’ll avoid injury and stay on track with your muscle-building goals. When you bring weights into your HIIT workout, then following the proper technique becomes even more crucial.

That said, you don’t need weight. You can take on a HIIT workout with or without added weight. You can also do it outside or inside. The important thing to remember is that the gym isn’t necessary because the training possibilities are nearly endless. You can adjust the exercises based on your needs and fitness level, whether you’re focusing on a specific part of your body (leg day?) or your entire body.

What HIIT does for you

outdoors-workout-summer-hiit marife

Toning

HIIT gets your body in shape. The reason why HIIT workouts are great is that they elevate your heart rate and keep it there for an extended period. At an elevated heart rate, perform simple exercises like sit-ups, jumping jacks, and squats, and you’ll burn a significant number of calories using your major muscle groups in a short amount of time. That’s why HIIT remains an effective tool for anyone looking to maintain their progress in health and fitness. If you train regularly, you’ll start seeing and feeling results sooner than you might think.

Lose weight

During a HIIT workout, your aim is to maintain an elevated heart-rate (approximately 70 percent of your max heart rate) which puts your body into fat-burning mode. HIIT gets you to an elevated heart rate quickly compared to other forms of exercise and can even accelerate your metabolism. Studies suggest that your body will continue to burn fat up to 24 or 48 hours after a HIIT workout.

Great for everyday exercise

HIIT is comparatively easy to integrate into your everyday life. You can train whenever you want, basically anywhere you are. You decide for yourself whether you want to train indoors in your home or outdoors either alone in a park or with a group. As soon as you’re able to find a few minutes of freedom between your work and family life, you can start a HIIT workout because you already have the most important tool with you at all times––your own body. You don’t need anything else. That means you’re saving on both money and time that traditionally gets spent on going to the gym.

Always HIIT-ing your max

You really can’t go wrong when it comes to the intensity of your HIIT workout. Each interval is performed at the maximum intensity you’re capable of doing while maintaining proper form. That also means HIIT is never too easy. Even as you improve your performance, HIIT workouts will continue to work their magic so long as you push yourself to your maximum level of intensity. But it’s worth repeating the importance of performing the exercises properly. If you’re performing an exercise for the first time, we recommend doing it in front of a mirror so you can ensure that you’re using proper movement.

Basic HIIT Exercises

Let’s start with three basic HIIT exercises that you can use in any workout: Squats, Mountain climber, and Toe touches. These exercises are great for HIIT beginners and all you need to do them is about 10 minutes.

Squats

Squats are great for general fitness and strengthen the muscles of your glutes, thighs, and even your heart. During the squat, make sure your shoulders are pulled back, your chest is up, that you’re feeling stable under both of your feet, and that your shins are pointing forward along with your knees. Take care that your knees don’t buckle inward or outward as you squat––always forward along with a straight back. You can also use your arms to support the movement so long as you’re primarily utilizing your glutes and quads.

Read more about how to do a proper squat.

Mountain Climbers

Mountain climbers are another basic but great exercise for strength and endurance training with high intensity. You can burn a substantial amount of calories with this exercise and get in shape. To perform this exercise, you’ll start in a push-up position with both hands on the floor, underneath your shoulders. Keep your arms straight and your legs stretched out behind you, supported on your toes. Then, alternate pulling your knees in toward your chest from right to left. Repeat this motion with some speed for however long prescribed by your workout. If you’re new to this exercise, start slow before increasing speed.

Toe Touches

Now here’s a basic HIIT exercise that targets and improves core strength and endurance. To perform Toe Touches, lay on your back and lift both legs straight up above you so that your ankles are directly over your hips. Press your lower back against the floor to engage your core while you lift your shoulder blades off the ground and try to touch your toes. (Don’t worry if you can’t touch your toes.) Return to the start position with your shoulder blades touching the ground and repeat.

Want more for your core? Try these three core workouts at home.

Basic HIIT Workout

The goal with a basic HIIT workout is to perform as many repetitions as possible (without sacrificing form) within 10 minutes. So for example, you can start with a round of 2 squats, 20 mountain climbers, and 10 toe touches. Then as you move on to additional rounds, you can increase the number of squats while keeping the number of mountain climbers and toe touches the same.

Whether your goal is to lose weight, tone, gain muscle, or generally increase your fitness, you’ll find that HIIT is a great way to get started.

Craving more HIIT info? Here's everything you need to know about HIIT Training.

HIIT and 8fit

8fit is your best bet when it comes to finding HIIT workouts and a training plan customized to your health and fitness goals. Besides workouts, we’re offering up daily nutrition suggestions and meal plans that will be crucial to reaching your goals. Download the app and start with a selection of free workouts and recipes or jump right in with a free trial that’ll start you off on your journey toward a healthier lifestyle.

Start your transformation todayGet your workout plan

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