High-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts can use any type of exercise, from cardio machines to bodyweight to free weights, so you can customise your workout to your own needs.
Here’s how HIIT works: you alternate fast, intense periods of exercise with bouts of light activity or complete rest. While it takes less time than aerobic workouts, HIIT can be just as effective for reshaping your body and it can be a lot more fun and challenging.
HIIT may be the perfect kind of cardio for people who can’t (or won’t) run anymore, as well as those who don’t have access to a gym. HIIT can be tailored to your experience level and the equipment you have available and works great for home training.
With HIIT you work hard to get your heart rate up, then take it easy to recover. The set is then repeated for between 3-6 rounds.
Because HIIT workouts are so intense, you can’t perform them for long, so work intervals are usually between 20-45 secs, with similar rest intervals, depending on how hard the work bouts are and the whole workout typically lasts 20 minutes or less.
HIIT workouts may not last long, but they can burn more calories per minute of exercise than aerobic training does, making it the better cardio option when you’re short on time.
The other big benefit of HIIT is the effect it has on your metabolism. Like weight training, HIIT increases post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). This is usually a two-hour period after an exercise session where the body is restoring itself to pre-exercise levels and therefore uses more energy. In other words, HIIT still burns calories and fat even when your session is over and you’re recovering after the workout. You don’t get this same effect with aerobic training.
How Many Times Per Week Should You Do HIIT Workouts?
As with lifting weights, HIIT is stressful to the body and requires recovery time, so the recommendation is two or three HIIT sessions per week, done either on the same day that you work with weights (preferably right afterwards) or on days in between.
For the best balance of exercise you should also try to fit some long-duration aerobic training into your week if you can. Steady-state cardio builds an aerobic base that your body can use to fuel all its other activities, and it’s good for your heart, as well as burning extra calories.