4 of the Best High Intensity Interval Training Routines


What's all the hype about high intensity interval training?

If you're serious about getting into top shape, then most likely you've heard of high intensity interval training. But even if you're a newbie fitness enthusiast, you'll want to know what it is and what the best high intensity interval training routines are.

High intensity interval training, called HIIT for short, includes short bursts of intense effort that elevates the heart rate, alternating with low-intensity recovery periods.

HIIT workouts usually run between 10 to 30 minutes. A typical HIIT workout uses repeating cycles of powerful, maximum effort for about 30 seconds, followed by a 1 minute rest period - for about 6 to 8 repetitions per workout. Effort versus rest times may vary depending on individual fitness levels and goals.

HIIT has solidified a pivotal role in modern fitness because it produces the same to twice as many health benefits as longer workouts at moderate intensity. In other words, HIIT workouts can help you achieve your fitness goals in half the time.

Another reason to love HIIT is that just about any form of exercise can comprise your HIIT routine. Whether you enjoy running, jumping rope, cycling, circuit training, aerobics, or anything else - you can still make your preferred exercise a high intensity interval training workout.

Yet, high intensity interval training isn't just another fad that will soon be forgotten. HIIT's here to stay as it's got an enormous amount of science backing its exceptional health benefits.

The Science of High Intensity Interval Training for a Healthy Body

Whether your goal is to lose weight, improve muscle tone, or achieve peak fitness levels, HIIT has been proven to get the job done. Let's take a look at some of the incredible benefits of high intensity interval training.

HIIT Burns Equal or More Calories, Faster

Yes, it's true. Studies show that you can burn more calories, more quickly with high intensity interval training routines.

A study that compared HIIT with running, biking, and weight training found that HIIT burned up to 25-30% more calories than the other workouts. The study's HIIT participants only needed to exercise for about a third of the time that the cycling and running groups did.

In other words, HIIT burns fat and helps with weight loss in less time.

You Continue to Burn Calories for Hours After Your HIIT Workout's Done


What's better than burning more calories in a shorter time? Burning more calories for hours after your workout is done.

Several studies have proven that HIIT workout routines increase metabolic rates long after the workout is over. In one study, a two-minute sprinting HIIT workout increased metabolism for over 24 hours equal to 30 minutes of running.

In brief, the calorie-burning benefits of HIIT stay with you long after leaving the gym.

HIIT Helps Burn More Fat


When you workout, you don't only want to burn calories. You want to get rid of fat in stubborn areas. And high intensity interval training has been shown to significantly reduce visceral fat mass surrounding the abdominal organs. Additionally, HIIT has been shown to reduce fat in overweight and obese individuals, even with relatively short durations of exercise.

The evidence is clear that high intensity intervals will get your fat levels where you'd like them to be in less time.


HIIT Tones and Increases Muscles

Some research has shown that in certain individuals, HIIT workout routines can help increase muscle mass. Muscle gains with HIIT tend to primarily be in the largest muscle groups working the most, like the torso and the legs.

So if you're now beginning your fitness journey with high intensity interval training, expect to see some newly toned muscles.

HIIT Increases Your VO2 Max

VO2, known as oxygen consumption, is the level at which your muscles use oxygen. Endurance training is typically used to increase VO2 max level, and any athlete or fitness buff can greatly benefit from improving these levels.

HIIT can produce the same improved oxygen consumption levels as more prolonged moderate-intensity exercise. Even just 20 minutes of HIIT for four days a week improves VO2 levels in overweight individuals. And yet another study found that HIIT workout routines with a stationary bike increased oxygen consumption by 25%.

So if you want to increase your VO2 max with less work out time, then HIIT is the way to go.

In addition to the enormous physical benefits of high intensity interval training, there's the advantage of requiring little to no equipment and being relatively simple to implement in your fitness routine.

Let's check out the four best high intensity interval training routines for strength, power, and weight loss.

The 4 Best High Intensity Interval Training Routines for Ultimate Fitness

A powerful and exciting workout routine not only makes working out fun but also easier to commit to long-term. The following are four of the most popular and beneficial HIIT workouts.

Sprinting HIIT

Just compare the physique of a sprinter to a marathon runner, and you'll catch a glimpse of why a HIIT sprint workout is more effective than moderate-intensity long-distance running. So if running is your thing, then your best HIIT workout is sprinting.

How to do it:

Warm up with a jog for a minimum of 5 minutes. Then sprint as fast as you can for 15 to 30 seconds. Then slow down to walk or jog lightly for one minute. Repeat this cycle for a total of 10 to 20 minutes.

Hill sprints can also be an excellent HIIT workout while minimizing the impact on your joints that flat-level sprinting can have. It also doesn't require clocks, monitors, and watches. Run hard up to the top of a small hill and then walk back down for your rest period. Repeat for up to 20 minutes.

So whether you're working out to maintain excellent fitness or improving athletic performance, a HIIT sprint routine is a powerful workout that only requires running shoes.

Tabata Circuit Training

Named after the Japanese scientist that discovered it, Tabata circuit training requires no equipment other than your own body. Additionally, it's ideal for those that get bored with cardio machines. Tabata isn't for the faint of heart but it can be easily modified for your fitness level and your workout goals.

How to do it:

The formula for Tabata is slightly different than other HIIT routines. A round of Tabata includes four different full-body exercises, executed for 20 seconds with a 10-second rest in between. Each exercise repeats for a maximum of 8 sets of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off. Then there's a one-minute rest before moving onto the next exercise. Each exercise of 8 sets should take four minutes to complete, making a full Tabata workout a total of 20 minutes.

Here's an example of a Tabata routine:

First, warm up for 5 minutes with light cardio like jumping rope or jumping jacks. Then:

  • High-knee running – 20 seconds push, 10 seconds rest for 4 minutes.
  • 1-minute rest
  • Squat jumps - 20 seconds push, 10 seconds rest for 4 minutes.
  • 1-minute rest
  • Mountain climbers - 20 seconds push, 10 seconds rest for 4 minutes.
  • 1-minute rest
  • Burpees - 20 seconds push, 10 seconds rest for 4 minutes.
  • 1-minute rest
  • Cool down and stretch.

Full-body exercises of any type like push-ups, squats, lunges, or plyometric jumps, can be used in Tabata. You can also add weights to ramp up the challenge.

Be sure to give it your maximum effort. You should feel exhausted at the end of each exercise, but like you've had an amazing workout by the end.

Cycling HIIT Sprints

With a stationary bike, you can turn your love of cycling into an incredible HIIT workout by adding sprints. In addition to all the benefits of a HIIT workout, cycling also tones the legs, glutes, and core.

How to do it:

Cycle at a light to moderate pace to warm up for a minimum of 5 minutes. Then sprint as fast as you can for up to 15 to 30 seconds. Then slow down to moderate pace for one minute to recover. Continue this pattern for up to 10 to 20 minutes. Cool down for 3 to 5 minutes by cycling at a moderate to light pace.

Barbell Complex HIIT

If your primary fitness goal includes developing and toning muscles, then the barbell complex is your go-to HIIT routine.

A barbell complex routine is a circuit of compound movements (movements using several large muscle groups at once) using a single barbell. For your HIIT routine, you would perform five exercises in sequence without dropping the bar.

Though a wide variety of movements can be included, below is a sample barbell complex routine.

How to do it:

Use an Olympic 45-pound barbell, a shorter straight barbell, or an EZ barbell.

The barbell complex formula differs from other HIIT routines. You perform each exercise with effort for 40 seconds and then rest for 30 seconds. Then move onto the next exercise, without dropping the barbell, for another 40/30 second work-rest period. Then move onto the next exercise and so on.

Once all five exercises are completed, drop the bar and rest for 90 seconds to two minutes before repeating the next round of the same exercises. Complete up to 4 total rounds.

A sample of five exercises to include are:

Barbell Drop Squat

Begin by holding a barbell in a squat position, so it’s across your collarbone, and feet close together. Then jump both feet out and land in the bottom of a front squat position. Return to the starting position by jumping both feet together and standing up while holding the barbell. Repeat as many reps as you can for 40 seconds. Then rest for 30 seconds before moving onto the next exercise.

Barbell Thruster

Begin by placing a barbell on top of your shoulders in a front rack position. Keeping the barbell on top of the shoulders, squat down as low as you can. Then explode upwards to the first position, pressing the weight up as you do so. Pause a moment, then slowly lower the bar to the shoulders and squat again. Repeat for 40 seconds, rest for 30 seconds, and then move on to the next exercise.

Barbell Row and Hang Clean

Hold a barbell low and lean forward with your torso parallel to the floor. The arms extend while holding the barbell towards the floor. Pull the barbell up towards the chest, hold for three seconds, then lower the barbell towards the floor again.

For the hang clean part, stand straight and bring the bar right in front of your hips. Bend your knees and slide the bar down until it reaches the top of your knee. Then flip the barbell up, bringing it to meet the top of your shoulders. Then lower the bar down to the front of the hips again. Repeat this sequence for 40 seconds, rest for 30 seconds, and move on to the next exercise.

Barbell Burpee Jump

This exercise breaks the rule of not dropping the barbell. Place your barbell on the ground next to you sideways. You will complete a burpee but at the end, jump laterally over the bar from left to right. Then complete a second burpee and jump over the bar from right to left. Repeat for 40 seconds, rest for 30 seconds, and then move on to the final exercise.

Barbell Lunge

Begin with a barbell in a high bar squat position - at the base of your neck and on your upper shoulders. Feet are hip-width apart and core strong. Take a step forward with your right leg until you're in a lunge and the left knee is only an inch or two off the ground. Launch upwards with force and bring the right leg back. Repeat with the left leg forward. One rep includes lunging on both sides. Repeat for up to 40 seconds and rest.

After a full circuit of each exercise, drop the barbell and take a 90 second to 2 minute recovery period. Then pick up the barbell and repeat the circuit. Continue repeating the circuit for up to 4 complete rounds, or 20 minutes total, before cooling down.

Remember, there's no limit to the type of exercises you can include in your HIIT workouts. Always execute them with maximum effort and alternate with recovery periods that slow down your heart rate. You'll find that high intensity interval training is an exhausting but incredibly satisfying way to meet your fitness goals in far less time.

Want more of the best high intensity interval training routines? Visit the Zoid Academy to learn a variety of HIIT workout routines for losing weight, toning muscles, and achieving peak fitness.