What Is HIIT and How Does it Help with Weight Loss?


If you’ve gone anywhere near a gym in recent years, or even if you haven't, then undoubtedly you've heard about HIIT. But what is it, why is it enormously popular, and how does it help with weight loss?

HIIT stands for High-Intensity Interval Training, which consists of quick, powerful bursts of exercise at maximum effort followed by short recovery periods. The purpose of these maximum effort intervals are to elevate the heart rate into the intensity zone. Let's just say you won't be able to carry on a conversation while doing HIIT.

The result? You burn more calories and fat in less time. Read on to find out what makes HIIT is so effective at shedding body fat and weight.

Six Reasons Why HIIT Burns More Fat and Helps With Weight Loss

It doesn't matter whether you're a beginner or a professional athlete, high-intensity interval training shreds calories and fat. Here are six fantastic reasons why HIIT helps for weight loss.

HIIT Burns More Calories, Even After Your Workout

What's better than burning more calories when you exercise? Burning more calories when you're NOT exercising.

Dr. Len Kravitz, an exercise physiologist from the University of New Mexico, researched post-exercise calorie usage after HIIT. He discovered that oxygen consumption and calorie expenditure remained elevated after the workout. The cells of the muscles were restoring themselves to their pre-exercise levels, resulting in elevated caloric burn during and after the workout.

Therefore, with HIIT workouts, your body continues to use more calories than it does with lower intensity exercises such as walking or jogging.

HIIT Melts Stubborn Areas of Fat

In case ultra calorie burning isn't enough to love, HIIT plays another critical role in fat loss.

HIIT workouts produce a spike in the fight or flight hormones, adrenaline and noradrenline, that are responsible for lipolysis – the breakdown of fat. A study from the Journal of Obesity showed that HIIT offers hope for those struggling to get rid of stubborn belly fat. It demonstrated that high-intensity intermittent exercise plays a critical role in decreasing fat surrounding the abdominal organs.

HIIT Aids Fat Loss with Improved Insulin Sensitivity

In addition to burning more calories during and after working out, studies have shown that HIIT improves insulin sensitivity. This is excellent news as insulin sensitivity helps the body use glucose, preventing the excess glucose in the blood from being stored as fat.

Furthermore, the health benefits of HIIT goes beyond just fat burning and weight loss. A study has shown that HIIT produces metabolic benefits in individuals with type 2 diabetes and prediabetes.

Get Your Workout Done Faster with HIIT

Lack of time is one of the biggest deterrents for even beginning a regular workout routine. Though HIIT does require commitment, it burns calories and fat in significantly less time than low-intensity exercise.

How does that work? HIIT workout routines run about 20 minutes for beginners and up to 40 minutes for seasoned fitness enthusiasts. Because it requires the maximum effort, the best results happen when workouts are brief, and there's ample time for recovery in between your HIIT workouts.

Start your day with 20 minutes of HIIT, shower, and get on with your day. You can smile knowing you're burning more calories than you would if you had done an hour of jogging instead.

You Can Do HIIT Anywhere

Excuses no more. If committing to a pricey gym membership is your justification for not losing weight, then you can kiss that excuse goodbye.

HIIT workout routines can be done anywhere, whether it's your apartment or the local park. Burpees, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, HIIT yoga, ab exercises, jumping lunges, jump squats, and sprints are perfect examples of effective fat-burning HIIT exercises that don't require equipment or a lot of space.

Want to power up your workout? Find a staircase or a small hill, and you've got the perfect HIIT equipment without paying to use a machine.

All Fitness Levels Benefits from HIIT

HIIT is ideal for anyone - from the beginner to the pro athlete.

HIIT is effective with a variety of exercises that are adaptable to individual sports and are easily customizable for any fitness level. High-intensity interval training is also beneficial whether your focus is weight loss or building strength and endurance for a particular sport. However, beginners should check with a doctor to be sure you're healthy enough for vigorous activity before starting HIIT.

What Beginners Should Know About HIIT For Weight Loss

Working Out with HIIT Safely

When executed properly, HIIT workouts are generally safe. However, it's critical to be aware of your own body and your limitations. HIIT workouts need to be adjusted for each body type and each individual's specific needs.

If proper care isn't taken from the beginning, it can lead to injury. For example, an overweight person may cause damage doing high impact exercises like jump squats, but would benefit significantly from pushups, sprints, or jackknife crunches.

Additionally, if your HIIT workout calls for 25 minutes of sprint intervals but you can only handle 10 minutes, then begin with 10 minutes and increase the time gradually. Though you should feel like you're working to your maximum effort and your muscles will be sore, you should never experience lasting discomfort or joint pain.

Remain aware of your limits and allow yourself to progress slowly. A steady and gradual HIIT routine will result in more long-term weight loss because it will feel good and you'll enjoy it.

Creating Your HIIT Workout Schedule

After safety, nothing is more important for your success than a well-designed HIIT workout schedule.

To be most effective, you should always be well rested before going into a HIIT workout. Always allow time for your body to fully recover before your next HIIT workout day. For beginners, HIIT workout days should never be more than once or twice spread out during the week. HIIT works best when alternated with lower intensity workouts like jogging, walking, yoga, or light swimming.

Once your endurance and strength level increases, you may add a third day into your routine and choose HIIT exercises that are slightly more challenging. This will keep your exercise plan engaging and fresh to avoid boredom.

Basic Equipment for HIIT Workouts

HIIT is defined by timing short intervals of maximum intensity – 20 seconds for a beginner and up to two minutes for seasoned athletes and fitness buffs. This is followed by a recovery period for approximately twice the time. This cycle repeats five times or more in one workout. Therefore, you'll need a handy way to track your time and measure your heart rate intensity.

Having a clock in view or a stop-watch handy is essential to track time. To monitor your heart rate levels, a monitor is ideal but you can also go by your perceived exertion rate. Your high-intensity heart rate zone feels like maximum effort - you're breathing hard, can't carry on a conversation, and it can't be maintained very long. Your recovery heart rate zone feels like you can breathe deeply and that your heart rate is slowing down.

Other than a way to track time and monitor your heart rate, you can take your HIIT workout anywhere.

How to Time HIIT Workouts for Weight Loss

Timing the cycle of work and recovery is critical to your HIIT workout routine.

An example HIIT routine would be:

  • Warm up your muscles and heart at a low intensity for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Then begin to push hard for a high-intensity interval (with your heart rate at about an average of 80 percent of your maximum) for 30 to 60 seconds.
  • Recover for one to two minutes.
  • Repeat this cycle five times.
  • Cool down with a period of low-intensity exercise for 5 minutes, followed by stretching.


High-intensity intervals times are adjustable; as brief as 20 seconds and as long as two minutes. The shorter the interval time, the more intense the push. Intensity is the focus, not duration or how many cycles repeated in one workout. Therefore, longer intervals are not always better because you can’t go as intensely for two minutes as you can for 20 seconds. Short and steady will yield better results.

Let's take a look at the types of HIIT exercises you can do to help with weight loss.

The Top HIIT Workouts for Fat-Burning and Weight Loss

Now that you're awake to the amazing benefits of HIIT, got your equipment and workout schedule, it’s time to choose your exercises.

First, select your favorite activity - as just about anything works. For example, if you like to run, you might complete your workout at a track or the park. If you prefer to cycle, you can do interval bike training.

Don't worry; you aren't limited to machines or the track. You can do HIIT on stairs, by jumping rope, on the yoga mat, or even by dancing in your living room. The intensity matters more than which activity you choose. Of course, the more fun it is, the better.

The Best HIIT Exercises for Weight Loss

The incredible thing about HIIT workouts is that they are simple, and the possibilities are endless. Select one, two, or three of the following exercises that you enjoy and are easy to remember to start with. If they begin to feel too routine, you can always change up the activities.

Here's a shortlist of exercises that can easily be pumped up to create HIIT workout routines for weight loss.

  • Sprinting (on a treadmill or off)
  • Cycling
  • Pushups
  • Lunges – Walking, Jumping, or Lateral Jumping
  • Squats – Jumping or Box Jumping
  • Kettlebell Cardio
  • Tabata
  • Jumping Rope
  • Abdominal Exercises like Jackknife Crunches
  • Burpees
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Butt Kicks
  • Medicine Ball Wall Throws
  • HIIT Yoga

This is just a small sampling of workouts. HIIT exercise routines can also include plyometric and endurance training featuring skills related to your individual sport or favorite activity.

Final Thoughts on HIIT Workouts for Losing Weight

As fun as HIIT can be, safety always comes first. HIIT workouts are extremely taxing on the body, so be sure to give your body adequate rest and recovery time. Avoid overtraining your body and burnout by keeping your HIIT routines to only two or three times a week – and only one day if you're a beginner.

HIIT workout routines should be no longer than 40 minutes. Always warm up for a minimum of 5 minutes and cool down for at least 5 minutes. Conclude with ample stretching time, particularly of the muscle groups you worked the hardest.

Keep these tips in mind and you'll be well on your way to maintaining a steady and invigorating HIIT workout routine in your weight loss plan.

Want even more ideas for HIIT workout routines to help with weight loss? Check out the Zoid Academy and to get a variety of exercises and ultimate HIIT workouts for fat burning and weight loss.