HIIT Training: How to Build Your Workout

It seems like everyone is doing HIIT training, whether they’re in a workout class or working with a personal trainer, and there’s a good reason for it. HIIT, high intensity interval training, pushes you to your max for a set period of time, with similarly timed breaks between exercises.

HIIT workouts keep your heart rate up, forcing you to work harder and therefore burn more calories. The benefits don’t stop there; HIIT training:

  • Improves blood pressure
  • Improves insulin sensitivity
  • Reduces abdominal fat

Use this short and simple guide if you’re ready to HIIT the gym, but don’t know where to start.

How to HIIT

The HIIT formula is simple:

Perform an exercise for 5 seconds to 8 minutes (most commonly 20, 30 or 60 seconds) at a time, and rest for the same period of time, longer if the exercise is extremely demanding, or less time if you want to push yourself. Repeat this 4 to 8 times. Here are two examples:

[one_half]HIIT squats[/one_half][one_half_last]HIIT lunges[/one_half_last]

Depending on how long you want to workout for, and your current fitness endurance level, you can choose 2-10 exercises to perform in this manner. Perform one after the other, only when you’ve completed all rounds of the previous exercise.

What Exercises to Choose

The best part about HIIT training is that you can use this format for almost any exercise you like. I recommend choosing explosive, whole-body exercises that recruit a variety of large muscles at one time. This helps you make the most out of every movement, without completely burning out one muscle group.

Some explosive full-body exercises to consider include:

  • Squats, squat jumps, weighted squats, 1-leg squats
  • Jumping jacks
  • Skaters
  • High knees
  • Burpees
  • Lunge jumps
  • Pushups
  • Long jumps
  • Stair jumps
  • Walkouts (Inchworms)
  • Stair jumps

You can use this kind of training to target one specific muscle group or area of the body as well, such as a lower body HIIT workout.

HIIT It Hard

These three workouts are great for both beginner and experienced HIIT-ers; go as fast or slow as is comfortable.

Cardio Queen – 20 seconds on, 20 seconds off; all x 4

Fast feet/Boxer shuffle

Jump rope

Yoga ball forward roll

Yoga ball modified pike

Pushups wide


Jump rope

Weighted lunges

Plank Up-Downs

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop – 10 minutes total: 30 seconds on, 10 seconds off

Squat jumps

Jumping jacks

Spiderman planks

Star jumps


Upper Body Burnout – 15 minutes total: 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off


Tricep swing backs


Close dumbbell row

Bring HIIT training into your workout routine with these tips and ideas. Get into the flow of it by trying some of my favorites first. With a little guidance and practice, you’ll be moving through intervals like a pro in no-time.

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HIIT graphic #1_border

Feature photo credit: Packing Light via photopin (license)

Jessica Thiefels

Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than ten years. She's the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Honest Body Fitness, where women are warriors who love their bodies. She's also a a full-time writer, ACE Certified Personal Trainer and NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition specialist. She’s written for Shape, Reader’s Digest, AARP, Snap Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness and more. Follow Jessica and Honest Body Fitness on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for health articles, workouts tips and more.


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