HIIT For Beginners

Fitness: Get Fit

By: // March 28, 2015

Read The Beginner's Guide To HIIT and start torching calories and burning muscle.

Maybe you’ve heard the hype about High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts and how they improve your cardiovascular fitness while helping you build lean muscle and burn fat. Guess what? It’s not hype! HIIT workouts work. I love doing and teaching these high-intensity workouts because they can be done in 30-minutes or less. Oh, and they are stinkin’ fun. Build muscle, burn calories, and boost metabolism all in one workout! Better body in less time? Sign me up! So if you’re new to this type of workout, know that HIIT for beginners doesn’t need to be intimidating: it’s all about knowing how HIIT works and how it can transform your body.

High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT is a type of workout where you give maximum effort through quick, intense bursts of exercise followed by short recovery periods. HIIT workouts train and condition both your aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. HIIT workouts get your heart rate up and improve your cardiovascular fitness level while burning more fat and calories in less time.

Related: Why HIIT Is Good For Burning Fat

Sounds good right? Well, the key words to focus on are high intensity. Don’t be fooled by thinking that shorter workouts mean easier. HIIT training is not for the faint of heart. It’s intense, sweaty and doesn’t last long—but it works. Yes, HIIT involves short bursts of intense all-out effort, but here’s the good news: you know it’s over in 30 minutes!

Research shows that shorter, high-intensity workouts can do more for your health than longer, more leisurely workouts. HIIT also helps burn more fat at a faster rate. You can improve your heart health and significantly reduce your risk for metabolic syndrome, as well as a cluster of cardiovascular risk factors including obesity, high triglycerides, low levels of HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar.

How does HIIT Training work?

The key to HIIT training that makes it different from basic intervals is that high intensity intervals involve maximum effort, not just a higher heart rate. So to differentiate from plain old intervals you have to push yourself to the max during the work portion followed by a period of recovery. The quick bursts of all-out effort, followed by less active recovery periods get your heart rate up and burns more fat in less time.

Benefits of HIIT with a poster listing all of its benefits

How is HIIT different from interval training?

HIIT workouts are different from other types of interval training because the high intensity intervals involve your MAX effort and not just a higher heart rate. The high intensity part of HIIT involves giving it your all for a certain amount of seconds (duration can vary).

Are there different types of HIIT training?

There are many ways to create high intensity intervals by changing the timing of the work vs. rest.  I change up the interval timing of my live classes, but my absolute favorite type of HIIT is Tabata Training. Tabata-style takes high-intensity training to another level with workouts comprised of 20 seconds of all-out effort followed by 10 seconds of recovery, eight cycles in a row—a total of four minutes.

Tabata intervals can be incorporated into riding a bike, running, exercises using your body weight, plyometrics and strength training, but there is one variable that doesn’t change—the formula. You can do as many Tabata intervals in a row as you’d like but for most fitness enthusiasts, if you are going full out effort, 20-30 minutes is max.

How did Tabata-style intervals come about?

Tabata is named after Dr. Izumi Tabata who discovered that he could shorten the training time and vastly improve fitness levels with a specific HIIT regimen. He worked with the Japanese speed skating team and developed a timed interval program as described above. His research challenged the notion that you need a lot of time and miles under your feet to see results.

HIIT Class (Tabata style) can consist of bodyweight exercises, strength exercises, calisthenics or plyometrics. I recommend starting with light weights the first few sessions to figure out your limits. During the 20-second work portion, you have to go all out so you should try for as many reps as you can do without compromising form or range of motion. In my class, I verbally coach my members to figure that out. The funny thing is often newbies will keep working through the 10 second rest segments in the first Tabata interval due to their adrenaline kicking in … but quickly realize they are gasping for air and will be flat on the floor if they don’t use their 10 second rest segments wisely. Here’s a 10-Minute Beginner Tabata Workout you can try!

Who is HIIT for?

Athletes doing push-ups and lifting weights on floor

HIIT can be for all types of people, you just may not be using all out effort when you first start.  HIIT helps people significantly improve their cardiovascular fitness, endurance, and fat loss without losing the muscle mass they already have. HIIT is for you if you want to try something new, if you want more for from your workout or if you are a diehard fitness enthusiast and you want a bigger challenge.

Nonetheless, If you’re just starting a workout routine or have been sidelined for sometime due to injury or life – the key to success lies in doing the moves with modifications, at your own pace. Yes, HIIT should be intense, but pushing too hard, too fast can result in injuries and other setbacks. My suggestion: listen to your body, use modifications where necessary, choose good form over speed and ease into how many HIIT workouts you do a week.

Related: 12-Minute HIIT Workout For Bad Knees

How often should I do HIIT?

If you are new to HIIT, just try one workout per week. If you are accustomed to working out, you can do HIIT three to five times max per week.

Safety Tips for HIIT Workouts

With the increased intensity, you can cause more wear and tear on your body, so make sure you follow these HIIT safety tips.  Like I said before, HIIT can be for all types of people, but ideally, you should be able to exercise for 20 minutes without any issues before trying a HIIT workout. HIIT workouts are physically demanding, so build up your cardiovascular fitness slowly. You don’t want to overdo it.

If you have a sedentary lifestyle or are inactive, you may have an increased risk for coronary disease. Family history, cigarette smoking, hypertension, diabetes, abnormal cholesterol levels and obesity increase this risk, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. Make sure you check with your physician before trying any rigorous exercise program.

If you are new to working out, you can try HIIT workouts but with modifications for your current fitness level.  If you are a beginner or new to HIIT, watch your heart rate, stop when you need to, and don’t do the plyometrics (or jumping movements) just yet.  Start out with one HIIT workout per week with the ultimate goal of working yourself up to three times per week.

  • Always warm up and cool down for at least five minutes before and after your HIIT workouts.
  • Take time to recover from your HIIT workouts.  Take at least one to two days off per week from HIIT workouts.
  • Don’t push yourself if you are already sore.
  • Start slowly and build your endurance and ability.
  • Choose to do the modifications of movements that are too challenging for you.
  • If you ever experience chest pain or difficulty breathing during your HIIT workouts, start to cool down.
  • Don’t stop completely because your blood can pool in your extremities and cause lightheadedness, just stop the intensity and cool down slowly.

How many calories do HIIT workouts burn?

About ten calories per minute! (But wear a heart rate monitor for exact feedback.) Since HIIT workouts rev up your metabolism, you will continue to torch those calories long after you have finished your HIIT workout! Woo Hoo! Torch calories, blast fat and build muscle with HIIT!

HIIT: A Go-To Solution for Lack of Time

What I always say is: Work smarter, not longer. With HIIT workouts, you don’t have to carve out two hours for a workout—you can get an effective heart-pumping workout that combines cardio and strength training into 30 minutes. Surely you have 30 minutes to invest in you? If that doesn’t convince you, watch this 30-second video to learn just what HIIT can do for your body:

Where can I find a HIIT workout?

You may notice we have some HIIT workouts you can do right here in this post. If you first want to try a group fitness HIIT class, see if your gym offers HIIT workouts. If you want to get familiar with HIIT before joining a class, or if you want the ease of doing HIIT workouts from home, I have a HIIT program on Get Healthy U TV. Select from any of the seven fun classes and fire up your metabolism. Keep in mind, quicker doesn’t mean easier—we are talking about high-intensity here and that means a sweaty, heart-pumping, challenging workout where you push yourself!  CHALLENGE TO CHANGE, I always say!

Get fit with HIIT Training on GHU TV.

My HIIT program on Get Healthy U TV features workouts that specifically target your upper and lower body. If you only have ten minutes, you can choose a 10-minute booty blast or a 10-minute ab blast, too! In these workouts you’ll perform bodyweight exercises, strength exercises, athletic drills and plyometrics. You can start with light weights for the first few times and figure out what weights are best for your current fitness level. I focus on form, but I always give modifications to include all fitness levels. (It’s all about improving with repeated practice, right?) I will encourage you to go all out with effort for 20-second intervals and then have 10-seconds of recovery (Tabata style!).

By mixing up your short, 30-minute workouts you can keep your body surprised and challenged. We’ve put together a monthly calendar of HIIT workouts for you to do each day to really see results. Now you don’t have to think about which one you should do first! Just follow along by going to my HIIT page and clicking “download calendar.”

Get ready for an adrenalin workout that gives you results and only takes 30 minutes of your time! No more I don’t have time excuses for you!  The best part is you will soon see how 30 minutes invested in exercise can change your fitness level and body.

READ THIS NEXT: Try HIIT Training To See Results

Printed from GetHealthyU.com


Martina on June 29, 2016 at 3:06 PMReply

Not sure if I'll get a reply but it's worth a shot, I loved doing HIIT workouts before but I haven't exercised at all in the past 3 months, I've gained some weight and lost all of my stamina and I've decided to start working out again. And yeah I immediately jumped to HIIT, I've modified it a lot and was going slowly but I still did too much and felt nauseated. My question is can I continue doing HIIT but keep on modifying to ease it up and built up as I regain my old fitness level or am I doomed to do easier workouts for a start? Thank you in advance :).

    Chris Freytag on June 30, 2016 at 9:30 PMReply

    Well - don’t look at it as “doomed” - but HIIT workouts are intense so if you are still needing to build up stamina - it makes sense you may feel nauseated. I think it’s totally ok to modify and keep trying if it doesn’t make you feel sick or discouraged. And no matter what I would cross train with some moderate (still hard) workouts including strength and cardio! Are you a Get Healthy U TV member? I would then suggest the DEFINITIONS and ROCK YOUR BODY BOOTCAMP workouts... try a few different ones and see what works. Remember there is no shame in getting started and you can feel proud as you progress!!! http://www.gethealthyutv.com/videos/rock-your-body-bootcamp/ http://www.gethealthyutv.com/post/calendar/definitions/

Fitness Freak on March 29, 2016 at 1:55 AMReply

If you want a good HIIT workout song check out Life Profiler on youtube. They also offer voice prompts and no adds. Free! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Df3XH8io-Mc

    Susan on August 19, 2016 at 7:37 PMReply

    OMG where have you been all my life. Love this track, thanks for the suggestion.

lorrie on October 22, 2015 at 6:16 AMReply

Wonderful article. Too bad someone thought the bursts of audio songs and advertising was a good idea. I find them distracting. Can you turn them off some how,?

    Chris Freytag on October 22, 2015 at 2:00 PMReply

    Hi Lorrie! Sorry to hear it's distracting. Unfortunately, in order to keep our content free for users, we do need to have ads on our site and we don't control each individual one. Feel free to press the mute button next time that happens or refresh the page as you'll often see a new ad.

Exercise for PCOS | The Hormone Diva on June 9, 2015 at 8:03 AMReply

[…] 3 Quick HIIT Workouts for Beginners from Daily Burn 18-Minute HIIT from Women’s Running 3 Beginner HIIT Workouts from Get Healthy U Nature Activities This is 100% my favourite way to exercise. Anytime I can […]

Jean on April 8, 2015 at 8:35 AMReply

I am 61 years old and can't do the jumping jacks how can I change it so I can? I haven't worked out for a long time and need to do something. Is there a modifier with this?

    Sheri on February 28, 2016 at 2:06 PMReply

    You can do a low-impact jack, sometimes called a half-jack, instead. Your arms still make the "jack" movement, but you step out to the side rather than jumping. - I hope this helps! :)

Alma True on March 31, 2015 at 8:28 AMReply

I love, love, love your HIIT workout dvd! I don't have to fumble through pages to see what exercise is next or watch my timer. I also am reminded of the correct form. It's so nice to have you there sweating along with me. Would you please consider making another?