How to Do Proper HIIT Workouts

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Cardio workouts are everyone’s favorite workout.

No, that sentence didn’t sound right to us either. Despite our poor relationship with it, cardio exercise does wonders for our health. It starts by strengthening your heart and lungs and kickstarting fat loss, but it keeps going by progressing your level of physical and mental fitness.

Because almost no one likes cardio, fitness experts have spent decades coming up with ways to get through the cardio part of your weekly routine even faster while also packing a serious punch.

High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is one way to cut your cardio session in half while also getting all the health benefits it offers. Moreover, it keeps burning 24 hours after your workout ends.

While HIIT is well studied and known to work wonders, performing your workout ineffectively means your cutting those promises short. HIIT is intense and impeccably regulated, which means you need to follow it to letter if you want to gain from the half hour of pain.

Do you know how to do proper HIIT workouts? Keep reading to find out how to fix the most common HIIT mistakes and burn even more calories.


why hiit?

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HIIT training mandates high-intensity work for brief periods of time before providing a brief respite and sending you running again.

From your local YMCA to the celebrity gyms in Hollywood, HIIT is everywhere. Most workouts require only half an hour of work for a whole host of benefits including:

  • Improving your cardiovascular fitness
  • Building lean muscle
  • Shredding fat
  • Burns calories for 24 hours after the workout
  • Enhances endurance
  • Increases your metabolism

HIIT can also be done anywhere, anytime and plenty of exercises don’t require any equipment.

Start Slow


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High-intensity interval training is what it says on the tin: intense.

If you’re new to exercise or cardio, then the truth is that you may not be ready for HIIT.

A baseline of aerobic fitness is essential for maximizing your time on the mat. Before diving into a proper HIIT workout, you need some training.

Spend a month doing 20-minute cardio sessions at least three days a week to build up the fitness you need to maximize a HIIT workout. Once you have a baseline established, start adding in HIIT elements. Add two or three minutes of intervals into your standard cardio plan once a week. As you improve, add more intervals into your workout at a lower intensity than prescribed.

Are you ready for a full HIIT workout? Start by adding a full HIIT workout with the appropriate intensity into your program once per week before working your way up to two, three, or five times per week over time.

When you give yourself time to build up to the demands of HIIT plans, you not only establish a foundation of fitness, but you prepare yourself for both the intensity and benefits offered by a proper HIIT workout.

Choose the Right Form of HIIT

Choose your HIIT

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HIIT workouts come in all shapes and sizes using many different forms from running to rowing to cycling. It might also include bodyweight training or another non-traditional mode.

If you’re new to HIIT, it is essential that you choose a form you like.

Do you hate running? Does it leave your body feeling broken? You won’t like a HIIT running program. It might also result in an injury and ultimately kicking the training plan to the curb.

Choose a form of HIIT that fits within your training regime and meets your goals but also leaves you wanting more. If you don’t like it, you will dread it, and then you’ll start looking for excuses to avoid it.

Ultimately, when it comes to choosing a workout, don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be.

Are You Performing HIIT or Intervals?

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Once you’re in the throes of HIIT training, you might think you’re on the path to total fitness. But even when you achieve a strong foundation of fitness, it’s important to reassess the quality of your workouts.

One of the most common mistakes people make in the gym is mistaking a HIIT session for interval training.

HIIT and interval training are not the same things.

They have a similar structure. In interval training, you work with a timer to perform a task for a set period. HIIT also uses this kind of timer-based training, but it goes further.

During HIIT training, you need to give it your all. If you don’t fail reps during the training because of the intensity, then you failed to push hard enough.

Adding push-ups to your training? Interval training means you can do five and be done. In HIIT, expect to fall on your face.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Work

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In the modern world, we’re rarely ever asked to give everything we can physically. We ride around in air-conditioned vehicles that practically drive themselves. There are a million and one gadgets to make even simple tasks more comfortable.

While it saves us time and energy for more important tasks, it also means that you don’t physically challenge yourself in your daily life.

HIIT offers plenty of physical benefits, but it also pushes you psychologically as well.

When you perform a HIIT workout, you need to work at an intensity that we’re not familiar with today. In fact, you may even be subconsciously afraid of doing so much physical work. After all, humans didn’t invent the escalator because they love running up and down stairs at high speeds.

Fear is a roadblock that must be overcome in HIIT because not only is there nothing to be afraid of, but the intervals are short. A TABATA workout means 20 seconds of work. The longest interval features 90 seconds of work. You only need to push to your maximum capacity for a few seconds to derive the benefit.

Until you overcome the block that prevents you from working until you hit the floor, you won’t get the full benefits of HIIT.

Maintain Proper Form

Maintain Proper Form

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HIIT is all about effort, right? While going faster and further than you did yesterday is an important part of HIIT, you should never sacrifice intensity for form.

Proper form is at the core of a proper HIIT workout.

All too often, people doing HIIT get caught in the heat of the moment and allow your form to fail. Fewer reps are always better than wonky form because poor form leads to injuries by targeting the wrong muscle groups and straining your joints and muscles.

If you can’t complete the exercise in a HIIT format, don’t force it. Modify it. HIIT works from a baseline of effectively performed movements at the best pace possible. As long as you complete the exercise with the proper form at a pace that increases your heart rate, then you’re getting the benefit.

Warming Up and Cooling Down

Warming Ups and Cooling Downs

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Are you diving into your workout and then immediately hitting the shower? You’re not getting everything you could from your work out.

Although HIIT is meant to limit time spent in the gym, it doesn’t negate a warmup or cooldown.

HIIT is a rough workout that requires supple, flexible muscles and well-oiled joints. The pre-work out stretch session prepares your body to perform those movements fluidly and eases you into proper form. The cooldown stretch minimizes soreness and helps you recover rather than struggle.

When you prepare your body for HIIT, you also improve your fitness and allow yourself more space to push harder without hurting yourself.

Remember, warm-ups and cooldowns aren’t tools for beginners. The practice follows you throughout your workout and into your day at every level of fitness. Your ability to tackle your next task depends on what you did before and after this one, so don’t skip it.

Eat for Your Workout

Eat for Your Workout

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Switching from steady-state cardio to HIIT? You need to adjust your pre-exercise diet.

While rolling out of bed and going for a run works, HIIT needs calories to burn.

Get a meal in before your work out but not directly before. Failing to eat hurts your performance and will likely leave you feeling ill as your body reaches for fuel and can’t find any.

Remember, the goal of the workout—and the reason it provides so many benefits—is to reach a high-intensity heart rate. If you don’t fuel your body to prepare it for the work, then you won’t accomplish what you need to gain the benefits.

Start Your Journey To HIIT

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The best HIIT workouts aren’t the ones that create bodies like J Lo’s. No, the best training plans are those that make sense for your goals, your capabilities, and your body.

HIIT demands that you push yourself to the limits of your ability. Getting to that point takes time and effort, but it is possible if you start with a good foundation of fitness and prepare yourself for your workout every time.

Are you ready to start doing proper HIIT workouts? What’s stopping you? Share your stories in the comments below.

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