Beginner Guide to HIIT [Plus Workouts to Try!]

HIIT Workouts – Burn the Most Calories in the Least Amount of Time.

I may or may not have been quoted a time, or five hundred, complaining about cardio. I hate cardio. Running on a treadmill is fun for about -1 seconds, and that’s being generous.

When I learned that there was a specific way to do cardio that would burn more calories in a shorter amount of time AND it kept burning calories after I was done, my only thought was, WHERE DO I SIGN UP!? 



What is this magical workout? Well, it’s not just one workout, which is part of the beauty of it.

It’s a WAY to do your workout and it’s call HIIT.


Beginners Guide to HIIT Workouts

First things first, HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training.

That means HIIT workouts are any workout where you do something with all out effort for a set amount of time followed by a period of low intensity or rest for another specified amount of time.

You repeat these intervals until time is up.

That helps a bit, but what are those set amount of times and how do you know when time is up? That’s a bit harder to define, because there is no right answer.

The high intensity intervals typically last anywhere from 15 seconds to 2 minutes. The rest intervals are generally any where from 1 to 5 times the length of the high intensity portion. The whole workout should only last 10-30 minutes maximum.

These are not rules, just a general guideline of how many are structured.

The majority of my HIIT workouts, I will do 30 seconds high intensity, 30 seconds low intensity – repeat for 10-15 minutes total.

Yup, that’s it. HIIT workouts only need to last at most, 30 minutes.

Which is exactly how I was able to make the average workout only last 30 minutes in all 8 weeks of my at home workout plan.

What are you actually doing during these intervals? That’s one of the other amazing things about HIIT; it can be applied to pretty much any type of cardio.

Anything from running on a treadmill to plyo movements.

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Some examples of HIIT cardio exercises include:

  • Running/jogging
  • Elliptical
  • Stairs
  • Jumping jacks
  • Jump rope
  • Jump Squats
  • Burpees
  • High knees
  • Mountain climbers
  • Swimming
  • Boxing
  • Dancing
  • Cycling or biking
  • Rowing

The list is pretty much endless since you can make up a HIIT workout from basically and cardio exercise you can think of as long you do it on an interval and have periods of maximum effort and low effort.

The other thing to note is that your HIIT workout does not have to all be the same cardio exercises. You can mix and match as you’ll see below in my at home HIIT circuit workout example.

This makes HIIT workouts perfect for beginners, pros, and everyone in between because the movements do not have to be complicated.

The only difference between a beginner HIIT workout and a HIIT workout that a pro might do is the level of intensity they take it to.


Now that you know what HIIT means, I wanted to get some quick vocab out of the way.

When stumbling across HIIT and wondering what it means, you might have also seen the abbreviation LISS.

LISS is essentially the exact opposite of HIIT. 

LISS stands for Low Intensity Steady State. All that means is that you are doing a lower intensity exercise and keeping that pace. 

When doing HIIT, your goal is to get your heart rate way up and then let it climb slowly back down and repeat. 

LISS you are only getting your heart rate to a fat burning zone and holding it there.

My post on weight loss calculators includes how to find out what you fat burning heart rate zone is.

HIIT Benefits

  1. You burn more calories than regular cardio. Doing steady state cardio requires what are called slow-twitch muscle fibers. HIIT requires more fast-twitch muscle fibers. Fast-twitch muscle fibers require more energy – aka burn more calories when being used. This makes HIIT workouts great for weight loss.
  2. It continues to burn calories, even after you’re done working out. This is due to what’s called the Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) effect. The best way I’ve heard this explained is think about your car. After you’re done driving it, the engine is not instantly cool, it stays warm for a while. A similar effect happens with your body after exercise, you’re metabolism stays elevated for some time after. EPOC is not influenced by the duration of your workout, rather, by the intensity.
  3.  It even provides cognitive benefits. “It can improve cognition and has been studied in patients with mental disorders. The increased activity is also great for treating depression and anxiety.” –
  4. “HIIT can promote a number of physiological benefits, such as increased mitochondrial density, improved stroke volume, improved oxidative capacity of muscle and enhanced aerobic efficiency, which was previously thought to occur only as a result of long, slow distance (LSD) training protocols.” According to AceFitness.
  5. HIIT has been scientifically proven to stimulate anti-aging hormones. HIIT stimulates the production of human growth hormone.
  6. An increase in endurance. HIIT is one of the fastest ways to build your endurance. I can vouch for this one personally. The gold standard for measuring endurance is through a VO2 Max test. I had this test done a few months back and scored a 48 (42 was the high end of the scale representing excellent).
  7. There has been research suggesting that HIIT helps to suppress appetite.

Keys to Doing a HIIT Workout Correctly

  1. Don’t jump straight into your HIIT workout and start running like your pants are on fire. You’ll want to warm up and stretch first.
  2. During the high intensity intervals, you need to go HARD. This is all out effort, you should not be able to hold a conversation.
  3. If you’ve done the workout correctly, by your last interval, you’d have barely, if at all, been able to do another interval any way.
  4. During your ‘rest’ periods, you’re not literally resting. You don’t get to stop and go sit down. This time is just a slight recovery period to get your heart rate back down and get you ready for your next interval.
  5. Don’t over HIIT it. HIIT workouts should only be done 2-3 times per week.

Example HIIT Workouts

Here are 3 variation examples of HIIT workouts you can do. If you’re interested in this type of workout and are serious about seeing results, check out my complete diet and exercise program here.

Workout 1: Treadmill HIIT Workout

  1. Warm up: 5 minutes walking, 5 minute jog
  2. Run at all out effort for 30 seconds. Change the speed to a brisk walk for 1 minute. Repeat this 8 total times.
  3. Cool down: Walk for 5 minutes.

Another variation I like of treadmill HIIT workouts is for my maximum effort intervals instead of increasing the speed, I will instead increase the incline.

Workout 2: Walking Treadmill HIIT Workout

  1. Warm up: 5 minutes walking
  2. Fast passed walk at a high incline for 30 seconds. Lower the inline and continue walking for 1 minute. Repeat this 8 total times.
  3. Cool down: Walk for 5 minutes.

Workout 3: At Home HIIT Workout

Warm up with a few jumping jacks and body weight squats first.

Do each movement for 30 seconds. Rest for 20 seconds between. Repeat for 3 times total.

This at home HIIT workout will take you less than 18 minutes to complete!

  1. Burpees
  2. Jumping Jacks
  3. High knees
  4. Jump squats
  5. Lunges
  6. Mountain Climbers
  7. Crunches

Cool down and stretch.

If you enjoy these quick at home HIIT workouts, check out my 8 Week Total Body Transformation Challenge for an entire 8 week HIIT workout plan. This 8 week plan includes both muscle targeted HIIT workouts, including HIIT ab workouts, as well as Full Body HIIT workouts.

I hope this helped! As always, if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or reach out to me on Instagram! ?

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