HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, is a training technique in which you give 100% effort in quick, intense bursts of exercise. This is followed by short recovery periods of low-intensity work or no activity at all. The three main principles of any HIIT workout are:
- Intensity: How difficult an exercise is to perform. For cardio, it refers to how fast you run or walk. For weight training, it’s about how heavy you lift.
- Volume: How much of an exercise or how many exercises do you complete in a session.
- Frequency: How many HIIT sessions do you want to do in a certain length of time (for example, three HIIT workouts per week).
Thanks to the many health benefits and the flexibility they offer, HIIT workouts have become very popular in the last few years. Whether you’re just getting started on your fitness journey or want to learn more about incorporating HIIT workouts into your routine, here’s everything you need to know about high-intensity interval training.
Who can do HIIT?
From exercise newbies to full-on athletes, there’s a HIIT workout for anyone and everyone. The length and number of intense exercise periods can be modified to fit anyone’s fitness level and exercises can be selected to work around injuries, goals, preferences, and ability. Think you’re too old for it? There is also growing evidence that HIIT may confer health benefits over continuous, moderate-intensity exercise in older adults, including preventing age-related muscle loss.
If you want to try HIIT, there’s nothing stopping you. Sign up for a group class, design your own HIIT workout for beginners, or try our speedy at-home HIIT workout to get yourself started. This involves:
- Running with high knees
- Alternating lunges
- Mountain climbers
- Power squats
- Plank jacks
The health benefits of HIIT workouts
We can all agree that regular exercise is beneficial for both physical and mental health. The great thing about HIIT workouts is they can be anything you make them and can grow and adapt along with your fitness level. Done consistently, HIIT can help you:
- Burn fat and boost metabolism: If your goal is fat loss, you can’t beat HIIT. Research shows that it increases your metabolism after exercise more than jogging or weight training. In fact, after a HIIT session, your body continues to burn calories for up to 24 hours.
- Slow down ageing: Studies suggest that HIIT stimulates the production of the human growth hormone (HGH), which can help slow down the ageing process.
- Increase aerobic capacity: Since HIIT workouts are designed to push your cardio limits, they can help you reach your running, cycling and general endurance goals. In other words, it’s time to add HIIT cardio to your marathon training routine!
- Increase lactate threshold: During a workout, lactic acid builds up in your muscles. HIIT can improve your anaerobic power and stamina, meaning you fatigue at a slower pace.
- Build muscle: If your goal is to gain lean muscle, HIIT has you covered. When done right and combined with the right nutrition, HIIT can have been proven to help you develop muscle.
Beyond the numerous health benefits, HIIT workouts are also convenient and efficient when you don’t have a lot of time or equipment to work with. All you need is a plan and a bit of floor space — and of course, the will to work hard!
What can you expect in a HIIT class?
HIIT classes vary based on the gym and instructor, but they tend to follow a general pattern of interchanging different exercises and time periods.
Classes usually last for between 30 minutes and one hour, starting with a warm-up such as running, jump squats, lunges and push-ups. Then you begin the alternating periods of high and low effort. While the duration of these periods changes, you will always have a period of intense work followed by a period of rest, repeated across multiple sets. One of the most common formats is 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds rest, performed in sets of eight (so a full set would be four minutes in total).
Each set tends to include a different series of exercises. As HIIT aims to work the entire body, moves will target multiple muscle groups, incorporating plyometrics and isometrics alongside spurts of cardio. For instance, you could do rotations of jumping switch lunges, plyometric push-ups, high-knee runs and burpees. Some classes do include equipment such as kettlebells, free weights, skipping ropes or boxes, while others simply use your body weight.
Expect to be out of breath and sweaty within a couple of minutes, so take a big bottle of water and a towel. Go at your own pace if you’re a beginner, and tell the instructor if you have any injuries; they’ll be able to modify any moves that could affect you. Your instructor will also leave plenty of time to cool down at the end of each session, but remember that there are additional steps to take to recover effectively after exercise.
HIIT classes at David Lloyd Clubs
At David Lloyd Clubs we have a few different HIIT-style fitness classes. Two of our most popular sessions are:
Full-body HIIT at its finest, BLAZE classes are all about building your strength, stamina, and willpower. You’ll work out across three training zones, including treadmills, weight benches and a punchbag. A wearable heart rate monitor ensures you’re getting the most out of your workout and allows you to track your progress in real-time. The class is also synced up with lively music to inspire you to push yourself to reach your goals.
A choreographed cardio-based workout, IGN1TE classes combine athletic and martial arts-based movements with high-energy music to get your heart rate up. Classes focus on speed, strength, and strike, culminating in our signature AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) final push. IGN1TE is perfect for those days when you feel like a high-intensity workout.
If you’re looking to try out a HIIT class or learn how to interval train with a Personal Trainer, get in touch with your local David Lloyd Club. We offer a range of HIIT classes in our fantastic group exercise studios, as well as on the gym floor. Look for a club near you and find out more about our HIIT training.