High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) Routines

By James Collier BSc (Hons), MuscleTalk Co-Owner
(May 2012)

Interval training, also know as high intensity interval training or HIIT, is where there are bursts of high intensity physical exercise interspersed with periods of low intensity. HIIT can be performed on just about any cardiovascular equipment, e.g. treadmill, exercise bike, rower, stepper, cross-trainer, etc and is a very popular form of training for many sports from bodybuilding to team sports.

Interval training has benefits to both physical fitness and for fat loss and has the advantage of being less time consuming that steady state cardiovascular exercise, although it can be harder to perform and a degree of physical fitness is required. HIIT has been shown to help improve exercisers' aerobic capacity to exercise longer at varying intensities. Interval training can be an effective means of enhancing an athlete's lactate threshold, a significant factor determining performance for long distance running events.

A variation on HIIT is Tabata Training.

Here are a few types of HIIT routine:

Basic HIIT Routine

This interval routine is designed for someone new to interval training but should still not be followed by someone who is completely unfit. Start at twice per week maximum, then progress to three or four times a week.

5 mins steady state cardio
20 seconds high heart rate
90 seconds low intensity
20 seconds high heart rate
90 seconds low intensity
20 seconds high heart rate
90 seconds low intensity
20 seconds high heart rate
90 seconds low intensity
20 seconds high heart rate
90 seconds low intensity
20 seconds high heart rate
5 mins steady state

If, after a few sessions you're tolerating this ok, then simply increase the high intensity intervals to 30 seconds

Advanced HIIT Routine

After a few weeks on the basic routine with 30 second intervals, you may feel able to progress to a more advanced routine, like the below.

5 mins steady state cardio
30 seconds high heart rate
90 seconds low intensity
30 seconds high heart rate
60 seconds low intensity
30 seconds high heart rate
45 seconds low intensity
30 seconds high heart rate
45 seconds low intensity
30 seconds high heart rate
45 seconds low intensity
30 seconds high heart rate
45 seconds low intensity
30 seconds high heart rate
5 mins steady state

Advanced HIIT Routine – Prolonged

The following, is similar to the above but prolonged.

5 mins steady state cardio
30 seconds high heart rate
90 seconds low intensity
30 seconds high heart rate
60 seconds low intensity
30 seconds high heart rate
45 seconds low intensity
30 seconds high heart rate
45 seconds low intensity
30 seconds high heart rate
45 seconds low intensity
30 seconds high heart rate
45 seconds low intensity
30 seconds high heart rate
45 seconds low intensity
30 seconds high heart rate
45 seconds low intensity
30 seconds high heart rate
45 seconds low intensity
30 seconds high heart rate
5 mins steady state

Super Advanced HIIT Routine

For the super fit, looking to get fitter! However, even for the fittest of us, I still wouldn't do this routine more than twice a week as it requires a lot of recuperation.

5 mins steady state cardio
30 seconds high heart rate
30 seconds low intensity
30 seconds high heart rate
30 seconds low intensity
30 seconds high heart rate
30 seconds low intensity
30 seconds high heart rate
30 seconds low intensity
30 seconds high heart rate
30 seconds low intensity
30 seconds high heart rate
30 seconds low intensity
30 seconds high heart rate
30 seconds low intensity
30 seconds high heart rate
30 seconds low intensity
30 seconds high heart rate
30 seconds low intensity
30 seconds high heart rate
5 mins steady state