What is HIIT?

HIIT, or high-intensity interval training is all the rage - in fact, it's one of this year's top fitness trends. But if you've heard people talking about it and wondered what it is, what it can do for your body and whether or not you should give it a go, the Expertrain team is here with the skinny - let's get started!

What is HIIT?

HIIT (high-intensity interval training), also known as the Tabata Protocol, was named after Dr Izumi Tabata, after he studied and worked out the optimum protocol of the Japanese speed skating team's workout. The technique involves short bursts of intense training, where you give 100% effort, followed by equally short recovery periods. The idea behind the technique is to get and keep your heart rate up, so you burn more fat in less time. Sounds appealing? We think so too. A high-intensity workout increases the body's need for oxygen, creating an afterburn effect known as 'Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC)', which helps your body to burn more fat and calories after your workout.

HIIT the spot

It's all very well talking about the origins of HIIT and what the technique involves - what we really want to know is what it can do for our bodies, right? Well, there are a number of benefits to HIIT and also several reasons why you should give it a go:

It increases metabolism

If you combine high-intensity training and interval training, the result is EPOC, which speeds up your metabolic rate and provides you with a metabolism boost for up to 48 hours after your training session. So you'll still be burning fat after you leave the gym!

It's efficient

Got a busy schedule? Haven't we all. Luckily, HIIT is the ideal way to squeeze in a lunchtime workout or get in shape fast for your beach holiday. Just 15 minutes of interval training three times a week achieves more than you would in an hour running on a treadmill! According to a study carried out in 2011, two weeks of HIIT improves your aerobic capacity as much as six to eight weeks of endurance training (1).

It boosts heart health

Extreme training can produce extreme results, and a study carried out in 2006 (2) revealed that after eight weeks of HIIT workouts, participants could cycle for twice as long as they could before the study began.

You don't need any equipment

Skipping, cycling, running and rowing are all great for HIIT - no equipment needed! Plyometric moves like jumping lunges get your heart rate up quickly, without a dumbbell in sight.

You'll lose weight, not muscle

Dieting can lead to loss of muscle mass along with fat. But weight training and HIIT workouts mean you'll lose more weight from your body's fat stores, whilst keeping those hard-earned muscles!

Workout anywhere

HIIT is such a simple concept that it can be adapted to suit your time and space requirements. So whether you want to work out at the gym, the park, at home, the office or even in a hotel room, you can boost your fitness in 30 minutes or less.

It's a challenge

It might be a short workout, but an HIIT workout ensures you'll be working hard throughout. It offers a new challenge to seasoned fitness fanatics and quick results to those new to fitness.

Let's get scientific

So what's the deal with HIIT? Well, did you know that carrying out HIIT workouts for five days a week over a six week period could give you a 14% improvement in your aerobic capacity and a 28% improvement in your anaerobic capacity? According to the US National Library of Medicine, HIIT stimulates the production of HGH (human growth hormone) by 450% in the 24 hours after your workout - HGH is said to slow down the ageing process, so HIIT could make you look younger (3)!

Apparently, HIIT can make you smarter too - a study by Montreal Heart Institute revealed that participants scored significantly higher on cognitive tests and experienced a boost in brain oxygenation after performing two HIIT workouts a week for four months (4).

Need to know

HIIT workouts usually include intense periods of work which can range from 5 seconds to 8 minutes long - during these sessions you'll perform at 80% to 95% of your estimated maximal heart rate. Recovery periods can last just as long and you'll usually perform at around 40-50% of your esimated maximal heart rate. An HIIT workout usually lasts between 20 and 60 minutes in total.

Because HIIT can be modified to suit all levels of fitness, it has become an increasingly popular way to workout. It's important to see your GP for a health check before starting HIIT if you have been living a sedentary lifestyle or if you have a medical condition. We recommend starting with one HIIT workout a week, added to your normal workouts. Try adding a second workout to your week when you're ready for more of a challenge.

Is HIIT for you?

Regardless of your level of fitness, HIIT can be a great way to workout - routines can even be adapted to suit you if you suffer from diabetes, are overweight or have other chronic health problems. Your personal trainer can develop an HIIT workout to suit you, or you can look online or in fitness magazines for inspiration.

Do-it-wherever HIIT Workout

Our quick, easy HIIT workout will ease you into HIIT training - you'll want to perform each exercise with a 30-second rest in between. We recommend repeating the workout either twice a week or every other day, depending on your fitness level.

Here's the plan:

  • 50 Sit-ups
  • 40 Jump squats
  • 30 Push-ups
  • 20 Split jumps
  • 10 Tricep dips
  • 30 Seconds burpees


Lie on your back and bend your knees, keeping your feet on the floor. Now tighten your core and abs, pulling your head and back up off the ground until you're sitting upright. Pull your abs in and slowly return to the starting position. Repeat

Jump squats

Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, keeo your arms at your sides and bend your knees. Now keep your knees in line with your feet and sit back, into a quarter-squat. perform a small jump, landing back in the squat position. Repeat.


Get into a plank position with your hands on the ground under your shoulders, legs hip-width apart. Keep your elbows tucked and body straight as you bend your elbows and lower your body as far down as possible. Return to the start and repeat.

Split jumps

Stand feet hip-width apart, keeping your arms at your sides. Now, perform a small jump up and move your right leg forward and left leg backwards as you do so. Land in a lunge with your right knee bent over your toes and your left knee bent in line with your hip. Jump again, and as you do so reverse your legs . Repeat.

Tricep dips

Get on all fours and face the ceiling with your knees bent 90 degrees over your toes and your hands on the ground under your shoulders. Keep your back straight and core parallel to the ground. Tuck your elbows in and bend them so you lower your butt as close to the ground as you can. Push back up to the start and repeat.


The exercise we love to hate! Start in a standing position. Place your hands on the ground, jump your legs backwards until they're fully extended and you're in a push-up position. Now quickly jump your legs back towards your hands. Stand up quickly and jumpas you reach your hands up to the ceiling. As you land, repeat immediately.

READ THIS NEXT: Train yourself to run faster: improve your performance with interval running and speed training

Works cited:

  1. http://www.shape.com/fitness/workouts/8-benefits-high-intensity-interval-training-hiit

  2. tp://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1113/jphysiol.2006.112094/abstract?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&author1=Gibala&andorexacttitle=and&andorexacttitleabs=and&andorexactfulltext=and&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&sortspec=relevance&resourcetype=HWCIT

  3. http://blog.fitbug.com/hiit-craze-good-bad-ugly-high-intensity-interval-training/

  4. https://www.icm-mhi.org/en/montreal-study-sport-makes-middle-aged-people-smarter

Author By Paula Beaton
Date On 19th Mar 2015 at 10:46

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