Killer HIIT Workout for Beginners

High Intensity Interval Training (more popularly known as HIIT) is a workout style that is taking the fitness world by storm. It involves doing exercises with maximum energy expenditure for short periods of time with even shorter intervals of rest in between. It takes little time to feel absolutely exhausted after this type of workout which is likely why it is so attractive! The following will discuss the benefits of HIIT and give a sample workout that is great for beginners! However, knowing that people usually skip the long and boring introductions on blogs, I will save the rambling about HIIT for the end and get on with the workout! Enjoy!!


To complete this workout, set your timer to 10 mins. Go through the exercises listed below using one minute for each exercise. But don’t worry, you’re not going to be exercising the whole time! Depending on how challenging you find the workout, decide on how much rest you want to give yourself between each exercise. So, if I was just starting, I might allocate 30 seconds for each exercise and 30 seconds to rest. If you want to make it more challenging, you can increase your exercise time to 40 seconds and drop your rest time to 20 seconds. In both instances it will still take you 10 minutes to go through the workout. This is an important concept that you can use for any other type of HIIT workout (i.e. sprinting, erging, spinning, etc.). When you are just starting off, you may want more rest but as you get better, you will be able to increase your exercise time and drop your rest time!

I would recommend repeating this circuit 2-3 times with longer rests (1-2 mins) between each set and trust me, in just a half hour you will be feeling it!

The Workout:

1. Burpees

You can modify by removing the push up or the jump or by isolating a section of the exercise and just repeating that section.

2. Walking Side Lunge

Make this harder with a resistance band. Make it easier by remaining stationary and just moving one foot away from your body and back while the other leg is engaged in a half squat.

3. Mountain Climbers

Modify the exercise by taking it more slowly and focusing on getting your knee to your chest.

4. Inchworms

Made harder by adding a push up at the end or easier by keeping knees slack and not moving into a full plank.

5. Butt Kicks

Modify by removing the jump and just moving side to side while bringing your heel to your butt.

6. Jump Squats

Modify by doing stationary squats.

7. Walking lunge

You can make it easier by doing reverse, stationary lunges or you can make it harder by doing jump lunges.

8. Plank jacks

You can either simply hold plank or take the exercise more slowly to make it easier.

9. Skaters

Modify by removing the jump.

10. High knees

Modify by driving your knee up while pulling your arms down without jumping.

!!Keep reading if you want to be able to tell you friends, family and neighbours why they should get into HIIT too (using science to back up your point)!!

High intensity interval training is a fairly old concept that is only recently gaining popularity. It was first used by Emil Zátopek for his 10km race at the 1952 Olympics and proved to be effective, as it earned him first place. However, it was not until 50 years later that HIIT became more prominent in the fitness industry- and now everyone wants to try it! One of the most appealing aspects of HIIT is the time commitment, or lack therefore. It takes less time to expend the same amount of energy one would with moderate intensity continuous training (MICT). This is because HIIT is based on doing short bouts of exercises (at an intensity of 75%-90% maximal oxygen consumption) interspersed with breaks at 40-50% maximal oxygen consumption. It has been seen to produce similar results to those obtained when individuals exercised with a 10 times greater weekly training mode.

The time commitment is not the only benefit to HIIT. This training regimen is also heavily supported by science that it provides greater health and fitness benefits compared to other types of exercises. Despite resembling sprint training, HIIT can also improve one’s endurance. This is likely due to the effect it has on increasing the PGC-1alpha pathway which is associated with oxidative capacity, glucose uptake, antioxidant defence and resistance to age-related sarcopenia. One meta-analysis also came to the conclusion that HIIT almost doubled cardiorespiratory fitness and decreased individual morbidity.

Furthermore, if you are obese or experiencing chronic diseases, HIIT may be an exercise regimen you should discuss implementing with your doctor. There is evidence supporting its ability to improve adiposity and metabolic dysfunction in obese mice and alleviate certain chronic diseases.

However, HIIT is not perfect. It is a very intensive workout that is not suitable to all individuals especially those who cannot or do not want to expend such significant amounts of energy in a short time. You should therefor always consider talking to your health care provider before you try this workout.


Referenced Material:

Nicoló, A. & Girardi, M. (2016). The physiology of interval training: a new target to HIIT. The Journal of Physiology, 594(24): 7169-7170. doi: 10.1113/JP273466

Roos, L. M., Porter, R. R., Durstine, L. (2016). High-intensity interval training (HIIT) for patients with chronic diseases. Journal of Sport and Health Science, 5(2): 139-144. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jshs.2016.04.005

Wang, N., Liu, Y., Ma, Y., Wen, D. (2017). High-intensity interval versus moderate-intensity continuous training: Superior metabolic benefits in diet-induced obesity. Life Sciences, 191: 122-131. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lfs.2017.08.023

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