HIIT Training Examples and How You Get Lean Fast Using Them

Fit lean woman running on a Treadmill looking outside. Performing HIIT to get lean fast.

HIIT is very popular to build endurance, strength and burn fat. Research continues to show that HIIT is the most efficient and effective exercise for fat loss and this is what you need to know to do HIIT anywhere and some great HIIT training examples.

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) Defined

Interval Training is high-intensity intermittent exercise alternated with rest periods.  The game of Football is continuous High-Intensity Intervals.  When you are performing an interval session, your high-intensity periods of work are interspersed with short rest periods. By alternating intense exercise with rest you spike your metabolism into a very high rate of energy conversion more so than if you worked continuously. Although the key to interval training is the intensity and not the intervals.  Nevertheless, HIIT is an excellent method for improving both aerobic and anaerobic fitness.

Interval Training Variety

You can conduct Interval-training sessions in many different ways.  Even when using the same equipment or exercise there are still three variables can be altered: the intensity (how hard you push), the work period length, and the rest period length. Most importantly, whatever variable you change to ensure the maximum benefit of HIIT you must focus more on the High-Intensity and less on the interval part. HIIT is about setting a demanding intensity level and working at that level for the prescribed work to rest ratios until you reach exhaustion. Working until exhaustion is known as overload, and the training will be very effective. Without overload, there is no adaptation, and the benefits are not obtained.

High-Intensity Interval Training Research

Several studies show that HIIT cardio intervals with very short rests are such an intense workout you maximally stresses both aerobic and anaerobic systems. Intervals with more extended rest periods do not stress both the anaerobic and aerobic energy systems as much, and so more work can be done until fatigue.

Longer rests between the intervals are more useful for anaerobic recovery training, as the body can learn to buffer the acidosis and mobilize the anaerobic enzymes during the rest period. This type of workout would be beneficial for games players, who need the ability to repeat short maximal efforts, with low-intensity recovery periods, throughout a match.

High-Intensity Interval Training and Fat Loss

Without question, HIIT is one of the most effective means available for rapidly losing body fat and improving your cardiovascular conditioning. Besides burning more calories while you’re performing the training, you also stimulate your metabolism to a far higher degree than with traditional aerobic training, which is known for fat loss. Consequently, you can work out for a shorter amount of time and burn more calories during and after your training session. Even though this may sound too good to be true, HIIT done right is not easy.

How to Perform High-Intensity Interval Training

HIIT is based on a straightforward concept: go all out near as hard and fast as you can, then rest but not until full recovery and then do it again. It may sound simple, but by no means is it easy. Additionally, within this simple formula lies a tremendous number of possible variations and strategies to perform HIIT. Subsequently, there are more and more studies trying to identify what changing these variables will do for your fitness results.

If you are interested in the science and the studies behind HIIT you should check out this book “The One-Minute Workout: Science Shows a Way to Get Fit that is Smarter – Faster – Shorter“. You will see breakdowns of many studies on HIIT and protocols tested for maximizing everything from increasing endurance and fat loss.

What Equipment Do You Need To Perform HITT?

That is another beautiful thing about interval training, you can do it on almost any cardiovascular machine to include a treadmill, stationary bike, stair machine, or elliptical. Additionally, you can perform HITT outside on a track as well as almost any type of cardiovascular exercise such as swimming, cycling and running. If you are performing intervals on a track, or in a pool, you don’t have to use the time for your intervals, instead, you can use distance, such as the length of the pool or a lap around the track. Even though you can perform interval training on such a wide variety of equipment, most studies on interval training were conducted using time and on a stationary bike. This is done because it is easier for the researchers to control the variables not because a stationary bike is more effective at interval training. Although a stationary bike is also one of the least expensive and compact pieces of cardio equipment as well.

At Home Equipment Free Interval Training Example

Bowflex® Bodyweight Workout | Six-Minute HIIT & Ab Workout

A Few Different Protocols of HIIT Training Examples:

Aerobic Interval Training

Interval triaining forcused on aerobic activity can be very beneficial at rapidly improving your aerobic conditioning, as well as burning fat.

Aerobic Interval Training uses relatively long work periods compared to shorter rest periods. The intense periods can be as long as 2 to 5 minutes long in this type of training. This type of interval training is really the least intense since you cannot sustain the all-out effort for 2-5 minutes. So this type of HIIT actually has the least amount of benefits over traditional aerobic exercise. Sadly this is the type of HIIT most people tend to do since it is most closely related to the type of exercise they are used to doing. These long exercise periods are normally followed by very short rest periods of around 30 seconds to a minute. Many people mistakenly believe that the shorter the rest period, the more difficult the training will be. But the science tells us the more intense the work period is the better the benefits will be, and when you increase the duration of intensity too much the intensity will go down. Another common misconception is that too much rest will allow your body to recover too much, and lessen the overall training effect of the exercise. Since exercising at an all-out intensity is very challenging here is a good beginner protocol.

Beginner HIIT Protocal

2 min.1 min.
3 min.1 min.
3 min.1 min.
3 min.1 min.
3 min.1 min.

Using intervals, such as the example above you can choose to stick to the same time intervals (e.g., do 3 minutes hard and 1-minute rest for the duration of the workout) or you can mix it up with different time intervals as you go through your session. Don’t be concerned about the rest time as much as the work time. It is better to lengthen the rest than it is to shorten the exercise portion of the training. Conversely, if you shorten the exercise time, you want to raise the intensity, this type of training can generally be done for about 20 to 30 minutes.

Maximal High-Intensity Intervals

Maximal Intensity Intervals are much shorter than Aerobic Intervals. Basically, the longest you’ll be able to perform any exercise with maximal effort is around 30 seconds, so all the work intervals are usually 30 seconds or less.

During Maximal High-Intensity Interval training, you must push yourself to the maximum on every single work interval you do. This type of training is exceptionally beneficial football, soccer and hockey or other sports that require a burst of effort. Additionally, many of the worlds best endurance athletes incorporate this maximal effort interval training into there training programs. If you are looking to get faster and recover quicker, then this type of training is for you. Maximum effort training dramatically increases your body’s metabolism. Studies show that this type of training also causes large amounts of Growth Hormone (GH) to be released into the bloodstream.

Adapting Your Interval Periods

Your resting periods can be short or long, depending on how much you want to recover your breath and your current level of fitness. Shorter rest periods will make your exercise intervals more of a challenge, but you will also likely find that your intensity will drop after a few cycles. The longer your rest period, the more your body will recover, and the more intensity you can bring to the next interval. Unlike the protocal above your rest periods should be at least as long or longer than your work period. Extending your recovery will allow you to exercise at a higher intensity level and this is where the real benefits of HIIT are seen.

Like the first example given for Beginner Interval Training, you can stick with one steady period through the entire session, or you can vary your intervals. Because during Maximal High-Intensity Interval training you must push yourself to the maximum on every single work interval you do, the work rest intervals will need to be shorter than those during less intense interval training. Here is an example illustrating this point:

30 sec.30 sec.
30 sec.1 min.
20 sec.1 min.
10 sec.30 sec.
30 sec.2 min.

Since Maximal Intervals are so exhausting, you may find you get too fatigued to perform at a maximum effort as you get towards the end of the routine. When you start to get exhausted, try doing a step-down interval set. Instead of keeping your work period the same, reduce your exercise time by 5-10 seconds every couple of intervals.

Sample Step-Down Training HIIT

30 sec.1 min.
30 sec.1 min.
25 sec.1 min.
25 sec.1 min.
20 sec.1 min.
20 sec.1 min.
15 sec.1 min.
15 sec.1 min.
10 sec.1 min.
10 sec.1 min.

Take caution that Maximal High-Intensity Intervals is not for beginners. You need to gradually push yourself up to this level of intensity to avoid injury. However, Maximal Intensity training can be the most effective for fat loss and cardio benefits. Because Maximal Intensity Intervals are so challenging, you should not expect to be able to put forth that kind of effort initially. It is essential to build yourself up gradually, another mistake people make is not challenging themselves by increasing the intensity during the next workout. Your goal should always be to raise the bar a little on your next workout.

Sub-Maximal High-Intensity Intervals

The Sub-Maximal type of interval training is very similar in execution and concept to Maximal interval training. As the name implies instead of pushing yourself as hard as you exercise at a pace that is slightly below your maximum effort. When I trained for sprints in track, this is the type of interval training we did the most. You want to know what your max is and then do 70% of max then maybe 75%, and work your way up to 90% of your max effort. This reduces the likely hood for injuries, especially when performing sprints, and allows you to do more total intervals during the training while maintaining a high-intensity level.

Most Interval training programmed into cardio machines follow this principle. The resistance and speed are increased to a higher level for a set period. Subsequently, they are reduced for a set time. These programs don’t increase the level so high that you must put your maximum effort, but the intensity is high enough you can not sustain it for prolonged periods.

Sub-Maximal HIIT can also be very useful for fat loss and raising your metabolism.

Because this type of training is not done, mainly to “failure” or “all out” the intervals can be longer than what would be used for Maximal High-Intensity Interval Training.

For example:

45 sec.1 min.
45 sec.1 min.
50 sec.1 min.
55 sec.1 min.
45 sec.1 min.

Sub-Maximal HIIT can usually be done for about 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the intensity level of the work, whereas Maximal HIIT is usually less than 15 minutes with less than 3-4 minutes of intensity periods.

Near-Maximal Aerobic Intervals

Near-Maximal Aerobic HIIT is a unique form of HIIT because it combines Aerobic Interval Training with Maximal Interval Training. It allows you to work at near-peak intensity for long periods. You can burn a tremendous amount of calories with the more extended periods of work time than is possible with regular intervals. You can increase your total high-intensity period by:

  • Making your exercise periods short, but your rest periods also very short.
  • Your intensity level is not at max but very close, so that you are pushing yourself on every interval.

Near-Maximal HIIT works very well with cardio equipment that allows you to switch very quickly or instantly such as stationary bikes, elliptical, stair climbers, or even rowing. Treadmills that must cycle slowly through each speed do not work well for Near Maximal HIIT. You can do Near Max HIIT with running and walking outside or on a track, also you can use an actual bike by cycling hard then slow.

Example Near-Maximal Aerobic Interval Training Period

20 sec.5 sec.
25 sec.5 sec.
30 sec.10 sec.
15 sec.7 sec.
40 sec.10 sec.

Fartlek Training

No discussion on Interval Training would be complete without discussing Fartlek Training. Literally meaning “speed play” in Swedish, Fartlek training is a combination of nearly every type of interval training rolled into one workout!

Fartlek training allows your mind and body to be accustomed to exercise at higher than normal levels. Specifically, this means you can improve both your aerobic and anaerobic processes. Additionally, you can lose weight very effectively with this type of training.

Fartlek Is Not Just Running

Most people associate Fartlek training with running, but you can include almost any kind of exercise. Don’t try fartlek unless you have some time to train most sessions last a minimum of 45 minutes. Your exercise will vary from aerobic walking speeds to anaerobic sprinting.

The science is to train by widely varying your speeds, times and distances in order to hit the widest variety of training parameters. You should train for an entire session at an intensity that causes your heart rate to be 60% to 80% of your maximum heart rate (220-your age. e.g. 220-19=201), as outlined by the Karvonen Method. This should mean that you will not experience too much discomfort while exercising. Additionally, you should include a good warm-up at the beginning of your session, and a cool down at the end. Warming up and cooling down will improve performance and decrease the chances of injury and for other reasons.

Fartlek Explain for Triathlon

What Is Fartlek Training? | Running Workouts For Speed & Endurance

Fartlek Example Workout

Here is what a fartlek session can look like, remember fartlek sessions should be designed for a specific athlete’s own sport or event sport and be specific to the individual needs and ability.

  • Warm up – light jog for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Steady, high intensity for 1-1.5 miles.
  • Fast Paced walking for about 5 minutes to recover.
  • Easy jogging interspersed with sprints of about 1/16 mile, repeated until a slightly tired, this is the start of the speed work.
  • Light Jog with three or four “burst steps” now and then. This could be simulating a sudden burst of speed to avoid being overtaken by another runner.
  • Full speed uphill for 1/8 mile, followed immediately by a near sprint for 1 minute.
  • The entire routine would then be repeated until the total prescribed training time has elapsed.

One of the main reasons for the success of fartlek training is that it can be adapted to the needs of the individual. Unlike continuous training, fartlek training can benefit participants of field games such as football, soccer, rugby, hockey and lacrosse as it develops aerobic and aerobic capacities which are both used in sports such as these.

HIIT, Tabata, and Interval Training - What's the difference? Is HIIT the same as Tabata? Find out!

What About Tabata HIIT

We would be remiss if we didn’t discuss Tabata. The name Tabata comes from Dr. Izumi Tabata, a Japanese physician, researcher and Olympic speed skating trainer who invented the Tabata protocol through this research. He conducted this study with an interval-based training method. His hypothesis was that athletes would have tremendous benefit from 20 sec. 10 sec. split exercise rest session repeated eight times per exercise. The 20 seconds of all-out exercise is followed by 10 seconds of rest. This is done eight times per exercise making every exercise take exactly 4 minutes.  Dr. Izumi Tabata found that his HIIT method increased anaerobic capacity by 28%, and improved aerobic capacity. Specifically, his finding showed that performing HIIT workouts like Tabata not only improves strength and burns fat, but improves your cardiovascular system as well.

Single Exercise Tabata Cycle

20 sec.10 sec.
20 sec.10 sec.
20 sec.10 sec.
20 sec.10 sec.
20 sec.10 sec.
20 sec.10 sec.
20 sec.10 sec.
20 sec.10 sec.


We discussed just a fraction of HIIT Training Examples. Those examples should give you some ideas on how to incorporate HIIT into your exercise routine. If you are not yet convinced that HIIT is for you or think that straight cardio is better checkout High-Intensity Interval Training HIIT – Benefits and Drawbacks.

You can perform HIIT with almost any cardio exercise, what exercise do you prefer to do as HIIT?

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