How to Start From Zero With HIIT

Kevin Gray
by Kevin Gray
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How to Start From Zero With HIIT

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a popular form of exercise that alternates short periods of intense exercise with recovery periods. It’s especially prevalent among people taking studio classes and participating in on-demand workouts, but HIIT can also be performed solo at the gym or at home. Because these interval workouts burn more calories per minute than steady-state exercises like walking, jogging or cycling, they can improve your cardio fitness and burn fat in a hurry.

HIIT is versatile, so it can benefit all kinds of people across a range of fitness and experience levels. But with “high-intensity” in the name, you don’t want to dive in too fast and overdo it.

HOW TO GET STARTED

“There are so many benefits to HIIT workouts, but they can also be pretty intense and stressful on the body, especially if you’re new to working out and/or HIIT training,” says Joel Freeman, Beachbody Super Trainer and the creator of LIIFT4, a program that combines HIIT with weight training. He suggests taking it slow and easing into the workouts because, regardless of the exercise regimen, it’s important to find something sustainable and enjoyable. Plus, no good comes from getting burned out or injured.

Beginners can benefit from learning the ropes at in-person classes or by taking an online program from a reputable trainer, which helps you become more familiar with the format, moves and intensity. Check your local area for classes at well-regarded gyms, or search online for on-demand programs with plenty of positive reviews.

“There is a fine line between pushing yourself and pushing it too far, so if you’re new to HIIT training, it’s best to have some guidance when first starting,” adds Freeman.

SET A SCHEDULE AND PRIORITIZE RECOVERY

High-intensity interval training can be stressful on the body, especially if you’re not used to it. Freeman advises beginners to space out workouts and limit the number of sessions per week — this allows the body to properly recover. “While working hard and training your body to adapt and become stronger is the overall goal, you can’t and won’t get there without taking care of your body,” he says. “Recovery is just as important as working hard. Recovery will help reduce soreness, prevent injury and overtraining, and give your body solid time to adjust as you incrementally place more stress on it.”

As you get started, aim for no more than three alternating days of HIIT, says Freeman. You can also build in a couple of days of cross-training, cardio or light resistance training in between to fill out the week, but be sure to give yourself 1–2 rest days each week to help your body recover and adapt to the exercise. This also ensures you’re primed for each HIIT session, so you can work hard and achieve the results you want.

SAMPLE WORKOUT

Below, Freeman shares a simple HIIT workout for inspiration, as well as a general workout plan to build your week around. Use this as a starting point, and amp up your exercises as you get stronger.

MONDAY/WEDNESDAY/SATURDAY – HIIT

Perform the below exercises in 30-second intervals, doing 30 seconds of work followed by 30 seconds of rest. Repeat the circuit 4–5 times for a 20–25-minute workout that burns calories, burns fat and increases endurance.

  • Treadmill sprints or plank jumps
  • High-knees
  • Mountain climbers
  • Skater jumps
  • Squats

TUESDAY/THURSDAY – LIGHT ACTIVITY

Anything goes here, but Freeman suggests some cardio, cross-training or light resistance training to stay active. You could go for a walk, ride your bike, or engage in some lower-intensity weightlifting or bodyweight exercises.

FRIDAY/SUNDAY – REST 

Relax and refuel. You earned it.

For more inspiration, check out “Workout Routines” in the app to discover and log a wide variety of routines by performance specialists. Or build your own routine with exercises that fit your goals.

About the Author

Kevin Gray
Kevin Gray

Kevin is a Dallas-based writer who spends the majority of his weekends on a bike. His less healthy pursuits can be found at Bevvy and Cocktail Enthusiast.

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