On my previous article, I introduced HIIT workout or High-Intensity Interval training, focusing on its basic principles, benefits, and risks. As I mentioned before HIIT, is one of the most well-known forms of training utilized by everyone, from elite athletes to people of all ages who just want to train for leisure. In this article, I am going to delve deeper on how to develop a HIIT workout that is to say, how to manipulate intensities and durations, what type of equipment and the most important thing, which exercises to incorporate into your program

 

So let’s begin step by step,

  1. Intensity and Duration

Before you start performing your HIIT plan, you should consider the intensity you want to achieve. Intensity is one of the two main factors that contribute to better cardiorespiratory function, development of endurance and increase of our metabolism. During high-intensity work interval, intensity should range 80% of your maximal heart rate (HRMAX) (1) in order to elevate EPOC[1] (check the previous article for more). During recovery periods in-between each exercise, intensity should be around 40-50% of your HRMAX.

 

There are a few easy ways to estimate your HRMAX. One of them is to subtract your age from 220 e.g. if your age is 30 then it is 220-30=190, so your maximal heart rate is 190. However, it’s not a very reliable way. Another more valid method is to do the 5K race test. Basically, you complete a 5K race and before finishing, in the last 1 to 2 minutes, you go to a full sprint. You should check often your heart rate monitor and especially by the time you finish. This will eventually be your HRMAX. To describe it better, this is the time where you try really hard and you feel like you are out of breath, you can barely talk, wishing you hadn’t started.

 

The second main factor, which complements intensity, is the duration of the activity. Time also plays a significant role as it is the one factor that causes the augmentation of intensity. The less time you have, the higher intensity you can achieve. For beginners, you should aim for around 30secs on each exercise. You can then gradually increase by adding 10 seconds to the exercise on the next station of workouts, to make it harder, or add it to the next training session. For trained people, you can start from 1min per exercise and increase also by 10 sec. Note that, to make the whole workout harder, we first increase the duration of each exercise and then add some extra weight. Of course, that means you also need to push yourself to maximal repetitions up to the level where you can maintain the right technique. Another way of determining duration is to use repetitions instead. For example, you set 5min time lapse in which you have 3 exercises, 15 reps each and that composes 1 round. Your goal is to try to complete as many rounds as you can and as fast as you can within 5 minutes. Then you can have a 2-3 minute rest and start a different workout. Furthermore, many trainers use ratios when designing a HIIT workout such as 1:1, 2:1 or 3:1. For instance, a ratio can be 1:1 which means you can work with high intensity for 5 minutes followed by a 5 min recovery or work out on high-intensity cardio for 30sec and then lower the intensity of the same exercise for 30 sec. The 1:1 interval workouts usually range from 3 to 5 minute long.

 

Finally, the overall duration of a HIIT workout program can vary from 20 to 60 min ideally 3 times per week with the HIIT routines lasting from 10 to 20 min in total. More than 60 min or more than 3 to maximum 4 times per week, it is not advised especially for beginners as sufficient time for rest and recovery it is extremely important for all levels of fitness.

 

  1. Equipment

One great thing about HIIT workout is that you can exercise with no equipment at all doing air squats, burpees, push ups, jumps etc. However, if you want to make it more interesting and introduce a variety of exercises with different versions, there is plenty of equipment you can use. Some of them include boxes and especially wooden plyo-boxes for jumps, kettlebells, dumbells and medicine balls of different weights, jumping ropes, mattress, agility ladder, bosu, barbells and elastic bands. All these stuff they will definitely help to create a variety of workouts. However, if you are exercising at home and do not have any of this equipment, you can invent your own i.e, instead of a box, you can use a chair for dips (triceps), elevated push-ups or jumps. Moreover, if you missing a set of dumbells, fill in two bottles with water. It also has its limits as you cannot further increase the weight but it can work as an alternative.

 

  1. List of exercises

As I keep mentioning over and over again, in HIIT you can incorporate any type of exercise you can think, even workouts performed on exercise machines.

One type of exercises you can use is plyometrics. Plyometric exercise can be defined as any activity that enables the muscle to produce maximal force in the shortest amount of time involving rapid extension and contraction of the muscles. Plyometrics are often used from athletes to improve speed and power and include jumps, lunges, squats, jumping rope, skipping etc. Furthermore, if you want to work on strength on the power you can use kettlebells, dumbells or medicine ball. Instead, if you want to focus more on stability and strength you can use elastic bands.

 

Below there is a table in which you can see what type of exercises you can perform using different equipment.

GYM EQUIPMENT

Dumbell

Kettlebell Barbell Plyo box

Medicine Ball

  • Squat
  • Push press
  • Lunges
  • Side Lunges
  • Goblet Squat
  • Single-arm snatch
  • Deadlift
  • Single-leg deadlift
  • Clean and press
  • Russian kettlebell swings
  • Turkish Get-up
  • Deadlift
  • Kettlebell row
  • Goblet squat
  • Lunge press
  • Clean
  • Snatch
  • Single-arm press
  • Russian twists

 

  • Front squat
  • Back squat
  • Overhead squat
  • Deadlift
  • Military Press
  • Push Press
  • Chest press
  • Thrusters
  • Snatch
  • Power Snatch
  • Sumo deadlift
  • Clean
  • Power Clean
  • Clean and jerk
  • Hang clean
  • Box Jumps
  • Step Ups
  • Elevated push ups
  • Burpees stepovers
  • Elevated knee touches
  • Dips
  • Burpees box jumps
  • Split box lunge
  • Balancing Burpee
  • Ball shots
  • Pullover to crunch
  • Russian twist
  • Med ball climbers
  • Squat to press
  • Med ball slams
  • Med ball plank
  • Woodchoppers

These are some of the exercises you can use to create a HIIT workout. There are also exercises you can use in between especially cardio ones without the use of equipment such as, sprinting, jumping jacks, jumping squats, jumping ropes, burpees, skipping, bear crawls, mountain climbers etc.

 

Having discussed how to determine intensity, how set duration, what type of equipment to use and which exercise to include we can now design a HIIT workout program of 30 minutes.

Below I am going to provide a beginner HIIT workout and an advance one which you can use it as a base template to create your own one.

BEGINNER HIIT WORKOUT-30’

Warm Up

Strength/Stability High-Intensity Workout

Cooldown

  • 20 Jumping Jacks
  • 10sec Skipping
  • 2sec Skipping and squat     X10
  • Plank Shoulder Touch
  • Hip stretch with twist
  • Torso twists

 

 

  • 10sec plank X3
  • 15 goblet squats – 5kg dumbbell

 

  1 round 5 exercises – each perform for 30sec

  1. Squat
  2. Kettlebell deadlift
  3. Dips on plyo box
  4. Jumping ropes
  5. Push-ups – can use bent knees

 

*Repeat round X3 times Maintain high-intensity

  • Static Stretching

 

 

ADVANCED HIIT WORKOUT-30’

Warm Up Strength/Stability High-Intensity Workout

Cooldown

  • 20 Jumping Jacks
  • 20 Burpees
  • 15 Push-ups
  • 30sec Plank
  • 20 mountain climbers
  • 20 Back extension

 

  • 1min plank X2
  • Squat on bosu

*optional: you can add dumbells

 

 

   1 round 6 exercises – each perform for 30sec

  1. Box Jumps
  2. Barbell row 15kg
  3. Med ball Plank
  4. Wood choppers 6kg
  5. Jumping ropes
  6. Thrusters 15kg

*Repeat round X3 times Maintain high-intensity

  • Static Stretching

If you want to design a 60-minute workout for beginner or advanced level you can add a second cycle of workout consisting of 5-6 exercises and perform 2-3 rounds depending on how much time you have left (if you a HIIT class as an instructor and you have limited time). An alternative way to construct the ‘’High-Intensity Workout’’ section of the above workouts would be to use reps per exercise setting a time frame, instead of seconds per exercise. Below I have included the Advanced HIIT workout-30’ using repetitions.

 

ADVANCED HIIT WORKOUT-30’

Warm Up Strength/Stability High-Intensity Workout

Cooldown

  • 20 Jumping Jacks
  • 20 Burpees
  • 15 Push-ups
  • 30sec Plank
  • 20 mountain climbers
  • 20 Back extension

 

 

  • 1min plank X2
  •  Squat on bosu

*optional: you can add dumbells

 

 

       10 min workout

  1. 10 Box Jumps
  2. 10 Barbell row 15kg
  3. 30sec Med ball Plank
  4. 10 Woodchoppers 6kg
  5. 50 Jumping ropes
  6. 10 Thrusters 15kg

 

*Once round is completed repeat again for 10 min Maintain high-intensity

  • Static Stretching

Αn easy way to design a program is to pick one exercise for each muscle group e.g. one for the back, one for legs, one for chest, one for arms, using different equipment. Last but not list, make sure you have rest days and you follow a balanced diet as it is directly related to your performance.

If you need help or tips on how to design a HIIT program, you can leave a comment below or email us.

 

There are many different ways to exercise and HIIT is one of them. There are also different variations of how to work on endurance and strength. In this article, I have introduced some simple and easy methods of how to build up a HIIT workout which personally I use on my group sessions at the gym I work. You can be creative and construct your own training session wherever you are. Pick up your favorite exercises -make sure you pick on for each muscle group, include some cardio e.g running or jumping and…. Here you go, its like you have run 10k.


[1] EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) is the amount of oxygen required to restore your body back to resting metabolic functions and this is the reason why you still burn calories after you have finished the workout. EPOC values increase after a HIIT


Photo by Abigail Keenan on Unsplash

Lydia Chrysoula

Author Lydia Chrysoula

Lydia is an Oxford Brookes (Uk) graduate with a bachelor degree in Nutrition Science. She is also certified Personal Trainer by the National academy of sports medicine, and Zumba Instructor. She has travelled in different places all over the world as travelling is her favourite hobby. She has spent a semester of her studies in Melbourne, Australia, focusing on sports nutrition, psychology and health behaviour change.

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