What is a HIIT workout? | Profound Performance Blog

HIIT Workout

If you ever hear the term, “HIIT workout”, you could be excused for thinking it would primarily involve boxing or another type of martial arts work out – after all, “HIIT” sounds like “hit”. However, that isn’t quite the case. “HIIT” stands for “High Intensity Interval Training”, which means you start fast, at a “high intensity” level, and then ease off for a recovery period, before starting another session of high intensity exercise – hence the “interval” period in the name.

What makes a good HIIT workout?

A good HIIT workout is one where the person who is exercising has a heart rate that reaches at least 80% of maximum capacity for a period between 1-5 minutes, before each interval period. Most people who do HII Training wear heart rate monitors so they can keep an eye on their heart rate as they go.

There are many HIIT workouts out there, some you have to pay for and others readily available online, but you can also create your own. As a good rule of thumb to follow, a HIIT workout should:

  • Start with a warmup (this is very important, so you don’t hurt yourself by exercising at high intensity with cold muscles).
  • You should then kick into the first session of your high intensity period – the activities you do during this period will depend on your end goal for the area you wish to work on.
  • Once you have reached your desired heart rate or a set period of time has passed by (this varies but a good time period is 30 secs to a minute), you then move to your “interval” period, where you go slower, giving yourself time to recover. The type of activity you should do here should be designed to bring your rate down again but without allowing your body to cool down too much. The interval period should be shorter than the high intensity period.

It is important to note that HIIT workouts are hard on the body, so you shouldn’t overdo them. An overall time of 15-20 minutes is more than enough, and beginners will want to do less than that, so they can build up to longer workouts. Crucially, any HIIT workout should be followed with a proper cool down period as well, to prevent against muscle injuries and strains.

Themed HIIT workout ideas

There are a wide range of high intensity activities suitable for HIIT workouts, and many choose to do “themed” workouts – so they may concentrate solely on their legs, for example, or their cardio performance. It’s also important to remember that high intensity doesn’t mean high impact; the point is to raise your heart rate.

Themed HIIT workout ideas include:

Theme/area of focus High intensity activities Interval activities
Body weight building Planks, squats, pull ups, push ups, star jumps, lunges, burpees, high knees Chest presses, chops, squats, burpees, glute bridges, triceps press downs, bicep curls
Legs / lower body Glute bridges, high knees, lunges, crunches, fast pedalling (on exercise bike) Flutter kicks, side shuffles, runner’s crunches, fast walking, slow pedalling (on exercise bike)
Arms / upper body Planks, push ups, pull ups, shoulder presses, punches, bicep curls Bear crawls, tricep dips, tricep press downs, slow bicep curls, chest presses, arm chops, slow punches
Cardio High knees, fast running, jumping rope, jumps, skipping, squats, fast pedalling (on exercise bike) Slow running, low knees, walking, sprinting, slow pedalling (on exercise bike)


As well as giving yourself a chance to break up your exercise routine, HIIT workouts offer other benefits including:

  • Versatility – you can do a HIIT workout at home, at the gym, or even when you are out and about for a walk or run.
  • Speed – you shouldn’t make a HIIT workout last more than 20 minutes, so they’re good to fit in when you’re short on time
  • Fun – you have the freedom to do whatever exercises you prefer or feel like on a given day, as long as you raise your heart rate sufficiently during your workout.
  • Adaptable – you can start out small, and expand on your workout as your fitness improves. You don’t need to be a star athlete to complete a HIIT workout.
  • Effectiverecent research from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), HIIT workouts are one of the best ways to improve your health in areas such as fitness, cardio, cholesterol and insulin sensitivity. A small study published in Cell Metabolism, 2017 also showed that HIIT workouts delay aging at the cellular level, as they help to increase the production of proteins to the mitochondria.