4 Steps to a Great HIIT Workout

In a couple of recent posts, (here and here) I discussed the science behind High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT workouts. In those posts, I discussed why HIIT is an essential tool in developing complete physical fitness as well as being a VERY effective fat burning tool.

I have also designed a custom HIIT workout geared to improve your vertical jump, click here.

Today’s post will give you the tools to develop your own HIIT or Sprint Training program.

sprint 4 Steps to a Great HIIT Workout

Art by Bill Hall

4 Steps to a Great HIIT Workout

1. Exercise Selection

Most of the research studies into HIIT have relied on stationary bicycles or ergo-meters to test the effectiveness of this training protocol. Mainly this is due to the need for these studies to control all of the variables in a closed laboratory setting. Kinesiology lab = Stationary bike.

You, however, are not limited to an exercise bike, treadmill or ergo-meter (stationary rowing machine). HIIT or Sprint Training requires an all-out effort followed by an ‘active’ rest period. As long as you choose exercises that are fully challenging your body for the entire sprint portion, you are limited only by your imagination.

My two caveats are that

  1. You should choose big compound exercises that use as many muscles as possible.
  2. You should choose exercises that involve continuous movement. There should be little to no resting during the exercise – i.e. no bench press, power cleans where you drop the bar to the floor.

Here are some suggestions:

Cardio machines

  • Bike
  • Treadmill – be careful transitioning from sprint to recovery – some treadmills are more suited to this type of exercise than others – Back in the day, I used to keep the treadmill at a fast clip and increase the incline for my sprint and then (as quickly as I could hit the ‘decline elevation’ key, bring the treadmill level for the active rest portion.
  • Elliptical – Same warning as the treadmill
  • Ergo-meter / Stationary Flywheel Rowing Machine
  • Versaclimber, VersaPulley

Body Wight Exercises

  • Sprinting – track, indoor, outdoor, cross-country, etc.
  • Hill Sprints
  • Sand dune sprints
  • Swimming
  • Road cycling – My be difficult to coordinate HIIT if you have to deal with traffic
  • Jumping Jacks
  • Burpees
  • Think gym class calisthenics or take a look at some of the crossfit videos on you tube.

External Resistance Exercises

This is where you are really limited only by your imagination and your common sense. Remember, you should be going full out. Moves that are too complex won’t work when you hit that great big wall of pain.

Next Page – Step #2 to a Great HIIT Workout 

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Doug Robb is a personal trainer, a fitness blogger and author, a competitive athlete, a social media nerd and a student of nutrition and exercise science. Since 2008, Doug has brought his real-world experience online via his health & fitness blog, Health Habits.

83 Comments

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  16. Simon

    May 8, 2013 at 12:17 am

    Appreciate the advice, any suggestions of good exercises to do while still recovering from torn calf muscle?, Prior to tear was running up 20 – 40kms per week?

    • Health Habits

      May 8, 2013 at 7:07 am

      For rehab work, I always work in concert with my therapist buddies. For some great self-care work, google MobilityWOD and check out Jill Miller’s site.

  17. Trav

    September 14, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    Studies have shown that HIIT actually improves aerobic conditioning contrary to what you describe. It can be misunderstood when VO2 doesn’t see great increases because of increased mitochondrial density in the working muscle. As far as what your endocrine system produces, proteins like mTOR are not present in the amounts they would be if your body was responding anaerobically.

    • healthhabits

      September 16, 2012 at 5:27 am

      I agree 100%…unfortunately in 2008, there wasn’t any research linking interval training to improved aerobic conditioning.

  18. Auburnis1

    January 10, 2012 at 11:53 am

    Aha, this is a great workout schedule but I like to go all out! But will go with the flow of this one…Love, It will work for me!

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