How Do HIIT Workouts Work and Can You Make Your Own?

What’s the best workout you can do at home? That actually depends on what you’re trying to achieve. Today, though, I’m going over HIIT workouts and whether they are effective for weight loss and strength training.

The best part is you can start doing your own version of HIIT right away. There is no equipment to buy and is probably one of the quickest and easiest ways to get in some cardio throughout your day.

But if you’d like, there’s nothing wrong with adding weights to the mix. That is as long as you can maintain the base heart rate, which I’ll go over in a moment.

What Are HIIT Workouts?

High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, has been around for more than a century. It’s the process of using short, intense bursts of exercise followed by a short resting or low-intensity period.

This is done for several intervals to get a full workout.

Proper HIIT workouts rely on a person hitting 80% of his or her maximum heart rate for one to five minutes. Then, this is followed by a short resting period before starting the activity again.

For example, let’s say that you jog for a few minutes to warm up. Then, you would run at a faster pace for five minutes. Afterward, you would either jog slower, walk, or rest for one minute.

This would be one interval. You would repeat these intervals three or four times depending on your needs and health.

Remember, though, the idea is to get your heart rate above 80% of its maximum. According to heart.org, 80% of my average maximum heart rate at 45 years old would be 140 BPM.

This is a bit scary to think about, really. I often put myself well over the average according to the chart. For someone who had heart issues in the past, perhaps I should reel it back some.

Benefits of Doing HIIT Workouts

While there’s no doubt that any exercise is beneficial for your body, HIIT workouts take physical activity to a new level.

Losing Weight

The overall impact of HIIT exercises often leads to burn more calories than other traditional exercises. Depending on the individual, a single 15-minute session can result in burning more than a 30-minute cardio workout.

In fact, studies also show how HIIT can reduce the visceral fat in the body by up to 17% after 12 weeks of a three-days-per-week regimen.

This is the internal fat stores that collect around your organs which can lead to a myriad of diseases and health complications.

Increasing Metabolism

One of the reasons why so many people are investing into HIIT workouts is because of its ability to continue burning calories long after the workout.

According to studies, the resting energy expenditure of the body can last for hours, much longer than other forms of exercise. This means you can essentially lose weight while resting.

Well, lose more calories, rather. It’s unlikely the scale will dive significantly hours after HIIT workouts.

Shorter Workout Sessions

For those who don’t have a lot of time, such as myself, HIIT workouts are focused on maximizing what time you do have for the greatest impact. Instead of grinding out a 40-minute routine, a 15 to 20-minute HIIT exercise can be far more effective.

For instance, one study showed how HIIT routines burn up to 30% more calories than other exercises.

In essence, you can get a better workout in a shorter amount of time. For someone like me who has too much to do, this is quite ideal.

How to Make Your Own HIIT Workouts

The basic idea behind making HIIT workouts is pushing yourself hard for short intervals while taking breaks. Remember, it’s all about getting that heart rate up.

Creating your own routines is much easier if you have something like a Fitbit or another type of wearable heart rate monitor. This way, you can see where your heart rate is at and make adjustments if necessary.

If you don’t have the cash to spend on something fancy, you can find a lot of affordable heart rate monitors that won’t break the bank.

What Exercises Can You Mix In?

In reality, any exercise that can elevate your heart rate quickly can be added to your routine. Of course, it also depends on how many reps you can do within a specific time frame to make it worthwhile.

For example, only being able to crank out three pushups inside of 30 seconds might not be the best to add to your HIIT workouts.

But if you can steadily do push-ups constantly for 30 seconds, that may do the trick.

The core principle of HIIT exercises is to hit roughly 80% of your max heart rate. Of course, this works better if you do a light to medium warm-up beforehand.

For instance, I can get my heart rate to around 130 with an arduous walk around the backyard for a few minutes. Though, it’s more than 90 degrees when I do this, which contributes to increasing heart rate.

How Long Should the “On” Durations Be?

I’ve seen workouts for each interval stretch anywhere from 30 seconds to five minutes. In reality, it all comes down to what you’re comfortable with and how much you can sustain.

It’s all about intensity and how far you can push your body.

If 30 seconds of jumping jacks can elevate your heart rate enough, you can add those to your workout. The same can be said for virtually any bodyweight exercise.

As for the perfect length of time, well, that is up to you and how much of a grind you’re looking for.

How Many Intervals Are Necessary for HIIT Workouts?

The number of intervals also relies on personal preference. Some people will use fewer as they are pressed for time while others will do as many as possible.

However, most HIIT routines I’ve seen online usually range around three or four intervals of mixed exercises at around three or four sets.

So, an example of HIIT workouts could look something like this after a warm up:

Set 1Set 2Set 3Set 4
30 Seconds of Sit-ups30 Seconds of Sit-ups30 Seconds of Sit-ups30 Seconds of Sit-ups
RestRestRestRest
30 Seconds of Jumping Jacks30 Seconds of Jumping Jacks30 Seconds of Jumping Jacks30 Seconds of Jumping Jacks
RestRestRestRest
30 Seconds of Burpees30 Seconds of Burpees30 Seconds of Burpees30 Seconds of Burpees
RestRestRestRest
3-interval Workout at 4 Total Sets

How Short Should the “Off” Durations Be?

Rest periods shouldn’t be overly long. In most instances, I’ve seen them range around the 30-second mark. Though, it looks common enough that rest periods are roughly half as long as the exercises.

So, if you put in a one-minute grind, your rest period could be 30 seconds.

However, I haven’t seen HIIT workouts that have rest periods longer than one minute. So keep that in mind when you’re creating your own routine.

Playing the Xbox Kinect for HIIT Workouts?

I’m a fan of playing the Xbox Kinect. It’s been the major contributor to me losing more than 70 pounds thus far and continues to be my primary fall-back routine.

So, how does it compare to other HIIT exercises? Because of how I play.

When I’m standing in front of the Kinect, I throw myself heavily into the game. In fact, I don’t think my peak heart rate has ever gone below 156 BPM during any session.

Take Virtual Smash, for example. It’s a “Gym Game” as part of Your Shape: Fitness Evolved. Each round of the game last for 60 seconds in which you try to break as many bricks with your hands and feet as possible.

Then, I take about a 30-second break in between rounds.

In this case, it’s 60 seconds of grueling, fast-paced movement followed by a 30-second cool down. Sound familiar?

I also do all of this while wearing weights on my hands and wrists. This improves the resistance training for the gameplay by forcing my muscles to compensate for the additional weight.

The end result is burning roughly 13 calories per minute over a span of 25 to 30 minutes while turning myself into a sweaty mess.

My point is that the Xbox Kinect is what works best for me when it comes to HIIT workouts. You need to find or create routines that can keep you interested in the activity.

That’s the key to any exercise being effective: will it keep your interest over the long-term.

HIIT Workouts Are Often Effective

There’s no doubt that HIIT routines have potential as an effective form of exercise. Thanks to scientific studies, we have an idea of what to expect.

However, also keep in mind that these studies base results off of averages across many individual subjects. This means that just because it might look good on paper doesn’t mean it’ll be perfect for every single person.

On the other hand, at least we know that HIIT workouts may have the potential to help burn fat and tone muscle mass.

The choice to set up your own routine is completely up to you.

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Michael Brockbank

Since 2015, Michael has put in the effort to lose more than 80 pounds by gamifying fitness and eating proper portion sizes. He conducts extensive research into various health and fitness products to provide the best answers possible according to his own experience and knowledge.

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