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High-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts are commonplace. This exciting form of exercise is marked by short, highly intense bursts of physical activity separated by brief periods of rest. In this article, we tackle what HIIT is, why it works and present a few curated workouts to help men reach their maximum potential.

What Is HIIT?

The name high-intensity interval training says it all: An exercise, or set of exercises, performed close to the maximum intensity the body can muster, in quick succession. These high-impact exercises are often only done several seconds or minutes at a time, with periods of rest in between that in some cases may be longer than the workout itself.  

Because of the strenuous exertion of HIIT workouts, they are often performed for a shorter overall time than regular routines while remaining just as effective. A short HIIT routine can be as fast as 15 minutes, and even a longer routine won’t run longer than half an hour. This can make it ideal for those with limited time to spend in the gym.

What HIIT Targets

If you are looking for muscle growth, HIIT may not always be the workout for you. One of the benefits of HIIT is that most routines are done with little or minimal equipment (besides your workout clothes, of course), which has the side effect that resistance training, which is most conducive to muscle hypertrophy and thus growth, rarely features in its workouts. 

This is not to say that HIIT can’t lead to increased strength. Naturally, the muscle groups focused on in any given HIIT workout will receive an intense boost. However, all HIIT exercises most effectively assist with reducing overall body fat and improving cardiovascular fitness. 

Depending on the specific exercises involved, HIIT may burn more calories than moderate-intensity counterparts in less time. As far as heart health goes, a 2015 study found that previously inactive individuals who performed HIIT experienced similar benefits to those engaged in traditional, moderate-intensity training despite spending less than half as much time engaged in exercise.

Testing done has generally proven HIIT effectively at lowering resting heart rate and pulse pressure, as well as improving overall endurance when it comes to exercise. While it won’t hit strength training as hard as hypertrophy training will, HIIT workouts hit most major metrics of general fitness.

How To Engage in HIIT


Traditional HIIT workouts eschew gym equipment in favor of creating an intense routine that can be done anywhere that you have enough space around you. Most forms of exercise can be integrated into a HIIT workout. While this is true, simple exercises which are easy to both transition into and out of are best due to the demand HIIT places on the body and the speedy nature of the exercises. 

Unusually, HIIT workouts devote more time to resting your next rep than actually performing the reps in question. Because HIIT workouts push the body to extremes in short periods of time, more time is normally spent at rest than in motion. When you’re packing the intensity of an hour-long workout into half the time or less, every single moment of rest matters.

In a moment, we’ll explain how to best use your downtime. Until then, below are a couple of HIIT workouts we’ve collected, designed to tackle different fitness goals while still maintaining the same cardio content that’s made them so popular. 

Circuit A

The exercise:

Mountain Climbers: 20 seconds

Rest: 30 seconds

Leg Raises: 20 seconds

Rest: 30 seconds

V Sit-ups: 20 seconds

Rest: 30 seconds

Russian Twists: 20 seconds

Rest: 30 seconds

    The routine: This HIIT workout targets your core above all else. The whole sequence is perfect for both weight loss and for building abdominal strength. Repeat this circuit three to six times depending on your stamina, and perform light stretches, such as cobra pose, as a cooldown.

    Circuit B 

    The exercise:

    Squats: 30 seconds

    Rest: 45 Seconds

    Jumping Jacks: 30 seconds

    Rest: 45 seconds

    Lunges: 30 seconds

    Rest: 45 seconds

    Burpees: 30 seconds

    Rest: 45 seconds

      The routine: For leg day, this circuit is sure to kick things into gear. Repeat this circuit four to six times as your endurance allows. Be sure to stretch your legs before and after to avoid soreness the next day.

      Circuit C

      The exercise:

      Sprint: Ten Seconds

      Rest: Various

      (Repeat Total of Ten Time Per Circuit)

        The routine: This sprint burst requires a wide-open space, making it the perfect routine to take outdoors or to an indoor track. This circuit is repeated three times, with ten reps each time. Additionally, the intense cardio load this circuit places on the body makes it best for those who are somewhat acclimated to running and is best used as a standalone routine.

        For the first round, sprint for ten seconds, then rest for 30 seconds. After the tenth rep, rest for 60 seconds. For the second round, sprint for ten seconds, then rest for 25 seconds. After the tenth rep, rest for 60 seconds. For the third round, sprint for ten seconds, then rest for 20 seconds. A light jog after the final rep should serve as a cooldown. 

        Note: Choosing where to run is essential, as pavements and trails have radically different impacts on your running. Be sure that however you run, you’re properly cushioned to avoid shin splints and other leg injuries.

        Circuit D

        The exercises:

        Push-Ups: 30 seconds

        Rest: 45 seconds

        Side Plank: 30 seconds

        Rest: 45 seconds

        Burpees: 30 seconds

        Rest: 45 seconds

        Side Plank (Alternate side): 30 seconds

        Rest: 45 seconds

        Sit-Ups: 30 seconds

        Rest: 45 seconds

          The routine: This circuit mixes four separate movements to create an effective full-body routine. Four repetitions should suffice for this deceptively intensive workout. For an added boost, you can alternate the type of push-up or sit-up you do or add leg lifts to your side planks.

          Circuit E

          The exercises: 

          DB Push Ups: 30 seconds

          Rest: 45 seconds

          DB Rows: 30 seconds

          Rest: 45 seconds

          Kettlebell Sit Ups: 30 seconds

          Rest: 45 seconds

          Kettlebell Russian Twists: 30 seconds

          Rest: 45 seconds

            The routine: Generally, HIIT training is done without the aid of major weights, but dumbbells and kettlebells alone can give an extra push to an already strong routine. Choose a weight that’s fairly easy to lift, as, by the end of four repetitions, your arms may be feeling the fatigue setting in. 

            Resting and Cooling Down

            Properly resting is as important to maintaining good health as any other aspect of training in HIIT is. 

            Often, after exercising, the next day or so is taken off to allow for sedentary recovery. This is what’s known as passive recovery. Passive recovery has the benefit of allowing injured muscles to completely rest but is otherwise outmatched or supplemented by active recovery.

            Active recovery exists in stark contrast to passive recovery in that it uses a small amount of exercise to stimulate muscles and encourage healing as well as fatigue reduction. Active recovery takes the form of medium rep, low-intensity exercise with a focus on movement and flexibility. Keep the heart rate low, but put the work in to alleviate soreness.

            Active recovery can be integrated on off days to keep the body in motion or to add an extra bit of heft to a cooldown, but it has a very special relationship with HIIT workouts. HIIT workouts, as a high-intensity exercise, cause the body to clear the anaerobic threshold. What this means is that the body begins to outstrip the power oxygen alone can provide. The result of this is the production of lactate.

            Lactate is part of what causes soreness and fatigue the day after a workout, but actions taken before fatigue sets in can help benefit the recovery period. HIIT workouts are designed with significant periods of rest, normally passive.

            By engaging in low-intensity activities, such as stretching, yoga, or mild versions of exercises to stimulate the muscles already used in the routine, lactate is dispersed from the muscles into the bloodstream, lessening fatigue the next day. 

            More importantly, a study found that integrating active recovery with HIIT in lieu of passive rest led to participants reaching higher maximum heart rates while perceiving a lower rate of  exertion. Whether you use active recovery techniques after a workout or interlaced with periods of rest, it can help ensure swift recovery for effective HIIT routines later on down the road.  

            HIIT Overview

            HIIT can provide the benefits of a lengthy, moderately strenuous workout routine in a portion of the time by upping the intensity to higher levels. Whether you want to make the most of limited time in the gym or find a way to push through a plateau, we hope you use some of the circuits on this list to push through to a better version of yourself.

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