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Fact checked by Kirsten Yovino, CPT Brookbush InstituteFACT CHECKED
December 02, 2022
We’ve all heard the phrase work smarter, not harder, right? Well, in this case, working harder for less time is what’s smarter. A common misconception is that you must do long boring cardio sessions to burn extra calories. But what if you could burn way more calories in way less time?
Good news! With high-intensity interval training (HIIT), you can.
In fact, when weight loss is your goal, high-intensity interval training is one of the best ways to burn calories and melt fat. There are tons of options, sometimes an overwhelming assortment, but lucky for you, we have the best ones right here.
In this article, we'll cover:
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To clarify, every time you read HIIT in this article, it refers to high-intensity interval training. What that means is that you are combining short bursts of intense exercise with varying periods of rest or lower-intensity exercise. When people think of cardio to burn fat, they often think you have to jog outside or on the treadmill.
But the fantastic thing about HIIT is that the options are much more fun and almost endless.
HIIT can be used with any type of exercise, including resistance training, bodyweight movements, your favorite cardio machines, battle ropes, kettlebells, and so much more. The absolute best part? You can combine any and all of them to create the HIIT workout of your dreams.
Before we go any further, it’s important to note that sometimes two terms, HIIT and interval training, are commonly, but incorrectly, used interchangeably. To be clear, these two are not the same exercise. The main difference is intensity.
We will go more in-depth on this shortly, but for now, it’s vital to know that interval training is exercising at different levels of intensity but not necessarily the same extreme high intensity that HIIT is known for. This means that both workouts may even use the same equipment, work intervals, and rest periods, but only the best fat burning HIIT workout will have you working at an intense enough level to burn serious calories and lose weight.
Interval training can act as an excellent option for a beginner entering the world of this style of cardio training. HIIT, however, is the top choice for an incredible calorie burn.
When it comes to weight loss, HIIT is excellent and trumps all other forms of cardio training, including LISS1. It’s easy to think that being in the gym longer and doing more will lead to better results, but that's simply not the case.
The time efficiency and intensity of a belly fat burning HIIT workout will get your heart rate and breathing so high that your body burns calories like crazy to handle the intensity of what you are doing.
Just how intense is high intensity? To get the calorie-burning prize this style of training offers, you want your heart rate up to at least 80% of its maximum. As a result, your body will use its anaerobic system instead of its aerobic one to produce energy.
That means you're not using oxygen to produce energy, but instead using stored glucose and creatine. To simplify this, sprinting uses the anaerobic system, while a longer, slower jog uses the aerobic system.
Sprints are short, like the intervals in HIIT. More on that later.
Returning to the heart rate, getting to 80% of your maximum heart rate will vary from person to person, depending on their fitness level. It's important to figure out what 80% of your max heart rate is, because it’s the gold standard for when the benefits of HIIT start to kick in. Using a heart rate monitor or Fitbit is crucial for this type of training because you will accurately measure how close you are to that necessary heart rate zone.
When your heart rate is high, your body burns serious calories. But with HIIT, your workout isn't even when the best benefits kick in. The real benefits of HIIT occur after your workout is finished.
The excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) effect is when your body continues burning calories at an elevated rate even after your workout is completed. We'll say that again: Your HIIT workout will be done, but you'll still be burning more calories than normal. Did we mention a HIIT fat burning workout is also shorter?
HIIT for the win.
Looking for a reason to persuade you to feel the HIIT body burn? You're in luck! We've got 5 reasons to start including it in your workout split.
As mentioned above, your workout will already be shorter than a more extended aerobic cardio session, and you will burn more calories in less time. The more calories you burn, the more likely you will be in your calorie deficit for the day, which will lead to melting fat off your body in no time.
Add in the EPOC effect, and your metabolism will be in overdrive for the rest of the day post-workout. Trust us, a fast metabolism is just what you want if lean muscle and less fat are your goals.
You can perform anywhere from a 10 minute fat burning HIIT workout to a 30 minute fat burning HIIT workout. We'd recommend not letting it go longer than 30-35 minutes.
If you can continue for longer, you are either an extremely advanced athlete who loves a little bit of pain, or your intensity isn't as high as it should be. Make sure your heart rate is in the correct zone, and you’ll be in and out of the gym in half the time.
Don’t let the goal of burning fat make you forget the importance of also having muscle. And thanks to HIIT training that uses resistance training and bodyweight exercises, you can have your cake and eat it too (as long as cake is actually a HIIT workout).
HIIT will improve your muscle power output and allow you to build muscle even if your primary use for it is fat loss2.
HIIT will directly improve your VO2 max, which is how much oxygen your body can consume during exercise. When your heart is more efficient, it pumps more blood and oxygen through the circulatory system.
Not only will your muscles have the ability to produce more power from that oxygen, but HIIT will also lower blood pressure as well as the risk of heart disease, one of the leading causes of death in the United States3.
HIIT can be done anywhere. Now, we love utilizing gym equipment for HIIT, like in these HIIT treadmill workouts, so we don't recommend making every HIIT workout equipment free.
However, HIIT with bodyweight exercises can be just as effective if you cannot get to a gym for your workout.
As if we didn't just give you enough reasons to become obsessed with HIIT, here's another. There are multiple types of HIIT training you can do, meaning you'll most certainly never get bored.
Here's a closer look at the different types of HIIT training.
This is one of the most popular and well-known forms of HIIT. You perform 20 seconds of all-out high-intensity exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest. Repeat that for eight rounds, and in 4 minutes, you have completed one round of Tabata. A goal of 3-5 rounds with 1-2 minutes rest in between will give you a fantastic HIIT workout.
What’s cool about Tabata is that you alternate between two exercises. You can do a different exercise each time, but that becomes a bit of a memory game. To keep it simple, try alternating between an upper and lower body exercise, like push-ups and squats.
The options are endless, as you can use any exercise, including those in your weight training routine. Kettlebell swings paired with battle ropes, squats and presses paired with jump squats, and sprints on a treadmill paired with medicine ball slams are just a few more options to consider.
This variation can be done on a treadmill and has you alternating between sprinting and active recovery periods of walking or jogging, depending on your fitness level. The treadmill also usually has a heart rate monitor available to ensure you are in the appropriate zone.
There are countless options for your intervals, but as a basic starting point, you can choose the time period you are going to train for and then pick your intervals. Sprinting for 20 seconds and then walking or jogging for 40 seconds for a 15 minute fat burning HIIT workout is a great starting point.
If that’s too tough, try 10 and 50 seconds of recovery. But remember, the sprint needs to be high-intensity, or you won’t get the full benefits.
This style pairs two exercises, like a goblet squat and a push-up, having you start with one each, then two, etc., until you have reached 10 exercises each with as little rest as possible. Think of it as climbing a repetition ladder.
Rest for 1-2 minutes when you get to the top or bottom of your ladder, so you can work as hard as possible when you start your ladder again. If you give yourself a 10-15 minutes frame, you can see how many times you can go up and down the reps ladder during that time.
Complexes are a unique style of strength training that acts as a flow of exercises in one big round, which when done correctly, will have your lungs screaming for you to rest. Barbells, kettlebells, and dumbbells are standard equipment options used to reap some strength training benefits during your HIIT routine.
For a kettlebell example, you would perform five exercises in a row for ten reps. Ten swings, ten bent-over rows, ten double cleans, ten squats and presses, and ten back lunges to finish. Rest for one minute and try to complete five rounds.
Barbell complexes are so effective that we even suggest them in our article on How To Burn 500 Calories A Day.
AMRAP stands for As Many Rounds As Possible. This method allows you to test yourself and see your progress as you have goal rounds to beat each time you do the workout. Set a timer for 20 minutes and pick six exercises for the indicated reps, seeing how many times you can get through the circuit in that time.
You can mix body weight and weights to build a fantastic muscle-building fat-burning circuit.
HIIT workouts, particularly when we're talking about the best HIIT workout to burn belly fat, may be grueling, but they are also super versatile. Whether at home or the gym, the exercises and equipment you can use are endless.
In fact, you can use anything if it gets your heart rate up to where it needs to be, which allows you to pick things you like. For example, if you love Crossfit or the rowing machine, these HIIT rowing workouts may be exactly what you're looking for. You may also realize that when it comes to losing weight, some of the things you hate the most may yield the best results.
Sometimes it works best to use some of each in your workout to break up the monotony.
Equipment options include:
The wait is over! Let's get into the best fat burning HIIT workouts.
One last note before we continue: If weight loss is your goal, make sure to pair your workouts with proper nutrition. This means a balanced diet and fewer calories than your maintenance number. Counting macros is a great diet option for those trying to hit a protein goal.
This fat burning HIIT workout is 20 minutes in total, consisting of 4 rounds, and does a great job working your entire body.
To ensure your heart rate stays nice and high, jump from the high plank position required for push-ups to the standing starting position needed for jumping rope.
For 12 minutes, complete as many rounds of the three exercises we've listed below as you can.
Rest 20-30 seconds between rounds. Use a heavier kettlebell since the reps are low, and substitute regular or modified push-ups when needed.
Ensure your row machine has a calorie setting. If it doesn't, aim for 20 seconds as fast as possible during this fat loss HIIT workout. And remember, these HIIT cardio workouts are only as effective as the effort you put in!
In this 10-minute ladder HIIT workout, you'll alternate between medicine ball slams and dumbbell thrusters.
Lasting a total of 18 minutes, this circuit workout includes treadmill sprints, ab bicycles, and a farmer's walk march.
Note: For the farmer's walk march, use a heavy set of dumbbells and a high knee march.
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For 15 minutes, prepare to feel the upper body and lower body burn as you perform deadlifts, bent-over rows, hang cleans, squats and presses, and back lunges.
All exercises should be done in succession without setting the bar down. This can be substituted with dumbbells or kettlebells.
To perform this 20-minute fat burning HIIT workout, start a timer for 20 minutes. For each exercise, you will do the indicated time or reps and take the rest of the minute as the rest. At the start of each minute, begin the next exercise.
Although it is extremely effective and gets amazing results, HIIT is hard on your body and should not be done every day. It is a fantastic tool to pair with your training program, but it is too hard for your body to recover from numerous HIIT sessions a week.
As your fitness level improves, you can do longer HIIT workouts and increase the number of sessions you do per week, but keep an eye on your muscle recovery.
Beginners should perform HIIT workouts for fat loss 1-2 times a week. If you are a more seasoned gym goer with some HIIT experience, you can do up to 3 sessions a week. Here is yet another reminder that no matter what, you need to keep an eye on how your body is feeling and how it is recovering after these sessions.
If you are not improving weekly or your other workouts suffer, scale back a bit on your HIIT workouts to burn fat until your body adjusts.
As with everything fitness related, figuring out how to best include HIIT will take some trial and error. With your resistance training program, try to include 1 HIIT session and one LISS cardio session per week as a starting point. For your cardio session, if your goal is to lose fat, try to stay in the fat burning zone.
If you want to place even more effort into fat loss, try bumping it up to two HIIT sessions a week once you can handle it. Try not to do HIIT before your resistance training, as it will leave your body too exhausted. It’s best to place it after your resistance training or on its own day so you can work out at the appropriate intensity.
With endless options to keep you focused and motivated, there is something for everyone with HIIT workouts. And with benefits for weight loss, health, and muscle building, everyone should be doing them.
Remember, you can get results in less time, you just have to put in the work and eat right. Supplements can help too if your workouts and diet are on point, but, of course, there are no "cheat codes".
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December 08, 2023
December 07, 2023
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