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Fact checked by Kirsten Yovino, CPT Brookbush InstituteFACT CHECKED
October 29, 2022
Busy schedules can make it hard to get to the gym or find time to go for a run. Sometimes, you may be under a time crunch with only 10 to 20 minutes to spare. This can cause people to resort to skipping parts of their workout or bypassing it altogether.
But there has to be a better option than forgoing our fitness routines altogether, right?
Right. The answer, particularly for all of you runners and time-crunched fitness junkies, is HIIT treadmill workouts. Promising an awesome workout in less time, it'll get you in and out quickly, while boosting your fitness levels, blasting fat, and torching calories.
And don't worry. You won’t be doing that shuffle-bounce jog that you see most people doing outside or on a treadmill. Well, not for the entire workout, anyway. You’ll have to use the important HI part of HIIT to make these short routines effective. And that'll mean serious sprinting for short durations.
High intensity is the name of the game when it comes to reaping the benefits of HIIT in less time than you think. More results, less time in the gym, and more time for the rest of your obligations and activities. Sounds pretty good to us.
In this article, we'll cover everything you need to know about HIIT treadmill workouts, including:
If you live anywhere that has a brutal winter (or a winter at all), then you know that running outside isn’t always an option. Even in the best of weather, running outside may not be your preference, whether due to uneven surfaces, traffic, or allergies.
The treadmill is a stationary cardio machine that allows you to walk, jog, or run indoors. Any basic gym is going to have at least a couple, and the bigger the gym you go to, the more they will have. This means you shouldn’t have to worry about not being able to snag one.
You can learn more about treadmills and even compare them to bikes in our article: Treadmill vs Stationary Bike - Which Should You Choose?
Treadmills sometimes get a bad rap for being a glorified hamster wheel or just plain boring. But they actually have a ton of unique options to help personalize your workout for maximum results.
Talk about convenience! You can pick the speed and incline of the treadmill, and some will even allow you to design an interval training program so you don't have to push any buttons during your workout. On top of that, treadmills estimate how many calories you burn as well as your heart rate, so you can track just how effective your training session is.
HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training. This means combining short bursts of intense exercise with varying rest intervals or lower-intensity exercise. HIIT can be used for any type of exercise, including weight training, bodyweight training, cardio machines (like these assault bike workouts, for example), or a combination. The options are endless, but for this article, we will focus on HIIT treadmill workouts.
Wondering just how intense high intensity is? The goal of a HIIT workout is to get a person's heart rate up to at least 80% of its maximum. This obviously will vary from person to person depending on fitness levels, but at least 80% is the gold standard for when HIIT's benefits start to kick in.
Most treadmills will come with a heart rate monitor if you don’t have a wearable fitness tracker, like the Oura Ring or Whoop, to track it. The fancier the treadmill, the better the heart rate monitor. It may not be perfect, but one is better then none as you will need one to track your heart rate for these workouts.
With most HIIT workouts, you get the tremendous benefit of not having to do it for as long to see results1. A beginner workout may only be around 10 minutes. Advanced trainees should aim closer to 15-20 minutes, with 30 minutes being about the maximum.
Do some people do more? Yes, but they are either very advanced or simply enjoy pain. Short, sweet, and intense is the takeaway for HIIT.
The other cool thing about HIIT is that it isn’t one size fits all. No matter your level, there are many options for how to format your workouts for massive health and cardiovascular benefits2.
The first thing you have to do is pick how long your session will be. As we mentioned, beginners should try for 10 minutes, intermediate for 10-15, and advanced for 15-25 minutes.
Any of the following examples are great starter options. Remember, it’s a flexible workout, and there are countless variations.
With HIIT, it’s all about higher intensities (hence, the name) and getting your heart rate to at least 80% of your maximum heart rate. The intensity is so high, enabling it to be a short and sweet workout. It’s a fair trade!
Interval training will not have the same high-intensity intervals, which means you won’t be able to get the EPOC benefits (more on that shortly). It is also very flexible in terms of its formatting. You can use the same format as the examples we listed for HIIT workouts.
An interval workout may be more suited to beginners or those looking to exercise at a moderate pace. After mastering intervals, you can ramp things up with HIIT workouts instead.
The key takeaway is that these options break up your routine if you want to do something other than LISS cardio. Interval training may be a good starting point for beginners as they work up their confidence and fitness levels before attacking more intense HIIT workouts.
HIIT is a fantastic choice for weight loss and burning fat. Not only will your workout be shorter, but you will burn up to 25-30% more calories than steady-state cardio3. The main hidden benefit of HIIT actually occurs after your workout. How awesome is that?
HIIT works your anaerobic system, meaning you work so hard that your body cannot use oxygen as it does during aerobic exercise (steady-state cardio). Instead, it uses the lactic acid system, which powers your body for those intense 10-30 second bursts. This means you will have to work harder during muscle recovery post workout.
So let’s say you work out in the morning and are then at your desk that afternoon, working. As you're sitting there, your body will feel the after-burn effect, also known as excess post-exercise consumption or EPOC. This will increase your metabolic rate and have you burn calories long after you finish your fast and efficient workout4.
Wow, so it’s like you are still in the gym after you left the gym? Yes! But remember, the only way you get that fantastic trade-off is if you push yourself to that anaerobic heart rate zone. So make sure you can hit that heart rate for whatever interval.
Build up to it using lower-intensity interval training if you are brand new to exercise, and then once you are ready, let 'er rip.
If fat loss is your goal, HIIT is a tool that needs to be used in unison with a proper diet. Tracking your calories and hitting your daily macro goals is essential.
Otherwise, you may still be eating more than you burn. You can try plans like the Metabolic Confusion Diet, or simply prioritize high protein low fat foods and track macros to support your weight-loss goals.
Get your diet in check, pick a workout split you enjoy, and sprinkle in some HIIT workouts to melt the fat away. These workouts are fantastic tools, but they won't undo bad eating habits.
This depends entirely on your starting fitness level. Remember that you can (and will) progress each week, so it’s important not to bite off more than you can chew in your first HIIT workout. Sometimes HIIT routines can be so intense and shocking to your system that you may not want to return for more. But that’s easily solved if you know where to start.
Beginner HIIT exercisers should shoot for a max of 10 minutes for their first workout. Intermediates should shoot for 10-15 minutes. Advanced trainees or those looking to jump to feeling advanced should try for 15-25 minutes. Even if you up your intervals from 20 seconds to 25 the next week, that's still an improvement.
Another thing to keep in mind is even if your total minutes stay the same, you can play with several variables to make your workout more challenging. You can change the incline of your treadmill for your high-intensity intervals or even for the entire workout.
You can make your intense portions more intense by running faster or adding 5 seconds. Or, try shortening your recovery time frame and keep the intense intervals the same.
To summarize, it’s going to be short, and it’s going to be difficult, but that’s why it’s worth it.
On the fence about whether to give a HIIT treadmill workout a shot? These benefits will likely convince you to try it.
A HIIT treadmill workout will:
Ready for some serious HIIT training? These treadmill HIIT workouts include beginner workouts, intermediate, and advanced options for every fitness level.
For warm-up ideas, you can perform a brisk walk or lightly jog, perform dynamic exercises, or even perform steady-state cardio on the elliptical, bike, or stair climber before switching over to the treadmill if you'd like a little more variety.
Just a warning: You may love these HIIT treadmill workouts so much that you find yourself running out to pick up one of these best folding treadmills, perfect for small spaces and a wide range of budgets.
Lasting a total of 10 minutes, you'll perform this routine a total of 10 times. Warm up for 3 to 5 minutes before getting into this routine.
The walk is your rest interval, and you get slightly longer rest periods in this routine compared to the other workouts. This routine is best for those just getting started on their fitness journey.
Repeat 10 times.
You'll increase your total exercise time and work interval times in this high-intensity exercise routine, which lasts for 15 minutes.
Repeat 15 times.
Don't let the longer-than-a-minute walk fool you. As you're first required to sprint followed by walking at a 3.0 incline, we guarantee you'll be burning calories and working ultra-hard. This routine lasts 20 minutes.
Don't forget your cool down exercises and stretches afterward!
Repeat 10 times.
Lasting 20 minutes, this is a great HIIT workout for intermediate gym goers, whether losing weight or increasing cardiovascular fitness is your goal.
Repeat 20 times.
Don't let the 10-minute work time on this treadmill HIIT workout fool you. This is vigorous exercise at its finest. You'll rotate 20 seconds of sprinting with 10 seconds of walking, followed by 1 minute of walking after 4 minutes of alternating work/rest periods. Repeat once more.
Want to make this even harder? Instead of the 10-second walk, turn it into a light jog.
As your fitness levels improve, feel free to add another round on, extending your work time to 15. Also, ensure you don't stick to the same speed week after week. Push yourself! You can even add some bodyweight exercises, like push-ups and lunges, to the end of the routine to make it even more challenging.
Since HIIT is so intense, it is not something you can do every day. The risk of overtraining and injury is much higher with this type of workout, so it’s best to give yourself 24 hours of recovery and shoot for 2-3 times a week.
We always recommend HIIT workouts in conjunction with your strength training program, whether that's a 3-day split, 4-day split, or even a 6-day split. Once you have built up some stamina with these workouts, you can increase the time or frequency.
Just keep an eye on how your body is feeling. If it’s feeling beat up, scale back a bit.
If you still have some lingering HIIT treadmill workout questions, never fear! We've got your answers here.
Put your treadmill at an incline of 12 and a speed of 3MPH, and walk for 30 minutes.
Yes, but each treadmill is different. Ask a trainer at your gym to show you how to do so, as there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
This depends on your workout and fitness level. Until you are ready to add incline, keep it at 0.
Simply turn up the speed until you feel you are running at your maximum speed for the chosen time.
This also depends on your goal. If you are capable of doing HIIT, it is going to get you better results. If you are newer, prefer steady-state cardio, or need a more low-impact workout, that’s your money maker.
Okay, so you see how beneficial HIIT workouts can be if you are short on time or want to maximize your cardio results. Every person should maintain the ability to sprint not only for heart health and to burn calories but because it’s an essential human movement you'll lose if you don't use.
So finish that chest and shoulders workout, hop on that treadmill and try even just 5 minutes of HIIT. We bet you like the results and how it feels. We know the intensity can be daunting, but remind yourself that you don’t have to start with 30 minutes.
Start wherever you are and keep building up weekly. Stay consistent with it, and you will reap all the benefits of these awesome treadmill workouts. You may even find yourself asking, "how much does a treadmill cost?" as you consider purchasing one to ensure you have access to HIIT treadmill workouts 24/7.
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