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How to Get a Better Workout in Less Time With HIIT

woman stretching on the track

Editor note: This is a guest post from Krista Stryker of 12 Minute Athlete.

Okay, a show of hands. Who else thinks you have to spend hours in the gym in order to get in a good workout? I used to be just like you. I’d spend an hour (or two!) doing cardio, lifting weights, and maybe even hitting the punching bag till I was exhausted and dripping with sweat—six days a week. Because anything less than that doesn’t really count as a workout… right?


There is a style of training you can do that won’t eat up all your time—that you can do in just 10 to 20 minutes a day, giving you more time to do the activities you actually want to be doing—like surfing, hiking, or even just having coffee with friends. It’s not a gimmick. It really works. It’s called high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and it should be your new best workout friend.

So, What is HIIT?

HIIT is any sort of activity that alternates periods of high and low-intensity training. It can be used with any sort of exercise—running, biking, jump roping, rowing, resistance exercise, etc.

HIIT has tons of incredible benefits, including but not limited to:

  • Increased overall athletic performance
  • Helps to prevent or overcome plateaus
  • Allows for greater VO2 (oxygen) intake
  • Prevents injuries associated with repetitive endurance training—including minimizing the risk of overtraining
  • It’s really great for your heart!

The only caveat to interval training? In order to do it right, you have to work really, really hard. So run fast, jump high, and sweat buckets—just do so knowing it’ll be over before you know it. If you’re still not convinced, here are a few other reasons why you should fall in love with interval training today.

It’s Short

Ever spend so much time in the gym that you find you no longer have the time to do the activities you really want to do—like surf, hike, go for a bike ride, or even take your dog for a walk? That used to happen to me. A lot. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Because with interval training, you get more done in less time.

Most HIIT workouts take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes—giving you much more time to do all the other things you actually want to be doing the rest of the day. And that’s pretty awesome if you ask me.

It Makes Your Body a Fat-Burning Machine

Since interval training allows you to accomplish a greater amount of work in a shorter amount of time, you’re not only gaining time, you’ll also get in shape much quicker than you would with low or medium intensity cardio.

Because not only does interval training burn more calories in less time, it also revs up your metabolism for the entire day—so you’re not only burning fat during your workout, you’re burning more fat for up to 48 hours afterwards. That’s good news for anyone wanting to lose weight or get into the best shape of their lives—without spending hours in the gym.

Give HIIT a Try

You can do interval training with or without equipment—the only thing you’ll really need is some sort of timer.

Here are a few sample interval workouts you can try on your own:

  • 12 rounds of 10 and 50 second intervals. 10 is the rest interval, 50 is the work interval. Alternate between: burpees, air squats and push ups.
  • 18 rounds of 10 and 30 second intervals. Alternate between: high knees using a jump rope, walking lunges, squat jumps, dive bomber push ups, burpees and sit ups.
  • 12 rounds of 10 and 50 second intervals. Alternate between: burpees, pull ups, tuck jumps and v ups.

Remember, the harder you work, the more effective your workout will be! Now go do some HIIT, and have some fun with it while you’re at it.

  • Caleb Wojcik

    I never feel more “spent” after a workout than when I do HIIT. Well, other than a half-marathon. Also, less time spent working out is a huge plus.

    • Krista Stryker

      Yep, there’s no need to work out for hours just to feel like you got a real workout in – a short HIIT session will tire you out for sure!

  • Renee Brzostowski

    What are dive bombers?

    • Krista Stryker

      Good question, Renee! Dive bombers are extra tough push ups that are AMAZING for your arms, chest and back muscles.

      This short video will show you exactly how to do dive bomber push ups:

  • Kimberly

    HIIT, that’s a lot like Tabata, right? Or AMRAPs (As many reps as possible)? Boot Camp seems like it’s HIIT. You go as hard as you can for a certain amount of time, then you get a small break before you go at it again – we do a mix of Cardio and Resistance. I think the battle ropes are my favourite. It doesn’t seem like much at first glance – “but they’re just big ropes attached to the wall!”, but holy it really tires out your arms!

    • Krista Stryker

      Tabata training and AMRAPs are certainly forms of HIIT. Like you said, the whole point is that you work as hard as you possibly can for the short duration of the workout.

      It’s not easy, but boy is it effective!

  • Allison

    How many days a week should one do HIIT? I am currently doing 3 days a week weight training and 3 days a week cardio. Would doing it on my cardio days get results?

    • Krista Stryker

      Allison, I’d say to try substituting your cardio with HIIT 3 days a week. Depending on what type of cardio you’ve been doing, you’ll DEFINITELY see results.

      Also, remember that you can incorporate resistance training (including weights and bodyweight exercises) into HIIT as suggested in the sample workouts. Then you’ll be spending even less time in the gym!

  • Sim

    I have been doing interval training for a couple of months but not sure if I am doing it correctly. Would you be able to suggest an interval training program on a treadmill and elliptical? I would typically start a 2-3 minute warmup on the treadmill, then run at 4.8 for one minute, then walk at 3.8 for another minute, and repeat this for about 20-30 minutes. I sometimes increase the incline when I am running for that minute. Is this correct? Should I be changing the amount of time I recuperate? I want to maximize my workout as much as possible, and I read that the recuperation should not be too long in between…Also, is necessary to go past 20 minutes? After I am done, I proceed to do weights, alternating upper body one day, and lower body the next.
    Thanks so much, I read your articles religiously!

    • Krista Stryker

      Hi Sim – There’s really no right or wrong way to do interval training – the whole idea is to just work as hard as you possibly can during the work intervals.

      That means you really need to push yourself out of your comfort zone and sprint (not jog) during the work interval. I’d try to keep your workout shorter, but push harder – aim for about 10 to 20 minutes total, plus maybe a two minute warmup.

      Hope that helps!

  • Jenn Mitchell

    I love HIIT workouts. I used to think I was not getting a good workout if I did not exercise for an hour or more. HIIT has changed that for me.

  • Laura

    Hi I’m a single mum of 3 working full time and studying to be a midwife. My time is so limited it’s silly but I manage to do HIIT every day before bed and I love it. It provides me with the energy to do everything I need to through the day and it never gets boring and i never plateau because its so different. I can’t say enough about how amazing it is and the results I’ve seen on my body are better than I’ve ever seen with any other type of exercise.

    • Krista Stryker

      That’s so great to hear, Laura! Your experience shows that you don’t actually need to spend a long time exercising to get great results. Thanks for sharing your story!

  • Sim

    Hi, I have been training HIIT, as you have suggested in your articles. My question is this, are there any alternatives to training this way for someone who has bad knees? Some days my knees are fine, so I ramp it up on the treadmill, but other times, I just cannot, as my knees hurt, and I don’t want to push myself as I have already injured my self in the past (hip tear, shoulder tear), so I am cautious to listen to my body. Any suggestions for low impact HIIT training for bad knees? Thanks so much!

    • Monica

      I do HIIT on my elliptical, sometimes. I warm up for 5 minutes, at an easy pace, almost no resistance. Then I alternate 90 seconds of quicker pace, light resistance, with 30 seconds of very high resistance. I do 5 rounds of this (total of 10 minutes), then cool down for 3-5 minutes the same as the warm up.

      • Sim

        Sounds good, will try that, thanks Monica!

  • cindy

    Bodies have problems and heading right to HITT can exacerbate the issues. Great article tho.