HIIT Cardio: What is HIIT and How You Do It! [+ Videos]

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If you’re like most, you’ve probably tried and tried to find an exercise routine you actually enjoy, but have found little to no success. Nowadays, it seems as though you have to spend a fortune and hours at the gym just to stay in shape at all. Well, folks, that’s just not true. And here’s why.

If you’ve ever found yourself scrolling through YouTube for quick, heart-pumping exercises, you may have come across something called HIIT.

But just the name sounds a bit scary, no? It could create all these nail-biting, butt-busting scenarios in your mind, causing you to shy away from HIIT, and therefore, away from something that could really help you.

So, with our Ultimate HIIT Guide, you’ll learn all you need to know about HIIT and how it can change your cardio-lacking life.

Let’s get started!

What Is (HIIT?

Although its popularity has recently skyrocketed, HIIT – or High-Intensity Interval Training – is not itself a new concept. According to the Harvard School of Medicine, “for decades, competitive athletes have added brief bouts of strenuous exercise to their workouts to boost their performance.”

This is exactly what HIIT is, small, but very demanding spurts of exercise sprinkled into an overall less intense workout.

Going for a light jog?

Take some time in between running to do a minute of jumping jacks or butt kickers (we’ll get to those in a bit) and you’ll have just done some HIIT cardio. It’s no wonder athletes have used HIIT for years.

Benefits of HIIT

But, why do HIIT?

The name itself says it’s intense, so why even put yourself through the stress? The main draw of HIIT is that it provides all the benefits of a less intense cardiovascular workout in a lot less time.

So, instead of spending two hours at the gym running on a treadmill or making it look like you know how to use the other complex machines, just try a HIIT routine for 30 minutes. That’s all the same cardio benefits in less than half the time.

But what exactly are the benefits of HIIT cardio? Well, read on to find out!

1. HIIT for Your Heart

Your heart is a muscle, just like your biceps and quads, so you can’t forget to work it out, as well. The heart powers your entire body, pumping fresh, oxygenated blood to all of your precious organs while pumping out all the bad stuff. HIIT will certainly help you keep your most valuable muscle healthy.

Besides strengthening your heart muscle, many studies show that HIIT actually helps lower bad cholesterol and high blood pressure. That means HIIT cardio can help prevent diseases such as hypertension and even heart attacks.

2. HIIT for Fat Loss

The fact that HIIT is high intensity means that it can help boost fat loss in your body. Now, when I say fat, I don’t mean just any fat; I’m talking about that dangerous stuff, that heart attack-causing fat called visceral fat. You probably know this as belly fat. HIIT can help you kick it to the curb.

Studies show that HIIT helps boost your metabolism, allowing more fat to be burned in a shorter amount of time. However, don’t mistake this to mean that you can simply do a 30 minute HIIT routine and then eat all the food that your heart desires as soon as you’re done.

HIIT, just like any other cardio exercise, must be paired with a balanced, healthy diet. I suggest LOW CARB; cutting out sugary, high-carb foods such as pasta and most bread has helped me a great deal.

3. HIIT for Your Muscles

Although fitness YouTubers may try to convince you that HIIT will give you giant, bodybuilder-type muscles, it just won’t.

That’s not to say that certain HIIT workouts can’t build muscle, at all. Certainly, squats and lunges will give you some muscle definition. However, studies show that it’s simply false advertising to say that HIIT will get you ready for a WWE fight, for example.

Now, when I tested the HIIT waters, I went HARD. I ended up choosing videos that featured a lot of squats; this actually began to bulk up my legs rather than just toning them.

However, if I’d chosen to do jumping jacks instead, I might’ve seen different results. So, it really depends. But, most agree that HIIT is more successful at preserving your muscles rather than building them.

4. HIIT for Your Brain

Interestingly enough, there are many studies showing the benefits of HIIT for the brain. According to new research, HIIT actually increases blood flow to that slimy, smart thing in your noggin. And we all know that more fresh blood to your organs means a healthier you.

When we get older, our brains begin to lose that vital blood flow as our systems begin to slow down. This could lead to conditions such as dementia and even Alzheimer’s disease.

However, HIIT is now believed to revitalize this flow of blood to the brain MORE EFFECTIVELY than moderately intense exercises, such as light jogging.

And you may be surprised, and relieved, to know that this research found that “both the exercise and the rest periods were important for increasing brain blood flow.” Phew! That hard-earned rest is worth it.

5. HIIT for Your Wallet and Watch

HIIT is not only an awesome workout for your body. It will also save you tons of time. On average, HIIT routines last only a half-hour; that means no more spending hours at the gym just to see the same results as a daily, 30-minute workout.

Plus, seeing as though you don’t need any equipment to perform most HIIT exercises, it’s also a huge money-saver. So save your cash and get your HIIT on, instead.

How To Do HIIT

Although hearing the words “High-Intensity Interval Training” may sound daunting, HIIT is really not that hard to understand. As long as you’re doing bursts of high-intensity cardio exercises broken up with periods of low-intensity exercises (or even just rest), you’re doing HIIT.

Basically, if your heart is beating fast, sweat is pouring from every crevice, and you can’t carry on a chat with your buddy on the phone, you’re HIITing it with your best shot.

Best HIIT Workouts

Okay, so you’ve learned about all the awesome benefits of HIIT cardio and now, you just want to start already. So, what are the best HIIT exercises to add to your fitness routine? Read on to find out.

#1 – Jumping Jacks

No, these are not just for kids anymore. Jumping Jacks are an awesome, versatile exercise that brings your heart rate up while sending your fat levels down. All you’ve got to do is jump your legs in and out and send your arms up and over your head.

#2 – Butt-Kickers

Similar to jogging in place, butt-kickers do exactly what they say: kick your butt. With these, you’re going to want to send your heels as far back to your bum as you can. Don’t hurt your knees, though.

#3 – Mountain Climbers

Rather than staying stationary for what seems like hours in a plank, Mountain Climbers give you the same, ab-working benefits while increasing your heart rate even more. To become a HIIT mountain climber, just get into your best plank and begin to send your knees up to your chest one at a time.

#4 – Burpees

Now, I know even seeing that word makes you want to close this tab and never look at HIIT info ever again. But hear me out. Burpees don’t have to be the root of all of your nightmares; you can modify them to make them as straightforward or difficult as you want.

To do a simple, easy burpee, just place your hands on the ground right in front of your feet, send your legs back and into a quick plank, jump your feet forward again, and stand up. And feel free to add a jump at the end if you’re feeling frisky.

#5 – Sprinting

If you’re a jogger, chances are you sprint every now and again, whether it’s to finish strong or get across the street before your light turns red. Sprinkling a minute or two of sprinting for every ten minutes of jogging is a great way to implement HIIT in your routine.

#6 – Chair Pose

Now, all you yogis out there will certainly recognize this one. But Chair pose isn’t just meant for stretching out your joints and muscles; it’s actually pretty strenuous if you’ve ever tried it.

To do a Chair pose, put your feet together, send your bum backward (as if you’re doing a squat), and lift your arms up to about your ears. Stay here for a whole minute and then tell me that’s not intense.

#7 – Tabata

Tabata is actually a form of HIIT. Named after Izumi Tabata, the first researcher who discovered the great HIIT benefits, Tabata is perhaps the most difficult HIIT routine you can do. Some studies show that it can burn 14 calories per minute.

Tabata may seem simple, at only four minutes long, but trust me, it will send you crawling to your fridge for cold water as soon as you’re done.

Basically, at this time, you’ll be doing 8 rounds of very high-intensity exercises for 20 seconds, followed by 10 second-rest periods. So, if you’re very short on time but want to get your sweat on, try Tabata.

#8 – Jumping Rope

Similar to Jumping Jacks, jumping rope as quickly and intensely as possible will get your HIIT on hard. Just jumping rope for 10 minutes every day will help you burn 200 calories. Of course, you’ve gotta put the work in though; it’s not a tea party.

#9 – Bicycle Crunches

If you’re looking to work those ab muscles, look no further than the bicycle crunch. Not only will laying on your back and pedaling your knee to your opposite elbow tone that core; it’ll get you the heart-pumping, HIIT action you’re looking for.

#10 – When I Say Jump…

Now _this _is probably the most fun HIIT workout I’ve ever done. FitnessBlender puts out a great, free one on YouTube. Basically, When I Say Jump is the adult version of Simon Says.

When you hear “Up,” “Down,” or “Jump,” you better do it. These types of HIIT workouts involve your ordinary HIIT exercises sweetened with the extra fat-burning power of jumping.

Our 12-Minute HIIT Cardio Routine

Of course, you can mix and match your HIIT Cardio routine, or even find an awesome one online. In fact, I encourage mixing it up a bit so as to not grow bored. If there’s one thing that makes me quit an exercise routine, it’s boredom.

So below, I’m going to give you a quick, fun, Full-Body HIIT routine with some extra exercises to swap around things get old.

Warm-Up (2 Minutes)

I know, I know. You just wanna get to the main event. But, warming up is extremely important. If you jump right into those jumping jacks without first warming up your muscles, you may injure yourself, preventing any form of cardio for longer than you can afford.

So, here are a few simple warm-ups I know you’ll enjoy. Do each for 20 seconds and don’t forget to blast your favorite tunes.

#1 – Jogging in Place

This is pretty self-explanatory. Just jog in place. BOOM! Bet you saw that coming.

#2 – Standing Twists

Simply stand with your feet hip-width apart and use your core to twist your upper body (arms extended) to the right and left.

#3 – Arm Circles

All you’ve gotta do here is rotate your arms backward for 15 seconds and forwards for 15 seconds. Easy peasy.

#4 – Cat-Cow

This yoga pose is perfect for warming up the body. Simply get on your hands and knees, drop your belly to inhale and round out your back to exhale.

#5 – Walk-Outs

Don’t worry! This isn’t a burpee just yet. But, it is similar. Just send your hands to the area in front of your standing feet, walk those hands out into a plank, walk m back, and stand up. If you’re feeling up for it, jump your legs back while in plank instead of walking your hands forward.

#6 – Push-Ups

I know, I know… But hey. We’re getting these over with early. End your super quick warm-up with either regular or modified (on the knee) push-ups. They’ll be over before you know it.

1 Minute On, 10 Seconds Off (8 Minutes)

This will include all the HIIT exercises you’re going to do during your routine. Between each minute of HIIT, walk or jog in place for 10 seconds.

Each of these 7 HIIT exercises is only one minute long, so give m all you’ve got. Have fun.

#1 – 1 minute of Jumping Jacks

Switch it out for Split Jacks for a change of pace or Squat Jacks for more booty blasting.

#2- 1 minute of Butt Kickers

Switch it out for High Knees or Lunges if you’re looking for a challenge.

#3 – 1 minute of Chair Pose

Switch it out for Squats or add some pulses for more of a burn.

#4 – 1 minute of Bicycle Crunches

Switch it out for Spider Crunches or Sit-Ups so you don’t get bored.

#5- 1 minute of Squats

Add hand weights or pulses to really feel your muscles working.

#6 – 1 minute of Mountain Climbers

Switch it out for Spider Jacks or a simple, 1-minute plank

#7 -1 minute of the Cotton-Eye Joe

This is supposed to be fun, so why not end off your routine with a dance. If you don’t know the moves, this Tutorial Video below will help you out. Make sure you’re really going hard on this one. Rather than simply stepping side to side, hop

Cool Down (2 Minutes)

Ahhh! You’re done. And you’re probably sweating, too. So, why not end your HIIT workout with a nice, calming cool down? Just do each for 30 seconds (or longer if it feels good.)

#1 – Downward-Facing Dog

This is going to feel SO nice after your workout. From a standing position, touch the floor with your hands and walk them forward enough so your body feels like it’s forming a triangle with the floor.

Check out this video to learn how.

#2 – Reclined Twist

Ahh yes. You can finally lay down. Here, you’re going to lie flat on your back and send your knees to one side and then the other. You’ll feel an awesome stretch in your hips and back.

Check out this video to learn how.

#3 – Cobra

For this one, just roll over onto your belly, place your hands on the floor next to your upper ribcage, and use your core to press up. It’ll be a nice stretch for your legs, back, and tummy.

Check out this video to learn how.

#4 – Corpse Pose

Don’t be scared. This will surely be your favorite part of the whole routine. Simply roll onto your back, let your arms and legs sprawl out, and rest. That’s it.

In case it seems too good to be true, watch this video to fact-check us.

So Long, Fair HIIT

You’ve done it! You’ve made it through your HIIT Cardio Workout Guide.

Hopefully you’ve learned enough about the benefits of HIIT to see that it’s a true bang for your buck. Not only is it awesome for your body and mind; HIIT is also a time and money-saver.

Plus, you can easily implement HIIT workouts into your own exercise routine, whether you’re a jogger, a gym-nut, or a beginner. That’s why we’ve included a fun, 12-Minute HIIT Routine for you to try out. Now you know that you don’t have to be scared of HIITing your body with your best shot.

Happy Fitnessing!

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