What is HIIT?

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is one of the most popular exercise programs in Nashville and around the world.

HIIT workouts have been proven to improve fitness, burn fat, increase energy, and boost your physical conditioning to the next level of fitness.

In this interval training explanation, we’ll cover:

  • What is interval training? What is HIIT?
  • What are the benefits of HIIT? Why should you do interval training?
  • How to do interval training – How do a HIIT workout?
  • What are the best HIIT exercises?
  • Is HIIT good for losing weight?
  • Mistakes to avoid when doing HIIT.
  • HIIT timer recommendations.
  • Getting started with interval training.

How to do interval training – How does HIIT work?

A HIIT workout consists of brief bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by a short period of rest. And good news if you’re seeking a time-efficient workout! A HIIT workout usually takes less than 30 minutes.

(We realize that just about everyone is busy and overworked, so HIIT is popular with most people because they need quick, efficient results.)

In essence, HIIT involves following a specific training protocol that involves varying your speed and intensity during shorter bouts of exercise effort.

You can do HIIT with any exercise. A simple example with jogging is:

  1. Lightly jogging for three minutes.
  2. Taking it up to high level of effort for one minute (running, sprinting).

Repeat this process for four rounds. BAM! You’ve just done interval training.

interval training

HIIT can be done with just about any exercise activity – weight training, running, swimming, cycling, rowing, jumping rope, you name it.

In this section, we will explore the benefits and drawbacks of interval training.

What are the Benefits of HIIT? Should You Do Interval Training?

HIIT was proven to be supremely effective in the landmark 1996 Tabata study.

Dr. Tabata found:

Anaerobic capacity was not affected by mild-intensity endurance training (“regular cardio”), however it was improved with 6 weeks of high-intensity intermittent training (HIIT).

In comparison to regular cardio, HIIT improved both:

  • Increase in endurance.
  • Increase in power.

What could be crazier?

The results demonstrated by Tabata in his athletes were improved with only FOUR-MINUTE bursts of training.

Exactly what is going on with your body during interval training?

Simply put, your heart is a muscle.

By not expanding your heart outside of its comfort zone, you won’t be able to grow it stronger. The stress will force your muscles to adapt and become more resilient as they are pushed beyond their comfort zones.

Through intense interval training, your heart is constantly pushed to overcome its comfort zone. This is also known as progressive overload – the same concept behind building strength.

High-Intensity Interval Training has many benefits:


  1. Weight loss with HIIT. HIIT programs were found to make people lose more weight than regular cardio.

According to a study published in the Journal of Obesity:

Three times per week of HIIE (High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise) for 15 weeks compared to SSE (Steady-State Exercise) reduced total body fat, subcutaneous leg fat and trunk fat, and insulin resistance significantly in young women.

According to other studies, interval training burns more calories than a steady-state workouts.

The more effort you put into your workout, the more calories you burn and the more your fitness will improve.

  1. Interval training can be less time-consuming than steady-state cardio.

Interval training usually lasts no more than 20 minutes.

  1. HIIT for lowering blood sugar. Blood sugar management is vital for health, not just for diabetics.

If you are trying to lose weight, you need to be in control of your blood sugar and insulin levels.

HIIT exercises have been shown to lower blood sugar levels and to help manage them.

  1. HIIT for heart health. As mentioned above, HIIT has been shown to drastically improve cardiovascular health.

The training is done in the same way as traditional endurance training, but in a fraction of the time (nearly half)

So, let’s talk about how to actually do an interval workout.

What’s an example of Interval Training? How to do interval running

Exercises of all kinds can get you there. HIIT simply requires that you work in easy/moderate and difficult levels of intensity.

  • Aerobic (cardio exercise)
  • Bodyweight strength training
  • Resistance training (weight training)

Running would be the easiest way to try out HIIT – no exercise equipment required.

Here’s how to start with a basic HIIT running workout:

  • 2 minutes of slow walking or jogging.
  • Spend 30 seconds jogging/running at a brisk pace.
  • 2 minutes of slow walking or jogging.
  • After you rest, run/jog again for 30 seconds.
  • Push and rest for 4 or 5 intervals, or until you’ve had enough for day 1.

WOOT! You have just completed a HIIT workout!

interval running

If you find yourself stopping a lot during your first week of HIIT training, don’t scold yourself – your fitness will improve quickly!

Likewise, “running” or “jogging” can be subjective. “Working hard” means something different to everyone. During your intense periods, do that.

All of the “Couch to 5K” training programs are carried out using running intervals. The activities are grouped into “walking,” “running” and “jogging.”

So if you want to use running/jogging as your HIIT exercise, you might want to try a Couch-to-5K as a beginning interval training program.


Or if you’re more of an indoor person…

You can do the same HIIT jogging/running protocol above on a treadmill. Find the speed and incline setting that feels intense to you.

A variety of other aerobic exercises are available for HIIT cardio too.

You could hop on a stationary bike by yourself. Or if you like group exercise, there are many spin classes available that incorporate HIIT cycling (such as SoulCycle, Flywheel, or your local gym). There’s a reason why these exercise classes are popular, and you can make new friends there.

interval training cycling

Other cardio examples of interval training:

  • The resistance dial can be adjusted to use it for interval training. Start out with low resistance (0-2 level) for a couple of minutes. Increase the resistance for one minute (8-10). This process should be repeated 6 times, giving you a 20-minute workout.
  • Stair Climber. Exercise two minutes at low intensity, followed by one minute at high intensity, just like you would on the elliptical machine.
  • Rowing machine. Begin your warm-up with a two-minute session. In minute three, row like you are being chased by the Kraken for 60 seconds. Take a moment to catch your breath. Since rowing involves so much upper body strength, it might be difficult to do for a full 20 minutes. Start by shooting for ten minutes.
  • Jumping rope. . You control the jump pace with your own body, no dial to turn or buttons to press. Continue with two minutes of easy exercising and one minute of intense. Jump rope is fun to do with friends, too!


Our discussion so far has been about aerobic exercise.

“Dan, getting in great shape sounds fantastic. I hate cardio, though!”

OK, we get it, cardio interval training is not for everyone.

In that case, you can still get your HIIT exercise!

Now let’s look at our other ways to do HIIT training, with body weight training and weight training.

 Other Types of Interval Training

Here are a few bodyweight exercises to get you started with HIIT:

  1. Burpee intervals. Start by standing up, squatting, kicking your legs out, holding a plank, bringing your legs in, then leaping and exploding. Perform 10-15 repetitions, followed by 90 seconds of rest. Repeat until you hate yourself.
  2. Push-up intervals. Try doing as many pushups as possible for 20 seconds. Take a one-minute break. Do 4 rounds. Check out our push-up guide for proper form if you need to know how to do a push up.

Next, let’s look at several Weight Training Examples for HIIT:

Kettlebell swing. Make 20 kettlebell swings every minute for the next eight minutes.

Battle ropes. If your gym has battle ropes, they’ll be excellent for HIIT training. As far as intensity is concerned, slack determines the load. Increasing the slack on the rope makes the workout harder and more intense. Also, don’t just move up and down. The use of some variation will help target different muscles.

Weight lifting. Yes, you can also do circuit training as a form of HIIT. An important part of the process is advancing from one exercise to the next without resting too much. Circuit training, for example, involves hustling from exercise to exercise.

nashville personal trainer Nathan Buckler

For busy people like yourself, we design HIIT programs that are fun and fast. If you are looking for a coach who will guide you each day and tell you exactly what to do, we’ve got you covered! Just drop us a note and we’ll set a time to talk.


Can HIIT help you lose weight? Can Interval Training Help You Lose Weight?

You probably found this article while searching for the most efficient way to exercise and get in shape for the least amount of money and time.

Exercise programs like HIIT can be a great way to aid weight loss.

But don’t forget that YOUR DIET is the most important thing that determines whether you are successful or not in losing body fat.

You can do as many interval training workouts as you want, but unless you also fix your nutrition, you won’t be able to lose weight!

Interval Training: Where to Begin

Getting your high-intensity interval training to the next level requires that you manipulate the following variables:

  • Frequency: How often do you work out vs how much recovery time do you need?
  • Intensity: How hard is each interval?
  • Time: What are your interval and rest period length?
  • Workload: How many rounds do you do? How much total work is in your workout?

Starting out, you might run for three minutes at a time. Bring it up to 4 once it becomes routine.

Maybe during your intense interval, you crank the stationary bike resistance to “8.” You can increase it to “10” once 8 becomes too easy.

Perhaps you do 20 sit-ups. When you’ve mastered that, try to keep it under 30 seconds.

* Want a program to adapt to your progression month-to-month?*
Our personal trainers do exactly that (with rave reviews!). We can work with you in Nashville or online. So drop us a note and let’s talk about getting you started on your path to greatness!

Common mistakes when doing high-intensity interval training

Here are a few things to consider when creating a HIIT program. Regardless of what routine you choose to follow, remember these wise words:

  1. Ease into it. There’s an old saying that says, “You have to walk before you can run.” When we’re talking about HIIT, that’s literal. There is nothing wrong with starting off “less intense” before moving onto “intense.” You’ll be able to build endurance, which will be helpful for working on longer and harder intensity levels. You can certainly start by walking.
  2. Keep proper form. Correctly performing your movements will reduce your risk of injury. The importance of this becomes even greater during your later intervals, when you might be tired and exhausted. If you find your form slipping, slow down. Injury is not worth intense performance.
  3. Get rest. Rest allows our bodies to build muscle. You might want to take one or two days off from HIIT. Want to keep active these days? Have some fun cross training!

HIIT timers

It’s helpful to have a timer to let you know when it’s time to move on from one sequence to another. A loud beep can signal when it’s ok to catch your breath or when it’s time to hit the gas.

All of the apps below can be customized. You can change the intensity interval, for example, from 120 seconds to 90 seconds. The choice is yours as to how long you want to do intense versus rest.

  • Runtastic . Don’t be fooled by the title, this free app isn’t just for running. The exercises you use can be customized for a variety of interval workouts. It also looks slick.
  • Seconds . A free, customizable HIIT program. As an added bonus, it integrates with your music.
  • Seven . Seven is an excellent app for someone new to HIIT. Besides being free, it has illustrations to accompany the exercises. The virtual trainer may also be the future of fitness because you can customize it. Here come the bots…
  • Sworkit . It’s free and has a clever name (taken from the song “Simply Work It.”). The app can also display your workout, your goals, and your calories burned. You’ve got my vote.
  • J&J Official Seven Minute Workout . It’s pretty awesome that Johnson & Johnson offers a free app like this. The workouts are pre-made and you can customize them to meet your fitness level.

Getting Started with Interval Training

The ballpark recommendation for HIIT is to do one minute of intense exercises followed by two minutes of rest.

But this depends entirely on you as the individual, as well as the exercises you perform.

Feel free to change intensity for 30 seconds and rest for three minutes. Take whatever you can do right now, and make it your own workout. As long as you do HIIT in some form, no matter how you choose to do it, then it’s fine. You don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to reap the benefits of high-intensity interval training.

When you go hard for HIIT – whatever “hard” looks like for you – you’ll begin to reap benefits.

HIIT can be done in countless ways, so don’t be intimidated by the options.

Select one. Any one. Then get to work.

Interval training is excellent for fitness in any form, and is a valuable tool for any workout regimen.

As we discussed, consistency leads to improvement.

Don’t stress yourself over where you should begin.

it's ok

At this point, our goal is to establish a habit.

We’ll get to “Phew, that was intense!” later.

And if you want our help getting started, just drop us a note and we’ll get back to you right away!