What Is Hiit Cardio?

What Is Hiit Cardio?

Hiit stands for high-intensity interval training, and just like you expect from the name, it is challenging. It takes your cardio workout to the next level and pushes you past your comfort zone. A hiit workout alternates between short work intervals (70-90% max heart rate) and rest periods (60-65% max heart rate).

How It Works hiit

You can use Hiit with any type of cardio workout you have established, including running, stair climber, jumping rope, or even rowing. When doing a hiit workout you work up a sweat fast by working at intense levels then backing off for a recovery period followed by another round of intense pace. This strategy can save you time with your workout leaving you time to do everything else you enjoy. It also helps you lose weight, build muscle, and boost your metabolism.

High-Intensity Level

You can expect a hiit workout to be more challenging than your typical cardio workout. You do this in spurts from 30 seconds to 3 minutes. Then you do a recovering period of about the same time frame then back to another high-intensity spurt. You repeat this until your workout is over. Sounds easy enough… right? 

Maximum Heart Rate

When doing exercises you should always expect your heart rate to increase, but there is a cap on how high it should safely go. This cap is also known as your maximum heart rate. This is the number of times your heart can beat in a minute during exercise without overexertion.

As you get older your maximum heart rate gradually drops. You can estimate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. For example, if you are 35 years old, your estimated maximum heart rate is 185 beats per minute. If you are 55 yours would be 165. 

Several factors can affect your maximum heart rate including your overall health and any medications you are taking. If you have any questions about your maximum heart rate please ask your doctor.


When you are doing a hiit workout you should push yourself during the high-intensity workout interval. This means you should push your heart rate as high as you safely can. Generally, that’s about 70-90% of your maximum heart rate. While you should pace yourself to have a heart rate of 60-65% during your rest period.

While most gym equipment will measure your heart rate it is a good idea to invest in a heart rate monitor for a more accurate reading. You can also judge the intensity of your workout by how you are feeling. Are you breaking a sweat, out of breath, and breathing deep and rapid? If not, you may not have pushed yourself hard enough. Once you are comfortable with your workout and transitioning between intervals and active rest you can design almost any workout to become a hiit workout. 

Hiit Workout On The Treadmill

If you are just beginning a hiit workout or thinking about trying, the treadmill is a good place to start. You can alternate hill walking, slow jogging, and intense sprints along with slow walking. Depending on your individual heart rate you might not have to do all these to achieve your maximum heart rate. You may have to build yourself up.

Remember to rely on your heart rate when doing a hiit workout not the time you are doing. For example, the short intervals may actually require you a longer rest period because you are using more energy. Try starting with a 3:1 ratio and the moving to a 2:1 ratio when your body is ready. 

Bodyweight Training

Bodyweight moves such as lunges, jumps, planks, and squats can be alternated with sprints, jumping rope, and some fancy footwork to create a hiit workout. This makes it easily adaptable for everyone. Add a warm-up with your hiit work out and you should have a full session knocked out in as little as 30 minutes. 

Is HIIT For Me?

No one knows if a hiit routine is right for you, but hiit is not for everyone. Start out slow and work your way into a more intense workout. You need lots of motivation and physical stamina to push yourself to your limit in a workout. If you are not used to this you can injure yourself. Common injuries include sprains and strains on your muscles. If you exercise regularly try incorporating a hiit alternative in your routine and decide what is right for you.

Common Questions

  • Does hiit target a specific area? – No. A hiit workout does not target a specific area unless you have designed it to do so.
  • Will Hiit improve my flexibility? – No. This workout is not designed to increase your flexibility.
  • Can hiit build muscle? – If you are choosing weight lifting as your hiit activity then yes you can build muscle and your strength doing the workout.
  • Is this good for beginners? – Yes. You can always start your workout slow with just 3-4 speed intervals and as you are comfortable you can work yourself up to more.
  • Do you have to have workout equipment? – No. A hiit workout can be achieved in several different ways. If you do not have workout equipment at home try a walk, jog, run interval. You can also use a bike or some free weights if you have them at home.


As with any workout program, hiit may not be right for you. If you have any medical problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis or you are pregnant, you should talk to your doctor about starting a new program such as hiit. If you are just starting an exercise program, hiit may also be too strenuous for you. Start off slow and work your way up to more intense intervals.

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