The Beginner’s Guide to Interval Training


High intensity interval training (HIIT) is the no. 2 fitness trend in the world, according to the 2015 American College of Sports Medicine’s Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends. If you’re just starting out, the technical term for the casual-paced interval training you’re probably doing is fartlek. For example, sprint as fast for as long as you can, rest, run, then walk. HIIT is more advanced because you get more specific, such as one minute of sprints followed by 30 seconds of recuperation, then repeat. Also, you’re working full anaerobic and aerobic thresholds. The more advanced you are at HIIT, the longer the work periods become and shorter the rest periods become.

Intervals of aerobic HIIT have been shown to increase VO2max compared to continuous aerobic training, even though HIIT workouts take less time to complete. Furthermore, a 2013 Journal of Strength and Conditioning study found that four weeks of HIIT rowing burned more body fat than traditional rowing. Effective HIIT training will help you torch calories, build lean muscle, lose fat, improve heart health, push your limits, and increase efficiency.

With all of that said, the real magic of HIIT lies in its ability to keep you burning fat even after you leave the gym. In short, your body isn’t able to bring in enough oxygen during periods of hard work. Therefore, you accumulate a “debt” of oxygen that must be repaid post-workout in order to get back to normal. The result: your metabolism is revved for hours after you leave the gym. Trainers refer to this phenomena as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC. The biggest way to use it to your advantage is to make short, intense exercise bouts a regular piece of your workout regimen.

HIIT workouts can be done with body weight, dumbbells, kettlebells or medicine balls, but for compound barbell movements, longer rest periods are generally warranted for injury prevention and full recovery between sets. If you’re a HIIT beginner, try these two muscle-building, fat-burning bodyweight interval workouts.



Complete the following circuit four times, resting 1 minute after the burpees in each round.

Pullups: Keep full range of motion and strict form
Reps: As many as possible in 30 seconds

Jumping Jacks
Reps: 60

Reps: 20


Mountain Climbers
Reps: 45

Reps: 20-30

Front Plank
Duration: 1 min.

Jump Rope
Duration: 1 min.

Think you can handle some resistance? Try these strength training interval workouts.



Perform the warmup then start the workout. Recovery is jump roping at 50% of maximum heart rate. Do this workout for three rounds for a total of 30 minutes, including work and recovery.

Jump rope, jumping jacks, high knees or any type of cardio.
Duration: 3-5 min.

Jump Lunge
Duration: 1 min.
Recovery: 1 min. of jump roping

Duration: 1 min.
Recovery: 1 min. of jump roping

Dumbbell Renegade Row with Pushups
Duration: 1 min.
Recovery: 1 min. of jump roping
Starting in pushup position, row one dumbbell. Return to pushup position. Row the other dumbbell. Return to pushup position. Do a pushup. That’s one rep.

Dumbbell Power Jerk
Duration: 1 min.
Recovery: 1 min. of jump roping
Perform a quarter squat with dumbbells at shoulder level then press both dumbbells over your head. Return to start.

Dumbbell Uppercuts
Duration: 1 min.
Recovery: 1 min. of jump roping
Perform a squat while holding the dumbbells at your side. Punch up and across your body with one arm. Repeat with other arm.


1. Dumbbell Squat and Punch
Holding two light dumbbells (10 pounds), bring arms up so elbows are bent, palms are facing down and forearms are parallel to the ground. Maintaining the arm position squat as low as possible, pause, stand and slowly punch the arms out until the elbows are straight then come back to start position (arms remain parallel to the ground during the entire punching action).
Reps: 20

2. Sprint and Change Direction to Sprint (10 total reps)
Sprint full speed 5 yards, immediately change direction and sprint back 5 yards.
Sprint 10 yards out, 10 yards back.
Sprint 15 yards out, 15 yards back
Sprint 10 yards out, 10 yards back.
Sprint 5 yards out, 5 yards back

3. Rotational Lunge with Resistance Band
Fix a light band to a high pole, pillar, or some immovable structure. Standing with feet shoulder-width apart, grab band with both hands and interlock fingers. Move away from the fixture point of the band so the band is tense. Face to the side of where band attaches and extend your arms straight out, parallel to the ground so the band will be perpendicular to the arms. Keeping arms straight, rotate to the left and drop down into a lunge; pause, come back to start position.
Reps: 10-20 each side

4. Single-Leg Dumbbell Stabilization and Punch
Hold a light dumbbell in each hand in front of the body using a neutral grip with elbows bent. Keeping the right knee bent, raise the right leg up high behind you, while keeping left leg straight. Extend the right leg behind the body and moving torso forward. While in this position, punch arms straight out, keeping arms parallel to the ground (many people call this yoga airplane pose). Return back to start position. That’s one rep.
Reps: 10-20 reps (each leg)


This workout calls for three minutes of work followed by one minute of rest and combines three exercises. Do as many rounds as possible (AMRAP) in three minutes. Rest for one minute then continue where you left off. Repeat this three times for a total of 11 minutes. 

3 KB Clean and Press (one KB in each hand)
12 American KB Swings


Using the same kettlebell for this entire workout, start with two reps each of the following three exercises. After doing two reps of each, complete four reps of each, then six reps of each and so on, adding two reps each round. Beginners should work continuously for 6-8 minutes and more advanced athletes should work non-stop for 10-12 minutes.

Perform the following circuit, working for 30 seconds per exercise and resting 30 seconds after each exercise. Once you complete the circuit, complete it again, working for 30 seconds and resting for only 15 seconds. Repeat the circuit 30 seconds with no rest between the different exercises.

1) KB Halo
2) KB Goblet Lunge
3) KB Situps
4) One Arm KB Thruster (left)
5) One arm KB Thruster (right)
6) Hand to Hand KB Swings


Perform the following exercise for AMRAP. Beginners should work for 6-8 minutes and more advanced athletes should work for 10-15 minutes.

5 Pullups
10 KB Snatches (five each arm)
15 KB Figure 8’s

If you’re looking to incorporate HIIT into your cardio routine, try these effective interval workouts.




This can be performed on any machine that has piston-leg action, like the Cybex Arc, Keiser Runner, Versa-Climber, or any other stair-climbing machine where the foot is constantly fixed to the pedal. Set the resistance level high enough so that it’s challenging for the entire 30 seconds of work. Gradually increase the “stride length” level of the machine with each bout. This is the advantage of machines like Cybex Arc, where the distance between the feet (the height of the knee on the top leg versus the drop of the foot on the bottom leg) can be adjusted.

Reps: 20-30 (30 seconds of work immediately followed by 30 seconds of active rest is considered one rep)
Total Time: 20-30 min.


High level (professional athlete level)
Sprint 89 yards in 10 seconds
Rest: 30-50 sec.
Repeat 10-20 times

Average level
Sprint 73 yards in 10 seconds
Rest: 30-50 sec.
Repeat 10-20 times


Put the rope around a stable, immovable object like a pole, goal post, concrete pillar, heavy weight sled that wont move, etc. Each end of the rope will come off this immovable object with equal distance so that you can grab the ends of the rope (one with each hand) and have it be tense on both sides. Half of the total reps will be with a double arm motion; half will be with an alternating arm motion.

Double arm motion
Grabbing both ends of the rope (one with each hand), whip the rope up and down continuously as fast as possible. Both arms will flex and extend at the same time. The height of the rope on the upswing will depend on how high you can raise your arms comfortably. Brace the trunk and spine region hard when going through this entire motion. The hips will “lead the arms” in these motions from the upswing of the rope to the downswing of the rope, and subsequently from the downswing of the rope to the upswing of the rope.

Alternating arm motion
Grab rope initially in same manner as the double arm motion. The arms will now alternate – as one arm goes up the other arm comes down. The hips will stay fixed on this one; get the motion from the arms. Still have the same “bracing” action of the spine.

10-20 reps (60 seconds of work immediately followed by 60 seconds of complete rest is considered one rep)
Total Time: 20-40 min.

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