HIIT Workouts: The Ultimate Guide to High Intensity Interval Training

My relationship with HIIT Workouts is a bit love hate.

I love the results. I love the feeling I have afterwards. I love designing them. But, when I’m just about to do one, just about to get sweaty and red faced and out of breath, I feel a bit terrified.

But, there’s no doubt about it, high-intensity interval training is an amazing way to workout. Especially for busy people like us mamas.

There must be a reason it’s touted by fitness professionals all over the world.

If you’re like me and feel a bit terrified of them, let’s find out everything there is to know about them. So you can focus on the good points when you’re having the internal ‘do I really want to do this’ battle.

Let’s do this...grrr.

The ultimate guide to HIIT Workouts

Beth's 1 Week Meal Plan

Please note that all fields followed by an asterisk must be filled in.

meal plan thumbnail

What you’re going to find in this section

Any ultimate guide comes with lot’s of information and this one is no different. If you don’t want to wade through it all, skip to the sections that interest you the most…

  1. HIIT Workouts: What Are they?
  2. HIIT Workouts: The Benefits
  3. HIIT Workouts: Why You Should Do It
  4. HIIT Workouts: Types of HIIT Workouts (and all the acronyms explained)
  5. HIIT Workouts: What you’re going to need
  6. HIIT Workouts: The Workouts

HIIT Workouts: What Are They and How to Spot One?

The best way to describe a HIIT workout is to look at it’s full name, because it basically does what it says on the tin.

High Intensity Interval Training.

Workouts that are broken down into short work periods, or intervals followed by rest periods. Yep, you get a bit of rest during your workout. And it’s much needed rest.

The idea is...because you’ve only got a short work period and it’s followed by a few seconds rest, you’ll be able to go all out. Give it maximum effort.

And that is the beauty of high-intensity workouts. That maximum effort is where the magic happens. Where all the benefits come from. We’ll talk about them in a moment.

So, if you see a workout that says...20 seconds of mountain climbers, 10 seconds of rest, that is a HIIT workout and you can expect to be working very hard.

I do get a lot of questions about this type of training. Is it cardio? Is it strength training?

Well, HIIT workouts are predominately cardio workouts. The maximum effort gets your cardiovascular system pumping. Your lungs take in more oxygen and your heart rate increases to get this oxygen to your muscles quicker and more effectively.

So, it’s mainly a cardio workout.

That’s not to say you can’t adapt this type of training to a strength workout. But muscle building comes more from heavier, slower and controlled movements, rather than the all out push you do with HIIT.

If you're interested in getting into the technical details about HIIT workouts and how they work, check out What Are HIIT Workouts

HIIT Workouts: Benefits of A HIIT Workouts

Benefits of high intensity interval training

When it comes to benefits of a HIIT workout, they pack a massive punch.

They are great for heart health and your cardiovascular system in general, guarding against heart disease and high blood pressure.

They are brilliant for boosting your mood because they really push you out of your comfort zone. A good HIIT workout will leave you thinking “F**k yeah. I did it. I’m awesome. I can do anything”.

But it has to be said, the biggest benefit is if you’re goal is weight loss, particularly fat loss.

If HIIT workouts are paired with healthy eating, your body fat can plummet. It is probably the best way to workout if you’ve got ideas of wanting a leaner physique.

HIIT is extremely effective when it comes to weight loss. Because of the intense nature of the work periods it forces your body to use energy from fat as opposed to carbs. And several studies have shown that with HIIT, you can not only burn those fat stores, you can maintain lean muscle as well.

So, while it’s not technically a strength workout, it does help maintain the muscle you’ve gained with strength training. Which is really hard when you’re trying to lose weight.

But it’s not only the calorie burn from the workout itself, HIIT keeps your body in fat burning mode for up to 24 hours after your workout. That means you keep burning fat, at a higher rate for about a day.

That is awesome for fat loss, weight loss, body composition.

This is why HIIT is so popular and so effective.

HIIT Workouts: More Is Not Better

It can be tempting to think "If HIIT Workouts are so great, then if I do more it'll be better. I'll get to my goals quicker".

This is not necessarily the case. 

More HIIT is not better. It's just more. 

Feeling more tired. More burnt out. More at risk of injury. It's not better. 

If you want to know how often you should do HIIT workouts then read this. I go into details about the negative side of HIIT. Because there is one. 

HIIT Workouts: Why Choose HIIT? What is the Alternative?

Ok, HIIT workouts are packed with benefits, but why should I choose them? Why should I do a HIIT workout. What else could I do?

If you’re looking for alternatives to HIIT because you don’t like the idea of maximum effort even if it’s for a short time, then the alternative would be long, slow, duration. Or, steady state cardio.

This is where you workout at a steady pace. So instead of all out and then rest, all out and then rest, you workout at a lower intensity and stay there.

Think going out for a long run. Swimming for half an hour. Or jumping on the treadmill for an hour.

You don’t get anywhere near maximal heart rate, because you just wouldn’t be able to sustain it.

So you train at a lower intensity, and you don’t have a rest.

That is really the alternative to HIIT.

So, why should you choose HIIT over a lower intensity, more steady pace cardio workout?

Maybe you shouldn’t.

I always go back to...what do you enjoy? What are you going to want to do? How are you going to want to work out?

Do you like going out for a long run? Or going for a long swim? Or do you like climbing on the treadmill and watching your favourite TV shows?

And you might.

Some people find it meditative. It helps them clear their mind.

If that’s you. Then carry on doing that.

Don’t change it because studies have shown HIIT is a great way to lose weight.

The results from doing something you enjoy is going to be much better than the results from any study. Because you will find time for it. You will want to do it. You will make yourself do it.

But, if you’re not bothered either way, a form of HIIT workout maybe a good place for you to start, because it is hands down the best way for busy people, like you mama, to get a really effective workout.

Just 15 minutes a day would be enough.

In fact a study has found that 12 minutes of sprint training just three times a week can be more effective than an hours workout five times a week.

And that is great for people who have very little time. And that’s one thing us mama’s don’t have, a lot of time.

So, unless steady state cardio is your answer to meditation, give HIIT a go.

Yes, it is hard work. Yes, it is going to push you outside of your comfort zone. Yes, it is going to make you question whether you can go on. But you’ll do it. And you’ll feel great for it.

HIIT Workouts: Types of HIIT Workouts

Types of high intensity interval training

There are quite a few ways to do HIIT.

Yes, it’s all about short intervals of work followed by periods of rest, but there are different ways to get the work and the rest in.

There are also a few acronyms so I’ll go over those as well.

If you want to learn all about the acronyms and how to use each type of workout, check out EMOM vs HIIT vs AMRAP vs Tabata vs YGIG

Every Minute on the Minute (EMOM)

This is a favourite of mine.

Every minute on the minute you do a set series or number of exercises. The idea is you get the exercises completed under the minute and you rest for the remainder of the minute.

It’s a favourite of mine, more for when I’m training clients than training myself, because the harder you work the more rest you have. So you have something to work hard for...lots of rest.

Let me give you an example…

By the way, I have no idea if that is doable in a minute let alone 35 seconds. I just plucked them out of the air.

But if you want to give it a go, let me know.

You set your timer for how long you have to workout (10-15 minutes) and then every minute of the time you have to do 10 mountain climbers, 9 jump squats, 8 high knees, 7 jump lunges, 6 burpees. You get this done in 35 seconds, you have 25 seconds left to rest before you go again.

Time Intervals

This has to be the classic of HIIT Workouts.

You work for a set period of time and you rest for a set period of time. It’s usual that work periods would be less than 30 seconds. Any longer and you can’t really go all out. Not on the same exercise anyway.

Tabata Training

Tabata training is named after Dr. Izumi Tabata who conducted a study on the efficiency and effectiveness of training.

There are lots of webpages and sites that detail his work in full, so I’m not going to rehash it here, but just to say, his research found that high intensity interval training had more impact on the aerobic and anaerobic systems that long slow duration training.

But Tabata training isn’t just any old way to do HIIT. It’s very specific.

  • 20 seconds of work
  • 10 seconds of rest
  • 8 rounds

Have 4-5 different exercises to make up a full-body HIIT workout.

Tabata training example

You Go I Go

This one is another favourite of mine. Especially in group sessions. It’s a great way to get people working together, moving together.

It works well when you have someone to train with, although it can be adapted if you’re working out on your own. I’ll go into that in a moment.

Basically, you decide who goes first, they do the series of exercises and then the next person goes, whilst the first person rests.

My advice...pick someone to work with whose fitness level is about the same as yours. If you’re with someone who is fitter than you you won’t get much rest and you’ll probably spend the entire workout plotting their death.

How do you adapt it if you’re on your own? I go I go?

Well, it would simply be you rest for as long as it took you to complete the round. So time yourself to do the work and that’s how much rest you get.

Or, if you’re doing a distance based round, sprint interval training for example, sprint your desired distance, and rest as you walk back.

That’s how I make a swim into HIIT. I swim as fast as I can one length, however long that may be, and walk back to the beginning and as soon as I get back I’m sprint swimming again.

As Many Rounds As Possible (AMRAP)

This one is more of a CrossFit type workout than regular HIIT. I’ve included it, because it is still considered a HIIT type of workout and AMRAP’s are a great way to test your fitness.

You complete as many rounds as possible of a series of exercises in a given amount of time.

If you repeat the same workout in a few weeks, you should be getting more rounds in. That is...you’re getting fitter.

It’s great to see progress, especially when your goals aren’t quite as tangible as something like weight loss.

But, even if they are weight loss, it’s nice to see that you’re getting fitter as well as slimmer.

HIIT Workouts: What Are You Going To Need?

What do you need for a HIIT Workout?

Ok, so let’s get to some of the important stuff, what are you going to need to do a great HIIT workout?

Well, the great thing about HIIT is that it can be done with pretty much anything and for pretty much any way of moving your body.

So, even things that wouldn’t be considered traditional workouts. With HIIT you can turn it into a workout.

So let’s look at some examples…

Ultimately you don’t need anything. You can have an amazing workout using just bodyweight exercises. You don’t need any special equipment or any special place.

Your living room, your spare room, your garage, your garden or your local park. All great venues for HIIT.

But if you want to use something, the world is your oyster.

Cardio machines like stationary bikes, treadmills or cross trainers. Weights like dumbbells or kettlebells are a great option. Or resistance bands if you’re looking for something portable.

How about using something a little unconventional like a big tyre or a rucksack filled with heavy stuff.

You can literally use anything you can think of. So get creative. It’s part of the fun.

HIIT Workouts: The Workouts

So, let me ask you, are you sold on HIIT?

Do you think it’s for you? Would you like to give it a go?


Well this is the place to come. This is where you’re going to find lots of different HIIT Workouts to try.

20 Minute HIIT Rowing Workouts

20 Minute HIIT Rowing Workout: There's three of them...

Rowing machines are often overlooked, both in gyms and home gyms. 

But, they are an awesome piece of equipment and will give you an amazing workout. 

A full-body, challenging workout. 

But why should you do one, and what should you do?

I reveal all in 20 Minute HIIT Rowing Workout.

HIIT Battle Rope Workout

HIIT Battle Rope Workout: Three 15-minute workouts to bust fat

Battle ropes and HIIT are a marriage made in heaven. It's like battle ropes were made for HIIT.


Because battle ropes are a tough piece of equipment to use. You need a break. The encourage you to work hard, it's the only way you can do them. So you need a break.

Do you fancy giving battle ropes a go?

Head over to HIIT Battle Rope Workout.

Best HIIT Workout at Home: Get Fit in 15 Minutes

Best HIIT workout at home: Get Fit in just 15 minutes

HIIT is a great way to get fit. 

You don't need oodles of time, which is good for us mamas, huh?

They're effective. In just 15 minutes you can lose weight, lose fat, get fitter. Yep, even git enough to chase around after your toddler. 

Because that's what we all want, isn't it?

Enough energy to keep up. 

Well, if you want to get fit in 15 minutes, check out the workouts on Best HIIT Workout at Home.

Calisthenic HIIT Workout

Calisthenic HIIT Workout: Get you fitter, stronger and leaner

You might think of leotards and leg warmers when you think of calisthenics, but nothing could be further from the truth. 

A calisthenic workout is a tough workout. 

One that will get you fitter, stronger and leaner. 

Want to try one? Head over to Calisthenic HIIT Workout.

Home Workout No Equipment Required

Home workouts no equipment required. Three, 15-minute workouts using only your bodyweight

Home workouts don't have to be boring or cost you a fortune in fancy equipment. 


In fact you don't need any equipment to have a great, challenging and fun workout. 

Your own body weight is enough. 


Check out Home Workouts No Equipment required for not one, but three, 15-minute workouts. 

Jump Rope HIIT Workout

Jump rope HIIT workout: three, workouts that will help to bust your fat

Has it been a few years since you've had a skip?

Well, don't let it be any longer.

Skipping is a great way to workout and when you pair it with HIIT, do you know what you get? 

Fat-busting workouts. That's what you get. 

The only way to beat that is to give you three, yes three, not just one Jump Rope HIIT Workout.

StairMaster HIIT Workout

StairMaster HIIT Workout: Three, 15 minute workouts

Are you thinking about getting a StairMaster? Or, maybe you already have on and you’re looking for some different types of workout to try.

Head over to StairMaster HIIT Workout.

You’ll find not one, but three different workouts. And each workout takes just 15 minutes or can be merged together if you’ve got a bit more time.

HIIT Swimming Workouts

HIIT swimming workouts, not one but three for you to try. They're not only great for fat burning, they're lots of fun too

Can you imagine taking a fun activity and turning it into a workout?

How good would that be?

Well, that’s what it’s all about on Mamas that move, and it’s no different with HIIT swimming workouts.

Spoiler alert, there’s three workouts at the bottom of the page.

HIIT Walking Workout

HIIT Walking Workout. How can a simple exercise be turned into an effective workout

Walking is easy. Right?

It can't be that effective as workout. It can't really help you lose weight or get fitter. 

Ah, but it can. 

And more than that, it can help you feel better as well. 

Just remember the last time you came in from a nice brisk walk. Tired but energised. Refreshed. 

If you want to know how to make walking a workout that can also help you look great, check out HIIT Walking Workout

HIIIT Workouts Without Weight

Here are three HIIT workouts without weights. They take just 15 minutes

You don't need any fancy equipment to have a really great HIIT workout. 

It's one thing I love about them. 

The weight of your own body is enough. More than enough. 


Well how about three workouts that done together make up a challenging full-body workout. 

Find them on HIIT Workout Without Weight.

HIIT Workouts: Are You Hooked?

Well, I think that is everything you need to know about HIIT Workouts.

But, if I’ve missed something crucial, if there’s something you really need the answer to and I haven’t covered it, give me a shout.

Remember sign up to our newsletter to get new, fun and quick workouts directly into your inbox. You’ll never have to search for new workouts again.

Get Your Ultimate Eight Week HIIT Workout Plan

Get fitter, stronger and leaner in just eight weeks with my printable HIIT workout Plan. Just 30 minutes a day is all you need. 

Want to know more before you sign up?

Check out Printable HIIT Workout Plan to learn all about the plan, what's involved and why you should get it.