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HIIT Training: Full Throttle in a Short Time

Tired of hanging around the gym for hours without really making any progress? Or are you looking for a way to incorporate more action into your fitness routine? Then HIIT is just the thing for you!

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is one of the best ways to achieve maximum results in the shortest possible time - whether you want to lose weight, build muscle or simply get fitter.

In this article, you'll learn everything you need to know about HIIT - from the basics to the benefits and workouts for every fitness level.

What is HIIT training?

Athlete starting a HIIT workout on his watch

HIIT stands for “High-Intensity Interval Training”. In other words, a workout in which you combine short but very intense exercise phases with recovery phases. The idea is that you achieve more in less time - sounds great, doesn't it?

The history of HIIT training dates back to the 1990s. One of the best-known pioneers is the Japanese scientist Dr. Izumi Tabata. He developed the so-called Tabata protocol, in which you combine 20 seconds of intensive training with 10 seconds of rest.

Since then, HIIT has evolved and taken on many different forms, but the basic principle remains the same: full power in a short time.

What are the benefits of HIIT training?

Two athletes doing burpees

If you're still unsure why you should include HIIT in your fitness program - let's take a closer look at the benefits and find out what makes HIIT so effective.

Time saving: Fast and effective

One of the biggest benefits of HIIT is definitely the time it saves. Who has endless time to spend in the gym these days? With HIIT, you often only need 20-30 minutes to complete a super effective workout. You give it your all in short, intense phases and take short breaks in between. This means you can easily squeeze your workout into your busy schedule.

Fat burning: Afterburn effect included

Another big plus point is fat burning. HIIT is known for burning a lot of calories - and not just during the workout. Thanks to the so-called afterburn effect (or EPOC - Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption, if you want to know exactly), your body continues to work even after the workout. This means that even when you're on the couch, you're still burning calories. Hello, sweet life!

Cardiovascular health: A strong heart

HIIT training is a true miracle cure for your cardiovascular system. The intense phases really get your heart pumping, improving your endurance and heart health. With regular HIIT training, you'll notice how your breath lasts longer - whether you're climbing stairs or going for your next run.

Muscle building: Strong and defined

Forget the days when you had to lift weights for hours on end to build muscle. HIIT often combines strength and endurance exercises, which means you can build muscle and burn fat at the same time. Exercises such as burpees, kettlebell swings or planks are real all-rounders that challenge and shape your whole body.

Variety: Always Something new

One of the reasons why many people lose motivation when exercising is boredom. Always the same treadmill, always the same equipment ... boring, right? HIIT provides variety. You can try out countless exercises and combinations, so you're guaranteed never to get bored. The short, intense intervals also keep the training exciting.

No more excuses: HIIT works anywhere

Another great advantage of HIIT is that you can really do it anywhere. You don't need an expensive gym membership and often don't even need equipment. Your living room, the park around the corner or even your hotel room when traveling - HIIT is flexible and adapts to your life.

What is the difference between HIIT and Tabata?

Workout timer on an iPad

HIIT and Tabata are both super intensive training methods that are often confused with each other. In fact, they have a lot in common, but there are also some differences.

HIIT: Flexible and versatile

HIIT is a training method in which you combine short, intensive phases of exercise with equally short recovery phases.

The great thing about HIIT is its flexibility. You can adjust the exercises, the duration of the intervals and the breaks as you wish. For example, you could do 30 seconds of burpees, followed by 30 seconds of rest, and repeat for 20 minutes.

HIIT can include anything from cardio training to strength exercises to a mixture of both. It's perfect for you if you love variety and want to adapt your workout to your needs.

Tabata: Short and crisp

Tabata is a special form of HIIT named after the Japanese scientist Dr. Izumi Tabata. It follows a very strict protocol: 20 seconds of maximum effort, followed by 10 seconds of rest, for a total of 8 rounds. This results in a crisp 4-minute workout that is incredibly intense.

The original Tabata protocol was developed to improve the aerobic and anaerobic capacity of athletes. You can do Tabata with different exercises, but the structure always remains the same: 20 seconds full throttle, 10 seconds rest.

Tabata is great if you're short on time but still want to do an intense workout. It's also great if you want to challenge yourself and push yourself to your limits.

Similarities and differences


  • Both are high-intensity interval workouts.

  • They burn a lot of calories in a short time.

  • Both improve both cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength.


  • Structure: HIIT is flexible, while Tabata always follows the 20/10 protocol.

  • Duration: HIIT can be as long or as short as you like. Tabata usually always lasts 4 minutes.

  • Intensity: Both are intense, but Tabata pushes you to your limits in less time.

What is the best way to start HIIT training?

Workout equipment that lies on the floor

You're ready to get started but don't know exactly how? No problem! Here are some tips to get you started with HIIT training:

Set yourself realistic goals

Before you get started, it is important to set yourself clear and realistic goals. Think about what you want to achieve with your HIIT training: Do you want to lose weight, build muscle or simply improve your general fitness? Clear goals will give you better motivation and make it easier to track your progress.

Choose the right exercises

Simple exercises are ideal to start with. You don't have to start with fancy stuff right away. Here are a few basic exercises that are perfect for getting started:

  • Jumping Jacks

  • Squats

  • Mountain Climbers

  • Lunges

  • Planks

These exercises are easy to learn and can be combined well. As soon as you feel confident, you can increase the intensity and complexity of your exercises.

Start slowly and build up

It's perfectly fine to start slowly. Start with shorter intervals and longer breaks. For example: 20 seconds of exercise and 40 seconds of rest. This allows you to get used to the intensity and gives your body enough time to recover.

Pay attention to the right technique

Quality over quantity - this is especially true here. Make sure you perform the exercises cleanly and correctly. If you are unsure, watch tutorials or get help from a trainer. Good technique protects you from injury and ensures that you get the most out of your training.

How often should I do HIIT training?

Group of athletes doing squats

In fact, this is one of the most frequently asked questions. The answer is: It depends on your fitness level, your goals and your current training program. Here are some guidelines:

Beginners: start slowly

If you're just starting out with HIIT, it's important to give your body time to get used to the new strain. Start with 2-3 HIIT sessions per week. This is enough to feel the benefits without overstraining your body.

Example week for beginners:

  • Monday: HIIT workout

  • Wednesday: HIIT workout

  • Friday: HIIT workout

Advanced: Increase the intensity

If you feel more confident after a few weeks and notice that your body is coping well with the strain, you can increase to 3-4 HIIT workouts per week. Make sure that you continue to plan enough recovery time.

Example week for advanced athletes:

  • Monday: HIIT workout

  • Tuesday: Light cardio or yoga

  • Wednesday: HIIT workout

  • Thursday: Rest day

  • Friday: HIIT workout

  • Saturday: Light cardio or yoga

  • Sunday: Rest day

Experts: Maximum results

Are you already a real HIIT pro? Then you can train 4-5 times a week, but here too, recovery is key! Your body needs time to regenerate and prevent injuries.

Example week for experts:

  • Monday: HIIT workout

  • Tuesday: Strength training

  • Wednesday: HIIT workout

  • Thursday: Rest day or light cardio

  • Friday: HIIT workout

  • Saturday: HIIT workout

  • Sunday: rest day

The most important thing is to listen to your body. If you feel tired or drained, give yourself a break. Overtraining can lead to injury and slow down your progress.

HIIT training: Examples of HIIT workouts

Whether you're a beginner or an advanced athlete, here are a few workouts you can try out right away:

Short HIIT workout (10-15 minutes)

  • Jumping Jacks - 20 seconds

  • Break - 40 seconds

  • Squats - 20 seconds

  • Rest - 40 seconds

  • Mountain Climbers - 20 seconds

  • Rest - 40 seconds

Repeat 4-5 times.

Medium-length HIIT workout (20-25 minutes)

  • Burpees - 30 seconds

  • Rest - 30 seconds

  • High knees - 30 seconds

  • Pause - 30 seconds

  • Plank - 30 seconds

  • Pause - 30 seconds

Repeat 7-10 times.

Long HIIT workout (30-40 minutes)

  • Kettlebell swings - 40 seconds

  • Rest - 20 seconds

  • Box jumps - 40 seconds

  • Rest - 20 seconds

  • Weighted squats - 40 seconds

  • Rest - 20 seconds

Repeat this routine 10-15 times.

What is the best way to time my HIIT workouts?

SmartWOD Timer Tabata on the iPad

The right timing is crucial for a successful HIIT workout. Here are some tips on how to time your workout optimally:

  • Use a timer: A timer helps you stick to the intervals precisely and maximizes the effectiveness of your workout.

  • Fixed break times: Make sure that your break times always remain the same. This will help you to maintain a constant pace and maximize the intensity of your training.

  • Start with shorter intervals: If you are new to HIIT, start with shorter intervals and longer breaks. You can gradually lengthen the exercise phases as you get fitter.

  • Plan your workouts in advance: Create a weekly plan for your HIIT units. This will ensure that you train regularly and can track your progress.

Your best friend during HIIT training: the SmartWOD Workout Timer

If you want to make your HIIT sessions even more efficient, you need mental and moral support - for example with the SmartWOD Workout Timer app.

Here are some of the features:

  • Easy to use: the timer is intuitive and easy to use. You can quickly switch between different interval lengths and break times.

  • Acoustic signals: The timer gives you acoustic signals when you should change exercises or take a break.

  • Customizable intervals: In the Tabata timer, you can set the exercise and break times to suit your needs.

  • Workout log: Track all the workouts you've already done - and simply restart them.

5 myths and misconceptions about HIIT

HIIT has become so popular that many myths have grown up around it - let's dispel them!

Myth 1: HIIT is only for young people

Nope. HIIT can be adapted to any age and fitness level. Sure, the intense workouts look intimidating, but the beauty of HIIT is its versatility. You can customize the exercises and intensity to fit you and your fitness level. It's never too late to start HIIT, whether you're 20 or 60.

Myth 2: The longer the HIIT workout, the better

The effectiveness of HIIT does not depend on the duration, but on the intensity. You could achieve more in 20 minutes than in an hour of jogging. The key is in the short, intense bursts that get your heart rate up, followed by short recovery periods. So, don't worry if your HIIT workout “only” lasts 20 minutes - it's still super effective!

Myth 3: HIIT is only suitable for weight loss

HIIT not only helps you lose weight, but also has many other health benefits. It improves your cardiovascular health, increases endurance and helps build muscle. It's also a great stress reliever. So, even if you don't want to lose weight, there are many reasons why HIIT can be good for you.

Myth 4: You need special equipment for HIIT

One of the biggest advantages of HIIT is that you don't need any special equipment. Many HIIT exercises only use your own body weight. Sure, you can incorporate dumbbells, kettlebells or other equipment if you want, but they are by no means necessary. Your living room or the park can be your gym.

Myth 5: HIIT is too intense and risky

Yes, HIIT is intense, but it's also scalable. You don't have to start with the hardest exercises right away. Start with simple movements and build up slowly. Make sure you listen to your body and take breaks when you need them. With the right approach, HIIT is no riskier than other forms of exercise.

Why HIIT is just right for you

So, what have we learned? HIIT training is a real all-rounder! It saves time, burns a lot of calories, strengthens your heart and helps you build muscle. And the best thing about it? You can do it anywhere and without expensive equipment.

Whether you're just starting out or are already a fitness pro, HIIT can be adapted to your level. It's varied, keeps you motivated and can even fit into your busy schedule.

Your first or next HIIT session is already waiting for you!




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