The Different Types of HIIT Workouts Explained for Beginners

High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, has steadily grown in popularity due to its fat-burning and muscle-building potential.

At its core, HIIT is about combining short periods of intense exercise with regular rest breaks. Think of it like sprinting intensely for a minute and then spending 30 seconds to walk before you break into a sprint again.

However, you can incorporate an array of exercises into your specific regimen.

There are many reasons to engage in HIIT exercises from increasing your metabolic rate long after you stop working out to decreasing blood pressure. While it’s definitely more intense than just walking on a treadmill for a bit, you gain the same benefits from 30 minutes of exercise compared to working out for two hours doing less intense routines.

HIIT is exceptional at burning calories and aiding weight loss — many people notice a serious improvement in their body composition within just 30 days of regularly doing HIIT.

In addition to losing weight faster, HIIT is also great for targeting various muscle groups at the same time. In a single HIIT workout, you may perform burpees, push-ups, and any other sorts of full body exercises. As a result, you can build muscles in your arms, legs, chest, and back without needing to invest in different equipment.

But there are so many different types of HIIT and different ways to perform high-intensity interval training.

The types of HIIT can be broken down by exercise selection (you can do HIIT on a treadmill, a bike, with dumbbells, or just with your own bodyweight) and effort levels (submaximal, VO2 max, and supramaximal.)

Let’s take a look at all the different styles of HIIT you can choose from and which one might be right for you.

Different ways to do a HIIT workout

HIIT is wonderfully customizable.

Whether you like to run or lift weights, you can engage in HIIT exercises that incorporate the manner in which you like to work up a sweat.

The best part is that you don’t even have to invest in equipment if you don’t want to. You can incorporate push-ups, sit-ups, lunges, squats, and any other exercises you can think of.

That being said, you can incorporate equipment into your HIIT routine if you have access to anything. Here’s some HIIT routines you can do depending on the equipment you have available to you, whether you’re at home or in the gym.

Treadmill HIIT workout

On a treadmill, warm up at a brisk walk for about 5 minutes.

If you’re already in decent shape, you can run at 7 miles per hour for 2 minutes and then switch to 5.5 mph for 1 minute. Alternate these two speeds for 15 minutes for a quick and effective HIIT workout.

For a more advanced option, you can push yourself even further by running at 10 mph for 30 seconds and then walking at 4 mph for 1 minute.

Go back and forth like this for 7.5 minutes. Once you’re used to sprinting and walking in succession, you can also play with the treadmill’s incline settings.

Keep in mind these speeds are just guidelines. If you’re totally new to working out, or even just new to HIIT, you might try starting at lower speeds or inclines for your intervals to avoid an injury.

Exercise bike HIIT workout

Exercise bike HIIT workouts follow the same principle as the treadmill.

To start, warm up on a medium resistance for about 4 to 5 minutes, just to get your legs limber. N

ext, pedal at full speed on high resistance for 1 minute and 30 seconds and then go back to medium resistance for 30 seconds. Continue this for 15 to 25 minutes, and you will have gotten in a stellar workout.

Dumbbell HIIT circuits

Some simple lightweight dumbbells open up numerous types of workouts for you.

There are various “circuits” you can engage in, like the following:

  • 60 seconds of an alternating lateral lunge
  • 30 seconds of a skater hop
  • 15 seconds of a sumo squat hold

Then, take a quick 30-second break before getting into your next circuit. From there, you can go into the following.

  • 60 seconds of renegade row
  • 30 seconds of bent-over row
  • 15 seconds of triceps bent-over row holds

By changing things up so rapidly, you constantly keep your body guessing. Plus, you work out an array of muscles in a short period of time. You might perform this whole circuit two to four times through to get an effective workout.

When selecting your dumbbells, heavier isn’t always better. Make sure the weight you choose is sustainable for the duration of the workout so that you can maintain proper form.

Bodyweight HIIT workout

It’s not a problem if you can’t invest in dumbbells for your workouts.

You can use your body’s natural weight to get in a great HIIT workout.

For stellar results, spend 20 seconds on various bodyweight workouts each, like side kick-throughs, skater hops, froggers, curtsy lunges, and similar exercises.

Between each 20-second interval, give yourself 10 seconds of rest. Within a span of 20 minutes, you’ll have engaged in multiple muscle groups.

Jump rope HIIT workout

A basic jump rope HIIT workout involves short bursts of jumping with even shorter breaks for rest.

You could try a standard jump on both feet on and off, but there’s other jumps you could incorporate for more of a challenge: single leg jumps, high knees, and even double unders can add intensity and variety to your workout.

Once you complete a single rep, you can rest for one minute before getting back into it.

To start, you can try jumping for 20 seconds and resting for 10 for several rounds. Make sure you give yourself a minute or two to rest between sets, and repeat 2 to 4 times.

Different types of HIIT workouts

HIIT workouts can involve pretty much any kind of exercise equipment you can think of, but the classifications don’t end there.

There are different forms of HIIT, and each one propels you toward a different goal.

As Karina Krepp, a personal trainer, run coach, and yoga instructor, puts it, “The length of the interval, the intensity request and the type of activity chosen must align with our overall purpose. What [HIIT] does best is improve overall health, cardiovascular health, VO2 max markers, and insulin sensitivity.”

You can talk to your trainer or look into the different variations to decide which style works best for you. Once you know the training style to engage with and what equipment you’ll use, you’re going to have a better idea of what results to expect.

Submaximal HIIT training

Daniel Richardson, a personal trainer, Crossfitter, and founder of Soundproof Panda, describes submaximal HIIT training as:

“HIIT training which is done at about 90% of your maximum oxygen intake capacity. You should not be able to hold a conversation training at this level but nor should you be pushing yourself to complete failure in each interval.”

With this type of exercise, you’re not pushing yourself to your ultimate limits–or failure, as Richardson puts it.

This means you’re less likely to cut corners because your body is better equipped to go for longer stretches of time. It also improves exercise efficiency and is recommended for people who want to compete in endurance events, such as marathons or triathlons.

If you’re new to HIIT training, then this is the version you want to start with.

You should take things easy to reduce your chances of injuring yourself. It may take longer to see results since you’re going more slowly than other types of HIIT training, but you should still see steady improvements with consistency.

VO2 max HIIT interval training

Richardson defines VO2 max HIIT training as “working at your VO2 max, basically your maximum sustainable working capacity.”

The workout rate for this level is higher than with submaximal, but there’s a stronger emphasis on recovery.

You’ll need to take slightly longer breaks between intervals so that you can catch your breath.

Many athletes prefer to engage in this type of training because they gradually increase their VO2 max levels over time, which subsequently allows them to perform better.

Supramaximal sprint interval training

Richardson says that with this interval training, “You are working harder than your lungs can keep up with, you will seriously need the rest in the intervals to be able to keep going.”

This is when you really push yourself to your limits.

While it’s the best way to get results the fastest, you need to be cautious of how you proceed.

Richardson went on to say how this kind of training has the greatest potential to result in vomiting!

You can also injure yourself if you’re not careful. By and large, it’s best to work out at a pace you’re comfortable with and gradually work your way up in intensity.

Wrapping Up

HIIT isn’t really one kind of workout — it’s a concept that can be applied to almost any form of exercise.

There are many ways to perform a HIIT workout, so you can find the one that works best for you to burn calories, build muscle, and decrease blood pressure with ease.

No matter how you like to exercise, there’s a HIIT regimen for you.

There are ways to engage with it via sprinting, lifting weights, and even jump roping. You can even alter the intensities of each one so that you start off moderately and work your way up.

As with any major change to your exercise routine, it’s best to speak with your doctor to make sure HIIT is a safe option for you.

You never want to push yourself to the point of injury, but if it’s safe for you to move forward, then there are plenty of benefits to gain from the challenge of HIIT.

Before you go, check out some more starter guides like:

Hope this helps!