What Is HIIT?

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Shorter Version

Est. Reading Time: 1 Minute

No longer does trimming up require 10 hours on the cross-trainer every week, as High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has proven time and time again to produce extraordinary results in a fraction of the time. There’s only one problem…

How the heck do you get started??

What’s it all about?

The basic premise for HIIT is to oscillate between short bursts of all-out expenditure and even shorter rest periods, keeping the heart rate at about 80% of its max rate. To calculate your max heart rate, Declan Connolly, PhD. and co-author of Heart Rate Training, suggests multiplying your age in years by 0.7 and subtracting that number from 208. Multiply this max by 0.8 and you have your goal heart rate for HIIT.

A workout built for you

Now that we know what number to shoot for, we must decide how to go about reaching it. Although several of you seem to be able to approach 80% of your max heart rate by merely reading about cardio (I can literally feel your angst as I type), this is going to require quite a bit of physical effort. For starters, try rotating between a randomly selected circuit of 2-4 movements listed below, spending 60-120 seconds at maximum effort and 20-30 seconds resting.

  • KB Swings
  • Jumping Lunges
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Thrusters
  • Push Press
  • Wall Balls
  • Jump Rope
  • Row Machine
  • Battle Ropes
  • Burpees
  • Box Jumps
  • Death Drops
  • Farmer’s Carry
  • Squat Jumps
  • Ski Erg

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Longer Version

Est. Reading Time: 4 Minutes

So you’re looking to tighten up a bit, huh? Well, if you find yourself ready to shred some unwanted poundage in more conventional ways than having your fat cells sucked out of you with a glorified shop vac, then cardio is about to become your new best friend. Half of you think that cardio is foreign for “lift faster”, while the other half are convinced it’s a biblical plague sweeping across the globe to depopulate the masses. Let’s set the record straight once and for all.

Contrary to popular opinion…

Leaning out does not necessitate endless hours of low-intensity steady-state (LISS) cardio on an elliptical. While this certainly will burn fat and retain muscle, and most professional bodybuilders and fitness models utilize this method, there is simply not enough time in the day for normal, working people like you and me to justify that practice. High intensity interval training (HIIT)’s popularity has grown astronomically over the past decade, as people have come to experience not only its time-efficiency, but also its breadth of overall health benefits which far exceed sheer aesthetic enhancements. But just what the heck is HIIT and how can you get started?

The design of HIIT

HIIT is designed for users to spend several brief stints in a maximal effort state, with the goal of exceeding 80% of your peak oxygen uptake (VO2peak), followed by quick recovery periods. The science behind HIIT is still in the early stages, but the results thus far have been remarkable, specifically with regard to oxygen transport and consumption.

Crazy impact

Researchers at the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University in Ontario found a 15-35% increase in muscle oxidative capacity in moderately active, college-aged men and women after just six HIIT sessions over a two-week span. In layman’s terms, this means that HIIT markedly improved a given muscle’s ability to utilize the oxygen molecules at its disposal, a critical component for both muscle development and overall wellbeing, in less than a single month!

Save time

Incredible as this finding may be, it becomes a moot point without a healthy, functioning cardiovascular system to allow adequate delivery of these oxygen molecules so they may actually be used. LISS cardio has long been considered the preeminent physical method for improving vascular health. However, a 2008 study at the Ivor Wynne Centre’s Department of Kinesiology showed no statistically significant advantage when comparing peripheral artery distensibility between subjects completing 6 weeks of long endurance training and those engaging in 6 weeks of HIIT. So, despite spending less than a QUARTER of the time actually exercising, the HITT group saw roughly the SAME improvement in arterial condition!


Other benefits of HIIT include, but are certainly not limited to: improved blood sugar control, muscle gain, increased metabolic rate sustained hours after exercise, and reduced blood pressure. The only significant downside appears to be the risk of injury, which can be markedly reduced with adequate warm-ups and proper nutrition/hydration.

The benefits of HIIT far outweigh the potential drawbacks.

Check your effort

In order to take advantage of these incredible revelations, it is imperative that users remain ever cognizant of the inverse relationship between time and effort when comparing LISS and HITT. Cramming the equivalent caloric output of an hour’s worth of elliptical training into 10 short minutes is no leisurely task, and your fellow gym patrons should quickly catch on. If your name has yet to appear on an FBI watch list after a handful of HIIT workouts at your local YMCA, then chances are you need to reevaluate the effort you’re bringing to the table. Leading up to pool season, try fitting in two 10-minute HIIT segments per week at the end of your lift, and then another 20-30 minute segment on a non-lifting day.

Use my workout

The first half of my HIIT sessions are spent as described in the shorter version, rotating between various calisthenic movements meant to push the user to their absolute limits. I generally utilize Tabata-style sprinting for the second half of my cardio. Developed by Japanese scientist Izumi Tabata, this system involves 20-30 seconds of all-out expenditure followed by 10-15 seconds rest. This can be done on a treadmill at a speed of 10-12 and as much incline as you can handle, or sprinting on a track or up a hill. Where you perform these sprints is much less important than the stringency of your counting; 10 seconds rest does not mean 2 minutes. You should be on the verge of projectile vomiting by the end of this onslaught.

Actionable Steps


Get yourself a nice pair of sneakers!

Investing in the proper footwear can truly make or break a good workout. You want something comfortable, affordable, and functional. If your big toe is poking through the sides of your New Balances that your mom bought you back in high school, then it’s time to take a trip down to foot locker my friend.


Fuel up!!

Dehydration is the most avoidable way to derail a good HIIT session, so make sure you are pounding water for several hours before your workout. Most people walk around chronically dehydrated, so even if you think you drink enough, you could likely afford more. Ladies, I regret to inform you that those Pumpkin Spice Lattes are about as hydrating as a 6-pack of Truly’s, so lay off until after your workout if you can restrain yourself. Also, be sure to eat some complex carbohydrates, such as oatmeal or a sweet potato, about an hour beforehand as to replenish your glycogen levels. Preparation is key if you want to avoid an appearance on ABC News for being air lifted out of a Planet Fitness.


Start slow

Only do exercises you feel completely comfortable with, and always go through the motions several times before ramping up the intensity. There are countless instructional videos on Youtube.com and Instagram, so do a little research before trying them yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask an employee for help either. In my experience, these guys love helping out and building relationships with gym members.


Crank up the tunes!

Nothing ramps up a good workout like hearing a crazy pump-up song. You can check out some of my playlists on Spotify @jo.deluca.


Release your inhibitions!!!

Way too many people are afraid to maximally exert themselves at the gym out of fear of what someone they BARELY know may think. You simply have GOT to get over this if you wish to make any progress. I’m not saying that people should be able to hear you from the parking lot, but God forbid you break a sweat and lose your breath from time to time. I for one get jacked up when I see someone pushing the limits, and it unconsciously gives me permission to do the same. Sure, you may look a bit deranged in the moment, but you’re going to look SICK when beach season rolls around.

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About the Author

John DeLuca

John DeLuca


After a brief stint in the Men’s Physique competition realm, and even winning first place in his final show, John decided to use his expertise to help normal, everyday people create the body they’ve always desired. His book, “The Busy Body: Principles for Building a Great Physique without Missing out on Life” is the culmination of over a decade of honing his craft. John is currently an RN in the Cardio-Thoracic Surgery ICU at Duke Hospital.
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