Whether you're new to exercise or just looking to mix things up, you've probably heard endless praise for high-intensity interval training. HIIT mixes intense bursts of exercise with rest periods, allowing you to exercise for shorter bouts, while still getting a killer workout. In fact, HIIT is considered one of the most effective workouts for weight loss because you're working at your maximum capacity — even when you're pressed for time.
"Working out at the highest intensity revs up your body's metabolism, so not only are you burning major calories since your heart rate is higher than it would normally be, but you'll also burn extra calories and body fat even after your workout," Lyuda Bouzinova, an ACE-certified personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist, and cofounder of Mission Lean, told POPSUGAR. "Basically, less time spent working out can actually work in your favor to burn way more fat."
If that sounds great but you're unsure how to get started, try these tips:
- Plan to work out on an empty stomach. Fasted cardio can help you burn more fat, but that's not the only benefit. "Because you're not exercising for an extended period of time, the energy already stored inside your muscles will be sufficient," Lyuda said. "You'll be able to work your muscles without your body exerting extra energy to digest your food. Also, the food won't weigh you down, and you'll be able to do the high-intensity moves much more easily."
- Choose your exercises. "Start your HIIT workout with no more than four exercises you can complete with proper form," Karisa Curtis, an NASM-certified personal trainer in Los Angeles, told POPSUGAR. Collectively, they should target a variety of muscle groups for a full-body workout. Low-impact moves will help you avoid injury while you get your form in order. "A plank is a simple isometric exercise that, once mastered, allows for progression to more complicated movements, such as mountain climbers, plank jacks, squat thrusts, and a host of core exercises," Karisa said. "Similarly, squats can evolve to squat jumps, tuck jumps, split squat jumps, and other powerful leg-dominant movements."
- Then decide on a number of rounds. That's the number of times you'll run through your list of exercises. "Begin with one or two rounds until you are ready to sustain work for three or four rounds," Karisa suggested. "Besides starting smart, you'll find your initial limits and feel successful in finishing the workout you intended to do."
- Always warm up first. "Jog for two to three minutes, and as soon as you feel warm, run quickly — at a seven or eight, on a scale of one to 10 — for about five to 10 minutes," Lyuda said. "This will get your heart rate way up, so you burn tons of calories in the moves that follow and get your body warm so you don't get injured."
- Start with shorter bursts. Karisa suggests starting out with a low ratio of work to rest, then building on that as your fitness improves. For example, you can begin with 20 seconds of exercise, followed by 40 seconds of rest, and eventually flip those numbers for 40 seconds of work and 20 seconds of rest.
- Watch your form throughout your workout. "One piece of advice I would give is to start working out in front of a mirror. Your favorite Instagram fitness stars all started by learning the basics — that means how to do squats properly and how to keep their cores tight during push-ups," Karisa said. "Look in the mirror as you do your HIIT workout to ensure proper technique, recognizing that as you get tired, your form tends to collapse."
- Don't forget to stretch. "Spend the last few minutes of your workout time stretching your muscles and cooling down to help prevent injuries," Lyuda said.