The Really Awesome Benefits of High-Intensity Interval Training

So, you want to try a HIIT class. Maybe you’re interested because you know it’s a shorter workout than your typical hour-long class. Or maybe you heard about the benefits of HIIT training, like how you burn calories for hours after you’ve finished class. Or maybe you have no idea what HIIT is, but you keep hearing people talk about it at your other workout classes, so you Googled it and found this article (in which case, you’ve come to the right place!).

Here’s everything you need to know about high-intensity interval training, from the mental and physical benefits to what you can expect during class and more!

What is HIIT?

HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, is a training technique where you perform short bursts of intense exercise at your all out maximum, followed by short periods of active rest. For example, doing a series of burpees for 30 seconds, followed by 20 seconds of lightly jogging in place. While interval training in its most basic form has been around for decades, the concept of HIIT training came to fruition partly due to Izumi Tabata, dean at Ritsumeikan University Graduate School of Sport and Health Science, who created “Tabata” interval training.

In a Tabata interval, each set lasts 30 seconds, with 20 seconds of work, followed by 20 seconds of complete rest. Other HIIT intervals found in HIIT classes include ladder training, which consists of intervals where the time varies for each set, and can be done in descending or ascending intervals. For example, you may do 10 seconds of jumping jacks, then 20 seconds, then 30 seconds, and then 40 seconds, each separated by a 10 second break. You then can work your way back down the ladder, completing another set of 30, 20, and ending with 10. You can also throw multiple workouts into the mix: 10 second of jumping jacks, 20 seconds of pushups, 30 seconds of jump squats, and 40 seconds of burpees.

Turbulence interval training incorporates weights within the intervals, meaning you could be doing bicep curls, bench presses or deadlifts interspersed throughout cardio intervals of jumping jacks, burpees, etc.

What’s a HIIT class like?

Because of the intense nature of HIIT training, classes are kept purposely short, ranging anywhere from 20-40 minutes. However, it is possible you’ll see some HIIT classes that last upwards of an hour. Typically, these classes are the instructor’s own spin on HIIT training, where intervals are broken up with rest periods, or incorporate different types of weights or muscle toning segments throughout. HIIT classes are definitely challenging, but the instructors encourage you to do each exercise at your personal maximum, whatever that means to you. It might be very challenging the first few times you take HIIT class, but you’ll likely be hooked on this fast-paced style of class, and be back for more.

Physical benefits of HIIT training

When it comes to the physical benefits of HIIT training, the amount of calories you burn during (and long after) this class top the list. “Exercise post-oxygen consumption,” or how long it takes for your body to return to its normal state of rest post workout, takes a solid two hours after a HIIT class, which means you’re still burning long after you’ve left class. HIIT has also been shown to improve heart health, increase your endurance, and decrease fat while still maintaining muscle. And it does all of these things more effectively than steady, hour-long style workout.

Mental benefits of HIIT training

Taking HIIT class regularly has been linked to more productivity and efficiency in the workplace. Why? Because HIIT classes are designed to get the most results in the least amount of time, our brains start to adopt that way of thinking across different situations that we’re faced with, finding ways to get tasks done in less time. Improved circulation to the brain can also be credited to HIIT training, since it has positive effects on our cardiovascular health.

Join ClassPass! 

With so many different styles of HIIT training available, and so many instructors using the method to morph it into their very own workout, it can be tough to figure out where to start, and determine which HIIT class is the best for your personal fitness goals. Memberships like ClassPass let you try out a bunch of different HIIT classes in your area, letting you experiment with different styles of HIIT training until you find one (or a bunch!) that work for you, so that you can reap all the sweaty benefits of HIIT style training.

(Get started with ClassPass today and try five classes for $19 in your first month.)

Amy Height is a holistic health coach, triathlete and yogi traveling North America full-time to discover the best in nutrition and fitness. She shares healthy living ideas and plant-based, gluten-free recipes at From the Ground Up Wellness. Follow the adventures and find some fit-foodie inspiration on Instagram, amyheight.