Beginner HIIT Workouts: 3 Running & Interval Training Routines
June 10, 2022
This High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) guide is probably the best interval training guide in the galaxy.
My justification for such a bold claim?
We’re really good at this stuff, AND we have dinosaurs and Muppets.
Plus, lots of great gifs:
We build custom interval training programs just like the ones in this guide for our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Clients, including workouts for at home, the gym, or even while traveling.
In this Ultimate Guide to Interval Training, we’ll cover:
If you’re interested in starting a HIIT practice (which you are, ’cause you’re here), you may want to try our new app! It contains a fun adventure that will take you from sitting on your couch to a full HIIT workout – with plenty of benchmarks in between for you to find your groove. No guesswork needed, just jump into the app and follow it’s next steps.
The 1996 landmark Tabata study demonstrated the benefits of extreme HIIT.
Dr. Izumi Tabata, from Japan’s National Institute of Fitness and Sports, was obsessed with interval training.
The doctor sought to see exactly what kind of gains were obtained from short, intense, periods of exercise. He conducted an experiment with Olympic athletes on stationary bikes and put them through intense bouts of exercise followed by short periods of rest.
The results were fascinating.
That 6 weeks of moderate-intensity endurance training did not affect anaerobic capacity, but that 6 weeks of high-intensity intermittent training (HIIT) may improve both anaerobic capacity and VO2max simultaneously.
Let’s translate that: compared to regular cardio, HIIT had a greater impact on improving BOTH:
Aerobic increases (endurance).
Anaerobic increases (power).
Tabata was able to demonstrate improvements in his athletes with just FOUR-MINUTE bursts.
So what’s happening here?
Simple: your heart is a muscle.
If you keep your heart beating at a constant rate, never expanding it outside of its comfort zone, it will never grow stronger.
By introducing chaos and pushing your muscles outside of their comfort zone, they must adapt and grow more resilient in order to survive.
Intense interval training challenges your heart by constantly forcing it outside of its comfort zone.
Elliptical. If it has a dial for resistance, it can be used for interval training. For a couple of minutes, go on low resistance (0-2 level). Then crank up the resistance for one minute (up to 8-10). Repeat this process 12 times, which will give you a 20-minute workout.
Stair Climber. Much like the elliptical, alternate between periods of low intensity for two minutes, then one minute for high intensity. The difference with the climber is the dial will control the speed of the stairs. Be careful.
Rowing Machine. Start with a two-minute warm-up. On minute three, row like you’re being chased by the Kraken for a full 60 seconds. Then catch your breath. The rowing machine might be hard to do for a full 20 minutes, since it’s a lot of upper body. Shoot for ten minutes at first.
Jumping Rope.Jumping rope is a full-body exercise. Also, it’s fun. There’s no dial here, your own body controls the pace of the jump. Follow the same two-minute easy, one-minute intense as above. Jump rope can also be done with friends!
So far we’ve just been talking about aerobic exercises.
Let’s cover our other categories, of bodyweight and resistance.
Burpees. Stand up, then squat down, kick your legs out, do a push-up, bring your legs back in, and explode up into a jump. Try to do 20 repetitions, then rest for two minutes. Repeat until you hate yourself:
Push-ups. For 20 seconds, do as many push-ups as possible. Rest. Then do it again. If you’re worried about proper form, check out our push-up guide and watch this:
Pull-ups. Same idea as above, do pull-ups for 20 seconds, then rest. If you can’t do a pull-up, we got you covered in our pull-up progression guide:
Kettlebell swing. For ten minutes, do 20 kettlebell swings on every minute. This will be intense, and worthy of congratulations when you’re done. Check out our 20 Minute Beginner Kettlebell Workout for everything you’ve ever wanted to know about kettlebells.
Battle ropes.If your gym has battle ropes, they’ll be a great tool for HIIT. For intensity, the amount of slack in the rope determines the load. The more slack on the rope the tougher, and more intense, the workout. Also, don’t get stuck in just up and down movements. Some variation will help target different muscles.
Plus, there’s a Batman workout hidden in there. You’re welcome.
We create custom HIIT programs for busy people like you that are ACTUALLY fun. If you’re looking for a supportive coach to guide you and tell you exactly what to do each day, we got you covered!
If you just want a beginner circuit to get started with, you can try out our Beginner Bodyweight Workout Routine. Plus you can download a free worksheet to track your progress with this circuit when you join the Rebellion below:
Grab Your Beginner Bodyweight Routine Worksheet. No Gym Required!
Complete this workout at home, no equipment required
Avoid the common mistakes everybody makes when doing bodyweight exercises
Learn how to finally get your first pull-up
Oh, what’s that? You want to have even MORE fun while getting the benefits of HIIT?
Sure. Let’s think outside the box:
Basketball, tennis, soccer, and Ultimate (frisbee) are AMAZING styles of exercise that use interval training (it’s all start and stop!).
Run here, catch this, and wait for the next round to start.
That’s what we’re looking for in a HIIT workout.
So pick a form of FUN exercise that gets your heart racing faster and slower throughout the activity (yes, I suppose even THAT activity would count).
Regular exercise is an integral component of long-term weight management. However, unless implemented in very large volumes, short-term exercise in isolation (including HIIT) is unlikely to produce clinically meaningful fat loss.
What’s that mean?
As long as your energy expenditure is the same (and you’re in a caloric deficit), steady-state cardio is equivalent to HIIT for fat loss.
In other words, if you want to lose body fat, how you eat will be responsible for 80% of your success or failure.
It doesn’t matter how many intervals you do – it’s not gonna help you lose weight if you don’t also fix your nutrition.
There’s a lot to consider when embarking on a HIIT practice.
No matter which routine you end up starting with, make sure you follow these words of wisdom:
Ease into it. As the saying goes, “you must walk before you can run.” The importance is building a HIIT practice. If you need to go “less intense” before progressing to “intense,” that’s fine. It’ll help build your aerobic capabilities (endurance), which will be important when working on intensity. Start with walking.
Keep proper form. Doing your movements correctly will help prevent injury. Here’s how to run properly. This is even more critical in your later intervals, where you may be exhausted and tired. If you find yourself breaking form, go ahead and slow down. Intense isn’t worth an injury.
Get rest. Our bodies actually build muscle while we are resting. So take some “off days” from your HIIT practice. Want to stay active on these days? Do some fun exercise!
Take it easy, focus on your form, and make sure to prioritize rest.
One moment it’s intense, the next you’re onto a short rest break.
A good way to know when it’s time to go from one sequence to the next is a timer. A loud “beep” can tell you when it’s okay to catch your breath or when you have to kick it in gear.
Here are 5 HIIT timers you can try out:
Runtastic. Don’t let the name fool you, this free app is for more than just running. You can customize for many different interval workouts, depending on what exercise you go with. And the interface looks slick.
Seconds. It’s free and customizable to any form of HIIT. It can also integrate with your music, which is pretty sweet.
Seven. If you’re new to HIIT, Seven would be a good app for you. It’s free, plus it has illustrations for exercises. You also get to customize your own virtual personal trainer, which may be the future of fitness. The bots are coming…
Sworkit.First off, it’s a clever name (taken from “Simply Work It.”) Second, it’s free. Third, it can display your workout, goals, and calories burned. I like it.
J&J Official Seven Minute Workout. This free app from Johnson & Johnson is actually really awesome. It has premade workouts you can choose form based on your fitness level, or tweak them to make it your own.
Also, we need to talk about interval timers. Most of the apps referenced are completely customizable.
For example, you can change the intense interval from 120 seconds to 90 seconds.
This is critical because it’s up to you to decide how long you can do intense vs. rest.
Generally, folks recommend one minute of intensity and then two for rest when doing HIIT.
However, this all depends on the individual, and exercises performed.
For example, burpees are tougher to do than jumping over a rope:
So feel free to make changes like 30 seconds of intensity and three minutes of rest. Make it your own.
Whatever way you chose to do HIIT, is fine, as long as you actually do it. The benefits of HIIT kick in when going HARD for you.
In other words, you don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to get the benefits of HIIT.
A light jog totally works. Just don’t do it in a mascot costume.
As we discussed, if you’re consistent, you’ll improve.
So don’t stress about where you have to start.
For now, download an app and get going. Ours will help you train with HIIT too: