If you’re even remotely into health and fitness, you’ve likely heard the term “high-intensity interval training” tossed around. HIIT, as the cool kids call it, is nothing new, though it’s exploded in popularity recently, especially at boutique exercise studios across the country. So what is it exactly? “Interval training means you’re doing one exercise for a set period of time,” explains fitness instructor Bergen Wheeler, National Director of Talent Development at Exhale. “The high-intensity part means you’re going hardcore and doing each exercise at 75 to 100 percent of your maximum output.” Translation: Bust your butt doing one move (usually for less than a minute). Move on to another move and repeat. A HIIT workout—which is often combined with circuit training—does a body good. Read on for seven of the biggest benefits.
You’ll get in and out of the gym, fast
A HIIT workout hits (pun intended) all the major components of fitness, including strength, cardio, and agility, says Wheeler. Combined with the fact that you’re pretty much constantly moving, it’s easy to get a complete, whole-body workout in as little as 30 minutes.
The calorie burn is crazy
While the exact number of calories burned depends on the person, the specific workout, and how hard he or she is working, Wheeler estimates that you can torch up to 400 calories in 30 minutes. We’d be happy enough with that, but it gets even better: “High-intensity interval training increases your metabolic rate, the rate at which you burn calories when you’re at rest,” explains Wheeler. In other words, you’ll continue to burn calories for up to two days after your HIIT workout.
It burns fat and builds muscle simultaneously
This type of training can both lean you out and help tone and define muscle, notes Wheeler. Cardio is obviously great for burning fat, while the strength training component builds muscle. So whether you want to drop a few pounds or tighten your booty (or both), this will do the trick.
You can take it at your own pace
While it’s—obviously—an intense workout, it can still be scaled down. “You decide how hard you want to work. If you have an injury or just aren’t feeling it one day, you can adjust your workout accordingly,” explains Wheeler. Obviously, the harder you work the more you’ll get out of it, but that doesn’t mean it’s an all-or-nothing situation.
Mindfulness is a major component
“During any kind of HIIT workout you have to be really aware of where your body is in space, and pay close attention to things like alignment and how your body is moving,” says Wheeler. Point being, you’re forced to be present and focused on what you’re doing in the moment, rather than zoning out and thinking about what you’re going to eat after your workout is over.
It’s an ideal workout for athletes
HIIT is choice for increasing both speed and agility, making it a great option for athletes, notes Wheeler. Even working in just three HIIT sessions per week can lead to results in as little as three weeks, she says (both in these athletic departments and in terms of how you look).
There’s nothing complicated about it
At the end of the day, HIIT is super simple. There’s no need to stress about learning complicated choreography or how to use fancy equipment; this type of workout is usually based on functional movements that are similar ones you make in everyday life, like squatting down to pick something up. “These simple movements are also very repetitive, so it’s easy to catch on quickly,” points out Wheeler.
Check out a few of the studios and gyms around the country where you can try high-intensity interval training: