HIIT… is it a typo on your gym’s class schedule? What the heck is it and why is it everywhere these days? Pronounced by saying all four letters, “H, I, I, T”, HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. This is not your typical aerobics class; this method of training will involve intense sprints of hard work, ranging from quick reps of lifting weights, body weight exercises, plyometrics, to using industrial-style fitness equipment like snow tires.

Common types of HIIT are:

  1. Crossfit
  2. Tabata
  3. Bootcamp-style workouts
  4. (Insert adjective) Interval Training

HIIT has many followers because of its ability to not only be effective as a weight loss tool, but that it attacks cardio and strength training at the same time. HIIT is a busy working person’s dream; in 20-30 minutes, you can kill your core, arms, legs, and cardio all at once. The secret is intense, full body exercises. HIIT can also be done with isolation exercises (i.e. squats for legs).

One concern of HIIT is the potential for injury. If you search the internet regarding Crossfit, you’ll find many heatedly opinionated articles on whether or not it’s actually good for you and your joints. However, proponents of Crossfit, despite its competitive nature (they post “scores” on gym walls traditionally), say that the coaches in their gyms always tout to respect your limits and body. It is wise to say that before beginning any exercise regime, you should get a full physical and clearance from a doctor. Before beginning a HIIT regime, you should perhaps also take a further step to investigate any nagging health issues such as back pain and the causes of it or knee pain that has troubled you in the past etc.

To expand on the kinds of HIIT, first, let’s discuss Crossfit.


A branded style of gym (known as a “box” to Crossfit goers). The premise of Crossfit is HIIT done in hour class sessions led and supervised by “coaches” (aka instructors). The hour begins with a group warm up and then goes into the WOD (“workout of the day”, pronounced “wad”). A WOD consists of a set of exercises done in a certain amount of time or a certain amount of reps and can be a traditional WOD (usually a female’s name such as “The Barbara”). AMRAP is also a term invented in Crossfit land; As Many Reps As Possible is what it stands for. Crossfit boxes do require potential members to go through an “on-ramp” course in order to learn the ropes before being let loose in group classes. The boxes are also known to be very community-oriented and owners tend to limit membership in order to provide quality over quantity. The Crossfit concept is also becoming widely copied under different names; there’s a strong chance there is one or something similar now in your town and it’s definitely worth a try if you are looking to shake things up in your workout routine. Check out a Crossfit website near you; they typically post their WOD online every day.

Next is Tabata.


Pronounced Tuh-bah-tuh. It is a Japanese born HIIT technique that revolves around a simple concept: do an exercise as fast/hard as you can for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, and repeat 8 times for a total of 4 minutes per exercise. Some Tabata purists would argue that you need to do the same exercise during those 8 rounds (i.e. burpees). Some Tabata devotees would argue that creating a mini circuit is the way to go and simply going for longer (i.e. squats, push ups, crunches, jumping jacks could be a circuit and then you would need to go for 16 minutes total or 8 times around the circuit). Either way, Tabata is a great technique to alleviate boredom and try some HIIT for very little cash; all you need is a stop watch and some willpower. There are many smartphone apps that will even make up Tabata rounds and timers for you, making the process even easier.

Thirdly we have bootcamp-style workouts.


In order to be classified as HIIT, the bootcamp would need to be based around intervals. The basic premise of an interval is that you do something at a high rate of speed/full amount of effort for a short burst of time and then rest/recovery follows before another round. Many bootcamp style classes are using interval training without necessarily calling it that; ask your instructor or trainer if your class is a type of HIIT and see what she/he says.

Finally, HIIT can be disguised under gym classes creatively named such as “Intense Intervals” or “Crazy Cardio Bootcamp”.

(Insert adjective) Interval Training

Ask your instructor if the class is based around HIIT principles and how so. They should be able to tell you more about the methodology of the class and what is done in the planning process.

Get Started

Next time you work-out why not give ‎this HIIT 7 Minute Workout a try.

Happy HIITing!

Christy Lyons

Christy Lyons, M.A., PHR, is a former corporate wellness company owner & freelance Yoga, Pilates, and barre/toning instructor. As an E-RYT, she has been teaching yoga since 2007 and has also run 2 teacher training programs. She is an NASM-CPT and specialized in working with clients with autoimmune diseases, spinal injuries, and other unique cases. After selling her business in 2013, Christy... Read More

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