Interval training: how HIIT works


Preferences vary when it comes to interval training. While some people love the well-deserved short breaks after intervals of burning muscles and short breath, others hate this training method. But one thing's certain: it doesn't need much time and is effective too.

What is interval training?

In interval training, you switch from strenuous workouts to recovery breaks. The ratio of the lengths of exertion to recovery depends on your general condition. As a general rule, beginners' breaks are at least twice as long as the strenuous phases.

Training continues during breaks

During the breaks you continue to exercise, but at a much lower intensity. The short recovery time isn't enough to completely replenish the body's energy reserves before the next workout. This is what makes interval training effective.

With interval training, you burn a lot of calories during a short time and quickly raise your stamina levels.

HIIT – high-intensity interval training

HIIT – or high-intensity interval training – is one form of interval training. During the intense phase of HIIT, you should aim to push yourself to your limits. This means that on a scale of 1 (completely relaxed) to 10 (extremely strenuous), you should aim for levels 8 to 9.

Personalise your workout

HIIT can be performed indoors on a treadmill or bicycle. You can also train outside by jogging, cycling or swimming. People who prefer strength training (for example strength training at home) spend the intense phases doing full-body exercises. The best-known method for this is Tabata training: exercises using your own body weight, such as push-ups, burpees, box jumps, jumping jacks or with a mini band.

Tip: to keep track of the time and number of intervals, there are several helpful apps to download to your smartphone.

A possible HIIT workout

There are many different ways of pushing the body to its peak with interval training – the main thing is that it’s strenuous.

Warm up

First warm up at a moderate pace for at least 10 minutes. This could be skipping or running on a treadmill in combination with squats or balance exercises – creativity is called for! The important thing is to exercise several muscle groups and joints before starting training.

Main section

  • Example for beginners: exercise 8 x 15 seconds at high intensity and take an active pause for 45 seconds between each interval.
  • Example for the more advanced: exercise 8 x 45 seconds at high intensity and take an active pause for 60 seconds between each interval.

Cool down

At the end of a demanding workout like this, cool down with a gentle run of at least five minutes.

Why is HIIT so effective?

  • The concept of short switches from exertion to recovery shortens the workout time to 20-30 minutes. This makes it easier to build sport into your everyday routine.
  • The body's high oxygen consumption during the intense training phases stimulates circulation and boosts stamina.
  • In addition, the body is busily burning fat – not only during the workouts but also after. Since the body needs energy after training to return to normal, body fat continues to be burned even after you've finished exercising.
  • Studies have proven the benefits of HIIT on blood pressure, blood sugar levels and general heart function.

What do I need to know about HIIT?

As the name "high-intensity interval training" implies, the workouts exert great demands on the body. This means that not only is the preparation phase longer, but the recovery phase too. For this reason, it's best to schedule maximum 2 HIIT units per week and to warm up sufficiently before training.

Are you an HIIT beginner?

Then it's worth learning the training method with the help of an instructor. Not only is it more motivating but it helps to prevent the body being put under unnecessary strain.


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