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When Should You Incorporate HIIT Into Your Routine?

By Shannon Cole on Mar 16, 2023 9:15:00 AM
5 Minutes Reading Time


By now, I’m sure a lot of people of heard of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), or even gravitate toward this workout method already.

We have a lot of information on what HIIT is, but to summarize really quick, it is a high-intensity, short-duration cardio workout that is used to burn calories and blast fat.

A few points I want to make here:

-HIIT workouts should be relatively short, not exceeding a half an hour, due to the high-intensity model it follows.

-For it to be a high-intensity workout, you need to perform at a level that gets you to about 85-95% of your max heart rate. BUT, it is just as important to get your heart rate back down before bringing it back up again after a set of exercises.

-Even if weights are involved in your HIIT workout, it is considered a cardio routine, not a strength-based routine. With HIIT, the goal is to increase endurance and burn the most amount of calories in a short amount of time. Strength-based workouts are formulated to build muscle, a completely different type of goal.


It can be a little confusing what constitutes a successful HIIT program, which is why Mind Pump developed one for you.

When Is The Right Time To Start Doing HIIT Training?

For many people, especially those who primarily lift weights, HIIT training can be very challenging (for myself included!). And this is exactly why HIIT should be incorporated into your routine at some point in your macrocycle. A macrocycle is a phased, periodized training program that last 6 months to a year.

Whatever your training goals are, most people should go through mesocycles (a period lasting 3-4 weeks) where HIIT is utilized for health and performance reasons.

Below, I’ll break down examples when HIIT would be advantageous for you:

You are an athlete that relies on powerful, short bursts of energy. HIIT requires you to get your heart rate elevated for a short period of time; training with this method will increase your stamina and endurance at this training level. Sprinters, and even golfers, can benefit from the effects HIIT provides.

Complete 1–3 times a week. This all depends on current training load, level of competition, and athletic level. 

You want the cardiovascular health benefits. Just like steady-state cardio, HIIT provides the same benefits, but it challenges your muscles differently. Plus, HIIT workouts can help mix up your cardio routine, which you must admit, can be a bit boring!

Complete 1–2 times a week. 

You want to elevate your cardio performance. You don’t need to be an athlete that only utilizes powerful movements to gain performance effects from HIIT. Those who enjoy steady-state cardio, like running and cycling, can use HIIT to improve cardiovascular endurance, stroke volume, and VO2max, especially when battling hills or sprinting intervals.

20% of workouts should be HIIT-based. There is more on this here.

You want to lose weight. I will always advocate for resistance training over cardio or HIIT to lose weight, but HIIT can be beneficial for weight loss in some situations. To achieve a cardio-deficit (needed to lose weight), HIIT is a fast, reliable way to do so. Need to lose weight FAST in a short amount of time? HIIT is an excellent option. The caveat is that it is very easy to plateau if this is your primary source of losing weight. Intermittently using HIIT will provide the results needed to jumpstart your weight loss, all while avoiding losing a lot of muscle in the process.

Complete no more than 3 days a week, for no longer than 4–6 weeks at a time.

You primarily lift weights. Even if you’re all about the muscle (trust me, I am too!), HIIT can act as an excellent break between phases in your training program. Unlike steady-state cardio, you probably won’t be compromising your muscle gains too much, and in fact, you may develop better lifting endurance and stamina in the process.

Complete 2–3 days a week, for no longer than 4–6 weeks at a time.

Take This Advice…

HIIT workouts are not something you should be doing more than 3 days a week, without any breaks between mesocycles. People with certain health conditions, or those who have sustained a recent injury, should discuss HIIT training with their doctor first before initiating a HIIT routine. 

Doing too much of anything will hinder its benefits and lose its effectiveness. Essentially, you’ll reach a plateau period, while also increasing your odds of getting injured.

Train smarter, not harder.

Mistakes with HIIT programs | Mind Pump

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Shannon Cole

Shannon Cole is an ISSA certified personal trainer and lives in the Dallas area. She is a certified nutrition coach through NASM and NCI, and is currently pursuing her M.S. in Sports Science and Rehabilitation. After obtaining her B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication she eventually gravitated to personal training, and hasn't turned back since. Her passion for athletics and fitness initially stemmed from her high school years playing golf, and her love for the sport still hasn't faded; her career goal is to obtain her Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) certification and develop strength and conditioning programs for golfers. You can usually find her working out in her garage gym, or training for the next Spartan Race with her husband.

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