How to Structure a HIIT Workout

How to Structure a HIIT Workout

Written By Robbie Peters

1 Apr, 2021

Structuring a high intensity interval training (HIIT) workout is not rocket science. If your budget is tight, you don’t need to sign up for Les Mill Grit classes or a SoulCycle class.
You can easily create your own HIIT workouts and choose whether to do them at home or outside or even in the office. You can either use bodyweight training or weights. There is a lot of flexibility and your workouts will only be limited by your imagination.

Now let’s look at how to create a workout.


For starters, you need to know just how many minutes you’re going to train for. 15-minute workouts are perfect for giving your maximum effort and having sufficient rest intervals in between.
You can either train for 45 seconds and rest for 15 seconds or you could train for 30 seconds and rest for 30 seconds. Ideally, you shouldn’t rest for more than 30 seconds per interval.
You want to maintain the intensity of your workouts. It’s common to see people doing 30-minute HIIT sessions, and you may wonder if you’re missing out. The truth of the matter is that when you’re giving your maximum effort, you’ll be exhausted within 15 minutes.
At most, 20 minutes will leave you drained. There’s no point in dragging out the last 10-minutes with less than maximum effort. Short, excruciatingly hard workouts are the way to go.

Full-body workouts

Now that you know how long to train for, you need to know what exercises to do. Your goal should be to make your workout a full-body workout. Unlike bodybuilding where you train one or two body parts per day, with HIIT, the goal is to work the entire body.
The more muscle groups you recruit, the more calories you’ll burn and the more effective the workout will be.

So, your exercises should mostly be compound movements.
Exercises like Squats, burpees, pushups, kettlebell swings, box jumps, jumping lunges, etc. will work several muscle groups at once. All you need to do is choose a few effective compound exercises to include in your set.Do note that you should be able to immediately go into the exercise the moment your rest period is over, and the beeper starts beeping. So, avoid picking exercises like the bench press which will require you to lie down and get the bar up and be careful.

All that takes time and it’s time that you can’t afford to spare. Burpees are a perfect exercise for HIIT workouts. The moment you hear the interval timer beep – BOOM! You’re off and moving. No time to think or set up.

Rest intervals

Your rest intervals will depend on your level of fitness. The fitter you are, the less rest you need… but no matter what, do ensure you have a rest interval for your heart to get a break.
In the Tabata protocol, the rest period is only 10 seconds. Your rest interval could be anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds. So, plan a workout that leaves you exhausted but you should have enough energy to keep going after the rest period is up. Don’t overwork yourself to a point where you’re wiped out by the second set.

Bodyweight or dumbbells

You can choose to either use bodyweight training exercises or dumbbells. Of course, there are other pieces of equipment like kettlebells, resistance bands, stability balls, etc. that you can use to make your workout more challenging.
Whether you choose to go with bodyweight training or weights is up to you. Initially, you may wish to stick to bodyweight exercises… and when you’re fitter, you can progress to weights.

As you can see, it really isn’t that difficult to put together your own workout. You can Google or search on YouTube for bodyweight HIIT routines and so on. You may choose to either follow those or create your own.

As long as you make HIIT a part of your training program, you’ll be on the right track.

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