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HIIT Workouts for Beginners

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If you’re a HIIT beginner - perhaps just starting on your fitness journey, or simply have never tried this training approach before - you may be interested to learn a little more. 

Here we explain the basics of HIIT and provide some workout examples including: 

What is HIIT?

HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training, and these workouts usually comprise shorter workouts (anywhere from 15 minutes up) that alternate bursts of high intensity, full energy movement with brief recovery periods.

These workouts allow you to burn a large number of calories in a shorter amount of time, and are proven to be just as effective (if not more so) than long, steady cardio sessions. They’re also shown to boost your body’s ability to use oxygen for energy, which in turn improves endurance and performance.  

Why is HIIT so good for beginners? 

HIIT workouts are particularly great for fitness beginners because they’re quick and easy to integrate into your daily routines. If you’re not used to putting aside time for the gym, then you have the flexibility to whizz through a short 15 minute HIIT session and, with consistency, will still see great results. HIIT is also an incredibly versatile form of training, which can be worked around any type of exercise you enjoy, from functional training to walking, swimming or running. 

Top tips for getting started with HIIT: 

  • Don’t forget to warm up and cool down - this is a vital step, even for long time exercising experts. It helps to prepare your body, improve your performance and to prevent soreness and injury.
  • High intensity MEANS high intensity - in those high intensity moments, you really need to be dialling your energy input up to 9 or 10. You may feel exhausted, but the great thing about HIIT is that it’s never long until your next rest period. You’ll see the best results if you really give it some oomph.
  • Stick to around 2 HIIT sessions a week maximum when you first start out - you’ll need to allow your body to recover between sessions. If you’re doing HIIT right (i.e. giving it your all in those ‘intense’ moments) then your muscles will have put in a lot of effort. Including plenty of rest days or stretch-focused activity like yoga in between will give you time to recover.

HIIT workouts for beginners at home

If you’re not a member of a gym, or simply looking to try HIIT in your own home, then there are plenty of options for you that don’t require any workout equipment. You can alternate between your favourite bodyweight movements and shape the workout your way. To start, focus on 30 seconds of high energy movement followed by a 10 second rest. 

Ideal exercises to feature include: 

  • Jumping jacks
  • Squats
  • Straight punches
  • Mountain climbers
  • Lunges 

Our HIIT workouts you can do at home guide showcases a range of different HIIT routines you can easily try without having to leave the house. If you’re a total fitness beginner, you can start with the 5 minute option and work your way up to longer HIIT sessions as you improve.

15 Minutes HIIT Workout for Beginners

15 minutes of HIIT is all you need to get a really decent workout that will help you tone, build strength and improve your fitness. In fact, studies have shown that a 15 minute HIIT workout can burn more calories per minute and increase VO2 max by more than for those who do steady-state cardio for 40 minutes. Plus, it’s convenient to fit around a busy day. Just put your all into it and you’ll get great results. 

Check out our 15 minute fat burning HIIT workout for an intense full body routine of 7 movements, including squats, mountain climbers and high knees.

Full Body HIIT Workouts for Beginners

While it’s great to give focus to different parts of your body in turn at the gym, beginners will probably find more benefit from a full body HIIT workout - it’ll help you to work and build strength in a wide range of muscles in a short amount of time. These are particularly relevant if you’re just starting out on your fitness journey, as you’ll be able to get an all-round workout without needing lots of knowledge about specialist equipment. 

This 25 minute HIIT Workout runs through a series of different circuits that will cover your upper body, your lower body and your core, for a total workout that will be sure to get your blood pumping and give your fitness a boost.

HIIT Elliptical Workout for Beginners

A lot of HIIT workouts focus on dynamic exercises and bodyweight movements, but you can also integrate interval training into your cardio to really boost the effectiveness and efficiency of your workout. The elliptical, or cross trainer, is one of our members’ favourite pieces of cardio gym equipment and ideal for HIIT. It’s fantastic for building up your heart rate and improving fitness, and as a low impact activity means you’re also protecting your joints as you work out. Thanks to the dual action handle bars, it’s also an excellent way to get a whole body workout (you can discover more reasons you should start using a cross trainer with this guide). 

For an elliptical HIIT workout, you’ll want to focus on bursts of high energy, high intensity movement, followed by slower, calmer movement as a ‘rest’ - don’t stop completely, but ease off enough to allow your body to recover ahead of the next intense burst. You can play around with different timings depending on your fitness levels, but if you’re a total beginner, you could start with 30 seconds of high intensity, followed by 1 minute of recovery, repeated until you’ve worked out for 20 minutes. As your fitness improves you can start to increase the amount of time you’re working at full intensity.

HIIT Walking Workout for Beginners

If you’re starting completely from scratch with your fitness, you may find the idea of the gym, or even home workouts, a bit intimidating. Or perhaps difficult to fit into your daily routines. Well, the good news is you can also integrate HIIT when you’re walking, helping you to get the maximum benefits from your daily stroll. You’ll just need some kind of timer on your phone or your watch to make sure you’re sticking to your intervals effectively. 

A good starter walking HIIT workout would be: 

  1. Warm up with a slower pace for around 5 minutes
  2. Walk at a steady pace for 3 minutes
  3. Walk at a brisk pace for 1 minute
  4. Walk at full intensity, pushing as hard as you can for 1 minute
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 for as long as you’re walking (perhaps aim for 15 or 20 minutes and build up to longer HIIT walks)
  6. Finish with at least 3 minutes of slow recovery walk to cool down

For more HIIT workout inspiration, check out this The Best HIIT Workout for You guide - there are loads of high intensity exercise examples for you to pick from. 

Beginners can discover more exercise inspiration on our starting out at the gym section. You can also download the free PureGym app, where you can create a customised training plan for your fitness goals or get involved with our on-demand classes and workouts. Also, consider booking a session with a dedicated Personal Trainer at PureGym - they’re able to offer a wealth of advice for both fitness and nutrition and will be able to help you shape your HIIT workouts to suit your needs.

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