HIIT Classes: Everything You Need To Know For Your First HIIT Workout!

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If you’re a beginner or new to HIIT, you’ll probably have questions such as, “What is HIIT?” and, “Can beginners take on a HIIT class?”

HIIT is a workout format that involves alternating between bursts of vigorous exercise and easy recovery periods.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) can definitely sound intimidating to beginners—and admittedly, it’s not easy—but it’s actually a great workout that can potentially be appropriate for people of all fitness levels. 

In this article, we will discuss the benefits of HIIT workouts and what to expect with HIIT so that you’re as prepared as can be for your first HIIT class.

We will cover: 

  • What Is HIIT? 
  • What Are the Benefits of HIIT Workouts?
  • Can Beginners Do HIIT?
  • What to Expect In a HIIT Class for Beginners
  • How to Do HIIT Workouts
  • 5 HIIT Tips for Beginners

Let’s dive in! 

People doing box jumps in a HIIT class.

What Is HIIT? 

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a type of workout, or style of fitness training, that involves alternating between doing bursts of vigorous exercise and doing easy recovery periods. 

Because you have recurring recovery intervals built into the workout, you are able to push your body harder and get your heart rate higher during the intense intervals than you could during a steady-effort workout where you don’t have planned periods of relative rest. 

The high-intensity nature of HIIT workouts makes this style of training an efficient way to burn calories and increase your endurance, particularly if you don’t have much time to exercise.

The target heart rate range for most steady-state cardio workouts is usually 70-85% of your maximum heart rate. 

In contrast, the target heart rate during the “on” intervals in HIIT workouts is usually 85% of your maximum heart rate or higher.

Although you do get “off” intervals with HIIT, because these bouts of rest are short and the “on” intervals are so vigorous, your heart rate stays elevated throughout the HIIT class, giving you a great cardiovascular workout and allowing you to burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time.

Most HIIT workouts are between 15-45 minutes, but there are even HIIT styles, such as Tabata, that only last four minutes.

People doing burpees in a HIIT class.

What Are the Benefits of HIIT Workouts? 

There are quite a few benefits of HIIT workouts, which is why this style of training has become so popular. Some of the top benefits of HIIT classes include the following.

#1: HIIT Workouts Reduce Your Risk of Cardiovascular Disease and Improve Your Aerobic Fitness

Because HIIT workouts elevate your heart rate so much during the “on” intervals and do not give ample time for it to drop appreciably on the “off” intervals, HIIT improves your aerobic fitness performance, known as VO2max. 

Research has found that having better cardiorespiratory fitness reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke. 

Researchers noted that the high-intensity nature of HIIT classes makes it a particularly effective style of exercise in terms of reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. 

According to the research, the higher the intensity of exercise, the lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality.

People doing jumping jacks in a HIIT class.

#2: HIIT Workouts Can Help You Lose Weight

Any form of physical activity burns calories, so exercise can be an effective way to lose weight, provided it occurs in the context of a calorie-control diet.

With that said, research suggests that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is the most effective way to stoke the metabolism and burn belly fat.

For example, one study found that compared with moderate-intensity continuous training, HIIT classes burned 28.5% more absolute fat mass overall.

Additionally, HIIT workouts have been shown to increase your metabolism for up to 14 hours after the workout is over, and HIIT can improve markers of obesity.

#3: HIIT Workouts Can Reduce Blood Pressure

Hypertension amongst adults is at near-pandemic levels, but studies have demonstrated that HIIT is an effective way to lower blood pressure.

A person doing a box jump.

#4: HIIT Workouts Are Efficient

Many of us are so busy these days, so exercise often gets relegated to the bottom of the to-do list or skipped altogether. 

HIIT workouts are perfect when you’re running short on time because you can get in an effective full-body workout in just 20 minutes or so.

Some studies have found that HIIT workouts can provide the same health and fitness benefits as moderate-intensity steady-state training in about 40% less time, if not more.

In other words, what you can accomplish from a fitness and health standpoint in 30 minutes of a regular steady-state aerobic workout can be done in just an 18-minute HIIT class.

A review of 22 studies found that HIIT is just as effective at improving cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors as moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT) but can be completed in less time. 

#5: HIIT Workouts Can Help You Sleep Better

Millions of adults struggle to get enough high-quality sleep per night.

A recent study found that HIIT classes can improve the quality of sleep and reduce feelings of fatigue during the day.

A HIIT class in a gym.

#6: HIIT Workouts Can Improve Blood Sugar Control

Research suggests that HIIT can increase insulin sensitivity, which may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

#7: HIIT Workouts Can Improve Your Mental Health

It is well-established that exercise can improve your mood and decrease stress, but a recent study found that compared to steady, continuous aerobic exercise, HIIT classes are especially beneficial for decreasing symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Can Beginners Do HIIT?

The “intensity” of exercise is relative, so HIIT workouts can be tailored to the abilities and goals of the individual who is exercising.

HIIT workouts can be safe and appropriate for beginners as long as you choose exercises you can do with good form and that you can perform at an intensity that is vigorous for you.

Box jumps in a gym.

What to Expect In a HIIT Class for Beginners

Before you attend your first HIIT class or stream an at-home HIIT workout, it’s helpful to have a general understanding of what to expect.

Rather than being a type of exercise, HIIT is a style of workout or training technique that involves bursts of vigorous exercise interspersed with short periods of recovery.

Therefore, you can conceivably do a HIIT workout with most types of exercise. 

For example, you can do a HIIT running workout, a HIIT cycling workout on a spin bike or exercise bike, a HIIT workout on a rowing machine, or a HIIT workout doing calisthenics or strength training exercises such as burpees, jumping rope, squats, step-ups, and push-ups.

The general format of HIIT workouts always includes a warm-up followed by a certain number of intervals of high-intensity exercise alternating with recovery bouts, ending with a cool down.

The number of intervals and the duration of the intervals can vary significantly, from 10 or 20 seconds to 60 to 90 seconds or so. 

Generally, intervals are between 20 and 60 seconds, depending on your fitness level and the type of exercise you are doing.

A class at the gym.

5 HIIT Tips for Beginners

Here are a few tips for HIIT workouts for beginners:

#1: Expect to Be Breathless

The hard intervals will feel really hard, and if you’re just getting started on your fitness journey, it might be that your heart rate barely comes down during the rest.

#2: Use Good Form

Although exercising at a vigorous intensity during the “on“ intervals is important to reap the benefits of HIIT, proper form and technique always trump intensity. 

Therefore, particularly with strength training exercises, either skip, swap, or modify exercises in the HIIT workout that you are still trying to master from a technique standpoint. 

When you are trying to go for speed and power during the exercise, your form might break down, which can increase the risk of injury.

A person drinking water on a treadmill.

#3: You Do You

You can always extend the rest interval, even if the HIIT class or streaming workout moves on to the next hard interval. It’s important to listen to your body.

No one will care or judge you if you need to take more of a breather.

#4: Wear a Heart Rate Monitor

A heart rate monitor can help you gauge your intensity level. You should be working at 85-95% of your max heart rate during your “on” efforts.

#5: Drink Water

It’s very important to hydrate well before, during, and after your HIIT workouts. You’ll be working at a very high intensity.

HIIT workouts can be an excellent way to improve your health and fitness and an efficient way to boost your endurance and burn calories.

Therefore, HIIT can be an especially beneficial training style for those who find limited time to be one of the main barriers to exercising.

Would you like to try a HIIT workout right away? Here are some HIIT workouts that you can do in the comfort of your own home.

A person doing a lunge.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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