For the past several years, there’s been a ton of buzz about the benefits of HIIT, or high-intensity interval training.
A HIIT workout is a great way to get a challenging cardiovascular and metabolic workout in a short amount of time, making it a much more efficient way to improve aerobic fitness and health compared to traditional steady-state training.
Because we are always crunched for time, and, let’s face it, working out is not most people’s first choice of a fun “free time“ activity, the more efficient we can be with our exercise routine, the better.
However, how often should you do HIIT workouts? Can or should you do HIIT workouts every day? And finally, how many HIIT workouts per week can you safely squeeze in?
In this article, we will explore the answers to these questions and give you guidance regarding your HIIT workout frequency.
We will cover:
- What Is HIIT?
- How Often Should You Do HIIT Workouts?
- Can You Do HIIT Every Day?
Let’s jump in!
What Is HIIT?
HIIT, which stands for high-intensity Interval training, is a style of fitness training or workout programming that involves performing short intervals of very vigorous exercise followed by short recovery periods of either full rest or light exercise.
HIIT workouts can be anywhere from four minutes (known as a Tabata workout) to 45 minutes or so, but they usually fall within the 15-30 minute range, depending on your fitness level, goals, type of exercise you are doing, and the duration and intensity of the intervals you perform.The type of exercise that you do for a HIIT workout is completely up to you.
Running, cycling, swimming, calisthenics, jumping rope, plyometrics, rowing, stair climbing, and boxing are examples of exercises that lend well to HIIT-style workouts, though there are no specific rules governing the mode of exercise.
Additionally, the structure of a HIIT workout can vary in terms of the length of the work intervals and rest intervals, the ratio of the work-to-rest intervals, and the number of intervals you complete.
For example, in the Tabata format, you complete eight rounds of 20 seconds of all-out exercise followed by 10 seconds of recovery for a total of four minutes.
A beginner HIIT workout might involve 10 x 45 seconds hard and 45 seconds easy, while someone who’s experienced with HIIT might do 10 x 60 seconds hard with 30 seconds easy.
How Often Should You Do HIIT Workouts?
Although there are many benefits of HIIT workouts, it’s generally not a good idea to do HIIT every day.
Studies suggest that overdoing HIIT workouts can compromise mitochondrial function and blood sugar regulation and may increase the stress hormone cortisol.
The maximum number of HIIT workouts you should do per week, and the ideal HIIT frequency, depends on numerous factors, including the following:
#1: Fitness Level
Your fitness level greatly impacts how often you should do HIIT workouts.
Beginners should start with just one HIIT workout per week and then slowly progress to 2 to 3 per week.
Your body needs time to adapt to the stresses of HIIT workouts, and recovery typically takes longer the less fit you are.
#2: Mode of Exercise
The type of exercise you do is one of the most important things to consider when determining how often you should do HIIT workouts.
Rather than being a type of exercise (such as running, lifting weights, cycling, or rowing), HIIT is a type of workout or a style/approach to exercise (like long slow distance).
You can theoretically do a HIIT workout on any modality of exercise.
Therefore, how often you should do HIIT really depends on the type of exercise you are doing when you engage in high-intensity interval training workouts.
High-impact activities, such as running, jumping rope, plyometrics, and other forms of jumping exercise, work really well for HIIT because the high-impact, weight-bearing nature of the activity naturally increases your heart rate and the metabolic demand of the exercise.
However, high-impact stress also increases the risk of injury.
For example, studies have shown that running at a faster pace increases the magnitude of the peak impact stresses on the bones and joints of the body.
For this reason, if you are doing HIIT running workouts or HIIT jumping rope, you should do no more than 2-3 HIIT workouts per week.
Your tissues need time to fully recover, and the repetitive, high-impact stresses of HIIT can cause overuse injuries.
On the other hand, if you are doing low-impact exercise, such as cycling, swimming, rowing, or even incline walking HIIT workouts, you can potentially do more HIIT workouts per week.
Your body can recover faster from low-impact exercise, and the risk of stress injuries is reduced.
Depending on other factors, such as your fitness level and the length of your workouts, it might be possible to do 3 to 4 cycling HIIT workouts per week.
Overall, the more variety you can include in terms of the type of exercise you perform for HIIT, the better off you will be.
For instance, instead of doing three HIIT running workouts per week, do one HIIT running workout, one indoor cycling HIIT workout, and one bodyweight strength training HIIT workout.
This variety will not only prevent mental boredom, but it will reduce the risk of overuse injuries by changing up the stresses and muscular demands and movements.
In this way, a variety in the type of exercise you do can help prevent muscle imbalance and promote a more well-rounded strength and fitness base.
#3: Duration of HIIT Workouts
Certainly, one of the primary factors that influences the maximum HIIT frequency per week depends on how long your HIIT workouts are.
For example, it is probably okay to do a daily Tabata workout, especially if you vary the type of exercise that you do every day.
For example, Monday could be a bodyweight squats Tabata, Tuesday could be a push-ups Tabata, Wednesday could be a jumping rope Tabata, Thursday could be a spin bike Tabata, Friday could be a Burpee Tabata, Saturday could be a hill sprint Tabata, and Sunday could be a deep water sprinting Tabata.
At only four minutes long, doing a Tabata-style HIIT workout every day could be safe.
With that said, it’s usually best to have at least one full rest day per week, and a daily Tabata workout may not be the optimal way to improve your fitness, depending on your goals.
On the other hand, if your HIIT workouts are 20 minutes or more, especially if they are approaching the 45-minute mark, it’s really important to understand that your workout will take a significant toll on the body and necessitate a lot of recovery.
For this reason, if you are doing longer HIIT workouts, it’s imperative that you stick with 2 to 3 per week to prevent overtraining syndrome.
#4: Fitness Goals
It’s also helpful to consider your fitness goals when deciding how often you should do HIIT.
Someone who is trying to lose fat and just get in better shape might be well served by doing HIIT as often as safely possible (based on their fitness level, type of exercise they’re doing, and length of the workouts).
On the other hand, an endurance athlete training for a marathon or a long-distance event will probably need to spend more training time focused on longer workouts that directly build mental and physical endurance.
This is not to say that HIIT should not be included in the workout plan of an endurance athlete, but the frequency will probably be less (such as one to two times per week).
#5: Overall Health
Lastly, your overall health can guide you to how often you can do HIIT.
Older individuals, as well as those with certain medical conditions, may need additional recovery time between vigorous workouts.
Can You Do HIIT Every Day?
As mentioned, it’s usually inadvisable to do HIIT workouts every day, except for rare cases where you might do a different mode of exercise for a daily Tabata workout.
HIIT is very demanding on the body from a hormonal and metabolic standpoint, even if you are doing low-impact exercise.
Although the rigors of HIIT are indeed what make it such an efficient and effective approach to working out, the intensity also makes the risk of overtraining and elevated cortisol (the stress hormone) high.
Overall, when trying to decide how often you should do HIIT, think about your fitness level, fitness goals, the type of exercise you plan to do, and the intensity and duration of your workouts. When in doubt, do not do HIIT more than 2 to 3 times per week.
Now that you know how many HIIT workouts per week to do, would you like to get started with some of our very own? We have a great variety already put together just for you, so you can get started today!