5 Common HIIT Misconceptions

Tricep Dip

Image Courtesy: milan2099 / Getty Images - Men's Journal

High-intensity interval training involves performing an all-out, exhaustive physical effort for a short time followed by a short, sometimes active, recovery. Intervals of aerobic HIIT have been shown to increase VO2max compared to continuous aerobic training, even though HIIT workouts take less time to complete. Furthermore, a 2013 Journal of Strength and Conditioning study found that four weeks of HIIT rowing burned more body fat than traditional rowing.

Effective HIIT training will help you torch calories, build lean muscle, lose fat, improve heart health, push your limits, and increase efficiency. But while the benefits of HIIT are plentiful, there are still some myths about this type of training that, if followed, can hinder your performance. Find out the truth behind these five common HIIT misconceptions to perform your intervals perfectly.

Longer is better = false

You don’t need 60 or even 30 minutes for an effective workout. The idea behind a good high-intensity workout is to go all out; think sprint vs. jog. When the length of your “high-intensity” workout approaches 30 minutes, the intensity will diminish. Next time you plan your HIIT session, instead of going for 30 minutes straight, break down work down like this:

Work: 7 minutes
Rest: 2 minutes
Work: 6 minutes
Rest: 2 minutes
Work: 5 minutes
Total time: 22 minutes

If running outdoors is your thing, replace a 5K jog with eight 400-meter sprints at a track to reap the benefits of HIIT.

All exercises are well-suited for HIIT = false

Not all exercises should be used for HIIT training. To achieve true high intensity, use full-body movements that tax your cardiovascular system, and build strength endurance. For example, burpees, kettlebell swings, dumbbell snatches, kettlebell clean and presses, sprint intervals on the rower, or hill-sprints.

Single-joint exercises like bicep curls or tricep extensions don’t offer the benefits of total-body conditioning. Remember if you can talk while you’re doing high-intensity intervals, you have to ask yourself is this really a HIIT workout?

HIIT alone will shed fat = false

It’s true that one of the benefits of HIIT is that it triggers excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, also known as afterburn, which helps boost your body’s metabolism for up to 48 hours after a high-intensity workout. But, afterburn is not a license to eat everything you desire.

If you indulge in a huge cheat meal after every workout, you will never see the results you want. Don’t use HIIT to justify poor eating habits; instead, clean up your diet, and not only will you have more energy for your workout, but you’ll start seeing the results.

HIIT training will bulk you up = false

HIIT will burn fat while maintaining lean muscle, improving cardio endurance, and improving work capacity. Work capacity refers to the body’s ability to work at different intensities and durations. Muscular hypertrophy is achieved by using bodybuilding training, so don’t be afraid to swing or clean and press a heavy kettlebell or snatch a heavy dumbbell. These are compound movements that work your entire body, tax your cardiovascular system, leave you breathless, and boost your metabolism.

You need fancy equipment for HIIT = false

No dumbbells? No problem! Bodyweight HIIT workouts are effective in burning fat since the focus is on getting your heart rate up and keeping it there. Ready for a challenge? Try my do-it-anywhere chipper workout.

The do-it anywhere chipper workout


Perform each exercise with 30 seconds of rest in-between. Give 100% effort during the exercises. Repeat every other day with the goal of completing it faster each time; reduce your rest time between exercises as you score faster times.

60 situps
50 jump squats
40 pushups
30 split jumps (jumping lunges)
20 triceps dips
10 burpees

Authored By:

Eric Salvador, C.P.T., originally published on the Men’s Journal website.