Follow These Tips to Make Your HIIT Workouts Even More Effective

While you may be used to an hour of steady cardio daily, high-intensity interval training has been proven to rev up your metabolism, burn major fat, and improve your endurance. It’s easy to fit into your schedule as well — all it takes is 10 to 25 minutes a day of HIIT training for a sweat session that works your muscles to their full potential. Whether you’re jumping rope, performing burpees, or hitting the track, there are a few things to know before you jump right into your HIIT routine so you can get the most out of your workout. Here are the top 10 ways to make your HIIT workouts as effective as possible.

1. Eat the perfect snack

close-up of peanut butter and honey on toast

Make sure your eating is on point. | iStock.com

You can’t perform your best if your body isn’t properly fueled. Eating right can really make all the difference when you’re performing at a high intensity. The American Council on Exercise suggests eating a moderate- to high-carb meal about three to four hours before your HIIT workout begins. And make sure this meal has some protein in it, too. Whole-wheat toast with peanut butter and a banana or Greek yogurt with berries and almonds are great snack ideas that have all the components you’ll need.

2. Wear the right shoes

Man running on the treadmill

Your shoes matter. | iStock.com

When you’re starting a HIIT workout, you expect to move quickly from exercise to exercise, constantly working at high intensity throughout, and the right pair of shoes can be the difference between comfort and injury. Complex explains, while most cross-training shoes will get the job done, you’ll want a shoe that’s minimal with lateral support. Larger, heavier sneakers may slow you down at best or not offer enough support, making your quick HIIT movements more difficult to perform.

3. Don’t overdo it

Exhausted man lying on the ground after a brutal CrossFit workout

Don’t push yourself too hard. | iStock.com

The idea of a great workout in less than 25 minutes may be appealing to you, but you have to remember that you’ll be working your body to the max, so be careful not to overdo it. Get Healthy U explains when you’re first starting HIIT, you should make modifications to meet your fitness level. Keep an eye on your heart rate with a monitor and skip out on the jumping moves if you have to, as these are the exercises that will really make your heart work harder. Starting out with a single workout per week is a good way to begin, and you can increase from there. And of course, take a few days to recover during the week.

4. Don’t skip the warm-up

Man stretching before working out

You warm-up is very important. | iStock.com

HIIT workouts are designed to maximize your time, but this doesn’t mean you can skip your warm-up. Your warm-up can be short and sweet — 12 Minute Athlete suggests two to five minutes, which is long enough to feel your muscles warming without tiring you out. The idea is to get your muscles ready to work. Since HIIT uses multiple muscle groups at a time, be sure you’re warming up thoroughly. Jumping jacks, leg kicks, and arm circles are great ways to prepare for your workout.

5. Keep intervals less than two minutes

young man checking time on his wrist watch after running

Be sure to time yourself. | iStock.com

You may want to keep doing a single exercise in your HIIT routine for more than the suggested two minutes, but the key is to keep switching it up. Tone and Tighten says you should feel tired after doing a minute of your interval. If you’re able to go beyond two minutes, then you aren’t working hard enough. Strive to push yourself so each two-minute interval feels like you’re putting in your max effort, then follow these difficult bouts with a minute of moderate-intensity exercise to recover.

6. Breathe

Fit young woman box jumping at a gym

How you breathe matters. | iStock.com/Ammentorp Photography

When you breathe for HIIT, you’re going to want to get maximum oxygen flow while also generating energy to keep going. Health explains how to breathe properly for HIIT, saying you’ll want to breathe through your nose and mouth for as much air as possible. On the exhale, make a “shush” sound while drawing the belly in and letting air through the teeth. The story explained this is a martial arts breathing technique that will give you more energy in your pelvic floor muscles and diaphragm, which allows you to perform harder and faster.

7. Add strength training

man using dumbbells to perform a plank exercise

Adding a dumbbell or two can make it more intense. | iStock.com

HIIT is primarily cardio, but that doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate weights. Men’s Fitness explains that weight training combined with HIIT is a safe and effective way to maintain your strength and build lean muscle mass. You can incorporate your HIIT workout with your strength training by starting with a five-minute warm-up, performing 15 minutes of strength training, then rounding out your workout with 15 minutes of HIIT. You’ll still get that quick workout that HIIT offers without forgoing the strength training.

8. Mix it up

person jumping rope outside

Double-unders are seriously tough. | iStock.com

If you’re doing the same jumping jacks and burpees day in and day out, it might start to feel like your workout is getting easier — and it won’t be as much fun. To keep your body guessing and to keep you from getting bored, make sure to switch up your HIIT routine each day. And never do the same workout twice in a row, Greatist recommends. Switch up your minute of planks to a minute of flutter kicks or change your jumping jacks to cross jacks for a different angle. The beauty of HIIT is that it’s all up to you.

9. Sleep to recharge

man sleeping next to a ticking alarm clock

Rest is incredibly important. | iStock.com

When going for rigorous efforts, you need to sleep. Breaking Muscle explains you should be getting between seven and eight hours of sleep a night, but you may require more depending on how intense your sessions are. Your body rebuilds the muscles best when you’re asleep, so you need this time for proper recovery. Post-workout nutrition is also key. The best time to eat protein is right after working out, so bring a protein-fueled snack whenever you’re headed to the gym for a HIIT session.

10. Don’t train too early or too late

tired man

HIIT doesn’t really work if you’re half-asleep. | iStock.com

Because HIIT works all of your muscles harder and faster than any other type of exercise, it’s best to do these types of workouts when you’re feeling the most energized. According to Breaking Muscle, this is the middle of the day for most folks. If you wake up early and try to do HIIT, you probably won’t be exerting as much energy due to grogginess, and it could actually tire you out for the rest of your day. Working out too late isn’t great either, as your performance can suffer if you’ve already been busy. You may have trouble getting to sleep if you work out too close to your bedtime. If you can find a slot in the afternoon when your energy is optimal, then try doing your workout then.