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HIIT Cardio Workout | Burn Fat, Tone Up, Get Fit

A woman completing a hiit cardio workout.

HIIT cardio workouts are ideal for those that consider aerobic training a chore. If you struggle to get motivated for that weekly sweat session, HIIT might well offer you an enjoyable alternative.

The common misconception is that the only way to get your cardio fix is to endure long, monotonous bouts of sweating – the obligatory 5-mile run or 10k row. Well, as the saying goes, there’s more than one way to cook an egg.

HIIT (high-intensity interval training) is an engaging exercise method that has been shown to be a more effective way to engage the cardio system (HIIT Explained). In addition, HIIT cardio workouts are also better at burning fat and stimulating fitness gains.

This article delivers four HIIT cardio workouts for you to try. Each one has been designed to suit a range of fitness abilities – from beginner to advanced. Furthermore, the workouts can be tailored to suit even the most severe time constraints and diverse training objectives.

But first . . .

HIIT cardio health and fitness benefits

According to one leading authority, HIIT confers so many health benefits that it ‘is being prescribed by doctors to patients with all manner of conditions and ailments,’ (HIIT: High-Intensity Interval Training). Some of the reported health benefits of HIIT include the reduction in body fat, decreased risk of heart disease, and improved immune function.

In one recent study researchers found that people that engaged in regular HIIT workouts were more likely to be of a healthier weight and less likely to develop heart disease. In the last decade, there has been a significant increase in research uncovering new health benefits associated with HIIT.

HIIT cardio fitness benefits

As for fitness development, HIIT has long been recognised as one of the most effective training methods for improving cardio capacity. For example, a study cited in HIIT: Hight-Intensity Interval Training showed that athletes that included HIIT in their exercise routines experienced improved aerobic output.

In addition, HIIT was also shown to be a more effective method of stimulating fitness gains. When compared to exercise regimes organised solely around continuous training, HIIT not only promoted physical improvements but did so more quickly.

HIIT benefits key points

  • Stimulates aerobic capacity

  • Engages the metabolism

  • Burns calories and helps to reduce body fat

  • Elevates the heart rate for extended periods which promotes improved cardio fitness

How to do this HIIT cardio workout

As mentioned in the introduction, there are not one but four HIIT cardio workouts here. The reason why there are four workouts is to provide you with more training and to ensure that a wider audience is catered for.

If the HIIT cardio workout involved only cycling, say, but you don’t have access to a stationary bike (or just really dislike cycling – it’s not everyone’s cup of tea), then the workout would be of little use to you. However, it stands to reason that you have access to either a running machine, indoor rower, and/or skipping rope.

Before attempting any of the workouts it is imperative that you warm-up well first. The warm-up is by far the most crucial component of any fitness session. This is truer of HIIT workouts for the simple fact that you will be exercising at much higher intensities than normal. To ensure that you are adequately prepared for the workouts a warm-up has been provided below.

The formula for the four workouts doesn’t differ. Organised into an ascending pyramid, your objective is to climb up then down the interval increments. The first interval is the shortest – a mere 30-seconds – but the duration quickly climbs culminating at 2-minutes 30-seconds. Once you have reached the pinnacle of the interval pyramid you are to come back down.

You’ll notice that in the session plan below there is a space next to each interval. In the space, you are invited to document the distance you achieved for each interval. The idea here is twofold.

First, by making a note of your score you will have a benchmark distance to compete against when you descend the pyramid. Second, you’ll have a benchmark to compete against when you next have a go at this workout.

HIIT workout key points

  • Before starting the workout complete the 10-minute progressive warm-up.

  • Select the HIIT cardio exercise most suitable for your training facility.

  • When you’re warmed and ready, proceed to climb up and then down the interval increments.

  • The rest duration is set at half of the interval length – after the first interval of 30-seconds, take a 15-second rest.

  • Make a note of your distance on each interval so that you have a benchmark to compete against.

Warm up

  • 5-minutes cardio (low- to moderate-intensity) – select the same cardio exercise as the one you plan to do in the workout

  • 2 x 30-second intervals (60% max effort) – active rest for 15-seconds between intervals

  • 2-minutes cardio (moderate-intensity)

  • 2 x 30-second intervals (70% max effort) – active rest for 15-seconds between intervals

  • 2-minutes cardio (moderate- to high-intensity)

  • 2 x 30-second intervals (80% max effort) – active rest for 15-seconds between intervals

HIIT cardio workout

A hiit cardo workout session plan.

Workout hints and tips

Do not feel obliged to complete all the intervals. If you’re new to HIIT or haven’t trained cardio for a while, you will need to adjust the workout to accommodate your current level of fitness. The simplest way to do this is to decide which step on the pyramid you plan to aim for. Let’s say that you settled on the halfway point – 2-minutes. Once you have reached the step you would start your descent. In total, you still would have completed a solid 10-minutes HIIT. Remember, when it’s time to come back down you should perform the previous interval again.

For those that want to adjust the intensity of the workouts, the easiest way to do so is to increase or decrease the rest period. Currently, the rest is set at 50% of the interval. However, if you want to push yourself you could reduce this to as little as 25%.

You don’t have to stick with the same cardio exercise for the duration of the workout. Ideally, it’s best to as this way you will be able to document distances for each interval. But if you’re not interested in doing that, and are using the workouts to spice up your training routine, it’s perfectly acceptable to mix and match the cardio exercises. For example, you could climb the pyramid running and descend rowing. In short, play around with the workout and have some fun while whipping up a sweat.


Enjoyed this HIIT workout?

Get your hands on 70 more with the Hungry4Fitness Book of Circuits & Workouts Volume 2.

This image shows the Hungry4Fitness book of circuits and workouts volume two. Inside the image it identifies the key features of the book which include: Over 70 fully customisable circuits and workouts suitable for all levels of fitness and ability; 4-Week Functional Fitness Training Programme; How to create your own circuits and workouts including essential training principles; Key exercise explanations and tutorials; A complete guide to fitness testing; The 10,000 Kettlebell Swing Challenge; CrossFit-style training sessions including EMOM, AMRAP, and HIIT workouts; An illustrated, step-by-step guide to stretching.


In this text box it says: As we are very interested in user experience here at Hungry4Fitness, we would be very grateful if you could take a few seconds out of your day to leave a comment. Thanks in advance! Blog Author: Adam Priest, former Royal Marines Commando, is a personal trainer, lecturer, boxing and Thai boxing enthusiast.

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