How many days a week should you do HIIT? This is an important question if you're a fitness enthusiast. HIIT is a very effective form of cardio with many great benefits, but you just don't want to overdo it.
HIIT has become very popular over the past 20 years, and for good reason. It has many benefits, and can be done on a tight schedule with the same (or better) results as moderate cardio.
So instead of a 45-minute jog on the treadmill, you can do a 15-minute HIIT session and get equal benefit.
What is HIIT?
Let's first define what exactly HIIT is. The acronym stands for high intensity interval training. So it is just as the words state, exercise at a high intensity level. This is different from most other forms of cardio, that are more moderate in their intensity.
And high intensity generally means exercising at a heart rate of 80 to 90% of your max heart rate. Max heart rate is determined by the simple formula:
220 - (your age) = Max Heart Rate
If you are 40 years old then your max heart rate is 180. There are a few other variables that determine max heart rate, but the formula 220 - (your age) is a very good general guide that will get you close to the actual number.
So in the example of a 40-year-old man with a max heart rate of 180, HIIT exercise would be in a heart rate zone of 144 to 162 beats per minute (80-90%). This is really good intensity.
Related: What Does a Heart Rate Monitor Do?
How Many Days a Week Should You Do HIIT
As with many things in fitness, how many days a week should you do HIIT is not exactly black and white.
The first question to ask yourself, is what is your experience level?
This is an important question, because HIIT is exactly as the acronym states, high intensity. And with this intensity, there are some inherent risks that must be considered.
If you are brand new to fitness, it is best to develop a baseline fitness plan consisting of simple cardio and simple exercise before considering HIIT.
As you gain experience over several months and enter the intermediate and advanced levels of fitness, this is an ideal time to consider HIIT exercise.
It's always best to consult your physician first prior to starting any fitness regimen to ensure your body is ready.
Once you achieve a base level of fitness, performing hit two to three times a week is a good general rule. This will give your body ample time to recover and ensure that you avoid injury and do not get worn down.
There are plenty of other forms of more moderate cardio that you can do to fill in the gaps (jogging, cycling, stairmaster, etc), and that variation is key to keep things fresh and interesting.
Always Be Cautious When Doing HIIT
Performing HIIT more than two to three times a week is certainly possible, but it's just not necessary. And as with many things related to fitness, always err on the side of caution.
If you push your body too hard and too fast, then you become susceptible to injury. And this is the worst case, as workout injuries can put you out of commission for months, or longer.
And consider this as well, that not all HIIT sessions to be max intensity. You can do a perfectly productive HIIT session in the 80% heart rate range. Still high intensity, but not the highest intensity (90%+).
A Simple HIIT Workout
Here is a simple HIIT workout from A Lean Life that you can do at your local gym:
Alternate between a slow walk, and a fast jog, for 15 minutes on the treadmill.
- walk for 1 minute,
- then increase the treadmill speed to 7.0-10.0 and run for 30 seconds,
- then walk for 1 minute,
- and alternate this for 15 minutes.
As you approach the run intervals, you'll need to ramp up the speed on the treadmill about 10 seconds prior to the high intensity interval (running).
The running intervals should be between 7.0 and 10.0 treadmill speed, and this range depends on your fitness level and experience. Always start on the lower end, and increase cautiously as you gain experience and confidence.
So how many days a week should you do HIIT? If you do this routine 2-3 days a week, you'll be far ahead of most people in the workout realm. And it's a simple HIIT workout, so something that most people can do with a moderate level of experience.
Proper Warm-up is a Must
And because of the intensity, always make sure to do a proper warm-up prior to HIIT exercise. This is critical, or you risk injury in the form of a pulled muscle.
So make sure to do light cardio (for 3-5 minutes), such as jumping jacks, slow jog, or stationary bike. This will get the blood flowing, and the muscles loose and ready.
HIIT has many tremendous benefits, and is a great addition to any fitness routine. But due to the intensity, keep your HIIT routines to a few days a week. You'll still get the great benefits, but you won't overdo it and place undue burden on your body.
Keep reading: 10 Best Jump Ropes for High-Speed Sessions
Stock Photos via microgen & maridav | Shutterstock