Why High Intensity Interval Training is having a moment

equinox fitness metcon3 class

A Metcon3 class at Equinox torches calories during class—and after thanks to High Intensity Interval Training


High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)—which packs as much intense energy as possible into as little time as possible—is having a serious moment in the fitness spotlight. While HIIT has been used by high-performance athletes and trainers for years, it’s showing up in more gyms and fitness studios than ever.

The evidence? Jillian Michael’s new BodyShred classes at Crunch are based on her 3-2-1 take on HIIT. Equinox’s Tabata, Metcon3, Whipped, and 30/60/90 are all HIIT variations. Central Park’s newest bootcamp is HIIT-based, as is Brooklyn-based Beastanetics. Celeb trainer Amanda Russell just launched a 14-day fitness program with HIIT workouts.

Not to mention the CrossFit boom, which isn’t exactly HIIT, but shares lots of similarities.

Amanda Russell workout AR Fit Plan

Amanda Russell teaching a HIIT workout, part of the celeb trainer’s AR Fit Plan.

So what is it? Basically, it’s a series of very short, super-intense, cardio-strength intervals (think burpees or jump squats as fast as you can go), with short recovery periods in between, all confined to a time period that’s usually between 10 and 45 minutes.

Why has the favored fitness regime of athletes become a popular workout for the rest of us?

Recent studies have shown that short HIIT sessions can be more effective at improving heart health and building muscle than much longer moderate-intensity workouts. And New York Times reporter Gretchen Reynold’s best-selling book on current exercise science, The First 20 Minutes, is chock full of facts on its benefits.

It’s drawing people because “it’s efficient and effective,” says People’s Bootcamp founder Adam Rosante. “One short HIIT session will torch fat, build long, lean muscle, and boost your metabolism more than any other workout. I’ve seen clients experience visibly noticeable weight loss and impressive strength gain after a little over a week.”

Carol Espel, Equinox’s senior national director of group fitness and Pilates (who also has a master’s degree in exercise physiology), agrees. “We all know you get the most work done, the most value in calorie burn and aerobic fitness. So people are saying ‘I don’t have to do anything else. I’ve gotten everything here.’”


A Beastanetics boot camp in Brooklyn’s McCarren Park.

And efficiency, in New York, is king. What busy executive doesn’t want to be able to fit a full-body workout into a lunch hour and still have time to eat?

Plus, when you’re doing HIIT, your body still continues to burn fat and calories when you’re back at your desk, and for several hours more, say some experts.

That afterburn effect comes from EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption), which requires energy to help restore the body to a resting state and adapt it to the exercise just performed.

One more aspect that makes HIIT appealing? What it does for fitness-lovers’ minds, not just their bodies, says Espel. It’s about breaking mental barriers. “It’s the kind of thing where you push yourself in ways you never thought you could,” she says. “For some people, that’s all it is—getting through it.”

Of course, not everyone wants to be pushed to their edge every time they workout. But for Type-A time-pressed individuals, HIIT may be a golden ticket.

“If you really want to see some results, you have to get uncomfortable,” says Amanda Russell. “You have to throw your limits out the window.” —Lisa Elaine Held

Have you tried High Intensity Interval Training? Tell us in the Comments, below!

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16 Comments | ADD YOURS

  1. October 8th, 2012 at 10:43 am

    Check out my post about an amazing ViPR instructor at Equinox at http://littlebigthingsinnyc.com/2012/09/16/are-all-workouts-created-equal/

  2. October 8th, 2012 at 11:35 am

    I could not agree more with this article! I have been an Instructor and Togayrainer for over 20 years, and as a former Group Fitness Manager for Equinox as well certifications in SoulCycle, Schwinn, Mad Dog, Kettle Bells I am a firm believer in the concept of High Intensity Interval Training. While fads have come and gone, this type of training has always packed the greatest results not only for my students and clietns for me as well. It absolutely prevents plataues, “soft” training and burnout.. It is the BEST!! My classes are based on it, cardiogrooves and my new class BURNtm.

  3. October 8th, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    REVOLUTION Cycle + Fitness, a botique cycling studio in Minneapolis Minnesota is “Revolutionizing” High Intensity Interval Training using idoor cycling on the new RealRyder spin bike and Krankcycle upper-body bike. Founder Dawn Doll takes this intense philosphy to a whole new level mixing intervals of strength training using Kettlebell, TRX Suspention Training, and weights with cardio lower and upper body cycling to create the best bang for your buck!

    Check out their video on Youtube by visiting their website or facebook fan group!

  4. October 8th, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    Great article! HIIT is super-effective but its not for the faint-hearted. The intervals require a max effort but the payoff is worth it. You don’t have to join the latest HIP fitness class to get the benefits of HIIT. Your gym already has the best exercise equipment for doing HIIT training. The indoor rower or Erg is by far the most effective form of HIIT training because it’s a total-body workout that combines cardio and strength exercise and you can’t cheat! Try it and see for yourself. Find a trainer who can teach you the proper rowing technique. The Performance Monitor even has preset interval workouts. Just Select Workout>Custom List>for a variety of interval workouts ranging from 30secs to 1min40s. Or go to Standard List > 500m and try 4 or 5 of these for the best all-round workout you will find. And all it takes is 10 to 12 mins!

  5. October 9th, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    I was a yogi for more than 10 years, but when I reached my mid-30s my body started craving a little something more. HIIT has totally transformed my relationship to exercise. I can do a 20-minute session in the middle of the day and get sweaty and revived. I still love my yoga practice, AND the strength and stamina of my HIIT sessions has furthered my yoga. Thanks for writing about it!

  6. October 9th, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    I love the 30 minut tabata-style Hardcore cardio class at Uplift! It efficiently works every part of my body and I can seriously feel the burn for hours after.

  7. October 10th, 2012 at 9:33 am

    Definitely check out the tabata-style Hardcore cardio class at Uplift. It’s a nonstop half hour that efficiently works every part of your body and you can feel the burn for hours after.

  8. October 10th, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    Yes! I was introduced to HIIT in Thailand when I was training Muay Thai. It’s the best thing I’ve found for fat burning and conditioning.

    Well written article…

    This is a video I recorded in January in Colombia about Tabata HIIT training, enjoy:

  9. October 11th, 2012 at 11:23 pm

    Great article! Also,check out this website for more great ways to help tone, tighten & firm: wear-your-skinny-jeans.com.

  10. October 15th, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    I am opening a new HIgh Intensity Training fitness boutique, THE FHITTING ROOM, on the upper east side this winter. We are building out a brand new space to house our HIT workouts in a small class environment. Our doors should open in 2-3 months; in the meantime, if you’re interested, please visit our temp landing page at http://www.fhittingroom.com and sign up to receive updates and offers.

    THE FHITTING ROOM is not a gym with traditional gym equipment, but rather a custom designed studio outfitted with specific equipment that will help you achieve the best results in the most efficient way. Our workouts will utilize rowers, free weights, kettlebells, suspension training, plyo boxes, medicine balls and pull up bars.

    Our clients will burn more calories, experience lean muscle growth, break through fitness plateaus, achieve personal bests, more easily perform activities of daily life and have fun. Our Instructors and Client Relationship Managers are highly talented, credentialed, experienced and passionate.

    Hope to see you at THE FHITTING ROOM soon!

  11. October 17th, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    Well this is what we do and we do well. Shadow Boxer has been doing this for years and was our original concept deigned by Keli Roberts for 3 x minute burn rounds in our workouts. We only do 15 minute workouts and with the resistance you really feel it. If you are super fit you can do longer, but with all of our studies you only need up 10 minutes per day to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Why do more??

    Thanks for supporting our theories which are finally becoming the latest trends. Wait until you see what we have in store opening in March next year. We will blow you away!!

  12. October 19th, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    Enjoy a good workout and then treat muscle pain naturally.For those who prefer to treat pain without prescription drugs, acupuncture and massage can offer relief. I also recommend Natural Pain Patches and Free videos on Natural Pain Relief @ http://www.imbuebody.com

  13. October 23rd, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    Great read! HIIT has been a staple in my workout routine for a while now. I always switch it up though. Some days ill run a 5k, other days ill do a series of sprinting for 30 seconds, walking for a minute. I always keep my body guessing!

  14. January 28th, 2014 at 11:08 pm

    High Intensity training is the only way to train. It is by far the workouts which will get you into the best shape of your life.

  15. April 11th, 2014 at 12:27 am

    HIIT is a type of training that has been going on forever in many different types of form. So it is impossible to say who created it, or even who was responsible for making it mainstream and “officially” slapping a label on it like most like to do in this day and age when something “new” is brought to the forefront.

    What I do get a kick out of though is coaches taking a trend like this, making a few minor adjustments and then trying to sell it to the public as if they reinvented the wheel.

    Here is an example:


    I took this class two months ago, the only difference between this class and others I have taken is that this instructor added more rounds which some how was so “revolutionary” it needed to be trademarked(which it actually wasn’t). Other than that this was 99.9% typical HIIT workout.

  16. May 20th, 2015 at 3:06 pm

    I concur! I’m a personal trainer, fitness instructor, Hot Yoga instructor and Pilates’ Instructor…my FAVORITE HIIT workout is with ORANGE THEORY FITNESS. I coach/train at our location where I live, and it is FABULOUS!
    Thank you for the great article…I love to see and read information from others in the fitness arena.

    All In Wellness!

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