How Often Should You Do HIIT?

The number of HIIT Workouts you should do each week depends on your fitness levels and goals. If you’re just getting into shape and/or are overweight, just 1 HIIT session will make a difference. Research finds a single 20 minute workout will help you lose body fat and improve your cardio. 

If you want to get as much benefit as possible then working up to 3 sessions a week for 1 hour total seems to be the sweet spot in terms of maximizing HIIT’s health and fitness benefits.

The specific benefits you get from 1, 2, or 3 HIIT workouts really varies. I get into each in this article. I also give recommendations as to how many you should do based upon the other types of workouts you may be doing throughout the week. 

How Many HIIT Workouts Should You Do A Week?

When Is 1 HIIT Session A Week Best?

This is best if you’re really pressed for time or are just starting out and find doing 2-3 HIIT workouts to be too difficult. 

In fact, if I have a week that I know I’ll only be able to train once, I’ll do a HIIT workout that incorporates kettlebells so I get some strength training in too. 

So, what benefits can you expect from 1 HIIT session a week? 

  • A slight decrease in body fat.
  • Some improvements in your cardio.
  • Your muscular endurance will improve a little.
  • A decreased in your blood pressure if it’s high.

Understand that this isn’t from 1 HIIT workout only. The benefits occur after doing 1 a week for weeks and even months. 

You can experience these benefits whether you’re healthy or overweight (body fat > 20%).  

So, does this mean you can just train 1x a week and get into great shape? Not at all. It just means that you’ll see improvements in your health and cardio fitness with 1 HIIT session a week. 

Example Program – 1 HIIT Workout A Week

What kind of HIIT workout should you do if you’re doing 1 a week? A really hard one, that’s for sure. I’d make it your goal to get up to 20 minutes of really intense work. 

Here’s an example HIIT workout you can do on a stationary bike, rower, or running. If you’re just getting started you may need to rest 1-2 minutes more. That’s okay. Just decreased the rest periods in 10-15 second intervals as you become fitter

it couldn’t be more simple.

  • Run, ride, or row as hard as possible for 60 sec.
  • Rest for 60 seconds

Then repeat this for 20 minutes so you do 10 sprints total. 

Okay, so 1 HIIT session a week produces some benefit, what about when you do more? Let’s look at 2 HIIT workouts a week next

man battling ropes

2 HIIT Sessions A Week Is Best For

When compared to 1x a week, 2 HIIT sessions gives you more bang for your buck. You’ll see a greater increase in your endurance and decrease the size of your waist a little more. 

This makes sense. Doing an extra HIIT session will burn more calories which can help you lose more fat. It also exercises your heart, lungs, and muscles more so you become fitter. 

If you’re doing other types of exercise like lifting weights, moderate intensity cardio -i.e. jogging – or something else, 2 HIIT workouts a week is often the perfect amount. You’ll get a lot of the benefits without having to rearrange your workout plan altogether. 

Here’s what strength & conditioning expert Adam Bornstein has to say about the benefits of doing 2 HIIT workouts a week if you’re also lifting weights.

“For example, if you’re weight training 4-5 times per week, you’ll respond better if you only do an additional 1-2 HIIT sessions per week. Otherwise, you’ll never recover properly and week-over-week you won’t see as much progress with your training or changes to your body.” 

BornFitness.com

3 HIIT Sessions A Week – The Biggest Bang For Your Buck

So, will doing a 3rd heart pounding, muscle burning high intensity interval session a week make you even fitter, leaner, and healthier?

According to the results of the latest research the answer is 100% yes. 

Research shows that both men and women doing 3 HIIT workouts a week can lose more than 5 pounds of body fat doing HIIT. Without making any other changes to their diet or workout plans. This is more than you’ll lose by just doing 1 or 2 a week.

The benefits to an extra workout don’t stop there. Things that help measure the health of your heart and cardiovascular system improve more when you add a 3rd HIIT workout. This includes things like your blood pressure and cholesterol levels decrease and overall heart function improves.  

Here’s another great thing about doing 3 HIIT sessions a week. It can also help improve your mood. This doesn’t seem to happen when you do 1 or 2 a week. 


How Much HIIT Is Right For You?

Now we know the results you can expect from doing 1, 2, or 3 HIIT workouts a week. So, how many should you do?

Well, it depends. Mainly on what other workouts you’re doing in addition to HIIT. If you’re also lifting weights 3 or more times a week, then 2 HIIT sessions is probably enough. Do you lift 3 times a week and run 2? Then 1 HIIT session may be all that you can find the time to do. If this were me, I’d switch out one of my moderate intensity cardio workouts for HIIT. This way you get more benefit while spending less time exercising. 

What I Do

Personally I like to do 3 HIIT workouts a week. If you count my Jiu Jitsu workouts I’m doing 5-6 HIIT sessions a week. 

How do I do all of these workouts and still have a life? It’s easy. I incorporate 1-2 of my HIIT workouts into my strength training.

I do this by making part of my strength training workouts HIIT.  

Here’re two examples for you. 

EMOM – Kettlebell Swings

  • Do as many kettlebell swings with as heavy a weight as possible for 15-30 seconds. 
  • Rest for the remainder of the minute. Repeat at the beginning of every minute for 10-20 minutes. 

Squats and Push Ups

This follows the same every minute on the minute pattern as the kettlebell swing workout. You can use weights, resistance bands, or a weighted vest to

Make it harder. 

I recommend starting with your own body weight unless you’re especially fit. This workout is much harder than it looks on your screen. 

Here’s a breakdown of how to do this workout.

  • Odd minutes – do as many push ups as you can in 15-30 seconds
  • Even minutes –  do as many squats as you can in 15-30 seconds.

Just like with kettlebell swings, rest the remainder of each minute and then start again. Repeat for 10-20 minutes. You can make the workout harder by either adding more weight or resting less between sets.

In Conclusion

After reviewing the latest research and what the experts have to say it looks like 3 HIIT sessions a week gives us the best overall results. if you’re also lifting weights and doing other types of cardio you can switch some of those workouts for HIIT to get fitter, faster. You may have to work up to 3 sessions a week since HIIT is so hard. That’s okay. You’ll still see benefits from 1 or 2 a week as your fitness improves. 

Sources

Boutcher S.,et al. High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss”, Journal of Obesity, vol. 2011, Article ID 868305, 10 pages, 2011.

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Flockhart M, Nilsson LC, Tais S, Ekblom B, Apró W, Larsen FJ. Excessive exercise training causes mitochondrial functional impairment and decreases glucose tolerance in healthy volunteers. Cell Metab. 2021 May 4;33(5):957-970.e6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33740420

Nakahara H, Ueda SY, Miyamoto T. Low-frequency severe-intensity interval training improves cardiorespiratory functions. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2015 Apr;47(4):789-98. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25137370/

Ouerghi N, Selmi O, Ben Khalifa W, Ben Fradj MK, Feki M, Kaabachi N, Bouassida A. Effect of High-intensity Intermittent Training Program on Mood State in Overweight/Obese Young Men. Iran J Public Health. 2016 Jul;45(7):951-2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4980353/

Thomas G, Songsorn P, Gorman A, Brackenridge B, Cullen T, Fitzpatrick B, Metcalfe RS, Vollaard NBJ. Reducing training frequency from 3 or 4 sessions/week to 2 sessions/week does not attenuate improvements in maximal aerobic capacity with reduced-exertion high-intensity interval training (REHIT). Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2020 Jun;45(6):683-685. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32078337/

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