This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, visit my disclosure page.
This step-by-step tutorial on how to use HIIT for weight loss is going to be EPIC. We’re going to cover a lot of material in this value-packed article. Grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and enjoy! Make sure and leave a comment at the end if you have any questions.
The Goal of this Article: HIIT For Weight Loss
To teach you why HIIT is the best form of cardio for weight loss. However, if your diet is not in check, it won’t matter how much HIIT you do. You can do HIIT 6 days a week and still fail to see results. Let’s find out why and how to prevent that from happening.
What is High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)?
The simplest way to explain what High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is, is to think of sprints.
You run as fast as you can for a short period of time (high-intensity interval) and then you rest (low-intensity interval) and repeat.
That then begs the question:
How Long and Intense Should Your High-Intensity Intervals Be?
Roughly 15-25 seconds of almost “all-out” intensity.
There’s something called V02Max.
Your V02Max is the amount of oxygen that is readily available for your body to use.
To get the most out of HIIT, you want to reach between 85-95% of your V02Max. 
Unfortunately, unless you’re hooked up to a bunch of wires, you can’t really know what your V02 Max is.
Quite honestly, if you’re going to reach anywhere near your actual V02 max, then you should only be able to keep up that intensity for 15-20 seconds before you start to slow down and lose your intensity level.
So, for example, if you were sprinting on a treadmill, you would choose the highest speed that you could only last 15-25 seconds before you start to slow down.
For me, this is about 11mph (my gym’s treadmill goes up to 12mph). I run for 25 seconds and stop because I know I can’t keep up that speed, at the same intensity, for much longer.
Then I rest and do it again for 20 minutes.
If you can go longer than 25 seconds on any given cardio machine at a high-speed, then you need to make it tougher.
You can do this by incorporating the incline, increasing the speed, decreasing the time you rest, or all three.
I’m not saying you can’t have high-intensity intervals that are longer than 25 seconds.
There are benefits to doing longer interval sessions.
In fact, my friend Rusty Moore teaches a course on cardio specifically on cardio machines where you can adjust intensity.
It focuses on combining HIIT with steady state cardio and also, sometimes, longer intervals.
Check out my review video here.
How Long Should You Rest?
Rest as long as you need to until you’re confident you could go all out for another 15-25 seconds.
For “fitter” people, this could be as little as 30 seconds.
However, for most, this is usually around 1-2 minutes.
As your progress, you will/should see those rest times decrease.
What HIIT is NOT
Before we continue, I want to point out that HIIT is NOT going to bring you fat loss success on its own.
While I do believe it’s far superior to jogging on a treadmill, you will see the best (and fastest) results when you get your diet in check (calories and macros) and follow a solid workout routine.
At the end of this article, we’ll go over your weight loss calories.
Why is HIIT So Effective For Burning Fat?
When you train at a high-intensity, your body relies heavily on your glycogen stores (which come from the carbohydrates you eat). 
But that’s not what we want right?
We want our hard-fought efforts to come from fat, don’t we?
Well yes, however, it doesn’t work that way, unfortunately, with HIIT. At least not at first.
Whether you’re jogging, walking, or sprinting, your body will pull MAINLY from your glycogen stores.
Your body will pull from fat more once your glycogen stores are empty.
The fastest way to empty your glycogen stores is with high-intensity exercise which can come from both lifting heavy and HIIT cardio.
The “WTF, really?” Study on HIIT
Are you ready to get your mind blown?
Check this out…
This study had:
- One group of men and women perform 4 sprints for 30-seconds with 4-6 minutes of rest in between.
- The other group of men and women did 1 hour of incline walking on the treadmill.
- Each group did this 3 times per week.
The first group who sprinted lost more fat after 6 weeks 
“Fat mass decreased 12.4% with SIT [Sprint Interval Training] and 5.8% with ET [Endurance Training]. Lean mass increased 1% in both groups.”
I’m not trying to bash on endurance training.
In fact, longer training sessions increase V02Max also!
“VO(2max) increased 11.5% with SIT (Sprint Interval Training) and 12.5% with ET (Endurance Training)”
People with a higher V02Max lose more fat and get more out of exercise. 
Safe to say that increasing your V02 max should be everyone’s goal.
How Aerobic Fitness Speeds Up Fat Loss – By Rusty Moore
Other Benefits of HIIT
The ACSM Says This About HIIT
If you still don’t believe in HIIT, maybe this quote from the American College of Sports Medicine will help:
“HIIT workouts provide similar fitness benefits as continuous endurance workouts, but in shorter periods of time.”
Here are some more benefits of HIIT that come from the American College of Sports Medicine; They’re shown to improve the following:
- Aerobic & anaerobic fitness
- Blood Pressure
- Cardiovascular health
- Abdominal fat and body weight while maintaining muscle mass
That last benefit is huge because, when in a caloric deficit, the potential to lose muscle increases, so HIIT aids in losing weight while maintaining muscle.
Benefits of HIIT vs Cardio: More Calories Burned
Yes, you read that correctly.
With HIIT, you can burn more calories than traditional, steady-state cardio, or burn the same amount in less time.  
If time is an issue for you, then you should do HIIT, period.
What I Like About HIIT:
I have no research to back up the following statements, but whenever I finish doing HIIT I:
- Feel 10x better
- I get a huge energy rush
- Am not immediately hungry right after (great for saving calories)
- Am a lot less likely to binge because I feel it would erase all the hard work I just did
These are things I’ve personally benefited from after doing HIIT for many years.
Following up HIIT with a nice walk is also very soothing to me.
I find HIIT to be fun and a great challenge.
Disadvantages of HIIT
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows with HIIT.
There are some downsides to doing HIIT, but not enough to stop doing it, in my opinion.
1. It’s Not For Everyone At The Start
If you have never trained before or haven’t trained at a high-intensity in a long time, then please DO NOT do HIIT.
At least not right now.
You should start with steady state cardio for a good month or two before beginning HIIT. This is just for conditioning purposes and for the other reasons on this short list.
2. Higher Risk of Injury
With any intense exercise, there is always a risk of injury.
Sprinting may seem straightforward, but you can easily tear something or get aches and pains quickly if you don’t run correctly.
I’m no expert in sprinting, but this is a great video I found on the topic.
Other disadvantages come from:
- Bad form
- Overtraining (more on this later)
- Not being conditioned enough
If you can get over these disadvantages, then HIIT can be the perfect fit for you and weight loss.
My Personal Opinion
I would argue that most of you don’t want to spend the majority of your time on the elliptical and would instead get your cardio out of the way.
I remember a quote that I saw about comparing HIIT to traditional cardio:
“I’d rather punch myself in the crotch than spend two hours on a treadmill.”
I don’t want to stop you from doing things that you like.
If you like jogging, go for it.
If you like the elliptical, go for it.
Personally, I like getting my cardio over with ASAP, and that’s why I choose HIIT.
All in all, like with dieting, the best form of cardio is the one you follow.
How To Create Your Own HIIT Routine For Weight and Fat Loss
First, ask yourself 2 questions:
- Do you prefer working out on cardio machines or outside?
- How many days a week can you work out (lifting included)?
Only you know the answer to these two questions.
Your answers will determine how you set up your own HIIT routine in the following sections.
If You Can, Choose 1 Out Of These 3 Workouts
Simply put, High-Intensity Interval training works best when it mimics compound movements.
This photo from Jeremy’s blog, Built With Science, illustrates the point of this study.
The study above basically says that because cycling mimics the movement of the squat, it interferes less with strength gains and therefore muscle loss.
Other HIIT workouts that follow this same philosophy are rowing and sprinting.
If possible, choose one of these 3 HIIT workouts and aim to progress with them:
However, do what is most enjoyable to you.
Protein and NOT overtraining are far more important for preserving muscle while dieting than whatever HIIT workout you chose.
Let’s talk about overtraining with HIIT for a second.
How Much HIIT is TOO Much?
Doing anything more than that will most likely result in over-training and binge-eating, especially if you’re a beginner.
Start off with 1 hour each week (two 30-min sessions per week).
If you’re losing weight at a steady pace with that schedule, then keep doing 1 hour each week.
If you hit a plateau, add one more HIIT cardio session.
How To Track Your Weight Loss Progress – Simple Guide
My Favorite HIIT Workouts For Weight Loss
1. Hill Sprints
I love sprinting outside in the mornings or late at night.
It’s my “go-to” HIIT workout.
There’s this massive hill near this trail that’s kind of hidden near my house.
I love it.
What I do is sprint up the hill as far as I can until I run out of “all-out” energy and then jog up the rest of the hill to this big pole (pictured above).
This workout kicks your a**.
An alternative would be just doing regular sprints, but with a twist.
You definitely don’t have to go to your local stadium especially if it’s a hassle to get in.
I have to hop the fence every-time because I go early at 6-7am.
Anyways, you would do this just like any other HIIT workout; however, I add in some extras like push-ups and squats. Here’s how:
- I sprint 100 yards (no, I can’t go all out for all 100 yards and not many people can, but sprint as hard as you can for as long as you can and jog the rest).
- Once I’m done sprinting, I do 10 Air Squats and 10 Push-Ups, and that’s it.
- Then I Walk back 100 yards, and I do that 8 times and I’m done.
If you don’t have access to your local football stadium or hills near your house, you can also do this on a treadmill at your local gym.
2. Stair Sprints
This can be done on the Stair Master machine at your local gym, or you can do this outside at your local high school stadium or any set of stairs.
Whichever you choose, the workout will be very similar in structure. You just climb stairs as fast as possible.
If on the Stairmaster, choose a speed that will make you go fast. Meaning you should almost be running up the stairs.
For example, the Stairmaster at my local gym has 1-20 as the levels for speed.
Choose a speed from 15-20 as your high-intensity interval, and a speed from 1-3 as your low-intensity interval.
Go hard on your high-intensity interval for as long as you can (usually 15-25 seconds), then switch to your low-intensity interval for one minute.
Repeat this for 20-30 minutes.
If done outside, run up the stairs as fast as possible until you reach the top. If the stairs are “never-ending,” do it for as long as you can.
This will be your high-intensity interval.
Then, walk back down to the bottom, this will be your low-intensity interval.
If you still need to Rest by the time you walk back down, please do so.
Remember, if you need more time to rest, feel free. Just aim to shorten the rest intervals to overtime as your progress.
3. Tire Flips
This cardio workout has become one of my favorites.
My local gym actually has tires (about 220lbs) that you can flip for cardio on turf. Unfortunately, not all gyms have this so I understand if you can’t do this but if you can, do it.
It works wonders!
What I do, is I go to the end of the gyms turf and back.
It takes about 6 tire flips one way, and 6 tire flips back.
Once I get back to the start, I rest and repeat for 20-30 minutes.
Some football fields have these lying around after practice believe it or not.
You can even buy one for super cheap on craiglist.
Try it out if possible!
4. Kettlebell Swings
Again, the same rules apply as the previous 3 workouts.
Pick a KB, around 15-25 lbs depending on your fitness level.
Set your high-intensity interval to 10-15 swings and perform these as fast as possible with proper form.
Once your swings are done, rest and repeat for 20-30 minutes.
Your legs are going to burn 😉
5. Jump Rope
Jump rope workouts are fun, but they’re definitely tough.
Especially if you’re highly uncoordinated like me, then it can be tough to stop tripping over the rope 😀
Anyways, it’s pretty simple. You just jump rope as fast as you can for 15-25 seconds and rest for however long you need to.
15 Minute Jump Rope Workout for Fat loss – Visual Impact Fitness
How To Incorporate HIIT Into Your Lifting Routine
You should do your HIIT routine either:
- Directly after your lifting workout
- On a rest day
- Separate from your lifting workout (lift in the morning, HIIT at night or vice versa).
Here’s why you should pick out of these 3 options.
1. After Your Workout
For weight loss, cardio is not (and should not be) your go-to option.
It’s lifting weights, NOT cardio, that will get you a defined physique that you’re looking for.
I understand that you may not want to lift weights for fear of getting big and bulky.
Trust me, neither do I.
I prefer a sleek, athletic look. NOT a huge, power-lifter look.
Know that lifting weights does not result in getting “huge” automatically.
If you lift light weights and for high reps, then YES, you will get bigger due to something known as Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy.
I won’t get into it in this article, but if you’re worried about lifting weights and getting that “bulky” look, then read this article:
2. On Your Rest Day
This is pretty straight-forward.
If you rather focus all your energy on cardio, do it on your “rest” day.
This can be in between lifting days or on the weekend.
3. Separate From Your Lifting Workout
This is my preferred option and what I recommend to people IF they have the time.
As I said above, I love doing HIIT in the morning.
It gets me energized, and I feel amazing afterward.
Later in the day, around 6 or 7pm, once I’ve recouped my energy, I lift.
Sometimes I do the opposite.
I love both schedules, and it works for me.
However, for some, fitting in 2 workout sessions a day can be tough so choose whichever suits your schedule best.
How To Get The Most Out Of HIIT
Should You Take Supplements For HIIT?
No, you don’t NEED to.
However, supplements (the right ones), can help speed up the process of weight loss, fat loss, and training performance.
Again, it’s definitely not necessary, but here is what I recommend if you’re trying to lose fat faster.
What I Recommend Based On Your Needs:
1. If You Want To Lose An Extra 1-1.5 Pounds Per Week:
Simply put, if you want to see faster results, a good fat burner is very helpful.
However, most fat burners make you feel like your heart is going to explode.
That is NOT the case with PHOENIX from Legion Athletics.
In fact, besides the fact that PHOENIX helps you lose an additional 1-1.5 pounds per week, it also:
- Suppresses your appetite (great for intermittent fasting)
- Speeds Up Your Metabolism
- Amplifies The Power Of Your Body’s Fat-Burning Chemicals
I go over how exactly it does these things in my full review here. You can also read more about PHOENIX here.
2. If You Like Training Fasted:
When training fasted (on an empty stomach, in the first thing in the morning for example), the potential to lose muscle increases dramatically.
Yes, fasted training helps you lose fat faster, but you don’t want to lose all your gains.
That’s where specific ingredients come into play.
I use Forge when I train on an empty stomach because it prevents muscle loss from occurring. You can read more about Forge here.
3. If You Need An Extra “Push” During Your Workout:
As we discussed in this article, HIIT is a very intense activity.
If you lift weights beforehand, you’re more than likely going to be fatigued somewhat by the time your HIIT comes around.
This is where a pre-workout supplement comes in handy.
I particularly like PULSE because it works with fasted training as well because it does NOT break your fast, unlike other pre-workout supplements.
You can read more about PULSE here, or you can read my full review here.
Pros and Cons of Supplements For Weight Loss
- Can help speed up the process
- Help with performance and maintaining exercise intensity
- Definitely not necessary
- Will cost you some money
All in all, supplements, if you can afford them and need to get lean in a hurry, are totally worth it, in my opinion.
WAIT – Don’t Go To The Gym Just Yet…
I know you’re eager to go and torture yourself at the gym after everything you just read but wait just a damn second.
There are some things you need to know about how to lose weight.
You can do HIIT 7 days a week, and still fail to see any results.
In fact, many fall victim to the mindset of “more cardio = more weight loss.”
Unfortunately, this is wrong, unless you apply certain things to your diet.
Let’s go over the fundamentals… because if you don’t have those down, then you’re SOL and no amount of cardio will save you.
Here’s How To Calculate Your Calories For Fast Weight Loss
First, you need to know your maintenance calories, otherwise known as your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE, the number of calories you burn every day to maintain your weight).
Only then, can you begin to calculate your caloric deficit.
Step 1: Find Your Maintenance Calories (TDEE)
Here’s the formula for women: 14 x your body weight (lb)
Here’s the formula for men: 16 x your body weight (lb)
For women, it’s 14 since their metabolism usually is slower.
For men, it’s 16 because it’s usually a bit faster.
Lyle Mcdonald introduced this approximation formula. Here’s what he said about his formula.
“In general, women or those with a ‘slower’ metabolic rate should use the lower value (14 cal/lb) and men or those with a ‘faster’ metabolic rate should use the higher value (16 cal/lb) as a STARTING POINT ESTIMATION for maintenance calories.
By the way, slower and faster above are sort of subjective decisions, usually based on previous dieting and relatively tendency to gain or lose weight. It simply represents inherent variability in the components of total energy expenditure.”
It’s important to note that any online calculator or different formulas are at best estimations.
These formulas above are just starting points to get you in the right track. As you’ll see in your own weight loss journey, you will have to adjust your numbers as you go.
For the remainder of this article, and the calculations, I’m going to use a female who weighs 160 lbs.
Let’s call her Amanda.
For Amanda to calculate her maintenance calories, it would look like this:
14 x 160 lbs = 2,240 Calories
If Amanda wanted to maintain her weight, she would eat, roughly, 2,240 calories per day.
Once you’ve calculated your maintenance calories, continue on to step 2.
Step 2: Calculate Your Caloric Deficit
Now that we have our Maintenance Calories, what you want to do next is subtract twenty-five percent from your maintenance calories, and you’ll get your caloric deficit numbers.
Here’s an easier way to do that:
Caloric Deficit = Maintenance Calories x .75
2,240 x .75 = 1680 Calories
Assuming Amanda wants to lose one to two pounds per week for the first two months and wants to lose an additional five to ten pounds she may need to adjust her caloric deficit again by repeating this calculation again (starting from maintenance calories).
In other words, eventually, everyone hits stagnation.
Remember, reducing your calories allows for weight loss, but it doesn’t take into account where that weight comes from. This is where the effect of macronutrients on body composition comes into play.
The WRONG Way To Lose Weight
Here’s what NOT to do when trying to lose weight:
- Do tons of cardio and only cardio.
- Starve yourself and eliminate foods that you like.
- Don’t eat enough protein.
- Don’t lift heavy weights.
- Lift light weights to see the “cuts.”
If you want to look weak, skinny, saggy or just look like you have no definition at all, then you would stop reading here and just reduce your calories.
However, I believe that is the exact OPPOSITE of what you want.
The Relationship Between Calories and Macros
Calories are only 1 part of the body composition story.
Calories are tracked to lose weight.
Macros are tracked to change body composition.
My book goes over the whole “macros” part:
My Final Thoughts On High-Intensity Interval Training
If you want to lose fat faster, improve your body composition, and become a fitter, healthier person, then you should do HIIT.
Its benefits far exceed its disadvantages.
However, as I said before, like with dieting, the best form of cardio is the one you follow.
Have any questions on HIIT? What’re your favorite HIIT routines? Leave a comment below and let me know!
Don’t forget to share this article with your friends!