7 Interval Training Workouts To Burn Fat Fast

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High intensity interval training (HIIT) is a form of exercise characterized by periods of hard work followed by brief periods of recovery or rest. This form of exercise is a highly efficient means of improving your fitness level and burning body fat. Why is HIIT superior to steady state cardio like jogging when it comes to fat burning? It’s because your body primarily uses sugar (glucose) during the intense exercise bout and uses stored body fat during the recovery phase as well as post-exercise (See: Afterburn Effect).

You can perform HIIT using gym equipment, various cardio formats, and weighted or bodyweight exercises. In other words, you can do HIIT whether you have a gym membership or not. You can invest in some basic equipment or just rely on your bodyweight and a few simple forms of cardio.

In the gym, you can use a treadmill, elliptical, row machine, stationary bike, stepmill, stairmaster, free weights, etc. Alternatively, you can run, bike, jump rope, swim, or perform plyometrics. You can also do a HIIT workout utilizing weights. There are numerous variations and ways to take advantage of this training method.

Interval Training Workout Guidelines

Before completing these interval training workouts, be sure to complete a 5-10 minute warm-up. Your warm-up should consist of some dynamic stretching, light movement in your exercise of choice (if you plan to do sprints, jog for a bit beforehand. If you’re swimming or biking, start easy before amping up the intensity), and complete a few accelerations where you gradually build your speed to a sprint over your chosen distance.

Warming up properly will help prepare your body and muscles for the work ahead. If you jump straight into intervals without warming up, you put yourself at a greater risk of injury. Once you’re warm and have properly prepared yourself for some speed work, choose one of the following interval workouts and challenge yourself.

Interval Training Workout #1: Stationary Bike Tabata Workout

The tabata protocol is a workout method where you perform 20 seconds of intense work followed by 10 seconds of rest for a total of 8 cycles. While the entire workout lasts only 4 minutes, by the end, you should feel like you can’t and don’t want to complete another interval.

Workout Instructions:

  • Using a stationary bike, warm up for 5-10 minutes. Make sure to have adequate resistance on your bike before you start sprinting so your legs don’t spin out of control.
  • After your warm-up, sprint hard for 20s and bike very slowly for 10s.
  • Repeat for a total of 8 rounds (4 minutes total). Finish with a 5-10min cool down at an easy tempo.

Interval Training Workout #2: 25-Minute Sprint Fartlek Workout

In Swedish, Fartlek means “speed play.” This form of training combines steady state (continuous) training with speed intervals in an unstructured format that strengthens both the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. The intensity and speed varies however and whenever you want. Walk, jog, and sprint for any distance or length of time, and in any order. This is a spontaneous form of training that you can just go out and have fun with.

Workout Instructions:

  1. Jog for 8 minutes
  2. Fast run for 4 minutes
  3. Sprint for 20 seconds
  4. Walk for 1 minute
  5. Sprint for 30 seconds
  6. Walk for 1 minute
  7. Sprint for 10 second
  8. Walk for 1 minute
  9. Jog for 5 minutes.
  10. Complete a fast run for 1 minute to the finish, and then cool down by walking for 5-10 minutes at the end.

Interval Training Workout #3: 100m Walk-Back Sprint

The walking back sprint is probably one of the most straight-forward and easy to incorporate variations of HIIT (particularly if you have a running track nearby, although a track is not necessary). If you’re using a track, pick a distance to sprint—50m, 100m, 200m, etc. Sprint your selected distance, and then walk back to the start to recover. Repeat 4-10 times. If you don’t have a track, you can use a street length or pick two points in a park to sprint/walk between. Sprint to the end and walk back to recover.

Workout Instructions:

  • On a track, warm-up with dynamic stretches and accelerations. Then sprint 100m as fast as you can and walk back to the start.
  • Repeat 4-10x.

Interval Training Workout #4: Lunge/Sprint Combination Intervals

In a combination interval, you alternate between a high-rep strength exercise and an anaerobic cardio interval. NOTE: This is a more advanced type of interval, so please be careful.

Workout Instructions:

  • Complete 15 dumbbell walking lunges on each leg (30 lunges total) followed immediately by a 30s hill sprint on a treadmill.
  • Recover for 30-90s and repeat.
  • Complete 3-5x.

Interval Training Workout #5: Countdown Jump Rope Workout

This workout works by choosing a specific amount of time – 2 minutes – then dropping the amount of exercising required by 30 seconds on subsequent sets. The amount of time given for rest matches the amount of time spent exercising, so it’s a 1:1 work-to-rest ratio.

Workout Instructions:

  • For 2 minutes, complete as many jump rope revolutions as you can
  • Rest 2 minutes
  • For 1.5 minutes, complete as many jump rope revolutions as you can
  • Rest For 1.5 minutes
  • For 1 minute, complete as many jump rope revolutions as you can
  • Rest for 1 minute
  • For 30 seconds, complete as many jump rope revolutions as you can
  • Rest for 3 minutes, then repeat 1-2x

See if you can match the number of revolutions you get in the second round as you did in the first. Given you are timing yourself, you can watch a clock on the wall, or use a countdown timer on a watch, or stopwatch.

Interval Training Workout #6: You-Go-I-Go Swimming Workout

Swimming is an excellent full body exercise that is low impact, but it can be made high intensity. While many swimmers will do 60 laps at a snails pace, you can opt for cranking up the intensity to get a much better workout in much less time. For a bit more fun, get a partner to do this workout with you.

Workout Instructions:

  • Warm up by swimming 8-10 laps
  • Swim 2 laps as fast as you can at top speed
  • The second you are done, your friend then completes 2 laps as fast as he / she can
  • Alternate for a total of 10 rounds (20 laps)

This workout shouldn’t take much more than 10 minutes.

Interval Training Workout #7: Plyometrics “Ouch My Legs” Workout

Plyometrics are exercises that require muscles to exert maximum force in minimum time. For this reason, they can be more dangerous if proper form isn’t used. They can also be very efficient and effective because so much power is being used in a short period of time. This workout requires only 2 plyometric exercises: jump squats and jump lunges.

Workout instructions:

  • Complete 15 reps of jump squats
  • Rest 30 seconds
  • Complete 24 Reps of Jump Lunges
  • Rest 30 seconds
  • Repeat for 5 rounds

What you’ll notice by your last set is your leg muscles should feel like they are on fire, in a good way. If you want to take this workout up another notch, consider using a weighted vest, or holding dumbbells at your sides…but this tough! If this plyometrics workout is too difficult for you, consider doing it with assistance while holding on to a solid object like a bar, or TRX.

How To Create More Interval Training Workouts

You can create a limitless variety of interval training workouts by adjusting the time, weight, and distance of the intervals you are completing to constantly challenge your body.

Variable #1 – Time

Changing the duration of your interval is a great way to keep your workout challenging. If you start out with 30s sprints on a treadmill, after a few weeks increase the duration of your interval to 45s, and then 60s.

Alternatively, you can change the duration of your rest period. Initially, it’s a good idea to give yourself a lot of rest time. Take 90s to recover at first, then decrease your rest time to 60s and so on.

As your fitness improves, you’ll be able to sprint for a longer period of time and recover faster.

Variable #2 – Weight

As you get stronger and faster, adding weight to an exercise will enable you to continue challenging yourself and improve. One way to add weight is with a weight vest. Another option is, if you’re doing combination intervals, you can increase the weights you use during the high-rep strength exercise.

Variable #3 – Distance

Gradually increasing the distance of your sprint is another way to keep your workouts challenging. If you start with 50m sprints, gradually increase your distance to 100m, then 200m, and eventually 400m.

There are a few important considerations when changing the variables of your intervals. Make sure you give your body enough time, about 2-4 weeks or more, to adapt to your intervals before making them more challenging. If you increase the challenge too soon, you increase your risk of injury and burnout. It’s better to start out a little easier to let your body acclimate to a new stress than to overload your body from the very beginning. Also, take enough rest between HIIT workouts. It’s when you rest that your body absorbs the effects of your workouts.

Interval training workouts are a valuable training format that can help you overcome a plateau, decrease your body fat percentage, and increase your fitness. HIIT can be performed 1-4x per week, but is not recommended more than 4x per week. Listen to your body, pay attention to your workout results, and you’ll be able to use HIIT to take your training to the next level.

Medically reviewed by Oladapo Babatunde, MD
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18 Comments on “7 Interval Training Workouts To Burn Fat Fast

  1. Rajesh
    August 19, 2013 #

    Good Post Kristin. Allow me to brief an HIIT that I do, which has brought incredible results for me, in the last two years.

    Run for 4 minutes (not jogging, best to run at your 50 – 70% speed capacity), and at the end of this run, in about 10 – 20 seconds, try any tough body weight exercise for 7 – 10 reps. (What I do is handstand push ups). But pull ups/Squats/lunges/ would be fine too.
    At the end of this, you will have another 10-20 secs of rest before you start running again. Do this 4 times, like in a 4×4. And finish the whole 4×4 in 20 minutes.

    May your goal be to build stamina or endurance or to simply burn that last bit of fat, which never seems to go away, I will say this HIIT will do it.
    For me one of the good facts with this is that I can eat all what I want.
    I am 40 years, 5 feet 7 inches and weigh 66Kg. I do it at least once in a week. If for any reason, my weight goes up, I just do it twice a week, and thats it.
    And above all, the kind of feeling it gives to my mind, when I complete it, is better than anything.

  2. August 19, 2013 #

    I have always been curious as to whether or not tennis counts as a HIIT type workout? I play with a friend and I’m not the greatest but I sprint for everything, including the garbage I know I won’t get to in time.

    But we play for between 1-2 hours each session, it seems to go against the idea that it should be done in less time for a HIIT workout.

  3. Brandon
    August 19, 2013 #

    Hi. Great article. I always thought HIIT was a great way to work out, but do you suggest doing it in conjunction the resistance training?

    Does HIIT have a negative affect on your body’s recovery rate, e.g. if you do resistance training Monday, then HIIT Tuesday, then resistance training again on Wednesday, will your resistance training be negatively affected by the previous day’s HIIT workout?

    Thanks.

  4. Bill
    August 23, 2013 #

    Hi,

    Great article. How can I incorporate these HIIT’s into the Builtlean program?

    Thanks.

    1. August 23, 2013 #

      You can do them in place of the prescribed HIIT intervals, or on separate days. Especially the swimming training is very low impact, so you can just add it on if you have the time. Of course, listen to your body and be sure to get plenty of rest.

  5. Mark
    August 23, 2013 #

    Thanks for the interval training regimens. I’d love to understand more about the theory (or the proven results) of the sprint fartlek workout for example (probably the main one I would do). Also, I’m troubled by the generic aspect of this. Do these times and numbers fit for people over 40? 50? 60? As a 53 yr. old, it’s hard to tell what might work for me or is designed for someone in their 20′s or 30′s. What would REALLY be great is some kind of formula to alter things based on age etc.

    1. August 23, 2013 #

      @Mark – I think that’s an interesting point. It’s really tough to create gradation of levels based on age, because even among people of a certain age, there may be a wide range of fitness levels. I think the best thing is to choose a mode of activity that suits you best (type of exercise such as swimming), then focus on the intensity for what makes sense for you. Ultimately, be conservative with your first workout, then ramp up from there. Hope that helps and I will keep you point in mind.

  6. Marc
    August 23, 2013 #

    Hi Marc,

    I am using your program for a year now and it helped me a lot! I lost 14 kgs of fat and gained muscle… So i am now going to focus more on muscle gaining. But i want to combine this with my racing bike. So any suggestions on how to do a HIIT program on my bike? And is this okay icm with muscle gain? I now use a 4 day split program, the day other 3 days i use for rest and cycling… Thanks in advance.

    1. August 23, 2013 #

      @Marc – I absolutely do think you can ride your bike and do HIIT workouts on your off days, just be sure you do two things:

      1) Get as much rest as possible. The more rest you get, the easier it will be for you body to put on muscle.

      2) Eat a surplus of calories. If you are burning a ton of calories, you need to make sure to eat a lot of food so you are eating more calories than you are burning. Frankly, I really don’t enjoy muscle building because eating so much gets tiring. It’s actually a lot easier to eat less in my opinion!

      Hope that’s helpful and happy to hear you got great results with the program.

  7. Omar
    August 24, 2013 #

    Hi, I really appreciate the time and effort you put in writing these really helpful articles.
    Over a month ago I started facing a weight loss plateau that seemed like it would never go away, I tried very hard to break it but my steady state cardio wasn’t that effective, even though I used to jog for 35 minutes for 3 times a week there was no results! but after reading about HIIT and understanding that it is the best cardio to burn fat I decided to give it a shot, and this article helped me decide which HIIT workout I should choose. Right now, after one week if doing HIIT and some strength training I was able to break my weight loss plateau and lose 3 pounds!

    Thank you very much for helping me continue my weight loss journey!

    1. August 25, 2013 #

      Awesome, that’s great to hear, Omar. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Susan
    August 24, 2013 #

    These are great. Thank you so much for taking the time to put them together and post this article. :)

  9. August 26, 2013 #

    Thanks for interval program. I want to lose around 50 lbs and will workout with interval training. How long does it take?

    1. August 29, 2013 #

      @Maxi – I think a good pace of fat loss is 1-2lb per week for most guys (0.5% to 1% per pound of body weight), so it can take anywhere from 6 months+ depending on a variety of factors.

  10. Don Pillay
    August 26, 2013 #

    Hi Marc and the team. Phenomenal article, really learned a lot. Ive been doing the program for a year now and this program has helped me gain muscle and lose a fair amount of my “love handles” I still have a long way to go before achieving my goals, and I am sure the above tips will benefit me greatly.

    I use an elliptical machine , without the bars and at a high resistance setting for interval training, however my machine had to go in for a service and what I found as a simple, highly effective replacement was plastic two step ladder, the ones you often see in pharmacy dispensaries etc which staff use to reach shelves lightly out of reach. If you step up to the higher step for 30seconds and then do the lower step as a light workout, you get an incredible, leg burning workout. Enjoy and thank all of you for a great program.

    1. August 26, 2013 #

      Thanks for sharing, Don and congrats on your success. Sounds like a smart, easy way to get a solid workout.

  11. zorba74
    August 27, 2013 #

    This is a very useful article.Keep up the good work.
    I am not very keen on jogging and running- What about interval training on the rowing machine? Would that be an acceptable alternative and what would be a good schedule ?

    Many thanks

    1. August 27, 2013 #

      Absolutely, you can choose many different modes of activity for interval training, with the rowing machine being a particularly challenging and effective way to complete interval training.

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