What Is HIIT? Is it a Cardio or Strength Workout?

January 17, 2024

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a fitness approach that blends intense, short bursts of exercise with brief rest periods. At its core, HIIT is a cardio workout, designed to boost your heart rate and maximize calorie burn, which will significantly improve your cardiovascular health. Yet, HIIT isn’t limited to cardio; it also incorporates strength training elements, such as using exercises like push-ups and squats to build muscle. 

So, whether you’re pressed for time or seeking a dynamic workout that caters to both your cardiovascular and muscular development, HIIT stands out as a multifaceted, effective fitness regimen worth considering.


What Is HIIT?

HIIT is a type of interval training workout that pairs short periods of intense exercise with low-intensity exercises. During the high-intensity periods, you’ll aim to increase your heart rate to around 80% of your maximum heart rate. In the low-intensity periods, you’ll briefly recover from the intense exercise. You’ll alternate between different exercises at high or low intensities throughout the workout. For example, you might sprint for 200 meters to raise your heart rate, jog for 200 to recover, and then repeat the pattern for 10 reps.

Typically, HIIT workouts last between 10 and 30 minutes, making them perfect for exercises on a tight schedule or who dread spending hours at the gym. Despite the shortness of these workouts, HIIT provides exceptional benefits, such as burning high amounts of calories and promoting more significant fat loss.


hiit workout in a City Fitness we/fit fitness studio

Is HIIT Cardio?

HIIT is typically considered to be a cardio workout, as it primarily benefits cardiovascular and heart health. HIIT boosts your heart rate to near-maximum levels, which pushes the cardiovascular system to adapt and strengthen over time. However, since HIIT often includes aerobic and anaerobic exercises, it can double as both a cardio and strength workout.


Is HIIT Strength Training?

While HIIT is more cardio-focused than strength, it can still help you build lean muscle. If you’d like to strengthen your muscles during your HIIT workout, you can include strength-training exercises in your routine to focus on muscle building. For example, you could include bodyweight, kettlebells, or resistance band exercises in your HIIT workout to improve your explosiveness and power.


The Benefits of HIIT Workouts

If you’re on the fence about whether you should add HIIT workouts to your exercise routine, review the top potential benefits HIIT workouts can provide below:

With all of the potential benefits of HIIT workouts, they’re a regular part of many people’s exercise routines. Whether you’re looking to burn more calories, squeeze in some exercise during a busy day, or want to do a beginner-friendly workout that will still challenge you, HIIT is a great choice!


What Fitness Level Should You Be For HIIT Workouts?

Due to their many benefits and customizability, HIIT workouts are right for most people, regardless of their fitness level. 

If you’re just beginning with HIIT, you’ll likely want to stick to cardio-focused HIIT workouts. Doing so will allow you to get used to HIIT’s intensity before you add in more complicated strength training exercises. Those who want to build more muscle can also switch between HIIT and strength-training workouts throughout the week.

If you do incorporate strength training into your HIIT routine, it’s generally recommended that you be more experienced. Since HIIT workouts are hard on the body and require lots of fast-paced reps, you should be able to perform your strength exercises with the right form even when you’re tired. If you can’t maintain the correct form, you’ll raise the risk of injury.


Give HIIT a Try at City Fitness Philadelphia

If you’re looking for energizing HIIT classes in Philadelphia, our instructors at City Fitness Philadelphia are ready to coach you through a variety of HIIT studio classes. Some of our favorite cardio-focused HIIT classes include Les Mills Grit Cardio and HIIT THE BIKE, which are both designed to get your heart rate up and improve your cardiovascular health. When you’re interested in increasing your strength and building lean muscle, you’ll want to pop in for our 30-minute HIIT Les Mills Grit Strength class. 

Learn more about our membership plans, and check out our class schedule to find other HIIT classes you can enjoy! If you have any questions, please contact your local club.