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

January 17, 2024

Group of people working out at a gym


What Is HIIT?

If you’re looking for a short workout that delivers exceptional results, look no further than high-intensity interval training (HIIT). As one of the best workouts for those who want to take their cardio training to the next level, you can lose more calories and reduce your body fat by incorporating HIIT workouts into your exercise routine. While you consider trying HIIT workouts, you should know more about what it is and whether it’s better at cardio or strength training. 

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 greater fat loss.

Is HIIT a Cardio or Strength Workout?

Since HIIT often includes aerobic and anaerobic exercises, it can double as both a cardio and strength workout. However, HIIT is typically considered more of a cardio workout, as it primarily benefits cardiovascular and heart health. Unlike standard steady-state cardio, where you’ll work out for 30 to 90 minutes and aim to keep your heart rate between 50 and 80% of your max, most HIIT workouts are much shorter and require you to raise your heart rate close to your max. 

While HIIT is more cardio-focused, it can still help you build muscle but won’t make you gain a huge amount of muscle mass. Instead, HIIT workouts can help you gain more lean muscle. If you’d like to strengthen your muscles during your HIIT workout, you can include strength-training exercises in your routine to improve your strength. For example, you could include bodyweight, kettlebells, or resistance band exercises in your HIIT workout to improve your strength.

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 the many benefits and customizability of HIIT workouts, they’re right for most people, regardless of their fitness level. However, 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. You’ll raise the risk of injury if you can’t maintain the correct form.

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.

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 PHIT Body and HIIT THE BIKE, both are designed to get your heart rate up and improve your cardiovascular health. You’ll want to pop in for our 30-minute HIIT Les Mills Grit Strength class when you want to work on strengthening and building lean muscle

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.