Is HIIT High Intensity Cardio Effective for Burning Fat?


question-icon-newI have read about this High Intensity Interval Training routine which limits cardio sessions to a short amount of time. Is this a good way to lose body fat?

answer-icon-newThis form of exercise is a very intense method of cardio training called HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) which burns a very high amount of calories and keeps your body’s metabolism increased for much longer periods than conventional LISS cardio exercise (Low Intensity Steady State). Traditional LISS cardio is the type of exercise which approximately 90% of the gym goers currently perform when they are in the gym. This includes exercises like walking on the treadmill, riding the stationary bike or doing the elliptical machine for 45-60 minutes at a low to moderate intensity. Its steady state throughout the entire duration of the workout which means the intensity level basically stays the same. You set your preferred level or speed and then you’re locked in for a long and boring workout.

HIIT cardio is totally different than LISS cardio. When you do a high intensity interval training cardio workout, the goal is to burn maximum calories in a short amount of time. The key to this type of training is to go all out (80-90% effort) for a short period of time (30-60 seconds) and then decrease the intensity (25-30% effort) for a rest period of about the same duration (30-60 seconds). HIIT cardio workouts are recommended for a maximum of 20-30 minutes per session because they are so intense. You basically hit it super hard, burn a ton of calories and then get out of the gym to rest and recover.

By working out at such an extreme level of intensity, you are able to maximize something called the EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption) which is also referred to as the “afterburn” effect. EPOC is the increased rate of oxygen intake following strenuous activity and it allows you to burn calories and fat long after your cardio workout is over!


Sample HIIT Cardio Workouts
Below are some great HIIT cardio workout routines to include in your overall fitness plan to burn tons of calories and fat while maximizing your gym time. HIIT cardio is ideal for people who have busy schedules and don’t have the time to spend an hour on the treadmill or bike. Try to mix up your workouts and use a bunch of different exercises to keep it fun and exciting. The great thing about HIIT cardio is that you can really implement this style of training into any cardio exercise. Here are some ideas you can follow below (always make sure to warm-up for 5 minutes to get your body ready for this type of super high intensity training):

  • Treadmill: This workout consists of sprinting and walking. After your 5 minute warm-up, set the treadmill speed to a level where you are basically running super fast (sprinting). This does not mean a fast jog, this means an all out sprint! You might need to gauge it a little for the first few sets in order to find your limit. Be careful since you don’t want to go flying off the back of the treadmill! Choose a fast pace and sprint for 60 seconds and then slow down the treadmill and walk for another 60 seconds. Do this for 8-10 sets (each set is 2 minutes) for a killer calorie burning workout.
  • Stationary Bike: This is basically the same format as the treadmill workout but you will be riding the bike. After warming up, go super hard for 60 seconds and then decrease the intensity for another 60 seconds. 8-10 sets is ideal for this workout but make sure you are working really hard and pushing yourself since the bike is a little easier than sprinting on the treadmill. If you have access to a spinning class to use their bikes, this is ideal since you can go super hard on this type of equipment.
  • Elliptical Machine: The key to using this machine is to use BOTH your legs and arms. Cheating is not allowed so make sure you use your entire body to get the most out of this HIIT workout. The elliptical is a great machine because it’s one of the items in the gym that gives you a full body workout. Follow the same workout structure of 60 seconds high intensity and then 60 seconds of low intensity for a total of 8-10 sets.
  • Jumping Rope: Warm up for 3-5 minutes by jumping rope at a slow pace to get the blood flowing. Once you’re ready, you will start your HIIT workout with 60 seconds of super high intensity rope jumping. Go as fast as you can go for a full minute and then slow down and decrease your intensity for 60 seconds. When you are doing your high intensity portion it’s good to use the single foot step style and basically act like you’re running in place in order to allow the rope to move around your body at the maximum speed. If you jump with both feet, you may not be able to swing the rope fast enough to get a great workout. After a minute of light intensity, kick it back up to 85-90% intensity and get after it for another 60 seconds. Go back and forth like this (60 seconds fast and then 60 seconds slow) for 10-15 sets and then you’re finished. Your entire workout should be 20-25 minutes.
  • Sprints: Instead of using the treadmill, get out of the gym and enjoy the great outdoors. Find a local track at a high school or college and do your sprints there. If you don’t have access to a track, just find a road and get after it. Sprint all out for 60 seconds and then cool down with walking for 60 seconds. Look for hills around your area for an even more intense sprint workout. Run up the hill at full speed and then walk down. Do this 8-10 times and you will be ready to take a power nap!
  • Rowing Machine and Burpees: This workout is a killer! You will need to find a rowing machine in your gym to get started. Row as hard as you can for 60 seconds and then get off and go right into 10 burpees. A burpee is when you start in a standing position and bend down with your knees while bringing your hands down to the ground and then transitioning into a pushup position and then popping back up and jumping into the air. Do 5-10 burpees if possible and then rest for 1-2 minutes before starting your next set. Shoot for 5-8 total sets of this insane workout and I guarantee you will be sweating big time!
  • Stair Running and Jump Rope: Find a set of stairs in your area to use for this HIIT workout. The bleachers at a local football field work great. Also look for buildings that have outside concrete stairs that go up several flights. You will sprint up the stairs, slowly come down and immediately transition into jumping rope as fast as you can go for 60 seconds. After jumping rope, rest for 1-2 minutes and do another set. Shoot for 5-10 sets for a total of 20-25 minutes. Checkout this HIIT cardio workout video to see exactly how to perform this great fat burning workout!

If you take the mindset of pushing your body with cardio the same as with weights, then your cardio training will be short and intense which will really burn a large amount of calories and keep your body’s metabolism “stoked” throughout the day which is one of the keys to getting ripped and shredded!

To gauge how hard your workout really is, monitor how your body is reacting after 10-15 minutes after your cardio session is over. Are you still sweating like you sprung a leak? If not, you might not have used a high enough intensity during your workout. This “sweat factor” is crucial for making sure you are really pushing yourself to the limit.

HIIT cardio workouts are outstanding for burning tons of calories and really pushing your body to another level of intensity. If you’ve hit a rut in your cardio routine and need something to really “kick it up a notch”, then try mixing in HIIT cardio workouts into your overall plan and see how quickly your body melts away fat!

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  1. Would you say that I am doing HIIT cradio on the treadmill if I warm-up 4 minutes then do 8-10 intervals
    30-40 seconds on incline 2 and 5 at 20km/h speed then jog 1 for minute and 15 seconds?

    • Arnes – Yes, as long your heart rate is up and you’re working at an intense pace during those 30-40 seconds then this is an interval type HIIT workout. You could even walk instead of jog for the 1 minute rest period if it gets too hard.

    • Hi Tom – HIIT cardio can actually be a benefit to your weight lifting routine for building muscle and decreasing body fat. It’s probably best to limit your HIIT cardio to non-weight training days to avoid any issues with overtraining. A good routine might be to do a 3-day split with your weight training routine on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and then do your HIIT cardio routine on Tuesday and Thursday.

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