Lately, many clients, and heck, even myself, have found our busy schedules are interfering with our longer workouts, so we’ve been exploring more HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) protocols in order to meet and/or maintain our workout goals.

If you have a client who cannot commit to a one hour session, don’t let them slack off until they can pencil you in. Get them in for 30 minute sessions with great routines that play with different work to rest ratios.

Benefits of HIIT

While some clients think that they’ll only see results if they’re putting in hours of work on beast mode status every time they step into the gym, current research debunks that line of thinking.

In her webinar, Busy Days Calls for HIIT, Angel Chelik reports that HIIT benefits include:

  • Increased oxygen efficiency
  • Higher cardiac output
  • Better utilization of lactate production
  • An increase in oxidative enzymes; thus utilizing more fat than glycogen as a fuel source
  • More recruitment of Type I and Type II muscle fibers


HIIT Background


HIIT training saw its debut in the fitness industry with the introduction of the Tabata protocol.

In the 1990’s Japanese researcher Izumi Tabata wanted to see if challenging Olympic speed skaters to work for short periods of time at an anaerobic level, rather than aerobic, would be beneficial to their training.

Traditional Tabata Routine

In the traditional Tabata profile, clients complete 1 exercise with a 2:1 work to rest ratio

Work time 20 seconds
Rest time 10 seconds
Number of exercises 1 exercise
Number of cycles 8
Total time 4 minutes

Cardio and Strength Training Adapted Tabata Profile

In order to give clients the opportunity to work on both their cardiovascular and muscular endurance, the Tabata single exercise protocol is sometimes modified to include 2-4 exercises with the same 2:1 work to rest ratio.

Work time

20 seconds

Rest time 10 seconds
Number of exercises 2/4 exercises
Number of cycles 8
Total time 4 minutes


Let’s take a look at a couple of examples:


Example 1: 2 exercises (1 cardiovascular, 1 strength)

      Cardio                                   Strength

Leapfrog forward fast feet back

Dumbbell thrusters 

In the above example, both movements are done for 20 seconds and the 10 second break between, which really functions more as a transition, would be repeated 4 times each for a total of 8 cycles in 4 minutes.

Example 2: 4 exercises (2 cardiovascular, 2 strength)

      Cardio                                   Strength

Leapfrog forward fast feet back Dumbbell thrusters
Burpees Suitcase crunch



This profile’s cycles alternate between cardio and strength training exercises, but the approach to this work could be as follows:

  1. As in the first example, do 1 cardio for 20 seconds, then 1 strength exercise for 20 seconds following the 10-second break/transition. Repeat 4 times for 8 cycles in 4 minutes. Then move on to the next 2 exercises and do the same.
  2. Another plan of attack is to have clients alternate between cardio 1, strength 1, cardio 2, strength 2 for the 20-second work, 10-second recovery model. All 4 cycles can be completed under 2 minutes, so to keep it challenging, have clients run through the workout 3-4 times.


Sample HIIT Tabata Protocol in Action

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Theresa Perales

Theresa Perales has an MA in Spanish, and is an ESL teacher at San Diego State University (SDSU). After years of struggling with her weight, she decided to give exercise a try. A passion for health and fitness grew instantly and inspired her to become certified as a personal trainer with NFPT, and as a group fitness instructor with AFAA Group Fitness and Madd Dog Athletics® Spinning. Theresa believes that nutrition and fitness are not about aesthetics but ultimately about feeling healthy and empowered.