Time to HIIT it! Try this 20-minute high intensity fitness training workout


  • Fitness
  • Friday, 10 Jan 2020

Squats, as seen in this filepic, are one of the basic exercises those new to HIIT are recommended to start off with.

High intensity fitness training or HIIT has been the most talked-about workout in fitness over the past few years and looks like it’ll continue to make an impact this year.

Ever since the original seven-minute HIIT workout was published in the American College of Sport Medicine’s (ACSM) Health and Fitness Journal in 2013, the workout has taken the world by storm, though not everyone is doing it right.

HIIT alternates between 30-second bursts of maxed-out exercise (i.e. give it everything you’ve got) and brief 10-second periods of rest.

The original workout had 12 exercises, using only a chair and bodyweight as props.

It follows a sequence of working out the whole body, lower body, upper body and core. This allows muscle groups a chance to recover in between.

Chris Jordan, the study’s co-author and director of the Human Performance Institute, recommended that beginners start with seven minutes and work their way up to the full 21-minute workout in order to maximise its health benefits.

However, according to new research in November 2019 from Liverpool John Moores University in the United Kingdom, HIIT is only effective for improving fitness when performed at 60-second intervals.

If a push-up is too difficult, try doing them on your knees, as seen in this filepic.If a push-up is too difficult, try doing them on your knees, as seen in this filepic.

60 or 30?

The researchers compared two popular HIIT protocols (60 HIIT and 30 HIIT) performed for six weeks, three times per week, in a sample of 26 previously sedentary men and women.

60 HIIT means performing six to 10 exercises for 60 seconds each, and having a 60-second break between exercises, i.e. interval.

After the exercises are completed, there is another 60 seconds of rest before the circuit begins again.

Basically, 60 seconds is the key timing here.

30 HIIT means performing four to eight exercises for 30 seconds each and pausing for 30 seconds in between exercises.

Once the first set is completed, there is a further rest of 120 seconds before beginning the second set.

The subjects were tracked remotely via a heart rate monitor that fed info through a mobile app.

The researchers looked at three parameters of fitness: aerobic capacity, stiffness of arteries and body composition (meaning how much muscle and fat they had), during the six weeks of the study.

Aerobic capacity, or the endurance level, increased after six weeks of 60 HIIT, but there was no difference for 30 HIIT on any of the three parameters.

However, the research doesn’t mention how many times the subjects repeated the circuit.

Still, if you want to see an increase in your endurance level, do try the 60 HIIT.

You can put in your own mix of exercises; just be sure most of your body parts are being worked out.

If you’re new to fitness, pick six exercises, e.g. jumping jacks (or high knees, i.e. alternating lifting each knee as high as you can while standing), squats, abdominal crunches, push-ups (with knees on the floor), tricep dips and bear crawl (i.e. getting on all fours and crawling on the floor without letting your knees touch the floor).

Make sure you use the correct form and technique, and stop at the onset of pain (not fatigue).

This will take you 12 minutes.

If you’re feeling okay, try another round. Some exercise is better than none.

Perhaps do five minutes of brisk walking to warm up as well.

The whole thing (with one circuit) should take you no more than 20 minutes.

This year’s trends

The fitness industry is constantly evolving, although some things remain the same.

Here is ACSM’s annual survey of the top fitness trends for 2020:

Wearable technology


This includes fitness trackers, smart health watches, heart rate monitors and GPS tracking devices.
HIIT (High intensity fitness training)

HIIT involves short bursts of activity, followed by a short period of rest or recovery.

Despite concerns expressed by some fitness professionals, these 30-minute or less sessions continue to be a popular form of exercise around the world.

Group training

You can pick your own exercises for your HIIT workout, such as the crunches shown here, but make sure they involve most of your major muscle groups. — MCTYou can pick your own exercises for your HIIT workout, such as the crunches shown here, but make sure they involve most of your major muscle groups. — MCTGroup exercise instructors teach, lead and motivate individuals through intentionally designed larger, in-person group movement classes of more than five participants.

Group programmes are designed to be motivational and effective for people of different fitness levels, with instructors using leadership techniques that help individuals achieve fitness goals.

Training with free weights

Instructors focus on teaching proper form for exercises using barbells, kettlebells, dumbbells and/or medicine balls.

Resistance progressively increases as the correct form is accomplished.

As more and more people are realising the importance of using weights to strength-train, this trend makes a debut in this year’s list.

Personal training

The popularity of one-on-one training continues to increase as it becomes more accessible online, in clubs, at home and in worksite fitness facilities.

Personal training includes fitness testing and goal setting, with the trainer working one-on-one with a client to prescribe workouts specific to individual needs and goals.
Exercise is medicine

This global health initiative by ACSM encourages healthcare providers to include physical activity assessment and associated referrals to certified fitness professionals in the community as part of every patient visit.

Bodyweight training

Bodyweight training uses minimal equipment, making it more affordable.

Not limited to just push-ups and pull-ups, this trend allows people to get “back to the basics” with fitness.

Fitness programmes for older adults

As baby boomers age into retirement, many health and fitness professionals are taking the time to create age-appropriate fitness programmes to keep older adults healthy and active.

Health/wellness coaching

This growing trend integrates behavioural science into health promotion and lifestyle medicine programmes.

A one-on-one and small group approach provides support, goal setting and encouragement.

Employing certified fitness professionals

Hiring health/fitness professionals certified through programmes accredited by the US National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) is more important than ever.

ACSM itself is one of the largest and most prestigious fitness certification organisations in the world.

Here’s to a healthier, fitter and happier year for all!


Revathi Murugappan is a certified fitness trainer who tries to battle gravity and continues to dance to express herself artistically and nourish her soul. For more information, email starhealth@thestar.com.my. The information contained in this column is for general educational purposes only. Neither The Star nor the author gives any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to such information. The Star and the author disclaim all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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