High Intensity Interval Training is currently one of the most popular training methods for a growing number of fitness enthusiasts. This is largely down to HIIT’s fat burning effectiveness and relatively short time in which it can be performed.  Due to this surge in popularity, it is now becoming popular for gyms to have a dedicated zone and class style for HIIT.

This means that all gym staff and personal trainers should know how to programme HIIT workouts and classes safely for all gym members that may be interested in taking part or starting their own routine.

To find out more about what HIIT is and the benefits check out our other article “5 Reasons Why You Should Add High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) Into Your Workouts”.

train staff HIIT battlerope


Why is Programming HIIT Important?

When introducing these zones and classes in to your facility, it is important that you make sure your staff are adequately trained to create this type of programme for your members.

There are vast numbers of different workouts you can create due to the work to rest ratio you have to play with. This should all be determined by the group or individual and their end goal, not just thrown together for the sake of it.

Creating a HIIT workout, without much consideration for the individual or their goal is like any other form of training, it won’t work to its full potential. You will either fail to achieve the results you desire, or you could even injure your client/member.

train staff HIIT sled

What to Consider When Creating a HIIT Programme

There are several factors to consider when adding HIIT into a training programme for you or your client. You need to consider the duration, intensity, and frequency of the work intervals, the length of the recovery interval, and whether the recovery is active or complete recovery. Just like you would do when designing resistance training sessions.

Other elements you may want to consider that influence the design of your HIIT programme are:

  1. The individuals training experience – where have they come from? Some individuals may not be able to push themselves as hard as others, or as hard as you may want them to on some exercises or durations. This may mean that they work at a sub-maximal longer duration and build up to the shorter max efforts.
  2. Previous HIIT experience can also affect the outcome. If someone is not used to pushing themselves to their max then this may be difficult to achieve the intended outcomes for some of the shorter durations, so sub-max efforts may be more suitable.
  3. Age – this is not always an issue but something to consider, especially when more elderly individuals are taking part. You may want to prolong the duration for these individuals rather than increasing the intensity.
  4. Current health – Be wary of health implications that may mean users are not suited to a max effort form of exercise, for example, a history of cardiovascular disease is something you should watch out for. This may mean the sub-max durations could be more suitable.
  5. Injury history is important as that could mean users are not suited to max effort performance or exercise selection for your programme.
  6. Sport – there is a lot to consider in this area but here are a few examples of where to start: to be sport specific you may want to consider the timings of their sport or the energy systems you need to target.
    • For example, boxing has rounds lasting 3 minutes with 1 minute intervals between rounds – simple – you have your timings. Although this is not the only timings suitable for this sport, just an example of what to consider.
    • For other sports, how many bouts are performed? Are they sub-maximal or maximal? Are they varied bout intensities? E.g. Team sports have varying intensities, distances and durations of sprints, this is something you can play with to suit them and focus on improving their weaknesses.
    • With regards to energy systems, this is where you want to experiment with recovery too, as different approaches will yield different benefits. Consider whether you want to improve recovery or endurance?

train staff HIIT boxmasterIntensity & Equipment choice

Equipment choice has a big part to play in regards to the intensity in which you want your clients to perform at, and how you intend to monitor progress.

Intensity can be monitored by being roughly equal to or >80% of your maximum heart rate (HR). For a subjective indicator, the work interval should feel ‘hard’ or ‘very hard’ on the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale.

It is easier and more efficient to use HIIT specific cardio machines such as, the Cybex SPARC, Speedfit, Wattbike, Jacobs ladder, Concept 2 Rowing Machine or an Indoor Cycle like our OC3 & OC5. This is due to several reasons:

  • You have the ability to assess your output on the monitors available. Therefore, you can set targets or drop off rates. You know exactly what you are doing, and whether you are achieving the desired >80% of your max. HR.
  • You can put maximum effort into exercise, rather than focussing on the technique which, may be the situation with some other exercises like barbell cleans, squats or kettlebell swings.
  • Performing HIIT on most of these cardio machines also recruits larger lower body muscles or provides a total body workout which, as already mentioned, enhances calorie burn and overall effort.
  • Using machines also allows you to set individual targets and therefore, work with a range of different levels within one group setting. All individuals working to their own maximum, rather than working to unachievable goals.

The crucial message for trainers is to carefully assess the individual or group that you are working with. HIIT can be a very useful tool to have at your disposal, however, like any other form of exercise, it's not the only one and it has to be performed correctly and safely.