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June 13, 2022 9 min read

Burning fat is one of those fitness goals that seems to always be on the top of the list for women. You see commercials for fat burning pills or the newest Bowflex machine that promises you abs, but there are achievable, more effective ways to do so.

One of them is with high-intensity interval training (HIIT). 

This type of workout is accessible, adjustable, and is guaranteed to get your heart rate up. It can be a mix of cardio workouts and/or strength training and can utilize bodyweight exercises, resistance bands, cardio, or weights. 

HIIT is one of the most effective ways to burn fat because it can help increase your metabolism, provides an afterburn effect, and burns that stubborn belly fat.   

Benefits of HIIT 

Any type of exercise can be beneficial for your health, but high-intensity interval training has the ability to boost weight loss, burn fat, and improve your overall health in a shorter amount of time.  

Better Cardiovascular Health 

Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States and is the leading cause for death across the world. Contributing to a healthy heart means eating the proper nutrition and exercising consistently.

Compared to moderate-intensity training, HIIT can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease while also improving cardiorespiratory fitness.  

Burn Fat 

Women naturally have more body fat than men, and approximately 80-90% of it is stored in the abdominal area, upper back, and thighs. Visceral fat, more commonly referred to as "belly fat", can be one of the more stubborn areas to lose fat, and it can put you at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease or diabetes.

HIIT can be beneficial for not just weight loss, but for fat loss, specifically around the abdominal area.    

Increased EPOC 

After you exercise, you can experience excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). This refers to the measurable increase in oxygen intake after an intense workout, and it means you're burning extra calories even after you're done exercising, which can be important for weight loss.

The higher the intensity of the workout, the greater EPOC you can achieve, so a HIIT session can help maximize your post-workout calorie expenditure compared to steady state exercise.  

More Work in Less Time 

You could spend hours in the gym, or you could do a short 30 minute HIIT workout to help achieve the same, if not more benefits. Compared to longer intervals, short bursts of interval training can produce a 26% longer duration of EPOC.

So, if you're gym time availability is limited, high-intensity interval training should be your go-to to maximize weight and fat loss. 

Three Effective HIIT Routines 

There's really no right or wrong way to do HIIT, as long as you practice proper form, and your intensity level is high. If you're unsure of where to start, here are a few popular HIIT workouts to choose from.

Note that these are not the only ways to perform HIIT, but they can help you program your workout:  

Tabata 

If you're really short on time, tabata can help you get a high-intensity workout in just four minutes. Four minutes might not seem like a long time, but moving non-stop with minimal rest can tire you out surprisingly quickly.

This type of HIIT workout repeats 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest for a total of eight rounds.

The goal is to push yourself as hard as possible during the work time to help elevate your heart rate and burn calories fast. Tabata training can help improve athletic performance and can increase the body's V02 max by up to 15%.  

Tabata can be adjustable for all fitness levels as you can perform just one cycle of four minutes, or you can do multiple cycles with different exercises.

Some popular tabata exercises are squat jumps, burpees, jumping jacks, and high knees because these moves allow you to move quickly and get a lot of work done in 20 seconds.

You can also include exercises that involve dumbbells or barbells, but you want to make sure they're exercises that allow you to stop and go quickly.  

Check out a sample Tabata routine: 

  • 20 seconds of burpees 
  • 10 seconds of rest 
  • 20 seconds of mountain climbers 
  • 10 seconds rest 
  • Repeat for four rounds 

AMRAP 

A HIIT style often used in CrossFit is called an AMRAP, which stands for "as many rounds (or reps) as possible". CrossFit is a widely popular high-intensity training program in which millions of people worldwide participate in, and at least 60% of those people are women

The AMRAP workout may be popular in these gyms, but they can be done by anyone.

The goal is to complete as many rounds or reps of a circuit as possible in an allotted amount of time. They are typically short and can range anywhere from three to 30 minutes. 

There are several benefits associated with AMRAPs, such as building muscle and helping improve anaerobic power. As with any HIIT workout, you can mix and match different exercises depending on the time frame.

With shorter AMRAPs, exercises like kettlebell swings or push-ups could be included since you want to move quickly. Whereas in longer AMRAPs, you might include moves that might take longer like lunges or sit-ups.

When programming an AMRAP, you'll want to make sure you don't group too many of the same muscle groups together because that could require more needed rest time, and the goal is to perform as much work as possible in that time frame. 

A shorter five to seven minute AMRAP may look something like this: 

  • 10 wall-balls 
  • 15 kettlebell swings 
  • 5 V-ups 

Whereas, a 10-20 minute AMRAP may look more like this: 

  • 15 push-ups 
  • 10 squat jumps 
  • 20 sit-ups 
  • 10 pull-ups 

EMOM 

The acronym, EMOM, stands for "every minute on the minute", and the goal is to complete a set amount of reps before one minute is up.

Any time that you may have left in that minute is used as rest time before the next minute starts.

You can program an EMOM for as short or as long as you'd like, but they're typically anywhere between 10-30 minutes. This type of HIIT workout can help you track your progress, and the short bursts of energy in between rest can translate to sport activities. 

This training format is also adjustable to your fitness level and can be beneficial for building muscle mass and aerobic capacity. The EMOM can be a better choice for weight training intervals because it can allow you to recover for a longer period of time compared to something like Tabata.

You can incorporate a medium to heavier bench press for five reps, which may take 15-30 seconds, and then you have the rest of the time to rest before getting into the next set. This format can keep you more accountable, so you're not wasting too much time in between sets. 

Here's what a 10-minute EMOM might look like. Complete the reps, and then rest for the remainder of the minute: 

  • Minute 1: 7 deadlifts  
  • Minute 2: 10 overhead presses 
  • Minute 3: 20 walking lunges 
  • Minute 4: 20 push-ups 
  • Minute 5: 15 jump lunges 
  • Minute 6: 7 deadlifts 
  • Minute 7: 10 overhead presses
  • Minute 8: 20 walking lunges 
  • Minute 9: 20 push-ups 
  • Minute 10: 15 jump lunges  

HIIT Exercises to Try 

Whether you're doing a full-body HIIT workout or focusing on one to two muscle groups, there are plenty of exercises to choose from. Here are just a few popular ones. 

Squat Jump 

The squat is a beneficial lower body exercise for building your quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Adding a plyometric element can help improve power and strength, which can carry over to heavier loaded squats and improved running performance.

The squat jump requires no equipment and can be a great exercise for your HIIT workout because just a few reps can get your heart pumping. 

How to do the Squat Jump: 

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, keeping your chest tall and core tight.
  • Lower your hips first as you lower into a squat position.
  • When your hips reach a 90 degree angle, drive through your legs and hips to powerfully explode off the ground, using your arms to help with momentum.
  • Land with a soft bend in your knees and get ready to go right into another rep.   

Mountain Climbers

You may think of mountain climbers as just an ab workout, but they also target the triceps, shoulders, chest, glutes, and legs. This bodyweight exercise can be used anywhere and is a beneficial way to build strength in your upper body and get your heart rate up.

The mountain climber can be great paired with squats or lunges in a HIIT workout because although it recruits the lower body, it's more upper body heavy and can give your legs a little recovery time. 

How to do Mountain Climbers: 

  • Start in a plank position with your hands under your shoulders and back flat.
  • Drive your right knee up towards your right arm as far as your range of motion allows.
  • Straighten your right leg back out and repeat with the left leg.
  • Speed up the tempo for more intensity. 

Burpees 

You may shudder at just the mention of burpees, but this exercise is a great full-body move to incorporate into your HIIT workout. Burpees are a vigorous workout just by themselves, and they can provide whole body muscle activation, as well as a similar maximum oxygen consumption and endurance endurance as sprint intervals. 

How to do Burpees: 

  • Start by standing upright with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Lower your hips as if you were going to squat and place your hands on the ground.
  • At the same time, jump your feet back, so your body is in a plank position, then perform a push-up.
  • Jump your feet back to the squat position and bring your hands up off the floor.
  • Stand all the way up and jump.
  • You can also modify a burpee for low impact with no jumping if needed.

Plank 

The plank is an exercise that would work great in a Tabata routine because there's no way to measure reps. Holding a plank for 20 seconds may not be a challenge for some, but after four minutes, your core and shoulders will be burning.

The plank is beneficial for building core stability, which is needed in any type of exercise for added stability, balance, and injury prevention. 

How to do the Plank: 

  • Place your hands on the ground, so they are in line with your shoulders.
  • Straighten your legs out, so your body is flat and your toes are planted.
  • Squeeze your core and keep your hips in line with your back to help maintain a flat position.
  • Hold for as long as you can. 

Plyometric Push-ups 

The push-up is an exercise that looks so simple, but it can be difficult for some to perform even one rep properly. It targets your chest, triceps, core, and shoulders and is beneficial for building strength for other pushing exercises like the bench press.

If you've mastered the push-up, you can try adding a plyometric element for an extra challenge. The plyo push-up can build strength and power, while helping train your fast-twitch muscle fibers. 

How to do Plyometric Push-ups:

  • Start in a plank position.
  • Keeping your core tight and elbows slightly tucked in, lower your body to the ground.
  • Once your chest reaches the ground, powerfully explode through your upper body to extend your arms and lift your hands off the floor.
  • Land softly back to the starting position.  

Kettlebell Swings 

You can improve your cardio and build strength at the same time with the kettlebell swing. This exercise provides a full-body workout and is guaranteed to get your heart rate up.

The kettlebell swing can build strength in your lower body while working the stabilizers in your back and shoulders. Performing the kettlebell swing has the potential to significantly increase  your overall and explosive strength, which is especially important for athletes.

How to do Kettlebell Swings: 

  • Hold a kettlebell appropriate to your fitness level with both hands.
  • Stand with your chest tall and feet about shoulder-width apart.
  • Keeping your back flat and core tight, drive your hips back, swinging the kettlebell high between your thighs.
  • Powerfully drive your hips forward and swing the kettlebell up to chest height.
  • Continue to repeat for reps or time. 

Lunges 

Squats often get a lot of credit for being a great lower body exercise, and although they are, the lunge should take just as much credit.

This unilateral movement helps work both sides of your body equally and recruits the hamstrings, glutes, and quads, as well as the core to stabilize. There are several different variations, such as the forward, lateral, walking, or reverse lunge, so you can add some variety to your training. 

How to do Lunges: 

  • Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Step your right foot straight forward, so your stance is staggered.
  • Keeping your chest up, bend both of your knees and lower your body to the ground.
  • Press up through your front heel to reset your stance.
  • Repeat on the left side. 

Wrapping Up 

The great thing about HIIT workouts, besides all the health and fat burning benefits, is that they are customizable and can be used anywhere. You can do them for a gym or home workout depending on the exercises. 

For women, it can be harder to lose weight than it is for men, but HIIT workouts can help you lose the stubborn fat you've been trying to get off.

A solid routine and a fat burner like Shredded-AF can help boost your metabolism and curb your cravings to help enhance fat loss. 

For a long time, treadmills, ellipticals, and stair climbers were deemed effective exercises for women because it won't make them "bulk". By now, you probably know that myth has been debunked, and women can and should weight train for fat loss.

HIIT workouts can be a combination of cardio and strength, so you can build lean muscle and cardiovascular health without worrying about being "skinny fat".  

Women, your workouts don't have to be long or boring. You can get just as much out of a 10- minute HIIT workout that you could out of an hour gym session. With the proper exercise and lifestyle outside of the gym, you could be burning fat in no time.