HIIT These: Interval Training 5 Different Ways

HIIT These: Interval Training 5 Different Ways

Interval classes continue to be in high demand on group fitness schedules—and for good reason. The learning curve is low for participants, and prep time is minimal for instructors. However, teaching the same interval format week after week can start to feel uninspired. To keep your classes exciting and fresh, introduce intervals in different ways. Here are 5 ideas for mixing it up.

1. Tweak Work and Rest Ratios

The most common way to teach intervals is by timing work and rest ratios, such as 1:1 or 1:2. For class variety, consider new configurations. For example, if you teach a lot of HIIT or Tabata—with its ratio of 20 seconds (work) and 10 seconds (recovery)—play around with pairings that follow the same ratio rule; seconds and 10 seconds, try 30 seconds and 15 seconds or 40 seconds and 20 seconds. Another idea is to ever-so-slightly adjust your interval timer up or down—e.g., 25 seconds work and 15 seconds recovery or 35 seconds work and 20 seconds recovery.

2. Pyramids

Unlike the ratios described above, a pyramid-style drill provides multiple interval durations all in one set. Work intervals increase to a point (top of the pyramid) then decrease while all recovery intervals remain the same. For example, a pyramid interval might look like this:

  • 20 seconds work
  • 20 seconds recovery
  • 30 seconds work
  • 20 seconds recovery
  • 40 seconds work
  • 20 seconds recovery
  • 30 seconds work
  • 20 seconds recovery
  • 20 seconds work
  • 20 seconds recovery

There are numerous options with this style. In the example above, each work interval either increases or decreases by 10 seconds. You could also double the timeframe of each work interval as you go “up” the pyramid (e.g., 20 seconds, 40 seconds, 1 minute and 20 seconds) and cut each interval in half as you go “down” the pyramid (1 minute and 20 seconds, 40 seconds, 20 seconds), or vice versa for an inverse pyramid. Tip: Create and track pyramid intervals with mobile apps like UltraTimer.


Popular in CrossFit, AMRAP is an acronym that stands for “as many reps as possible.” The goal is to see how many exercise reps (or rounds) participants are able to complete during a predetermined timeframe.

For example, set the timer for three minutes, coaching participants to repeat the same sequence of exercises within that period. In those three minutes, participants pace themselves through as many rounds as possible of something like 10 burpees followed by 10 squats followed by 10 pushups. Participants rest throughout as needed.

4. Circuits on the Spot

Circuits are similar to intervals in that there’s a period of hard work followed by a period of recovery as you move from one station to the next. Even if you aren’t able to set up a station-by-station circuit in class, you can still apply a circuit format with participants remaining in one spot.

Use longish intervals (perhaps 45-60 seconds) that run back to back with just enough downtime (10-15 seconds) for participants to swap equipment or drink water. Plan on-the-spot circuits so the exercises flow well together and keep the heart rate up, e.g., one cardio exercise followed by a full-body strength exercise and so on.

5. Game-Based Drills

Probably the most fun way to experience interval training is when you forget all about the intervals! With that in mind, plan games and exciting challenges to get participants working hard for short durations. Examples: running games like tag or partner exercises like medicine ball tosses.

To keep the workout interval-focused, set up games to either last about as long as an average interval would or introduce activities that incorporate a natural break between intensity bursts, such as relay races in small groups.

Amanda Vogel, MA, human kinetics, is a self-employed fitness instructor, presenter and writer in Vancouver, B.C. In addition to being a social media consultant, Amanda tests fitness gadgets, gear and clothes and writes about them on her blog www.FitnessTestDrive.com. Find Amanda at @amandavogel on Twitter, @amandavogelfitness on Instagram and @FitnessWriter on Facebook.

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