Let’s face it, we don’t exercise just to lose weight, or to stay healthy. We do it to have a toned body that we can show off. Having six-pack abs is a big part of it.

Don’t deny it. Just like everyone else, you have also been secretly hoping to get them quickly. You’ve probably been searching for exercises and challenges that promise speedy results!

Nothing’s wrong with that. In fact, setting a goal is highly recommended. You have higher chances of sticking to a program if you have a specific target you want to reach.

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Truth is, everyone has a six-pack. It’s just hiding behind all the layers of fat. You just need to get that out of the way.

So, if your target is to get abs of steel and you feel like the goal is out of reach, I hope to prove to you otherwise. For ‘sick abs’ all you have to do is to start with HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training.

What is HIIT?

High intensity interval training or HIIT (popularly pronounced as hit; you can also say it like the acronym it is, i.e. H.I.I.T) refers to the training which includes bursts of intense cardio exercises followed by timed rest periods. HIIT is said to have the potential to burn up to 400-500 calories per 30 minute session.

To make it more fathomable, it describes any workout that alternates between high intensity exercise activities and smaller pace activities, in their allotted times, within one training session.

The training gained popularity recently due to its effectiveness and numerous benefits associated with it.

Animated GIF of people exercising.

You can do almost any exercise, like cardio, dynamic or static stretches, weight lifting, brisk walk paired with running etc, as part of HIIT. All it requires for you to turn your exercise session into HIIT is to press the accelerator in your system all the way and go all out in your efforts, increasing the intensity as a result. And then follow through with the slower paced mini breaks sprinkled in between.

Typically, the intense exercises include (but are not limited to) sit ups, burpees, jumping jacks, push-ups, mountain climbers, lunges and squats.

“And what does one do during the rest breaks?” – anything you feel like doing.

Some people spend these few seconds of rest bouncing in place, jogging lightly or walking like a turtle… or just chilling. Yes, you can quickly check your WhatsApp, give your Instagram one big scroll, or take a #absinthemaking selfie too.

Animated GIF of two guys taking a selfie in the gym.

This high-again, low-again situation is exactly what brings all the science into play within your system, giving you the chiseled abs you long for.

I would tell you how the science works, but first I want you to really grasp and get familiar with all the benefits you’re going to reap out of a HIIT workout as you make your way to six pack abs.

How long should a HIIT workout last?

Initially, figuring out the best duration for an HIIT session takes some experimentation, and a bit of consideration with respect to your current physical state.

The time can be however long you want it to be for both the workout and the resting period – but, to squeeze utmost effectiveness out of it, the trainers and practitioners of HIIT recommend keeping your intervals anywhere from 10 seconds to 1 minute. And the overall workout session could last for 4 minutes, going up to 20 or 30 minutes.

Trainers say that if you feel the need to do HIIT for more than 30 minutes, chances are you are not putting your utmost effort into it like you are supposed to.

SImilarly, if you are stopping under 15 minutes, then it is possible that you are not giving each exercise adequate time at its highest exertion point – which actually is what contributes to the results in the end.

But, the trainers also affirm that even a 5 minute workout is better than lounging; doing nothing beneficial for your body. So, if 5 minutes is all you can take out, then that is still something to root for. It might take a bit longer for you to see the results, but you’re certainly going in the right direction.

Therefore, we can conclude that when the question arises pertaining to the optimal duration for a high intensity interval training, trainers unanimously agree that the sweet spot lies somewhere between 20-30 minutes.

Best Time of the Day for HIIT

The thing with any training is that it is highly dependent on your consistency. The time of the day becomes a secondary consideration, if you can’t stay consistent. One thing, however, that is important to consider, is that, we have a body clock. We find ourselves more energetic during some parts of the day and less during others; or some parts of the day have other activities associated to it. . For instance, it is not a good idea to exercise late in the evening or at night for many of us, because the extra boost of energy we get out of it, proves to be a hindrance in our sleep. Nor, would it be a good idea to do such intense training right after any big meal.

Or you may be someone who finds it hard to wake up extra early in the morning and jump into exercising before starting the day. And afternoons are pretty busy for most people.

Plus, if you are an outdoorsy person, the weather also plays a part in determining the right time for you. For parts of the world where it gets too cold or too hot, you may have to consider the time you do your training. Those who live where they have moderate weather most of the time, probably don’t have to check these things before heading out.

So, without making it sound impossible, it all boils down to this: HIIT is a training that requires high energy and counts on how consistent you will be. You will never be able to stick to it if you keep looking for the ‘right’ time. Do it at the time that suits you best. So long as you respect the body clock and don’t throw it off balance, you’re good!

Is it safe to do HIIT everyday?

After they’ve gone through exertion, our muscles need 24 to 48 hours to recover. If we fail to provide it with the required rest time, we may have to face consequences like the breakage of tissues, and/or deformity.

When the trainers are asked this question, they usually recommend training for three or four days a week, and giving the muscles a break for at least one day in between sessions.

You may have heard the phrase ‘less is more’, and in this case it could not be more accurate. When we begin with HIIT, we catch ourselves thinking that the best practice surely would be to do this every single day, because the more I do it, the faster I’d see the results.

But, here’s what happens if you follow that pathway: You end up ruining your form, as too much exertion eventually leads to bad form – it’s a given. This, then takes you straight towards the most dreaded phenomenon attached to overexertion, i.e: injury.

A little soreness between your HIIT sessions is not something to worry about. That’s called ‘delayed-onset muscle soreness’ or (DOMS). When you feel the soreness is not within a normal range, then go for a walk instead of HIIT that day, or simple stretches would help too. If the pain persists, and even such light exercises are only making it worse, then this could be an indication that you either have a strain, pulled a muscle, or it could be a tear in your muscle too. Don’’t hesitate to consult a doctor in a case like this.

The U.S. government’s health guidelines suggest that adults from 18-64 years can engage in aerobic physical activity for two and a half hours per week to be effective and sufficient, and at least two days of muscle-strengthening exercise in a week.

HIIT workouts for abs

10 minute HIIT workout to target abs

All the ‘reps’ together make one set, so perform each set of exercise with 10 seconds of rest in between. Give your 100% in every single exercise, and repeat the workout every other day. The workout will very likely become easier for you at some point in the training, so you can increase the amount of external weight little by little when you begin to feel that you’re ready for harder efforts now.

We’ll divide the 10 minutes into 4 sections.

Time Section One: 0:00-4:00

Thruster

Illustration of woman doing Thrusters exercise

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Grab a challenging dumbbell in your right hand and raise it straight up over your right shoulder – the weight could be 7.5 to 15 pounds or more. Now keeping your weight in your heels, lower yourself into a squat position, while also lowering your arm and dumbbell down to your shoulder. As you stand back up, let your arm push the dumbbell up in the air again.

Repeat this for 10 reps each side, one after the other, or hold the dumbbell with both hands and use alternate hands each rep.

Renegade Row

Illustration of woman doing Renegade Row exercise

Balance yourself on the floor with just your toes and hands touching the ground. Your feet should be shoulder width apart. That’s a high plank position. If you hold onto a dumbbell in each hand and then do the same pose, you’re ready for this renegade row. Pull your right hand up next to your ribcage, while still holding onto your weight. Lower the hand back down and do the same with your left hand.

Doing this once on both sides would equal to one rep. You are to do 10 reps before moving on to the next exercise.

Plank Jack

Illustration of woman doing Plank Jack exercise

Balance yourself on the floor in the same plank pose like you did for renegade row. Now jump both feet out in the opposite direction from one another, and in a similar skipping manner close the distance back again. Once out and back in counts as one rep. So, keep this up for 20 reps.

Repeat the whole cycle of these 3 exercises above or as many reps of these as you can manage until the timer goes off, with a 10 second interval in between exercises

Time Section Two: 4:00-5:00

Combat Situp

Illustration of woman doing Combat Sit Ups exercise

For this whole minute you have to keep doing the combat situp.

Lay down on your back. Elevate your knees and drag your feet back close to the glutes. Place your palms over your chest in a criss cross manner. And engaging your abs, pull yourself up from your torso in a sit up position. If you wish to make it harder, pick up some weights and do the same while holding onto them.

You don’t have to criss-cross your hands and can let your arms stay close to the sides of your ribcage, if you do this exercise with weights in your hands. 

Time Section Three: 5:00-9:00

Reverse Lunge With Rotation

Illustration of woman doing Reverse Lunge With Rotation exercise

Stand up straight with your feet at a moderate distance – neither shoulder width apart, nor too close to each other. Hold one dumbbell weighing 10 to 20 pounds close to your chest with your elbows stuck close to the sides of your torso. Step back with your right foot only – as far back as you can stretch it – while keeping the left foot in place. Now bend both the knees till your right knee touches the ground and your left knee is in a table top position making a 90 degree angle with the ground. 

Twist your torso towards the left side. Again, go as far onto the left as you can while twisting. Step back into the initial standing position and do the same on the other side. Completing both sides once makes one rep. Repeat this until you’ve done 10 reps.

Plank to Pushup

Illustration of woman doing Plank to Pushup Exercise

Spring into a high plank position. Then, let your right arm drop close to the ground (like in a regular plank) while the left still holds you up in the high plank pose. Now drop the left arm too, and quickly stretch the right arm to its full length back again, followed by the left arm.

Alternating between both arms, keep dropping yourself close to the ground and pushing yourself up again, keep doing this for 10 reps. Just like with the other exercises, once done on both sides gives you a single rep. 

Jackknife Crunch

Illustration of Woman doing Jackknife Crunch Exercise

While laying on your back, raise your legs up all the way and extend your arms like you are going to touch your toes. Stretch your body as much as you can when you do so. Then simultaneously bring both your legs and arms down while still outstretched – though as you are bringing the arms down, stretch them behind your head and not at the front. Don’t let the legs or the arms touch the ground, just let them hover slightly off the ground and then go back to extending them up. Keep repeating for 16 reps.

Do the exercises given under this time section for two cycles. If you notice that the timer is about to go off and you won’t have time to do the whole cycle again, then do as much as you can within the given time. You can increase the reps if you are quick in your moves, to fit two or more cycles in this time slot.

Time Section Four: 9:00-10:00

Mountain Climbers

Illustration of Woman doing Mountain Climbers Exercise

Go down on the ground in push-up position and simply draw your knees up towards your chest one by one. You are to do this in quick, smooth motions, barely letting the toes rest on the ground. Keep moving faster and harder each time. Also, your knees are to be off the ground too all the while. The higher up you hold them above the ground, the more you allow your muscles to really work for it. Keep it going for 1 minute.

And that’s it! You’re all done with your super intense, awesome workout. Get ready to reach your ab goals in no time. But that’s only if you keep at it.

Pumped up for more? Try jumping rope!

Jumping Rope

Illustration of Woman doing Jumping Ropes Exercise

Another useful HIIT exercise that can give you abs is jumping rope. Jump rope in place for 1 minute as fast as you can. Rest for 60 seconds. Repeat the process ten times.

Many adults still don’t take jumping rope seriously, and let it sit in their kids’ playroom. But, this really is one less complicated way to attain abs. Just this one exercise done consistently and frequently can help you carve out the abs of your dreams.

Benefits of HIIT

1. Perfect for the busy bees

The No.1 explanation anyone comes up with while defending themselves against “why do you not workout?” is this:

“I don’t have time. Too busy!”

If you’re also one of these people or know someone who does this – HIIT is the ideal workout plan for the busy bees!

Where other cardio exercises involve lighter efforts for a relatively longer time, HIIT being fast paced, does the job in a much shorter time. This way you can get a six-pack with HIIT faster than with any other training.

Since an average HIIT session lasts for about 20 minutes to 30 minutes max, this makes it both efficient and effective.

No more excuses! One can certainly fit a few HIIT minutes in a day.

2. Do it anywhere

Who says going to the gym is the only way you can get fit and have killer abs?

Animated GIF of a woman doing jumping jacks

Ever tried doing jumping jacks in your kitchen?

Be informed that high intensity interval training can be done at home, or wherever you are – given that you can afford to sweat (like anything) at the place!

If you are like me, you thoroughly enjoy the experience of sprinting or jogging – or walking for that matter – by the sea, in the parks or anywhere, where you’re surrounded by nature, breathing in the sweet scent of greenery, fresh air and salt water.

If this is so, then you can pair sprinting (which will fall under your high intensity activity) with a happy-go-lucky walk (falling under the slower, more breathable activity), and be completely assured that this seemingly not-so-fancy workout of yours will definitely leave your entire core writhing in no time.

You can do this sprint-walk routine this way: sprint for 30 seconds, walk for 2 minutes and repeat the process eight times.

This entire routine can easily be carried out at home as well. Just be in one spot and do the same as above.

3. No equipment needed

A broke person may not have any dimes to spare on luxuries such as exercise equipment, but the love for a shredded six-pack and a toned body is everyone’s wish.

The good news is, not only can HIIT workouts be done anywhere, you don’t need to have any of the fancy stuff to see the desired results on your body.

Soon you will notice, most of the exercise plans that are titled as HIIT, are all own-bodyweight.

4. Mix up routines

I’m sure everyone can relate to this, I’ve been a victim of this too. It just becomes too unbearable after just a few days into it and makes you swear off of exercising for the next few weeks… and sometimes months on end.

The culprit: Same exercises every time, every single day!

Animated GIF of a person saying no

No, thank you!

If you ask me what’s the one thing that I like the most about HIIT? It’s that it has the flexibility of mixing up the exercises based on your personal health, preferences and moods.

Your routine stays the same for as long as you want it to, and spikes up or tones down as per the requirements of your goal or just depending on how you feel that day. It really does make a difference and helps you keep going.

Also, repeating the same move over and over again for a long time is bad for the muscles. If you use your right arm in a particular manner and keep repeating it for months, with the same intensity too, you’ll begin to see a difference in how your left and right arm look and feel… because of deformity.

Another thing which makes the mix and match thing a good idea is that when you keep doing the same thing, with time your body gets so used to it that it loses any effect on you. And this ‘getting used to it’ part is what leads to the plateau in your workouts.

How does it work?

Increased heart rate & elevated need for oxygen

This training gets and keeps the heart rate up and burns more fat in a shorter period of time, compared to other types of workouts.

Animated GIF of man tired after working out.

High intensity exercises elevate the organism’s need for oxygen during the effort, subsequently creating a shortage of oxygen, making your body ask for more oxygen during the recovery. As a result, the body keeps losing fat long after you’re done with your workout.

The after-burn effect is the primary reason why HIIT is more practical for individuals who want to achieve their fitness goal as soon as possible, and poses as an ideal weight loss, abs-seeking program.

The effect of HIIT on abdominal fat & body composition

The benefits of HIIT are factual. They are not some outrageous claims fitness trainers make to make people sign up to their program. You’ll be happy to know that the advantages of this training are well-documented.

A team of scientists at the University of Virginia conducted a study to analyze the effect of HIIT on abdominal visceral fat and body composition. Results, published in the Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise, showed that high-intensity training significantly reduces total abdominal fat – which includes both the abdominal subcutaneous fat as well as the abdominal visceral fat.

Their study showed that young men who performed HIIT exercises for 20 minutes three times a week shed 4.4 pounds (2 kg) on average over a 12-week period, and they also saw a 17% decrease in belly fat.

A similar study conducted specifically on women found that 17 women who did HIIT training twice a week for 16 consecutive weeks observed an 8% decrease in total belly fat.

Changes associated with these benefits of high-intensity training were not recorded in the participants who had to perform low intensity exercises.

As you can see now, HIIT can burn abdominal fat better than other types of training. Absolutely essential if you want your six-pack.

Women have to work harder than men

Getting six-pack abs is all about managing body fat. Shedding all the excess fat that covers up and hides the washboard core underneath, is without a doubt, difficult.

Research shows that an average woman in the United States has around 40 percent of body fat, whereas, an average man has approximately 28 percent. It is also noted that because of the hormone ‘estrogen’, a woman’s body naturally tends to hold more fat than men.

In order to lift this curtain of fat and let the abs show through, both men and women have to shed about half of their total body fat.

The American Council on Exercise points out that to reveal abdominal definition and create a ‘foundation’ for a six-pack, most men have to lose between 6% to 13% body fat, while women have to lose between 14% to 20%.

They also said that losing 1% out of total fat per month is not only safe, but also attainable. So, as per their math, a woman with average body fat would take around 20 to 26 months in losing a sufficient amount of fat to reveal six-pack abs. Similarly, an average man would take about 15 to 21 months.

This is where HIIT steps in!

Considerations for HIIT workouts

Maintain the right form

The high intensity training takes all your guts and is to be fast paced, so you are very likely to end up gasping for air in a few short seconds.

While this gasping for air is a good sign – happens to everyone – and is kind of what tells you how you’re doing really, you still need to keep yourself alert at all times, and discontinue your exercise routine for a while if you fear that persisting with the workout might lead to injury.

Although not all pains are bad, in fact, most are good when it’s cardio you talk about – precautions are always better than cure.

Know when to stop

It is important to add here that even though we are focusing more on our ‘timing’ and ‘interval’ when doing this own-bodyweight high intensity interval training, paying attention to your ‘form’ remains the most vital thing through-out. For, if your form would not be how it should be during each exercise, the whole training routine can backfire and cause other problems.

The washboard look is not for everyone

It goes without saying – Universal Truth – that not everyone will see the same results. Some people are genetically not made to support six-pack abs. Sure, they will lose fat. They will have a flat stomach. But it will still be harder for their body to give them the infamous six-pack look we all are after.

And know that it is totally normal. Because this happens if you have thicker skin or tissues in the area surrounding your abdomen.

Then there are people who have asymmetrical or angled tendons that make it harder for their abs to have a washboard look.

The point is, if you go through the entire process and do everything you are supposed to do. But, you find out that you’re one of the folks mentioned above – you’ll still look awesome!

Conclusion

HIIT is a widely popular type of training whose benefits are well-documented. If you want to have six-pack abs, then you have to lose a certain percentage of fat. Unfortunately, the fat in the abdominal area is quite stubborn. It requires a lot more activity to burn.

The reason why HIIT is more beneficial than others is that it helps burn fat at a faster rate. Thus allowing you to have abs you wish for.

HIIT workouts are ideal for almost everyone – even for individuals who have a busy lifestyle and a hectic schedule.

HIIT has numerous benefits including the versatility of activities and ability to perform them just about anywhere you want. Most exercises don’t require equipment. Which means, you can also do them at home, in a park, in the backyard, and so on.