HIIT Ratios and How to Use Them

February 8, 2018

As you probably know by now, our theme at Myzone during the month of February is High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). HIIT is currently ranked as the number one fitness trend in the world, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.

This blog post is dedicated to explaining HIIT ratios and providing you with sample HIIT workouts for beginners and advanced exercisers.

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HIIT Definition:

HIIT consists of phases of high intensity work, followed by phases of moderate or low intensity recovery. Relative to Myzone, the work phase would take place in the YELLOW or RED zones, and the recovery phase would take place in the GREEN or BLUE zones. 

The duration and number of your work and recovery phases you perform will depend on your fitness level and training goals. When performing HIIT, research suggests that the range of work and recovery for each interval be 15 seconds up to 2-3 minutes in duration (depending on the ratio of work-to-recovery used).

The total duration of a HIIT session should be about 30-60 minutes in length, with warm up and cool down included in that time.

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HIIT Ratios:

As written above, each high intensity interval consists of a work phase and recovery phase. The HIIT ratio is the amount of time spent working vs the amount of time spent recovering, also known as the work-to-recovery ratio. For example, when you perform 60 seconds of work followed by 60 seconds of recovery, your HIIT ratio is 1-to-1.

When starting a HIIT program, we recommend using HIIT ratios with longer recovery phases than work phases. For example, a 1-to-3 work-to-recovery ratio is a good starting point. 

The goal in HIIT is to push hard during the work phase and recover as much as possible during the recovery phase. When you’re developing your fitness, it’s beneficial to have a longer recovery period so you can work as hard as possible during the work phase of each interval.

As your fitness level improves, you can increase the work-to-recovery ratio and aim for a 1-to-1 ratio.  Eventually, you can extend the work phase for a longer duration than the recovery phase; advanced HIIT participants can aim for ratios of 3-to-1 work-to-recovery.

Make sure you’re hitting your target zones during the work and recovery phase before you progress your ratios. For example, if your goals is to be in YELLOW on the work phase and GREEN on the recovery phase using a 1-to-3 ratio, make sure you reach those goals before you progress your ratio to a 1-to-2 work-to-recovery.

Choose the number of interval sets performed based on your ability to hit your target work and recovery zones. In general, 8 to 12 interval sets is sufficient, depending on the duration of each interval.

Below is a sample progression of work-to-recovery HIIT ratios over 5 months:

Week 1 through 4: 1-to-3 Ratios

Week 1: 15 seconds work: 45 seconds recovery

Week 2: 20 seconds work: 60 seconds recovery

Week 3: 30 seconds work: 90 seconds recovery

Week 4: 30 seconds work: 90 seconds recovery

Week 5 through 8: 1-to-2 Ratios

Week 5: 15 seconds work: 30 seconds recovery

Week 6: 20 seconds work: 40 seconds recovery

Week 7: 30 seconds work: 60 seconds recovery

Week 8: 30 seconds work: 60 seconds recovery

Weeks 9 through 12: 1-to-1 Ratios

Week 9: 15 seconds work: 15 seconds recovery

Week 10: 20 seconds work: 20 seconds recovery

Week 11: 30 seconds work: 30 seconds recovery

Week 12: 45 seconds work: 45 seconds recovery

Weeks 13 through 16: 2-to-1 Ratios

Week 13: 30 seconds work: 15 seconds recovery

Week 14: 40 seconds work: 20 seconds recovery

Week 15: 60 seconds work: 30 seconds recovery

Week 16: 90 seconds work: 45 seconds recovery

Weeks 17 through 20: 3-to-1 Ratios

Week 17: 30 seconds work: 10 seconds recovery

Week 18: 45 seconds work: 15 seconds recovery

Week 19: 60 seconds work: 20 seconds recovery

Week 20: 90 seconds work: 30 seconds recovery

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HIIT Sessions:

Here are sample HIIT sessions for beginner (less than 3 months of consistent fitness training), intermediate (~6 months of fitness training), and advanced exercisers (>6 months of fitness training).

Beginner HIIT Session: 1-to-3 Ratio

The total duration of this workout is 24 to 31 minutes, including the warm up and cool down.

Warm Up: Start with a 5-10 minute warm up in the BLUE and GREEN zones.

Conditioning Period: Using a cardio or muscular exercise of your choice, perform 8 intervals of 30 seconds of work and 90 seconds of recovery. Aim for YELLOW or RED during the work phase and GREEN during the recovery phase.

Intervals: 30 seconds YELLOW or RED; 90 seconds GREEN

Cool Down: Cool down for 3-5 minutes in the BLUE and GRAY zones.

Intermediate HIIT Session: 1-to-1 Ratio

The total duration of this workout is 23 to 30 minutes, including the warm up and cool down.

Warm Up: Start with a 5-10 minute warm up in the BLUE and GREEN zones.

Conditioning Period: Using a cardio or muscular exercise of your choice, perform 5 intervals of 60 seconds of work and 60 seconds of recovery, and 5 intervals of 30 seconds of work and 30 seconds of recovery. Aim for YELLOW or RED during the work phase and GREEN during the recovery phase.

Intervals 1-5: 60 seconds YELLOW or RED; 60 seconds GREEN

Intervals 6-10: 30 seconds YELLOW or RED; 30 seconds GREEN

Cool Down: Cool down for 3-5 minutes in the BLUE and GRAY zones.

Advanced HIIT Session: 2-to-1 Ratio

The total duration of this workout is 21 to 28 minutes, including the warm up and cool down.

Warm Up: Start with a 5-10 minute warm up in the BLUE and GREEN zones.

Conditioning Period: Using a cardio or muscular exercise of your choice, perform 4 intervals of 40 seconds of work and 20 seconds of recovery, 4 intervals of 60 seconds of work and 30 seconds of recovery, and 4 intervals of 30 seconds of work and 15 seconds of recovery. Aim for YELLOW or RED during the work phase and GREEN during the recovery phase.

Intervals 1-4: 40 seconds YELLOW or RED; 20 seconds GREEN

Intervals 5-8: 60 seconds YELLOW or RED; 30 seconds GREEN

Intervals 9-12: 30 seconds YELLOW or RED; 15 seconds GREEN

Cool Down: Cool down for 3-5 minutes in the BLUE and GRAY zones.

Have a blast putting together your own HIIT ratios and sessions!

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Keep moving forward!

Remember to use the hashtags #effortrewarded and #myzonemoves when you post your workout pics, and don’t forget to add your workout pics with your moves in your Activity Calendar!

For more tips on how to use the Myzone® heart rate monitor and App, follow us during Fitness Fridays on Facebook Live (subscribe on Myzone’s Facebook Page) – 8 am PT, 11 am ET, and check out our Myzone® Moves Podcast on iTunes or Google Play.

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