If you have been asking yourself, do HIIT workouts build muscle, you have come to the right place. Let’s just get this out of the way. HIIT workouts to not build muscle.
Let me explain. HIIT stands for high intensity interval training. It is meant to be a workout category specifically for burning fat. The whole point of doing HIIT is to lose fat or become more defined.
You might not know this, but it is NOT possible to build muscle on a caloric deficit.
Let’s assume that you want to build muscle. You simply are not going to do HIIT because in order to build muscle, you need to be eating at a caloric surplus. Learn how to calculate your maintenance calories before you go any farther.
But it is ok if you don’t need to build muscle right now. All you have to do is make a choice based on your current situation. Do you want to lose fat, or do you want to build muscle?
The formula is simple. If you want to lose fat, eat at a caloric deficit and do weight training and HIIT 3-4 times per week. If you want to build muscle, eat at a caloric surplus and do weight training 3-4 times per week with minimal cardio.
People seem to forget that others have already paved the road for us. All we need to do is hop in the car and drive. We know everything there is to know about exercise and changing our bodies. Let’s take advantage of that.
Benefits of HIIT
The term high intensity interval training has only been around since the 1970’s, but it’s principles have been around since the dawn of man.
The concept is simple. Short periods of exercise are performed as intensely as possible, followed by a short rest. This cycle is repeated for a given time, usually 15-30 minutes.
Learn how to calculate your maximum heart rate for exercise before understanding what your target heart rate should be.
HIIT workouts promote fat loss
It should be no surprise by now that HIIT workouts are specifically for losing fat. You might find some guru that tells you otherwise, but this is science. Any workout where your target heart rate is 90% of your maximum heart rate is going to burn fat.
Like I mentioned before, if you are eating at a caloric deficit and doing HIIT workouts 3-4 times per week, you are going to lose fat at a rapid pace.
HIIT workouts make you feel good
This goes for just about any workout, but HIIT workouts especially are known for releasing a massive amount of endorphins. Endorphins are the chemicals released by your body to reduce stress and pain. AKA free happy pills.
It’s not just the endorphins either. Don’t we all feel good when we know we are doing something great for our body? If we know that we are doing what it takes to get healthy, we will feel more positively about ourselves.
So we have both short term and long term positivity. Short term being the release of endorphins, and long term being the positive thoughts knowing that we are working towards our goals.
HIIT workouts are relatively short
Compared to a standard workout, HIIT workouts burn significantly more calories based on time spent on the workout. As I mentioned before, most HIIT workouts are only 15-30 minutes.
Of course, the intensity is a LOT higher than a regular workout, but you can burn the same calories in 15 minutes as you would in 1 hour. It’s a no brainer.
In the next section, we will discuss what type of HIIT workouts you should be doing in order to lose fat.
What HIIT workouts should I do to lose fat?
By this point, we are no longer asking ourselves, do HIIT workouts build muscle. We know that HIIT workouts were made for losing fat, so how do we complete a HIIT workout?
In its most basic form, HIIT workouts follow a structure of 30 seconds INTENSE, and 60 seconds REST. Repeat 10 times. That right there is a 15 minute HIIT workout. Pretty simple, right?
You can apply this formula to just about any workout, ONLY if your heart rate gets to 90% of your maximum heart rate. If it does not, then you are not actually performing high intensity interval training.
Luckily for us, there are specific exercises that are more conducive to hitting our heart rate goals.
HIIT workout example – Burpees
Burpees are my absolute favorite HIIT workout. Use this video as a guide to your form. Do this for 30 seconds and then rest for 60 seconds. I can almost guarantee that after 30 seconds of burpees, you will desperately be needing the 60 second break.
HIIT workout checklist
Now that we have explained everything we need to know, let’s reinforce it with a checklist of what it means to perform a full HIIT workout:
- 30 seconds INTENSE. 60 seconds REST. Repeat 10 times.
- Get to 90% of your maximum heart rate – Learn about calculating your maximum heart rate.
- Eat at a caloric deficit – Learn how to calculate your maintenance calories.
- Write down or track your progress. Our app has everything you need.
If you follow the checklist above, you are guaranteed to lose fat. If you aren’t losing fat, you probably aren’t eating at a caloric deficit. Re-evaluate and try again.
What workouts should I do to build muscle?
So you have made it this far, but you realized that HIIT is not for you. You want to build muscle instead of shed fat. At least you now know your goals!
I was in the same boat. As a 6’1” male, I was only 135lbs. It was embarrassing, and I was very self conscious about it. Of course, guys in high school made fun of me because of how scrawny I was.
It wasn’t until I learned about eating right and working out properly that I finally was able to get a hold of my body, and build muscle. In fact, I built 20+ pounds of muscle in my first year working out AND eating at a caloric surplus.
What workout did I do? I straight up created my own 3 day workout plan for building muscle. If you are interested, I recommend downloading our app All Workouts: Personal Trainer (iOS | Google Play). You will find the exact workout plan that I used to build tons of muscle. It is called 3 DAY OVERLOAD.
If you don’t feel like downloading the app, that is fine too, I have written multiple articles on building muscle. 15 Workouts to Build Muscle at Home with No Weights is a great one!
5 Workouts for Skinny People to Gain Muscle is another one that I recommend checking out.
All in all, it is going to take a plan. You need to find a workout plan that works for you, and an eating plan.
I realized that the amount of calories that I have to eat in order to put on muscle is almost impossible to actually eat. That is why I had to create a 1000 calorie protein shake recipe in order to supplement my muscle growth.
Main Point: Do HIIT workouts build muscle?
You now know the answer. Do HIIT workouts build muscle? NO! But again, I am sure that some guru will figure out a way to dispute my claims. There is probably someone out there that did in fact build muscle doing HIIT workouts. That is the exception not the rule.
We learned that HIIT workouts are designed to burn fat and become more defined.
You are going to need to choose one of two paths. Do you want to lose fat, or do you want to build muscle. The choice is up to you.
Don’t forget, to lose fat, do HIIT 3-4 times per week AND eat at a caloric deficit. To build muscle, do weight training 3-4 times per week AND eat at a caloric surplus.
The sooner that more people realize these 2 truths, the better off the fitness industry will be. Remember, there is no magic pill for hitting your goals. Choose a path, stick to the plan for an extended period, and reap your rewards.