How Long Should a HIIT Workout Be?

A high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout is a type of exercise that involves short periods of intense work that can last for up to 60 seconds. It then follows a period of recovery. This cycle can be repeated several times, depending on the exercise. So how long should a HIIT workout be?

On average, HIIT workouts last between 30 and 50 minutes using a 1:1 work-to-recovery ratio (or higher work ratio) on exercises. The recovery time should be around 15 to 30 seconds in between cooldowns. If you’re a HIIT beginner, starting with 10 to 15 minutes is recommended.

In addition to knowing the amount of time your HIIT workout should be, there are other time factors: duration of exercises, work and recovery time, and how often to do HIIT workouts weekly. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Your 30 to 50-minute time is determined by your fitness level
  • Your work-to-recovery ratio should be at least a 1:1 ratio but can have a higher work-to-recovery ratio to be effective as well 
  • Do HIIT workouts two to three times a week for the highest effectivity 

How to Determine Your Session Time

HIIT involves pushing yourself to the limit and working as hard as possible during each exercise. Having a longer recovery period helps people develop their fitness.

So how do you determine if you should be doing 30, 40, or 50-minute HIIT workouts though? This can be decided by knowing a few details about yourself.

These details include:

  • Fitness level
  • Personal Goals
  • Work and Recovery
  • Target Zones
  • How your body feels

Fitness Level

Your ability to complete an effective HIIT workout is based on staying in those target zones, which will vary depending on your level.

If you’re a beginner in your fitness journey, you should begin by doing 30-minute HIIT sessions, whereas a seasoned gym-goer should aim for a 50-minute session. 

This time can change as you become more accustomed to HIIT. Once you are feeling as though you aren’t pushing to your max, you can increase your workout time.

In addition to fitness level, it is also important to determine how often per week you need to perform HIIT workouts. This is tied to your personal goals.

Personal Goals

If your goals are endurance, losing weight, or conditioning you should be doing two to three sessions per week, each for 30 to 50 minutes (based on fitness level).

If your personal goals are to gain or maintain weight or muscle mass HIIT workouts will still work for you. 

The time of your sessions will stay the same; the number of sessions a week will change. You only need one session per week if these are your goals.

Work and Recovery

Each HIIT workout also has specific time frames for work and recovery. Women’s work and recovery time are very different from men’s. In a study done on men and women performing HIIT workouts, it was found that women found better results when their HIIT workouts had a 1:1 ratio. 

Women recover faster than men, needing shorter rest periods between sets. In this study, the women did a 1:1 HIIT ratio and 1:6 HIIT ratio and found increased overall fitness with the 1:1 ratio. 

This means that your time spent on specific exercises during your HIIT workout must be the same. It also works if you have longer work than rest time. You can start with smaller times building a foundation to work up to longer times. 

Here is an example of a work and recovery set you could include in your HIIT workout based on the 1:1 ratio:

ExerciseNumber of SetsWork Time Recovery Time
Sprints430 seconds30 seconds 

You can also increase your ratio to a higher work ratio, such as 2:1 as your fitness improves. But remember, the recovery time always needs to be the same or shorter than your work time.

Here are examples of some work and recovery sets that could be included in your HIIT workout going along the 2:1 ratio:

ExerciseNumber of SetsWork TimeRecovery Time
Burpees22 minutes1 minute 
Jump Rope61 minute30 seconds 

Target Zone

When considering specific exercise times within your 30 to 50-minute HIIT workout remember your target zones for work and recovery. When performing your exercise, you want to be in the aerobic zone. If you are not reaching that, you are not performing at your best on the exercise.

If it is over your aerobic zone, you may consider shortening your work and recovery time so you can maintain that target zone. You don’t want to go over it.

When determining these times also keep in mind each exercise should stay in a 15-second to a three-minute range for your work and recovery times. 

How to Adjust Your HIIT Session Time

You should also pay attention to how your body feels during your HIIT workout times. If you are completely exhausted, with no energy for the rest of your day and week, you are overextending yourself.

The same goes for too little. If you are finding that you have a lot of excess energy and have not gone as hard as you can through the entirety of the workout, you can push yourself harder. 

You can always increase your length of time for your work and recovery times and possibly your overall time if you have not hit that 50-minute mark yet.

How Much HIIT to Do Per Week

When you are doing your 30 to 50-minute workout splits, with exercises that time is based on the discussed factors you are at the right start. But you also need to keep in mind how often to do your HIIT workouts each week.

Studies have shown that the best amount of time to do HIIT workouts is anywhere between two to three times per week. 

Each HIIT workout should also be spaced out, so you have at least a 24-hour rest period between them to allow for recovery.