CrossFit vs. HIIT Full Comparison: Which is Better?

Athletes and gym-goers worldwide have heard of the two popular workouts, CrossFit and HIIT. They are both widely known for their intensity and ability to transform lives. 

The debate people still consider is which is better. The answer lies in what each athlete or gym-goer is looking for specifically.

While High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is primarily focused on burning calories, CrossFit is more for strength and agility training. If your focus is to get in shape and lose weight, HIIT is for you. If you are already fit and want to get stronger with more endurance, CrossFit is for you.

CrossFit and HIIT are great for gym-goers looking for short and effective workouts to do daily. Over time, they are also both helpful in weight loss.

Related: HIIT vs Running For Weight Loss (Which is More Effective?)

Similarities and Differences

CrossFit and HIIT training both contain aspects that focus on strength and agility training. Both include exercises that increase agility. 

Some of these exercises performed in both may be the same but are done in slightly different ways. Other exercises done during both workouts are unlike one another.


HIIT training follows timed intervals of intensity. These timed intervals are followed by a short rest. No matter the exercise performed during HIIT, it will always follow the work than the recovery format. 

Your skill level and gender determine the ratio at which these are performed (ex: 1:1 work to recovery or 3:1 work to recovery). Specific HIIT workouts should only be done two to three times a week. 


CrossFit on the other hand can include HIIT workouts, but that is not the entirety of the workout.

CrossFit’s rest frequency is up to the individual performing the exercises. Each CrossFit workout is done within an hour or less and focuses on overall strength, fitness, and health. 

Each Crossfitter has workout goals to reach during their workouts too. Not only do they have personal goals, but also peer comparison, which makes CrossFit much more competitive.

Strength and Agility Training Comparison

When it comes to strength training, CrossFit is the better fit. CrossFit can be done between three to five days a week. 

Every CrossFit workout consists of strength training as part of its basic structure (warm-up, strength work, workout of the day (WOD), and cool down.

CrossFit workouts are also constantly varied. Some of the workouts remain the same to see how much the athlete has improved over time, but the majority of workouts change, thus making workouts of the day (WOD). 

These varied routines make CrossFit a great fit if the athlete is looking for a workout routine that keeps them from getting bored.

A CrossFit strength and agility workout would look more like this:

  • Ten pull-ups
  • 15 push-ups
  • 20 air squats

In CrossFit, these exercises would be done as many times and rounds as possible in a certain period. 

HIIT workouts use a few exercises to build muscle strength and size. They have a higher focus on calorie burn. 

HIIT can tone muscle, but this is more done when a resistance exercise is added to the workout and weight lifting is combined with the HIIT workouts on the days HIIT is not done.

A HIIT strength and agility workout could include exercises such as:

  • Burpees
  • Jumping Rope
  • Sprints
  • Push-ups

It is important to remember to keep these exercises executed in timed intervals, at your aerobic heart rate zone, followed by a timed rest period.

So overall, CrossFit is better for strength and agility training as it provides more opportunities for using weight (body weight or dumbbells) to increase muscle strength and agility. Whereas HIIT has less focus on weight and strength training.

Endurance Training Comparison

CrossFit and HIIT are both great for endurance training. A combination of HIIT exercises and good rest will help your body build higher endurance over time. CrossFit also helps build endurance by targeting the entire body throughout the workouts.

HIIT is especially helpful in building endurance in runners over time. It does not help build strength and endurance over time for those who are heavy lifters.

It does provide successful running interval training and is more effective than consistent cardio workouts. An endurance-building HIIT workout can look something like this:

  • Run at aerobic heart rate for two minutes
  • Rest for two minutes
  • Repeat eight times

Another part of a HIIT workout could look something like this:

  • Jump rope for one minute
  • Rest for one minute
  • Repeat ten times

CrossFit helps build overall body endurance for any variety of workouts. The intensity of this training can vary from individual to individual and over time. 

Since it is a combination of circuit-based workouts, it is intense. During these workouts, the athlete wants to try to lift as heavy and as quickly as they can.

In addition to weight lifting circuits, CrossFit can also include running or cardio. A CrossFit endurance building workout can look something like this:

  • A dynamic warm-up
  • 25-minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) series of combined exercises
    • Exercise examples may include burpees, box jumps, v-ups, etc.
  • Plank series
  • Cool down

Another example of a CrossFit endurance workout could look like this:

  • A dynamic warm-up
  • Complete AMRAP for ten minutes
    • 400-meter run
    • Max set of pull-ups
    • Max set of push-ups

Although both CrossFit and HIIT are great for building endurance, if the goal is to improve overall body endurance or weight lifting endurance, CrossFit is the winner. If the focus is more on running, HIIT is the workout to choose.

Weight Loss Comparison

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is designed for burning calories. HIIT is ideal for people who are looking to lose weight and improve their body composition. On the other hand, CrossFit is focused on building muscle, and HIIT doesn’t prioritize body composition.

Weight LossWinner
Calorie BurnWinner

HIIT workouts have a considerable Afterburn effect. Not only do they burn a large number of calories during the workout, but they also burn after the workout. 

Over time, HIIT workouts also increase metabolic rate; this also leads to quicker weight loss.

CrossFit also burns calories but is not designed to maximize weight loss. CrossFit focuses more on overall strength, fitness, and health. 

Since CrossFit can include HIIT workouts and still provides intense workouts. These workouts will lead to some weight loss.

HIIT workouts are the ones to choose if the goal is to burn calories and lose weight due to their focus on calorie burn.

Physique Results Comparison

HIIT and CrossFit have different results depending on if you are a man or a woman. They provide different physical results for those who do them. 

In the tables below, there are comparisons between the results that are observed after completing HIIT and CrossFit workouts.

Results for Men and WomenHIITCrossFit
Reduced Visceral Fat
Reduced Subcutaneous Fat
Increased Muscle Mass/Size
Preserved Lean Muscle Mass
Significant Quad Muscle Gain
Muscle Definition
Significant Deltoid Muscle Gain

The results from CrossFit and HIIT are very similar on the body. However, if the results wanted are bigger, stronger muscles, CrossFit will provide that. When the gym-goer or athlete is looking to get shredded CrossFit will also be more successful.

HIIT is successful for those looking to burn many calories and lose fat. They will be able to tone muscle and build a leaner physique through these workouts.

These results will also depend on how often the workouts are performed, fitness level, lifestyle, and personal diet.

Which is Better for Beginners

Beginner ease is another essential aspect when looking at CrossFit and HIIT workouts. CrossFit can be much more intense and include more complex exercises, and has a competitive feel to it. HIIT has much simpler exercises to follow.

HIIT workout intensity relies upon each person’s specific aerobic heart rate. Thus, any person can easily begin these workouts. 

It does not matter if you are a seasoned gym-goer, a beginning, trying to gain weight, or trying to lose weight, HIIT will work well for you.

In addition, the time the exercise finishes and the rest period can be based on your fitness level. HIIT workouts are very adaptable for each specific person.

CrossFit is known for more intense workouts. Just as with HIIT, if someone is a beginner, they can change their workout goals, intensity, reps, and rest frequency. It is harder for the beginner without a foundation to jump into.

Which is Better for Women

It is well-known that some types of workouts are more effective for women, while others are more effective for men. When it comes to CrossFit and HIIT workouts both are very effective and great for women.

If the goal is to lose weight, HIIT is a perfect choice. Women can burn more fat during HIIT workouts than men. 

In addition, they can handle shorter recovery periods in their sets than men. Women see more results when they have at least a 1:1 work-to-recovery ratio or a higher work ratio such as 3:1.

When the goal is to burn fat and build muscle, CrossFit is the workout to do. This workout style is fitting for women working to look lean and toned. It allows for a lot of fat loss while building muscle that is not bulky looking.

Verdict: Which is Better Overall

CrossFit and HIIT are both very effective, time-considerate workouts. Both will improve your strength, agility, and endurance. However, CrossFit covers more areas and is a better fitness overall.

Below is a short, easy-to-follow comparison table of multiple differences between the two workouts. It shows specific aspects an athlete might look for when they exercise at the gym.

CrossFit HIIT
Strength and Agility TrainingWinner
Endurance TrainingWinner
Burning Calories (Specifically for Weight Loss)Winner
Easier for BeginnersWinner

Who is HIIT for?

HIIT is suitable for those who may be overweight or out of shape and seasoned gym-goers. It provides a great afterburn and increases your metabolic rate, and is normally done 2 to 3 times a week.

If the gym-goer is looking to burn calories, reduce fat, and lose weight, and for an easy-to-follow and easy-to-begin workout, HIIT is the one to choose.

Who is CrossFit for?

CrossFit is a goal-oriented program focusing on strength, fitness, and overall health. It is for people who are looking for muscle growth and a lot of muscle definition.

On average, CrossFit is done 3 to 5 times a week. It is harder than HIIT, but it is very effective for both men and women and has more overall results.