Why One Trainer Says 20-Minute HIIT Sessions Can Be Even More Effective Than Longer Classes

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The beauty of HIIT workouts is that they're meant to be quick. Yes, they're also meant to push you to the brink of exhaustion, but at least you know that you'll be on and off the mat in only a matter of minutes. And while you can pick and choose what a short HIIT session means to you (the Internet's got plenty of options ranging from five minutes to over an hour), Obé Fitness trainer Mary Wolff says in many cases, shorter is actually better. 

"People are able to go a little bit harder for that 20 minutes than they would for 28 minutes, and that's what HIIT is all about," says Wolf. "And mentally, I think they're able to push themselves harder because they know they're going to be doing it for a shorter period of time."

With high-intensity interval training, those pushes are really what it's all about. "You want those short bursts of energy because without them, it just turns into a cardio class," says Wolf. "And the big difference between [steady-state] cardio and HIIT is that cardio has a sustained heart rate without a ton of ups and downs, whereas in a HIIT class you should be going really, really hard for a short period of time and then really letting your heart rate come down. That 20-minute workout allows people to do that more efficiently."

Considering there is such a thing as too much HIIT (research has shown that any more than 90 minutes of this type of training per week can start to have negative effects), squeezing in a few quickie sessions is a great way to integrate these types of workouts into your regular routine. After all, "when it comes to HIIT, it's the intensity—not the workout duration—that has the most effect," says Wolf.

Experts In This Article
  • Mary Wolff, Mary Wolff is a body-sculpting fitness expert who specializes in hiit, dance hiit, pilates, bounce workouts.

Ready to see just how challenging a 20-minute HIIT session can be? Follow along with one of the videos below.

1. 20-minute HIIT boxing

Get ready to jab, cross, and duck with this boxing-inspired HIIT workout. You'll move as if you were in the ring, and put both your speed and strength to the test as you throw your punches.

2. 20-minute full-body Barry's HIIT workout

Barry's is notorious for its sweaty, high-impact classes, and you can get a taste of some of its most challenging moves with this 20-minute HIIT session. You'll work your full body with moves like push-ups and banded lunges, so grab a resistance band and get to work.

3. 17-minute core and lower body HIIT workout

This quickie HIIT series is just shy of 20 minutes, but still manages to leave your lower body quaking. It alternates between high- and low-impact moves so you get a little taste of both, and makes the most of every second by using "smart, compound exercises."

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