It seems that HIIT has taken the world by storm- but can it really help you to build muscle, burn fat, and develop a ripped body? This is exactly the question I’ll be answering today.
HIIT is an extremely versatile training method that can help people to build muscle, lose fat, and get ripped. This has been shown repeatedly in numerous scientific experiments and case studies. Additionally, adding weights to a HIIT workout can further increase the effectiveness of a HIIT program.
This post reveals the scientific research and case studies, as well as my own experience, to show why and how HIIT can be used to build a lean and toned body.
Are you looking to reveal your six-pack?
Then keep reading!
- Are HIIT Workouts Good To Build Muscle?
- Don't Forget That Protein Is Essential For Muscle Growth!
- Is HIIT With Weights Good For Building Muscle?
- Are HIIT Workouts Good For Fat Loss?
- Is HIIT With Weights Good For Losing Fat?
- Why Is Weighted HIIT So Effective For Fat Loss?
- How Much Fat Can You Lose With HIIT?
- Can HIIT Get You Ripped?
- Is HIIT Better For Building Muscle Or Burning Fat?
- Should You Do HIIT To Build Muscle?
- Will HIIT Ruin Muscle Gains?
Are HIIT Workouts Good To Build Muscle?
When performed correctly, HIIT workouts are an effective way for beginners to build muscle. The muscle-gaining benefits of HIIT have been shown in scientific studies which have repeatedly demonstrated that 3-6 weeks of high-intensity training are sufficient to increase muscle size and strength.
For example- this 2018 study split 44 overweight men and women beginners into two groups:
- Group 1 did a 3 week lower-body HIIT program.
- Group 2 did 3 weeks of nothing (control).
The scientists then used ultrasound to determine that group 1 (who did HIIT) saw a significant increase in quadriceps (leg muscle) size.
“HIIT can be an effective way to affect muscle size in overweight people”Blue et Al. 2018
Similar results were also shown in this 2021 study which demonstrated that 6 weeks of HIIT workouts increased muscle size and strength in a group of 35 male beginners. Furthermore, this study showed that HIIT seemed just as effective as traditional weight training in benefiting muscle gains.
What’s responsible for the positive effects of HIIT on muscle growth?
Well, any kind of physical activity can promote muscular growth in a beginner.
But this 2017 study has also indicated that increased testosterone (a natural hormone that promotes muscle synthesis) is also a contributor to the muscle-building benefits of HIIT in men.
Women also produce testosterone naturally, just not in large amounts like in men.
Don’t Forget That Protein Is Essential For Muscle Growth!
Whilst HIIT can promote muscle gains, you should also be aware that HIIT alone won’t build muscle.
You also need to eat the right amount of protein.
“Not eating enough protein is asking for your muscle to grow without giving it fuel”Callahan et Al. 2021
I’ve always abided by 1.2g of protein per pound of body weight per day, and this has helped me to gain almost 40lbs of lean muscle in 2 years.
Now, eating so much protein is both difficult and expensive for a beginner.
That’s where protein powders can help…a lot.
I use and recommend MyProtein Impact Whey Each serving costs 30 cents and contains 21g of pure whey protein at just 100 calories.
This makes it awesome for a cheap, quick, and lean dose of protein to supplement your daily intake.
Is HIIT With Weights Good For Building Muscle?
Generally speaking, doing HIIT with weights is good for increasing the muscle-building benefits of a HIIT workout. Popular equipment to use in a weighted HIIT workout includes dumbbells and kettlebells. But any type of resistance training equipment such as barbells and bands can also be beneficial.
Ever heard of the phrase “pour gasoline onto the fire”?
This is exactly what adding weights can do for a HIIT workout- it supercharges muscle growth (as long as you’re also eating enough protein as per the above recommendations).
Indeed, weighted HIIT forms the foundation for many Crossfit workouts.
The benefits of doing weighted HIIT for muscle growth have been shown in a 2017 study.
Here, the authors split 48 beginners (men and women) into two groups:
- Group 1 performed 6 weeks of HIIT-style weight training.
- Group 2 performed 6 weeks of traditional weight training at a moderate intensity.
They found that Group 1 and Group 2 built just as much muscle as each other.
But do you know what’s even more impressive?
Individuals in Group 1 (HIIT weight training) saw a stronger shoulder press, bench press, and leg press compared to Group 2 (moderate intensity weight training)!
If you’re interested in doing HIIT with weights at home, dumbbells are my preferred option. You may also be interested in my other post which explains what dumbbell weight you need for HIIT.
Are HIIT Workouts Good For Fat Loss?
HIIT workouts are generally good for fat loss. HIIT exercises require an individual to do short bouts of intense movements that challenge the whole body to rapidly increase heart rate. This makes it great for quickly burning calories. However, a calorie-deficit diet is also required to lose fat.
Think of HIIT as a supercharged form of cardio.
Or put it this way:
If a powerlifter and a marathon runner created an offspring, that baby would look like weighted HIIT.
The mechanisms for HIIT-induced fat loss have been revealed in this 2011 study.
Here, the scientists concluded that HIIT drives fat loss by:
- Increasing muscular fat oxidation. This describes how effectively your muscles draw calories from body fat to be burnt for energy.
- Improving glucose tolerance. This describes how efficiently your body delivers energy from the food you eat to the muscles to be burnt off.
Simply put, HIIT is excellent at burning fat.
And performing HIIT with weights will lead to even better fat loss results.
My preferred method for weighted HIIT is with dumbbells. They are cheap and convenient to use.
If this is something you’re interested in learning about then you can check out my other article to learn how to do dumbbell HIIT workouts.
Is HIIT With Weights Good For Losing Fat?
Performing HIIT with weights is a good way to increase the fat loss benefits of a regular HIIT workout. This can be done with equipment such as dumbbells and kettlebells. But barbells, resistance bands, and weight machines can also be used with great effect.
I prefer to use dumbbells since they are relatively cheap, don’t require much space, and are great fun to use.
I used the Bowflex 552 adjustable dumbbells for home HIIT weight workouts. They helped me to lose 15lbs in 3 months after my bulking phase.
But don’t just take my word for it.
Han lost 45lbs in 5 months by following John Fawkes dumbbell program.
Furthermore, this 2016 study showed that just 6 weeks of dumbbell training was enough for 89 study participants to see a significantly lower waist circumference, waist-hip ratio, and body fat %.
Weight training and HIIT are both excellent fat burners.
And when you put the two together, you create a fat-blitzing weighted HIIT hybrid workout that burns fat as well as build muscle!
If you’re interested, you can check out my other article for 11 of my favorite dumbbell Tabata (HIIT) exercises to do at home!
Why Is Weighted HIIT So Effective For Fat Loss?
Performing HIIT with weights is an excellent way to lose fat because it promotes the EPOC effect. EPOC stands for excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, also known as the “Afterburn Effect”. This phenomenon increases post-workout resting energy expenditure which can help an individual to burn fat.
The EPOC effect is often associated with weight training.
But this 2020 scientific review suggests that EPOC is particularly strong in men and women after intense interval training (i.e. HIIT).
Most people can only dream about burning passive calories.
But through weighted HIIT workouts, you can turn this dream into a reality!
For more information on how resistance training can help you to burn belly fat, you can go to my other article which explains why and how dumbbells can help you to lose weight
How Much Fat Can You Lose With HIIT?
The average person can lose 3-5 pounds of fat per month by doing HIIT workouts. But the exact rate of fat loss is influenced by how effectively someone can maintain a calorie deficit. Those who can increase their calorie deficit, by doing weighted HIIT for example, will burn fat faster.
Therefore how much fat you can lose from HIIT is entirely dependent on how well you can maintain a caloric deficit.
After all, fat can only be lost if you’re not replacing those lost calories with that cheeseburger right?
For best fat loss results, I recommend going on a 5-10% caloric deficit.
In my bodybuilding cutting experience, this is both effective and sustainable in the long term (i.e. it doesn’t give you unbearable hunger pangs).
This approach helped me to lose around 5lbs per month.
Just remember to keep your protein levels high to avoid excessive muscle loss on a cut (as explained in the previous section “protein is essential for muscle growth”).
The MyProtein Impact Whey (mentioned above) contains lots of protein for very few calories.
Can HIIT Get You Ripped?
HIIT is an effective training method to get ripped. A “ripped” physique requires a combination of low body fat percentage and pronounced muscle size to increase lean muscle definition. Since HIIT workouts are great for burning fat and building muscle, it’s also an effective way to get ripped.
Just remember to keep your protein intake high and calorie intake low (you know this by now right?).
Now for the evidence that HIIT can get you ripped:
As mentioned previously, I used dumbbell HIIT workouts to lose 15lbs of fat after my bulking phase. This transformed my bulky-looking physique into a lean and ripped physique, revealing a six-pack.
Furthermore, it’s not uncommon for bodybuilders to use weighted HIIT to cut and shred after a bulking phase either
What about girls? Can they get ripped with HIIT?
Take a look at Zuzka Light’s lean physique. Her HIIT workouts are heavily focused on using dumbbells and kettlebells.
If you’re interested in getting some cheap but effective weights for HIIT at home, then may also be interested in my other post for 9 of my recommended dumbbells for HIIT workouts.
Is HIIT Better For Building Muscle Or Burning Fat?
Whilst HIIT can burn fat as well as build muscle, it is generally considered to be more effective for fat loss results. Those who wish to maximize muscle gains should follow a traditional heavy resistance training program instead of HIIT.
To the best of my knowledge, there haven’t been any studies that conclusively prove whether HIIT is better for fat loss or building muscle.
But the evidence mentioned throughout this article indicates that HIIT should be performed to burn fat as a primary goal, and building muscle should be a secondary effect.
Furthermore, you’ll be hard-press to find any weight lifter who thinks HIIT can compare with heavy resistance training for maximum muscle gains.
That’s not to say HIIT is ineffective for building muscle, because beginners can definitely build muscle with HIIT.
It’s just not AS effective as heavy weight training.
Should You Do HIIT To Build Muscle?
Generally speaking, beginners can do HIIT to build muscle. However, HIIT is not the best type of training for maximizing muscle gains. To build the most amount of muscle, an individual should instead perform traditional resistance training using weights that are 60-90% of maximum capacity.
The effectiveness of HIIT versus weight training for building muscle has been confirmed by scientists in this 2018 study. They concluded that:
- HIIT is more effective for burning fat and building some muscle along the way.
- Heavy weight training is more suitable for maximizing muscle size and strength.
Therefore which method you use to build muscle should ultimately be determined by your training goals.
If your priorities lie in quickly getting ripped, then go for weighted HIIT workouts.
But if your goal is to get jacked as quickly as possible, then stick with lifting heavy weights.
So the question for you becomes “how much muscle do you want to build?”.
Your decision should also be influenced by your training level.
Beginners will likely find that HIIT (especially weighted HIIT) can build them a good amount of muscle, just like any type of physical exercise will.
On the other hand, intermediates and bodybuilders will most likely have to stick to conventional heavy weight training to keep their muscle gains coming.
You can go to my other article to learn about the benefits of doing HIIT with weight.
Will HIIT Ruin Muscle Gains?
Doing HIIT workouts in moderation will not ruin muscle gains. Generally speaking, a person should limit themselves to 3 HIIT workouts per week, and even less if it is being performed in conjunction with strength training. Doing HIIT every day could lead to overtraining and is not recommended.
This recommendation has been shown in a 2021 study.
Here, the authors propose that doing 3 days of HIIT per week seems to be the sweet spot for most people.
They also showed that doing HIIT every day of the week led to a loss in muscular mitochondria.
Mitochondria are the cellular components in your muscles that are responsible for producing the energy required for muscle contraction.
So a loss in mitochondria will most likely also lead to a loss in muscular strength and size (a common symptom of overtraining).
A good general rule of thumb to follow is to not do more than 5 intense workouts per week (whether that be HIIT or strength training).
I’ve shared scientific evidence and case studies that HIIT can effectively build muscle, burn fat, and get you ripped.
When performed in moderation (i.e. not every day!), HIIT is an extremely versatile training method that can help you achieve most training goals.
And if you want to supercharge your results, then I highly recommend adding weights to your HIIT workouts for maximum effect.
If you’re trying to reveal that six-pack then you should also remember that training is just half the battle.
Eating enough protein and staying in a mild calorie deficit is equally vital for building a lean, toned, and defined physique,
Will you be trying HIIT workouts to build muscle and burn fat?
Feel free to send me a message if you have any questions! You can find my details on the “contact us” page.
You may also be interested in the downloadable Kalibre Blueprint PDF which details exactly how I gained 40lbs of lean muscle (it’s 100% free!). It details the exact exercises and nutrition (with printable worksheets) I used to go from skinny to ripped!
Thanks for reading guys!
(Biochemistry BSc, Biomedical Sciences MSc, Ex-Skinny Guy)