Is HIIT Strength Training?

No, HIIT is not strength training. However this is a normal thing to think in a fitness industry that will falsely mark workouts in order to sell products. If you’re looking to develop your understanding of what HIIT actually is and why it differs from strength training, you will find this article valuable.

5 min read
Sean Klein
Written by
Sean Klein
Published on
Last updated
Lower Body

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In This Resource
  • The Role of Marketing for The Confusion
  • The Role of CrossFit for the Confusion
  • Can HIIT increase Strength
  • Understanding Types of HIIT
  • Mixed Model HIIT
  • Mono-Structural HIIT
  • What Does a HIIT Session Look Like?
  • Mixed Model
  • Mono-Structural
  • What Does a Strength Training Session Look Like?
  • Reach Out

No, HIIT is not strength training. HIIT is an acronym for High Intensity Interval Training, it is a type of cardiovascular training aimed at making adaptations towards the cardiovascular system and if done in its true form will likely have no impact on the ability of the muscles to produce force (strength). HIIT involves period of high intensity work periods with rests in between. It usually involves very high output/intensity for periods of between 8-15 minutes although this can differ.

Somewhere along the wave of HIIT’s popularity the type of training lost any sense of what it really is. In this article I hope to explain what HIIT is, giving you a better understanding of the types of training you might want to be doing to build a healthier version of yourself.

The Role of Marketing for The Confusion

HIIT is hard to pin down, as so many different people and coaches want to make you’re doing HIIT. As with many things in the fitness industry, types and styles of exercises come in waves of popularity and HIIT has certainly be doing that over the past ten years. With this wave of popularity we see a lot of businesses and coaches using the word HIIT in scenarios where it has absolutely not reason to be there, either through pure lack of education on training or to help sell their products.

This is likely the reason that your unsure if HIIT is strength training, because you’ve been told that both are good for your health (which is true) and that you can do both at the same time (which is false). If we take a look at the Nike Training App, an example of the workout might be “HIIT for your Glutes”, this literally makes no sense, how can a training style which aims to target the cardiovascular system simultaneous grow your glutes. It is no wander the general public and even a lot of coaches are confused about how to write HIIT sessions.

The Role of CrossFit for the Confusion

CrossFit really worked to popularise high intensity interval training, which is great because it makes thousands of people world wide healthier. However through doing HIIT with so many different exercises, it can be confusing which Crossfit session is a HIIT session and which isnt. Crossfit is a training style that really depends on which Crossfit gym you go to, so it can be hard to pin down what Crossfit really is. The vast majority of Crossfit gyms do a great deal of both HIIT and strength training, but this doesn’t mean they do them at the same time and it certainly doens’t mean that HIIT is strength training.

Can HIIT increase Strength

However there are some blurred lines when it comes to Crossfit style of training. Imagine the WOD involves running, rowing and strict pull ups all performed at a high intensity. Well the pull ups will likely increase the strength of a lot of people performing them, whereas the running and the rowing will be more traditional style HIIT exercises. So in this context we can imagine that HIIT will increase the strength of the individual doing the workout. Although I do not think we could call this a strength training session, it is a HIIT session that may have some secondary effects on the strength.

HIIT has also be shown STUDY to increase the strength of some individuals who perform purely cardiovascular exercises like rowing and running. This is an interesting result, but mainly shows how detrained these individuals were to get increases in strength from such low resistance exercises.

Understanding Types of HIIT

Mixed Model HIIT

Crossfit traditionally uses mixed model HIIT, this means that it uses a mixture of exercises to create a HIIT workout. This is likely the cause of its popularity, the different movements make it interesting in fun whilst doing something very challenging. This is a training style which requires some good knowledge of training to write good sessions, which is why Crossfit can have such a bad reputation.

Mono-Structural HIIT

Mono-structural HIIT is much simpler and involves performing high intensity bouts on one exercise like running, rowing, indoor bike, outdoor bike etc. This makes programming this style of HIIT much easier, one exercise, performed for multiple bouts at a high intensity. This is so simple yet so effective at improving VO2 max. It can also be monotonous and extremely mentally challenging.

What Does a HIIT Session Look Like?

Mixed Model

10 Rounds of:

20 Calories Assault Bike

10 Burpees


  • 5 x 1000m Row
  • Rest 3 minutes between bouts

    What Does a Strength Training Session Look Like?

    A strength training looks absolutely nothing like a HIIT workout.

    A) Deadlifts

    5 x 3 @85% of 1RM

    B) Bench Press

    5 x 2 @90% of 1RM

    C1) Pull Up

    5 x AMRAP

    C2) Press Up

    5 x AMRAP

    C3) Hollow Hold

    5 x 30”

    This is an example of a full body strength training session that aims to both increase force production of the muscle and muscle size later on in the session through the accessory work. In no world will this have adaptations on the cardiovascular system and could be called a HIIT session.

    Reach Out

    If you have any questions regarding training just reach out at We currently do not have HIIT workouts in our resistance training app, nor do we intend to lie to you and say that these our HIIT workouts. Remember, a mixture of stress on your muscles through resistance training and cardiovascular system through both low intensity and high intensity training can have a huge benefit on both physical and mental health, we recommend you perform both on a consistent basis.

    If you enjoyed this resource you can find more below or try Programme, a fitness app that plans every workout for you – based on your progress, equipment and lifestyle.

    This resource was written by Sean Klein. Sean Richard Klein has thousands of hours of coaching experience and a BSc in Sports Science with Management from Loughborough University. He owns a gym in Bayonne France, CrossFit Essor, which runs group classes and a Personal training studio.

    Sean Klein


    Programme is a workout app that plans every workout for you

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