Joe Wicks’s 15-Minute HIIT Workout, Plus Wicks On Why HIIT Is For Everyone

Joe Wicks performing the high knees exercise
(Image credit: Courtesy Microsoft)

This article was first published in 2016

The popularity of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) shows no sign of abating, with enthusiastic gym-goers all around the country doing everything they can to ramp up their heart rate and ensure their workout lasts no longer than 30 minutes. Coach spoke to Joe Wicks about why HIIT is so popular and effective. We also have a free four-week Joe Wicks fat-loss workout plan to follow.

Why do you rate HIIT?

I’m a massive fan of HIIT. The aim is always to really rinse it and get my heart rate as high as possible, because you get that awesome after-burn effect if you elevate it during your workout. I just do 25-minute HIIT workouts. It can be on a treadmill or on a stationary bike. For me, short intervals are personally better than spending an hour doing steady state cardio and low intensity stuff.

What’s your approach to HIIT training?

I do it four to five days a week, and my favourite interval is 20 seconds on, 40 seconds off. I’m going at 100%. If I start doing 30, 40, 50 seconds on I’m not really running much faster. I’ve started doing this thing on the treadmill where you leave it turned off: a deadmill sprint. You push your hands and push the belt with your legs. It’s the hardest 20 seconds of your life. I do 20 seconds on, 40 seconds’ rest, reduce my heart rate, then attack again. I do it 15-20 times. It’s the hardest possible HIIT.

Is interval training a wise choice for fitness newbies?

People often question that and ask: “How can you make someone who’s overweight or not fit do HIIT training?” But my answer is that it’s always relative to your fitness. So although I might be sprinting, someone who’s slightly overweight might just be doing a power walk or a slow job on an incline. It’s just about elevating that heart rate. You might not be sprinting but you can still be working really hard. From a fat-burning perspective you’re going to get the same result and your fitness is going to go through the roof.

Is the after-burn effect especially good with HIIT training?

They say the more intense the workout, the more oxygen that you build up during that workout. The more intense, the greater the after-burn effect, because your body is saying, “I’m so knackered I need to repay this”. During that process you’re burning more calories.

So for a 25-minute workout, you’ll get a few hours of after-burn?

There’s different numbers flying around. It’s up to 12 hours, up to 14 hours, up to 16 hours… The fact is that if you really work your bollocks off and you’re absolutely knackered, your body will be recovering and during that process it’s burning more calories, so it’s a longer effect.

Do you have any good moves to raise heart rate for beginners?

My three favourite cardio exercises if you’re at home and an absolute beginner are: literally running on the spot, high knees – it’s basically like sprinting – mountain climbers, and something like squat jumps. That will get your heart rate up. Burpees can be a bit much if you’re a real beginner. Up and down, they can make you feel quite sick.

How do you keep motivated?

People often get stuck in their ways and repeat the same thing. If you really want to see results you’ve got to progress. Whether that’s running an extra one degree on incline or running a little bit faster each week, just try and constantly progress and challenge yourself with new stuff. Get on a rower. Hit a punchbag. Do different things. It’s going to make your body respond and adapt.

Is it good to have a heart rate tracker?

With the Microsoft Band you know it’s right there on your wrist. It’s giving a really accurate reading. It’s a way of measuring my progress and tracking my fitness. I know if I’ve done a workout and hit 185-190 beats per minute on the sprint, then the next day I’m only hitting 170, it’s just because I’m being lazy and not working hard enough. It motivates me. It’s great to think that if you did your first set of burpees and you only hit 170bpm, and next time you think “I’m going to hit 180”. It’s just another marker and another goal to set. I prefer that over just counting reps. To me it’s more exciting to beat your heart rate, it’s a real challenge to hit that next level.

15-Minute Workout

Joe Wicks performing the mountain climber exercise

(Image credit: Courtesy Microsoft)

Three rounds of the following are certain to get your heart rate going like the clappers.

1 Running on the spot

Time 30sec Rest 30sec

Coach says: No need to explain this one. Keep your knees high and make sure you don’t accidentally speed into a wall.

2 Squat jump

Time 30sec Rest 30sec

Coach says: When simply squatting isn’t enough to get the heart going, leap into to the air on the way up.

3 Explosive press-up

Time 30sec Rest 30sec

Coach says: Press-ups with the fun addition of propelling yourself into the air every time you push yourself up.

4 Mountain climber

Time 30sec Rest 30sec

Coach says: From a press-up position, bring one knee up to your chest, then put it back and repeat with the other leg. At pace.

5 Sit-ups

Time 30sec Rest 30sec

Coach says: Another classic that needs no explanation. Keep your core braced at all times for some extra burn.

You can build this workout yourself with the Microsoft Band 2’s custom workout feature, and then let the Band notify you when each interval is over.

Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.