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Fitness Education: Relationship Between EPOC and HIIT

The Relationship between HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and EPOC (Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption)

What is HIIT?

HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training that involves periods of intense work followed by periods of rest. They are intense cardio/strength workouts where you are expected to go as hard as you can during every working segment. The resting period is just as important as the working period in a HIIT workout because it provides you with the necessary recovery to maintain your intensity. Because they are comprised of short working segments, HIIT workouts are great for getting an intense workout in in a short period of time. You can complete a full HIIT workout in 20 minutes that will be just as if not more intense than an hour at the gym. They can also be done without any equipment and are easy to work into your day no matter where you are.

What is EPOC?

EPOC stands for Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption which is the increase in oxygen uptake your body experiences after exercise. As your body continues to consume oxygen at an elevated rate, your body continues to burn calories, even after you exercise. Depending on the intensity and the length of the exercise, your post-exercise oxygen consumption period can last longer. Workout intensity and duration both affect EPOC, but current research shows intensity accounts for a larger percentage of positive change than duration does. What this means is that the more intense your workout is, the greater your EPOC is and the more calories you will continue to burn after you’re done exercising.

How Does Exercise Affect EPOC?

Steady state exercise is marked by a lower intensity but longer duration, it is exercise performed at a low enough intensity that you can maintain it for an extended period of time.  When compared with HIIT training, current trending research shows that HIIT results in a greater EPOC than steady state exercise. It was discovered that a short 4 minute HIIT workout can burn more calories, and provide a more intense and efficient workout than a 20 minute steady state run. HIIT also involves an element of strength training as well, which is known to burn more calories than steady state cardio, further increasing the benefits of HIIT and making it a more efficient option than lengthy steady exercise.

How Should You Implement HIIT Into Your Training Program?

Try swapping HIIT sessions into your regular workout routine once or twice a week to start. Start by doing 20 seconds of intense work (like squats, push-ups, burpees, or squat jumps) and taking 40 seconds of rest. Then repeat this cycle with one or two more additional exercises, and repeat the whole process again. Refer to the sample below for some exercise ideas.  As you get more comfortable with this kind of work, increase the length of the working period. A good rule of thumb when designing a HIIT workout is to work in a 1:1,1:2, or 1:3 work to rest ratio.  What that means is if you work for 30 seconds, you rest for 30 seconds, 60 seconds, or 90 seconds. Try to plan ahead what your work to rest ratio is going to be and stick with it throughout your entire workout. Start with longer periods of rest and gradually work down to that 1:1 ratio.

Sample Workouts:

Workout 1 Workout 2 Workout 3 Workout 4 (Tabata)
Repeat 3 times Repeat 3 times Repeat 3-4 times Repeat 2 times
20 seconds of Squat jumps 30 seconds Push ups 30 second Plank 20 seconds High Knees
40 seconds rest 60 seconds rest 30 seconds rest 10 seconds rest
20 seconds of Tricep dips 30 seconds Bicycle crunches 30 seconds of Burpees 20 seconds Push ups
40 seconds rest 60 seconds rest 30 seconds rest 10 seconds rest
20 seconds of Mountain climbers 30 seconds Air squats 30 seconds of Alternating forward lunges 20 seconds of Squats
40 seconds rest 60 seconds rest 30 seconds rest 10 seconds rest
20 seconds of Crunches
10 seconds rest


HIIT training is an intense and beneficial style of exercise that can be easily incorporated into any workout routine. HIIT training is an efficient way to burn more calories than a steady state workout that would take twice as long, it’s great for improving strength, and it’s fun and engaging. Do not attempt to start a HIIT program if you have uncontrolled hypertension, COPD, recent heart attack, heart disease, unmanageable diabetes, or if you have not been exercising with some consistency within the last 3 months. Speak with your doctor and a certified fitness professional if HIIT is new to you or are unsure before attempting.

If you have questions about HIIT and EPOC, feel free to contact Home Base’s Health and Wellness Team.

By Ali Barahona BS