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What is High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)?

Playing basketball or any other sport at the highest levels requires an elevated level of athleticism that can only be achieved through dedicated training. The demands placed on athletes in-game are intense, and so should your training. One method of training that has gained much popularity for its quick gains in muscle strength, fat burning, and stamina building capabilities. Because elite basketball training involves a multi-faceted approach to improving players Basketball IQ, we’d be remised with we didn’t answer a few questions, including what is high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and can HIIT make me a better player?

High-Intensity Interval Training: Definition

HIIT, as the name entails, is a grouping of different cardio workouts done as fast and as hard as you can. Intense cardio exercises are performed for short periods, often only lasting as much as 60-90 seconds per individual workout. When grouped in a series of 4-10 intense, anaerobic exercises, these form a circuit. The goal is to complete a circuit as quickly as possible with minimal rest time in between the individual workouts or lower intensity exercises.

One reason HIIT is so popular with athletes s that high-intensity interval training holds the possibility to improve body composition and increase overall fitness, all while shorting training time. In other words: Bigger Gains in Less Time. Sounds awesome right? While it’s true that HIIT will drastically decrease your workout time, the difficulty level is, well, intense. The overall goal is to “hit” a point of complete exhaustion. Typically, athletes attempt to get to 80% of their maximum heart rate for one to ten minutes.


High-Intensity Interval Training: Benefits

HIIT shares all the same benefits of regular physical activity, including reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, and depression, as well as, weight control and bone strength.

The key benefits of HIIT, specifically for basketball players, are relatively quick improvements in muscle strength and aerobic fitness. Specific HIIT workouts, when inserted into your circuit by your trainer, can help supplement speed, balance, and agility as well.

Maximum oxygen intake, known as VO2 max, has also been shown to improve with high-intensity interval training. Because basketball requires significant cardiovascular fitness, HIIT’s ability to enhance oxygen uptake can create a competitive advantage for players in the form of more endurance.

Moreover, High-intensity interval training can be done with minimal exercise equipment, such as elastic bands and jump ropes. HIIT can even be done without any equipment at all, allowing athletes to train anywhere at any time. Recent research has also shown HIIT to be effective as a promising intervention for disease prevention.

HIIT has also been shown to help with metabolic effects by lowering insulin resistance and decreasing fasting blood glucose levels when compared to other types of athletic training.

Lastly, HIIT has the potential to improve cognitive performance in young children, promising to improve performance in school.


HIIT Workouts for Basketball

Every athlete responds to strength and cardio training differently, and so when first beginning high-intensity interval training, there’s a bit of trial and error involved. Just as with any training program, it’s always a good idea to obtain the assistance of a professional trainer that can work with you to create a customized HIIT program that works best for you. While you explore a HIIT strategy that works best for you, here are a few must-do HIIT workouts for basketball players that you can incorporate into your circuits.

Suicide Run Drill

Anyone who has been on any basketball team is likely very well acquainted with suicide runs. On the basketball court, you start on one baseline, begin by running full speed to the first foul line, bend down and touch it, and then sprint back to beginning baseline. Then immediately sprint to the half-court line, then the far foul line and then the far baseline, and finally back to the starting baseline. Completing this consists of one set, and players should start with trying to accomplish as many sets as possible within a 5- or 10-minute window. Cooldown consists of two minutes of jogging or walking.

Run-Walk Drill (Straight and Curves Drill)

Athletes that compete in track-and-field use the run-walk drills to shorten run workouts while still building endurance and speed. The run-walk drill is easy to do and can be done on or off a standard 400m track. Begin by sprinting for 100m at 80% to 90% of maximum speed. After covering 100m sprinting, slow down to a walk for another 100m. This run and then walk alternation should be done for no more than two miles. If you have access to a track in your community, simply run the straight parts and walk the curves.

Jumping Lunges

Want to add explosive power to your vertical, jumping lunges are a must have in your HIIT circuits. This exercise is a mix of jumping jacks and lunges, where you begin standing with your feet shoulder-width apart. Jump your right leg forward and your left leg back, landing in a lunge position. Jump into the air and switch leg positions so that you land with your left forward and our right leg back into a lunge position. Continue jumping up and switching legs for 45-60 seconds.


Burpees are a much-dreaded exercise from beginners to fitness enthusiasts alike, but these little puppies do wonders for not only burning calories but engaging the entire slew of core muscles adding to overall agility, stability, and physical endurance. To do a burpee start standing shoulder-width apart, then jump down to a push-up position. Complete a push-up and quickly hop your feet underneath you and explode up to a jumping jack. Do as many as you can for 45-60 seconds.


Speaking of increasing core strength, planks are the new favorite for core improvements. There are many variations of the plank, but the easiest yet still productive method is the forearm plank. Get into a push-up position but instead of your hands, place your forearms on the ground. Tighten your ab muscles, keep your back straight, and keep your bottom down. Your entire body, from the spine to legs, should be kept as flat as possible. Remember to breathe during planks! Hold this position for 60 seconds.

Mountain Climbers

Mountain climbers are right up there with burpees on the “most hated, yet most effective” list of HIIT workouts. To perform the mountain climber exercise, start in a traditional plank or push-up position, with your shoulders over your hands and weight distributed mainly on your toes. Tighten your core and bring your left knee off the ground and forward to your chest. Then switch feet and bring your right foot to your chest while your left goes back to the starting position. Repeat these movements; it will feel like you are running or climbing in place. Again, start with 45 seconds tie and see how many reps you can complete.

Jump Rope

Jumping rope isn’t just a kid’s playground activity. In fact, jumping rope is right up there with jumping lunges when it comes to calories burnt per minute. Jumping rope is also a great HIIT exercise for basketball players wanting to improve their footwork. If you are old enough to read, you should probably know how to jump rope, so we’ll skip the explanation. Add 30-60 seconds of jumping rope into your circuit.


Improve Your Basketball Game with Elite Basketball Training in Knoxville, TN

High-intensity interval training is an excellent idea for basketball players, whether in season or off. These workouts and other HIIT exercises will improve your ability to explode to the basket, increase your foot speed and agility needed to beat a defender off the dribble, and drastically increase your stamina, ensuring you can run hard and faster than your opponent. Also, another thing; make sure to start slowly with any new exercise and concentrate on maintaining proper form versus performing more repetitions. Likely, you won’t be able to last a full minute on your first circuit, so don’t get frustrated. Continuous and regular HIIT workouts will become easier, and you’ll find that you can increase your number of reps as you gain strength and stamina.

Are you interested in improving your basketball specific skills? Contact us online to schedule basketball training and keep checking back for the latest information on our basketball camps and clinics.