An Orthopedic Specialist’s Guide to HIIT Safety

January 10, 2019

Posted By : njbj

More people are using high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to get fit through short spurts of exercise. But this popular practice comes with the risk of injury.

In the past few years, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) programs have been gaining in popularity. In fact, when the American College of Sports Medicine asked fitness pros to rank 2018 fitness trends, HIIT came out on the top of the list. It’s not hard to understand the appeal: HIIT promises to burn more calories and rev up your metabolism better than a slower, longer workout. Plus, HIIT doesn’t require an extended time commitment.

As with any exercise routine, HIIT poses the risk of injury if you aren’t adequately prepared to begin the program or don’t follow a few basic safety rules. Meniscus tears in the knees, achilles tendonitis in the ankles, and shoulder injuries are especially common among HIIT devotees.

So before you jump into a HIIT program, here’s some advice from orthopedic specialists Dr. Leon Popovitz and Dr. Michael Mizhiritsky on how to prevent common injuries.


Starting HIIT without previous exercise experience is not a good idea. Many HIIT-related injuries are sustained by beginners who have not properly prepared for the workout. If you want to try HIIT, get started with low-intensity aerobic workouts. A good rule of thumb to gauge whether you can begin HIIT is your ability to complete a 30-minute run at a moderate pace.

You should also boost your muscle strength and flexibility before starting HIIT. Try strengthening your legs and ankles by using resistance bands. Exercises like calf and side-leg raises, squats, and donkey kicks are an effective way to build up your hip muscles as well.


Once you’ve determined you’re in good shape to start a HIIT program, you must prepare your muscles for the intense workout before each session. While it may be tempting to go from sitting at a desk all day to jumping into the program, be sure to stretch your muscles prior to your HIIT workout. If you don’t, you’ll find that instead of feeling invigorated, you’ll be slowed down by aches and pains after your session.

It’s important to stretch after you complete the program, too. Yoga exercises to stretch your muscles and increase flexibility are good for after-workout cool-downs.


It’s understandable to want to push your limits during a HIIT workout. However, doing too many repetitions when you’re tired only puts you at risk for injury, especially if you put too much pressure on vulnerable joints like the knees.

To gain the maximum benefits of HIIT, each exercise must be done with the proper form. If you’re fatigued, you may deviate from that form, which again ups your risk for injury. Another mistake HIIT practitioners make is doing an exercise that is too strenuous or difficult for their fitness level. In that instance, try modifying the exercise to a comfortable level. Knowing when to stop can help prevent serious injuries like meniscus tears, or, if you lift weights, SLAP tears in the cartilage that surrounds the shoulder socket.


While HIIT can help you get fit in a shorter time period, it isn’t meant to be done every day. Ideally, you should do HIIT at most two to three days a week, not five or six. Your body requires time between each workout to rest and rebuild. Too much training strains your joints and leads to fatigue that could result in a serious injury. If you want to exercise between HIIT sessions, do low-impact workouts such as stretching exercises or yoga.

If you do sustain an injury during HIIT, it’s important to visit an experienced physician, like the top orthopedic experts at New Jersey Bone & Joint Specialists. Give us a call or book an appointment at our Hoboken, NJ office today.

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