Best Exercises For HIIT Workouts

This article will identify some of the best exercises for HIIT workouts. You may be wondering, exactly what are HIIT workouts? The term HIIT stands for high intensity interval training. The key words being ‘high intensity’.

Best Exercises For HIIT Workouts

To train at a high intensity means that you’re expending maximum effort during the exercise portion of the circuit. You’ll be panting, winded, exhausted, cursing and sweating. The first 2 exercises may be fine. But by the time you reach the 4th exercise, you’ll need to really push yourself to keep going.

HIIT Workouts 15 Minutes

It’s even tougher when you’re doing 2 or 3 sets. Therefore, it’s recommended that your HIIT sessions not exceed more than 15 minutes. Less is more here. The workouts are so effective that you don’t need to spend more than 15 minutes to get the rewards of HIIT.

In this article, we’ll look at 3 modes of intensity that you can adopt. The rules are not set in stone. You can adapt them to suit your level of fitness, etc. If you understand the basic principles of maximum intensity, short rest intervals and using the correct exercises, you’ll be good to go.

What HIIT Workout

There are 2 ways you can do HIIT. You can either do it as a cardio session with running or using a spin bike or a rowing machine… or you could do exercises such as burpees, lunges, pushups, etc.



They’re both effective forms of training and you should do one style on one day and the other on another day. Just remember to take a day’s break between each workout and don’t do more than 3 HIIT training sessions a week.

HIIT Workouts 15 Minutes

One term that’s used in the fitness industry is AMRAP. It means as many rounds as possible. So, if you’re doing burpees for 30 seconds, you should aim to do as many reps as possible.

Important note: High intensity interval training requires maximum effort and speed. However, you should NEVER sacrifice form for speed. Doing this will not only reduce the efficacy of the exercise but make it dangerous as well.

If you’re not sure of any move/exercise, you can always search online or look for demonstration videos on YouTube. Practice each move slowly until you can execute it well. From there you can try and do it faster while maintaining correct form at the same time.

HIIT Workout #1

Burpees: 45 seconds (AMRAP), 15 seconds rest


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Jumping lunges: 45 seconds (AMRAP), 15 seconds rest

Pushups: 45 seconds (AMRAP), 15 seconds rest

Reverse woodchops: 45 seconds (AMRAP), 15 seconds rest

Plank: 45 seconds (AMRAP), 15 seconds rest

(REPEAT SET 2 to 3 TIMES)

HIIT Workout #2

Pull-ups: 30 seconds (AMRAP), 30 seconds rest

Goblet squats: 30 seconds (AMRAP), 30 seconds rest

Hanging leg raises: 30 seconds (AMRAP), 30 seconds rest

Diamond pushups: 30 seconds (AMRAP), 30 seconds rest

Skater hop: 30 seconds (AMRAP), 30 seconds rest

(REPEAT SET 2 to 3 TIMES)

HIIT Workout #3 – Tabata

Burpees: 20 seconds (AMRAP), 10 seconds rest

Jumping squats: 20 seconds (AMRAP), 10 seconds rest

Burpees: 20 seconds (AMRAP), 10 seconds rest

Jumping squats: 20 seconds (AMRAP), 10 seconds rest

Burpees: 20 seconds (AMRAP), 10 seconds rest

Jumping squats: 20 seconds (AMRAP), 10 seconds rest

Burpees: 20 seconds (AMRAP), 10 seconds rest

Jumping squats: 20 seconds (AMRAP), 10 seconds rest

Watch This Tabata Home Workout Video

What HIIT Workout

By looking at the 3 protocols above, you’ll realize that it’s just a matter of manipulating the activity and rest times. Ideally, you shouldn’t have more than 30 seconds of rest.

There are some HIIT training circuits that will require you to do a minute or two of running followed by a minute of recovery. However, the longer the duration of activity, the more ineffective it becomes because the law of diminishing returns sets in.

You can train at maximum intensity for 2 minutes. Most people will start to lower their intensity by the 1-minute mark. So, it’s better to aim for shorter activity periods with a higher intensity and short rest intervals rather than longer durations of activity and rest.

Follow any of the 3 protocols above and you’ll be good to go. Of course, you can always substitute the exercises above for those that you want to do. The ones given above are just an example. The focus is on the activity and rest.

Tailor your workouts to suit your needs. Just remember to use HIIT as a tool to get lean and shredded. It’s really one of the best fitness methods out there.

Exercises For HIIT Workouts To Target Specific Areas

Generally, when high intensity interval training (HIIT) is recommended to people as a form of training, it’s usually for those who are overweight and need to get rid of their stubborn fat.

HIIT Limitations

HIIT will make you lean and bring your bodyfat percentage down. When this happens, you’ll become more vascular and all your muscles will look bigger. It’s like a ‘3D effect’ that occurs because the fat that was covering your muscles is gone and now you look shredded.

However, HIIT training will not give you huge muscles like the kind that you see on bodybuilders. That’s a very different style of training where the focus is on hypertrophy and slow controlled movements to engage the muscles and cause them to ‘burn’.

HIIT is all about speed. You can’t use 200-pound barbells and do deadlifts with HIIT. You won’t be able to do them fast enough. So, you’ll need lighter weights. With lighter weights, you’ll move faster but your muscles will not be challenged to the point where they grow.

While you may gain some lean muscle because of the resistance training moves in your HIIT workout, you’ll not develop the bulky look that the muscular guys at the gym have.

So, you have a choice – you can either use HIIT to shred the fat and bulk up later using hypertrophy… or you can bulk up now and shed the fat later. In most cases, you’ll want to shed the fat first.

HIIT Full Body Workout or Muscle Groups

Even if you’re not training for hypertrophy, you can structure HIIT workouts that focus on certain areas in your body. It could be a workout dedicated to your upper body, core or lower body.

HIIT Full Body Workout or Muscle Groups

Generally, when you’re losing weight, it’s best to focus on full-body workouts. But when you’re relatively lean and only have a few pounds to go, or if you’re already lean and want to target a lagging body part or two, you can use workouts like the ones below.

Lower Body Circuit Workouts

Squats: 45 seconds (AMRAP), 15 seconds rest

Box jumps: 45 seconds (AMRAP), 15 seconds rest

Dumbbell lunges: 45 seconds (AMRAP), 15 seconds rest

Skater hops: 45 seconds (AMRAP), 15 seconds rest

Lateral lunges: 45 seconds (AMRAP), 15 seconds rest

(REPEAT SET 2-3 TIMES)

Watch This HIIT Workout At Home Video

Circuit Upper Body Workout

Spiderman pushups: 45 seconds (AMRAP), 15 seconds rest

Sphinx pushup: 45 seconds (AMRAP), 15 seconds rest

Dumbbell overhead press: 45 seconds (AMRAP), 15 seconds rest

Triceps dips: 45 seconds (AMRAP), 15 seconds rest

Pike pushup: 45 seconds (AMRAP), 15 seconds rest

(REPEAT SET 2-3 TIMES)

Watch This HIIT Workout Video At Home

Core Circuit Workouts

Side plank: 45 seconds (AMRAP), 15 seconds rest

Bicycle crunch: 45 seconds (AMRAP), 15 seconds rest

Hanging leg raises: 45 seconds (AMRAP), 15 seconds rest

V-up: 45 seconds (AMRAP), 15 seconds rest

Flutter kicks: 45 seconds (AMRAP), 15 seconds rest

(REPEAT SET 2-3 TIMES)

Watch This Core HIIT Workouts Video

Important note: High intensity interval training requires maximum effort and speed. However, you should NEVER sacrifice form for speed. Doing this will not only reduce the efficacy of the exercise but make it dangerous as well.

If you’re not sure of any move/exercise, you can always search online or look for demonstration videos on Amazon. Practice each move slowly until you can execute it well. From there you can try and do it faster while maintaining correct form at the same time.

As you can see from the circuits above, you can target specific areas in your body and still work them effectively with HIIT. You may wish to change up the exercises given above and that’s fine.

As long as you give maximum effort and your exercises are not overly complicated, your pace will be fast and challenging. Remember to target different areas in your body every time you do a HIIT workout and take a day’s break between each session.

Importance of HIIT Workout Recovery

High intensity interval training (HIIT) is tough. It places immense demands on your body during and after the workout. This is not a training protocol that should be taken lightly.

Rest is VERY important when you’re doing HIIT. Many people believe in fitness mantras like, “Go hard or go home” … or “I don’t stop when I’m tired. I stop when I’m done.”

All that sounds well and good… until you start doing HIIT daily. Then your body feels drained and you start aching everywhere. Any fat loss you were experiencing comes to a halt because your central nervous system is ‘burned out’ and you’ve just hit a weight loss plateau.

Now you’ll need to rest a few days before things return to normal. All this can be avoided by knowing when to rest and how long to rest for.

Duration of HIIT Rest Intervals

HIIT Workout Recovery

During your HIIT workouts, your rest intervals could be anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds. Sometimes it may feel like this short period is not enough for you to catch your breath.

If you really need more rest, go ahead and rest and pump out the remaining reps when you have the energy to. While the goal is to train at maximum intensity, you must also know your body and not go overboard.

There have been people who have suddenly died while working out. The intensity was too high for them and their heart just gave out. So, your rest intervals are there to give your heart some time to recover… but they’re not set in stone to force you to go beyond what you’re capable of.

Do not remove the rest intervals in your HIIT workouts and think that you can rest at the end of it all. The rest intervals are required to give you a few seconds to recharge so that your can give maximum effort on the next set.

Staggering HIIT Exercises

Initially, when you’re starting HIIT, you may wish to place exercises that work different body parts back to back. For example, a set of squats can be followed by a set of pushups.

Now your legs have time to rest and recover while you’re doing the pushups and working your arms. After the pushups, you could do an exercise that works the core like reverse woodchops… and that’ll give your legs more time to rest… and after that you can hit them again with jumping lunges.

How Often HIIT Workout

So, structure your workout in a way where you don’t overly tax your body parts. Later, when you’re much fitter you can go ahead and train them hard, but initially, approach your training in a systematic and progressive manner.

How Often HIIT Workout

Try not to do more than 3 HIIT workouts a week. These are very effective workouts and you’ll be in fat burning mode long after the workout is over. You don’t need to do them daily to see faster results.

If you’re new to training and have led a sedentary lifestyle for years, you may wish to do HIIT just once or twice a week. Always have a day or two break between each HIIT session.

Do not do HIIT on consecutive days. If you do HIIT today, tomorrow you could go for a walk or do some resistance training. Give your body time to rest and recover.

If you rest during and between your sessions, not only will your aerobic and anaerobic fitness improve, but you’ll see much faster progress. Music is the space between the notes. Rest well, but don’t rest too long.