22 HIIT Exercises So You Can Create Your Own Sweaty Routine

Short on time but still want a fantastically effective—and sweaty—routine? Welcome to your HIIT workout.

HIIT, or high intensity interval training, involves changing how hard you work throughout an exercise session—that’s the “interval” part, certified personal trainer Michelle Wong, C.P.T., a trainer at Life Time in Johns Creek, Georgia, tells SELF. So you’ll intersperse periods of hard, hard effort with periods of recovery, creating a combo which really challenges your cardiorespiratory system. That means you’ll likely feel a little bit breathless and break a sweat.

“You’re creating a stress response that taxes your body, and that can elicit some pretty great results,” she says.

Using a variety of exercises is key to an effective and enjoyable HIIT workout at home, she says. “You can play around with rest and work intervals, as well as specific exercises, and that gives you true variety.”

Best of all, you can put together HIIT workouts at home that don’t involve any equipment at all, just your motivation and grit. Whether you’re looking for HIIT workouts for beginners or you’re a HIIT pro just looking to spice up your routine, we’ve got some moves for you. Here’s what to know before HIIT training so you can make the most of your workout.

The HIIT benefits you should know about

When it comes to the “why” for HIIT, research abounds about the benefits of choosing these shorter sessions that are packed with intensity, compared to the longer, steady-state cardio you’d find with activity like running or cycling.

According to a research review in the British Journal of Sports Medicine of 65 studies that encompassed a range of HIIT-style exercises—and some that had participants with chronic medical conditions like diabetes and metabolic syndrome—HIIT can help with cardiometabolic health, particularly oxygen usage, blood sugar regulation, and blood pressure. Plus, going hard for a short amount of time can help you become more explosive and fast, as SELF reported previously.

Then there’s the convenience factor too. Since HIIT workouts have you going hard, those routines are going to be shorter than they are for more steady-state options. That makes them easier to fit into a packed schedule when you just don’t have a ton of time to devote to exercise.

How to do HIIT at home

One of the best aspects of HIIT is variety, because there are hundreds of options you could consider for putting into one session—but that also makes it one of the toughest. There are just so many exercises to choose from!

So how do you know you’re creating a fresh and effective HIIT workout at home, as opposed to throwing together a bunch of random exercises? It helps to break them out in terms of categories (see below!) that can combine to give you a full-body HIIT workout, says Wong. That way, you won’t be doing all upper-body work, for example, unless that’s your aim. And by alternating which muscles you’re working, you’ll be able to go hard on each move without feeling prematurely fatigued.

You’ll also want to add HIIT cardio exercises in between moves designed for upper body, lower body, and core. That will keep your heart rate up—and the best part is, that you don’t have to do them for long, Wong says.

“More isn’t necessarily better,” she says. “Because HIIT requires a lot more effort in a shorter amount of time, there’s a greater cumulative effect when compared to lower intensity workouts utilizing the same amount of time.”

But that also means when you do too much high-intensity work, it can slow down recovery, so it’s much better to take the approach of a “little goes a long way.” That means you shouldn’t do HIIT for an hour, for example. Rather, 15 to 30 minutes—which includes your warm-up, short periods of recovery between exercises, and your cool-down—is likely the sweet spot, Wong says.

When doing HIIT workouts at home, think about starting with one to two sessions per week, done on non-consecutive days. An active recovery day following your routine is best, Wong says, and that can include an easy, relaxing activity like walking or yoga. This is important because it can give your body time to recover, as well as to deal with any post-workout muscle soreness that may develop.

How to create your own HIIT workout at home

Like we said before, there are tons of options for HIIT exercises. Some involve jumping or plyometrics, some use tried-and-true lower-body, upper-body, or core exercises, while others put a dynamic spin on more traditional exercises—think cardio-centric additions like hops or twists. Many also are compound moves, which work multiple muscle groups to really tax your cardiovascular system.

One easy way for a create-your-own HIIT workout is to choose a few exercises from several standard categories: upper-body HIIT exercises, lower-body HIIT exercises, core HIIT exercises, and cardio HIIT exercises. (Of course, there is some overlap between categories!) That way, you can consider the exercises kind of like a HIIT buffet, where you can pick and choose the ones that appeal to you from each category.

A good starting point if you’re looking for a HIIT workout for beginners? Choose 5 exercises total, with the breakdown below, and double up on the cardio-centric moves. For example:

  • 1 upper body
  • 1 lower body
  • 1 core
  • 2 cardio

Then think about how you’re going to arrange the moves. Since you’re doubling up on cardio, you could start and end with one of those moves, and slot in the upper, lower, and core exercises in between.

Once you have the exercises nailed down, you need to think about the programming, or how your work-to-rest intervals are going to shake out. One common breakdown would be one minute of work with 30 seconds of rest, and to repeat the rounds four times total. If you’re just starting out, you can reduce the work time, and you may want to slow down your reps, instead of trying to get in as many as possible during your work time. That way you can focus on your form and get used to the movement.

So a sequence might look like:

  • Cardio HIIT exercise: 30-60 seconds
  • Rest: 30 seconds
  • Upper-body HIIT exercise: 30-60 seconds
  • Rest: 30 seconds
  • Lower-body HIIT exercise: 30-60 seconds
  • Rest: 30 seconds
  • Core HIIT exercise: 30-60 seconds
  • Rest: 30 seconds
  • Cardio HIIT exercise: 30-60 seconds
  • Rest: 30 seconds

This means each round would take you just five minutes if you choose the 30-second work interval, and just six and a half minutes if you choose the 60-second work interval.

But your workout isn’t only about those HIIT rounds. You’ll also want to include a five-minute warm-up that simply gets you moving and your blood flowing, which can include just running in place, doing some hops or easy jumps, or jumping rope. (You can also try this specific 5-minute warm-up or this 3-move total-body warm-up.) You should also end with a cool-down of roughly five minutes as well. You can try this yoga cool-down to ease you back into your everyday groove.

Depending on which intervals you choose for your work-rest ratios, you can easily get in a solid HIIT workout in 30 minutes or less—including your warm-up and cool-down.

Ready to get started? Choose some HIIT exercises from the options below to put together your own HIIT workout at home!

Demoing the moves below are Shauna Harrison (GIF 1) a Bay-area based trainer, yogi, public health academic, advocate, and columnist for SELF; Delise Johnson (GIF 2), CEO and strength coach at Wellness and Weights; Amanda Wheeler (GIFs 3, 11, 12, 17), a certified strength and conditioning specialist and co-founder of Formation Strength; Erica Gibbons (GIF 4), a California-based personal trainer and graduate student becoming licensed as a marriage and family therapist; Morit Summers (GIF 5), a Brooklyn-based trainer and the owner of body-positive gym, Form Fitness Brooklyn; Angie Coleman (GIF 6),  a holistic wellness coach in Oakland; Krystal Salvent (GIF 7); Tiana Jones (GIFs 8, 15), a dance and fitness instructor based in New York City; Teresa Hui (GIFs 9, 10), a native New Yorker who has run over 150 road races; Cookie Janee (GIFs 13, 14, 16, 18, 19); a background investigator and security forces specialist in the Air Force Reserve; Rachel Denis (GIF 20), a powerlifter who competes with USA Powerlifting; and Nikki Pebbles (GIFs 21, 22), a New York City–based fitness instructor.

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