12-Minute HIIT Leg Workouts You Can Do During Halftime

Are you ready for some football?! Fall marks the start of the football season for millions of fans across the country, which means a lot more time spent sitting on your backside watching TV.

Squeeze your workout in between watching your favorite team play. (Image: Halfpoint Images/Moment/GettyImages)

While the excitement and anticipation of watching your favorite team crush the opponent is nothing short of awesome, ditching your regular workout for a night of armchair quarterbacking might leave you wondering if opting out of exercise in favor of football is the right thing to do.

The good news? You don't have to choose between fitness and football. With high-intensity interval training (HIIT), you can get an effective and efficient workout done in as little as 12-minutes — about the time it takes your favorite team to regroup before hitting the field for the second half.

So step away from the wings and pizza and get your sweat on for the next 12 minutes, because you're about to experience some serious leg pump with these two trainer-approved lower-body HIIT workouts.

A Quick, 12-Minute Leg Burner

Stephen Foster, CSCS, personal trainer for Trainiac, says the most important part of HIIT for the lower body is the ability to be efficient. "Your lower body contains the largest muscle groups in the body, so focusing on them will give you the most bang for your buck in a time-crunch," he says. Plus, lower body movements do a great job of getting your heart rate up and using the most energy (i.e. burn the most calories).

This four-move circuit from Foster hits all of the major muscles in the lower body including the quads, glutes and hamstrings, while also elevating your heart rate. After a two to three minute warm-up, perform each exercise as a 30-second station. After completing all four stations, rest for one minute. Repeat the circuit three more times for a total of four rounds.

Move 1: Hip Bridge (beginner to intermediate) or Bridge Hamstring Curl (advanced)

Hip Bridge (beginner to intermediate)

  1. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Drive your feet into the ground to lift hips toward the ceiling. Pause at the top, then lower your hips back to the starting position.
  3. Repeat for 30 seconds.

Tip

To make this move more difficult, move your feet further away from your body. The straighter the legs, the more difficult.

Bridge Hamstring Curl (advanced)

  1. Assume the same starting position as the hip bridge and place sliders under your feet. Or makeshift sliders by using towels or socks to slide on a wood floor.
  2. At the top of a hip bridge (hips are lifted), slide your heels forward and extend your legs.
  3. Maintain elevated hips until your legs are almost straight, then contract your hamstrings and glutes to draws your heels back toward the body.
  4. Repeat for 30 seconds.

Tip

This exercise should be done in a slow and controlled manner to focus the work on the hamstrings.

Move 2: Squat With Heels Elevated

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and heels elevated on a platform about two inches tall (ex. weight plate or a hardcover textbook).
  2. Squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor, keeping your chest tall and your weight distributed evenly over your feet.
  3. Press into the mid-foot to straighten your legs and stand up.
  4. Repeat for 30 seconds.

Tip

Minimizing time spent between concentric and eccentric phases will get a burn going, while the position of the elevated heels will gear the work more toward the quadriceps.

Move 3: Alternating Lateral Lunge

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Take a large step to the right with your right foot, shifting weight to your right leg and bending down.
  3. The left leg should remain straight while the right is bent to 90-degrees.
  4. Drive off the right leg to return to a neutral standing position before repeating on the left side.
  5. Alternate sides for 30 seconds.

Move 4: Alternating Plyometric Lunge

  1. From standing, step forward with your right foot into a split stance, distributing your weight evenly between your two legs.
  2. Bend down until your right leg is at 90-degrees.
  3. Drive your right foot down into the ground, propelling your body upward into a jump and switch your legs in the air, landing in a split stance with the left leg leading.
  4. Repeat this movement, changing legs midair for 30 seconds.

The 12-Minute Lower-Body Blast

HIIT leg workouts are important because they help build both strength and endurance, says certified personal trainer, fitness expert and yoga instructor Dempsey Marks. Her workout below incorporates both cardio and strength training, which means, "it is the biggest bang for your buck because you can elevate your heart rate (which boosts your metabolism), plus sculpt your legs at the same time," she says.

Do these four exercises for 30 seconds each with a 30-second break in between each new move. Repeat the circuit three times. (Warming up for two to three minutes beforehand, of course.)

Move 1: Squat Jump

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Squat down halfway.
  3. Jump up and land with soft knees.
  4. Repeat without stopping for 30 seconds.

Move 2: Curtsy Lunge

  1. Start with your feet hip-width apart. Keep your back flat and core engaged.
  2. Step your left foot behind and outside your right foot, lowering your hips until your thigh is parallel with the floor.
  3. Press back up to standing, feet hip-width, then alternate sides.
  4. Continue without stopping for 30 seconds.

Move 3: Lunge Jump

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Jump your left leg forward and your right leg back into a lunge, both knees at 90 degrees.
  3. Jump up and switch your legs midair, so that you land in a lunge with your right leg in front.
  4. Continue jumping without stopping for 30 seconds.
  1. Begin in a high plank with your body forming a straight line from your head to your ankles.
  2. Squeeze your abs, lift one foot off the floor, and bring that knee up toward your chest while keeping your body in a straight line.
  3. Return to the starting position and repeat the movement with your opposite leg.
  4. Continue without stopping for 30 seconds.
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