How to Do a HIIT Workout at Home

Get your sweat on in the comfort of your own home! (Image: SolisImages/iStock/GettyImages)

When you're short on time and driving to the gym just doesn't fit into your schedule, why not opt for a HIIT workout at home? For those unfamiliar with the term, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a type of workout that involves brief bursts of intense effort broken up by a short rest or active recovery.

And the benefits are many. According to a 2012 study in the Journal of Physiology, HIIT workouts:

  • Are short (30 minutes or less!)
  • Build cardiovascular endurance as efficiently as moderate-intensity aerobic exercise for longer periods
  • Can help you blast past fitness or weight-loss plateaus
  • Burn calories even after your workout is over, thanks to excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC)

The beauty of this training protocol is that it can be used with almost any activity. For at-home HIIT workout, the easiest method is using body-weight exercises like squats, lunges, push-ups, sit-ups, etc.

Body-Weight HIIT Exercises

Body-weight exercises are a fantastic way to enjoy the benefits of a HIIT workout with no equipment. There's no need for specialized machines, multiple sets of free weights or bulky exercise benches — all you need is enough floor space to safely perform each movement. Here are seven of the best HIIT exercises that can conveniently be done at-home with little to no equipment.

1. Push-Up

Push-ups are a universally recognized measurement of upper-body strength and endurance. It's also an ideal exercise for training HIIT at home (or anywhere else you decide to take your workout). You can also modify them to match your fitness level or choose a new push-up variation so you never get bored.

HOW TO DO IT: Lie face-down on the floor with your legs straight and feet together. Place both hands shoulder-width apart at your chest. Keeping your back, hips and legs straight, push up with your arms until your elbows are fully extended. Return to the start position.

MODIFY: The preferred modification for push-ups is to perform them at an incline. Set your hands on a bench, step or wall and complete your push-ups from there. Alternatively, you can drop to your knees while in a high plank.

2. Lunge

Lunges are a staple of lower-body workouts for a reason: They build leg strength, endurance and cardiovascular fitness. Just like push-ups, there are nearly an endless supply of variations to keep your at-home workouts fun and engaging.

HOW TO DO IT: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Step forward with one foot until the knee of the back leg hovers above the ground. Both knees should be at 90-degree angles, and the front knee should remain over the ankle of the front leg (not over the toes). Push off the front leg back to standing. Repeat on the other leg.

3. Step-Up

Step-ups are an extremely functional exercise. After all, how often do you find yourself going up a set of stairs? Alternate legs or train one leg each set; either way, you'll get a great cardio workout and work your legs from glutes to calves.

HOW TO DO IT: Stand in front of a box, step, bench or other knee-height, sturdy object. Lift your right foot and step up onto the box so that your right leg is straight. Lower back down to the start. Make sure you do the same number of reps on each leg.

4. Triceps Dip

Another excellent body-weight upper-body exercise, triceps dips primarily work the back of the arm — where your triceps muscle is located. These can either be done on a box, bench or chair or from the crab position (face up on all fours).

HOW TO DO IT: Sit on the edge of the chair and hold onto the chair near your butt. Scoot off the chair so you're supporting yourself with your hands on the chair and your feet on the ground. Bend your elbows so they point back behind you. Only bend as far as you can without pain in your shoulders. Straighten back up and repeat.

5. Squat Jump

If you want to add some plyometrics (a.k.a. plyo) to your workout, squat jumps are a great place to start.

HOW TO DO IT: Stand with feet hip-width apart, feet pointed slightly out. Bend at your knees and hinge your hips back to lower into a squat. Using the power of your legs, jump up and fully extend your body as you reach overhead. Land with knees slightly bent to protect your knees before dropping into your next squat.

MODIFY: If you're a newbie, you can stick to basic squats (take out the jump) or squats with calf raises instead of the jump.

6. High Knees

Even though all of these HIIT exercises will get your heart rate soaring, there's nothing like mixing in a good old-fashioned cardio drill to really elevate your workout.

HOW TO DO IT: Stand up tall and draw one knee at a time up toward your chest, quickly alternating legs back and forth so that you're constantly in motion. It feels a bit like you're running in place with your knees out in front of you.

MODIFY: Slow it down so that you're marching in place.

7. Burpee

Without a doubt, burpees are one of the best exercises that combine cardio, strength, mobility and balance. They can be tricky to master, so if you've never done one, start with a few practice reps until you get the hang of them.

HOW TO DO IT: Start standing with feet hip-width apart. Bend down into a squat and put both hands on the ground between your feet. Jump your feet back into a plank, perform a push-up, and then hop your feet back to the squat. From here, launch into a jump with arms overhead. Land with knees slightly bent before going into your next rep.

MODIFY: There are a number of ways you can modify, including taking out the jump and/or push-up, stepping back to a plank instead of hopping, using a box or step to do an incline push-up and slowing the whole exercise down.

How to Do a HIIT Workout at Home

Now that you've picked out a couple of your favorite exercises, you can put them together into a full HIIT workout you can do at home. Just pick how you'd like to structure your workout.

The easiest way to do a HIIT workout at home is to divide up each minute into work and rest periods. So for example, if you're a beginner, you might start with 30 seconds of work, followed by 30 seconds of rest. If you're more advanced, you might do 45 seconds of work and 15 seconds of rest.

Or go with a more specific training protocol like Tabata training. This is a type of HIIT workout consists of eight rounds of 20 seconds of max effort with a 10-second rest repeated for four minutes total.

You could also try AMRAP (as many reps as possible) workouts where you'll perform as many reps as possible of a specific exercise for a set amount of time or EMOM (every minute on the minute) workouts where you give yourself a set number of reps to complete in a minute. Once you've completed them, the remainder of the minute is your rest period.

Circuit training is another great option. This involves doing a series of exercises with no rest between each exercise. The rest comes at the end of a circuit and lasts for 30 to 60 seconds.

HIIT Workouts to Try at Home

You have the exercises and the rep scheme; now let's put it all together for a killer, calorie-torching HIIT workout you can do in your living room (or basement or backyard). So an at-home HIIT cardio workout might look like this:

Do each exercise for 45 seconds, and then rest for 15 seconds.

  • Jump rope (or jump in place)
  • High knees
  • Speed skaters
  • Mountain climbers
  • Burpees
  • Rest for 60 seconds and repeat

To target your lower body, give this workout a shot:

  • 20 lunge jumps (alternate sides)
  • 10 single-leg deadlifts (right leg)
  • Rest 30 seconds
  • 20 side lunges (alternate sides)
  • 10 single-leg deadlifts (left leg)
  • Rest 30 seconds
  • 20 sumo squats
  • 10 squat jumps
  • Rest 60 seconds and repeat

Or try one of these at-home HIIT workouts:

And there's always the STRONGER Challenge, an eight-week workout program LIVESTRONG created with celebrity trainer Nicky Holender. The workouts incorporates HIIT, strength training and active recovery without any equipment.

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