HIIT Exercises at Home

For those not familiar with the term; HIIT is a form of training that involves brief bursts of intense effort broken up by a short rest or active recovery. According to a 2012 study in the Journal of Physiology the benefits of HIIT are:

HIIT Exercises at Home (Image: SolisImages/iStock/GettyImages)
  • The workouts are brief;
  • HIIT builds cardiovascular endurance as efficiently as doing moderate-intensity aerobic exercise for longer periods;
  • HIIT training can help you blast past fitness plateaus.

The beauty of this training protocol is that it can be used with almost any activity. For a home workout, the easiest way to do HIIT is by using body weight training like calisthenics.

Body Weight Training

Body weight exercises are a fantastic way to enjoy the benefits of high-intensity training at home. There is no need for specialized equipment, dangerous weights or bulky exercise benches – all that’s needed is enough floor space to safely perform each movement. Here are four exercises that can conveniently be done using the HIIT protocol at home with minimal or 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.

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

A HIIT push-up workout may consist of four 30 second intervals of work with a 30-second rest between sets. If standard push-ups are too hard, try doing a modified push-up. A modified push-up is done from the knees rather than the toes to reduce the difficulty level.

2. Pull-Up

A doorway chin-up bar makes it easy to include pull-ups in a home-based HIIT workout.

HOW TO DO IT: Hold the bar with both hands facing forward and arms fully extended. If necessary, bend your knees to hang from the bar with your full weight. Pull up with both arms until your chin touches (or clears) the bar. Return to the start position in a controlled manner (don’t just drop.)

Add variety by changing how widely you place your arms or by switching the grip from overhand to underhand to work muscles from different angles. Given the difficulty of this movement, a HIIT workout can consist of three or four sets of five to 10 repetitions with up to 45 seconds of rest in between.

3. Lunge

Lunges build leg strength, endurance and develop cardiovascular fitness. Include lunges in a home HIIT routine to accomplish a whole-body program.

HOW TO DO IT: Begin from the standing position with your feet about shoulder width apart. Step backward on one foot until the knee of the backward stepping leg lightly touches the ground. Push-up on the front facing leg until standing again. Repeat the movement for the other leg.

Avoid knee problems by keeping the shin in line with the knee; the kneecaps should remain directly over the ankle and not over the toes of the working leg. Lunges with a HIIT protocol are ideal for relatively long periods of work (45 seconds to one minute) and short rest intervals of no more than 30 seconds.

4. Stair Climbing

If you don’t have convenient access to stairs, try using a chair for the next best thing: Step-ups. Alternate legs or train one leg per set; either way you’ll get a great cardio workout and work your legs from glutes to calves.

A research article in the September 2005 issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine discovered that eight weeks of step training for only two-minutes, and performed five days per week significantly improved V02 max and cardiovascular risk factors.

Like lunges, sets should last between 45 seconds and one minute with 15 to 30 seconds of rest between sets for improved leg strength, endurance and cardiovascular conditioning.

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