Best High Intensity Interval Training Workouts for Beginners (Updated for 2021) - Cardio Online

Best High Intensity Interval Training Workouts for Beginners (Updated for 2021)

  • 6 min read

Did you know that you can maintain a healthy weight without long cardio sessions? That’s right; you can get the same benefits and burn more calories in a much shorter time window. 

Don't worry; this isn't an advertisement for some magical piece of equipment that'll help you get that perfect shape while sitting on the couch. We're here to talk about high intensity interval training (HIIT).

In this article, we’re going to explain why you should give interval training a shot and introduce you to some of the best high intensity interval training workouts for beginners; so let’s get started!

Getting Started With HIIT as a Beginner

HIIT is an exercise technique proven by science to be much more effective than conventional cardio. There's still a lot of work involved, but you'll be able to get better results without having to dedicate a big chunk of your day to time-consuming cardio workouts.

Basically, HIIT is an interval-based workout consisting of short bursts of training at a very high intensity. Instead of running at a moderate intensity for 45 minutes, you can burn more fat by sprinting for 10 minutes with short breaks in-between. 

This method has proven to be more effective for fat burning, building muscles, and enhancing endurance. Not to mention, it places less stress on your joints since your workout duration is usually much shorter than traditional cardio.

That's not to say that HIIT workouts are limited to jogging. In fact, dozens of HIIT exercises can help you gain lean muscle mass while also toning up your body and shedding off weight. This is because they’ll fire up yourmetabolism, your body's natural fat-burning rate.

Having a high metabolism rate means that you’ll be able to burn more calories throughout the day, even if you don’t engage in lots of activities.

HIIT vs. Steady-State Cardio

HIIT is an anaerobic exercise, meaning that your body doesn't rely on oxygen as a source of energy to perform it. 

Instead, your body utilizes its lactic acid system to produce energy because your muscles don't receive sufficient oxygen in this form of workout. Your body's stored carbohydrates fuel HIIT workouts.

On the other hand, steady-state cardio is an aerobic exercise, meaning that your body produces energy using oxygen and relies on your body's fat reserves as fuel.

HIIT workouts elevate your heart rate to somewhere between 80 and 90% of your maximum heart rate, while steady-state cardio falls in the range of 60-80%.

Advantages of HIIT:

There are countless benefits of HIIT workouts, and they can be summed up as follows:

  • Save time; can be done at any time of the day, at any place
  • More challenging than steady-state workouts
  • Can help you burn more fat
  • Easier on your joints
  • Enhance endurance
  • Boost your body’s metabolism 
  • Highly customizable
  • Highly beneficial for your cardiovascular health
  • Regulate blood pressure

Disadvantages of HIIT:

Just like any form of exercise, HIIT isn’t for everyone. Here are some of the downsides of HIIT:

  • Chances of getting injured are higher with HIIT workouts
  • Not everyone can do them, especially elders and people with permanent injuries
  • May require a longer recovery time
  • Higher risk of over-training

What Are the Best HIIT Exercises for Beginners?

Alright, we get it; jogging can get quite boring easily. Luckily, many HIIT exercises won’t only make your workout more fun but also help you burn lots of fat. Here are some of the best HIIT exercises to experiment with.


Burpees are one of the best bodyweight HIIT exercises you can do because they get both your upper and lower body muscle groups moving.

To do the burpees exercise, start in a standing position, then squat down, kick your legs out, and do a push-up before bringing your legs back in. Stand up and repeat the same steps for around 100-120 seconds. You can rest for 20-30 seconds between each set. 

Squat With Overhead Press

If you want to challenge yourself and incorporate weights in your HIIT workout, the squat with overhead press exercise is an excellent place to start. Just like burpees, this exercise engages both your upper and lower body muscles, making it a perfect choice for burning fat.

Stand up with the dumbbells placed in front of your shoulders with your elbows close to your body and keep your chest tight, then squat down while keeping the dumbbells in the same position and maintaining a neutral spine to avoid straining your lower back. 

After that, stand back up, push the dumbbells upwards, and then bring them back down into the starting position. Repeat the same steps for 45-60 seconds and take a quick 10-15 break between sets. Make sure that the dumbbells are lightweight enough for you to avoid injuries.

Battle Ropes

Exercising with battle ropes is one of the most popular forms of high intensity training, simply because you can target several muscle groups with a single tool. For the best results, try to vary your movements instead of just moving your arms up and down to hit more muscles. Additionally, you can make your workout more challenging by increasing the slack in the ropes. 

Kettlebell Swings

Another popular HIIT exercise for beginners is the kettlebell swing. Start by standing with your legs slightly wider than your shoulder width with your arms hanging down in front of your body and the kettlebell in your hands. 

Bend your knees slightly, kick your hips out into a squat-like position, and then swing the kettlebell forward while simultaneously thrusting your hips forward. However, make sure that you engage your glutes and hips in the movement, not your arms. If you feel like your arms are doing most of the work, trying using a lighter kettlebell.

HIIT Workouts for Beginners

Whether you want to gain muscles or burn fat, you can easily customize a beginner-friendly HIIT workout and ditch cardio. Remember that it's essential to warm up before doing any of the following workouts to reduce the risk of serious injuries.

Your warm-up shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes. Also, aim for a maximum recovery time of 15 seconds at first. After several workouts, you can reduce the recovery time to 10 seconds.

Beginner HIIT Workout for Losing Weight

If your primary goal is to lose weight, you can give this workout a shot:

  • 3x Dumbbell Chest Press - 60 seconds/set
  • 3x Standing Overhead Dumbbell Press - 45 seconds/set
  • Kettlebell Swings - 45 seconds
  • 2x Dips - 30 seconds/set
  • 3x Burpees - 45 seconds/set
  • Dumbbell Lunges - 60 seconds/set
  • 2x Barbell Squats - 45 seconds/set
  • 2x Barbell Sumo Squats - 60 seconds/set
  • 3x Leg Press - 45 seconds/set

Beginner HIIT Workout for Mass

Here’s the best HIIT workout for beginners who want to increase their lean muscle mass:

  • 3x Dumbbell Chest Press - 30 seconds/set
  • 2x Dumbbell Chest Press with Crunch - 45 seconds/set
  • 2x Dumbbell Flys - 45 seconds/set
  • Squat Hold - 45 seconds
  • Renegade Rows - 30 seconds
  • 3x Barbell Rows - 45 seconds/set
  • Seated Cable Rows - 75 seconds
  • Squat Hold - 45 seconds
  • 2x Barbell Shoulder Press - 30 seconds/set
  • Squat Thrust and Dumbbell Woodchops - 75 seconds
  • Stretch - 45 seconds

Beginner HIIT Workout (Bodyweight Only)

If you don’t have a gym membership, you can always do your HIIT workout right at the comfort of your home without any fancy equipment. Moreover, if you can buy a pair of lightweight dumbbells, you can incorporate some extra workouts like chest or shoulder presses and weighted jump squats. 

Here’s the best HIIT workout to do at home to test endurance and shed off some body fat:

  • 3x Jumping Jackets - 60 seconds/set
  • 3x Raise Arm Circles - 45 seconds/set
  • 3x Burpees - 45 seconds/set
  • 3x Jump Squats - 45 seconds/set
  • 2x Wide-Grip Pushups - 60 seconds/set
  • 2x Close-Grip Pushups - 60 seconds/set (optional)
  • Up-Down Planks - 60 seconds
  • 2x High Knees - 45 seconds
  • 3x Reverse Crunches - 45 seconds/set

Final Thoughts

If you haven’t tried out high intensity interval training workouts yet, there’s no better time than now to start incorporating it into your routine. And we’ve made sure to choose the best high intensity interval training workouts for beginners, in specific, to make sure you’re on the right track.

It can be quite challenging at first, especially if you’re used to moderate-intensity, steady-state cardio. However, once you get past the first 2-3 weeks, you’ll be able to do them without feeling too exhausted, and you’ll start noticing some amazing results, too. 

Also, keep in mind that the weights used in HIIT workouts should be lighter than what you’re used to. For example, if you usually chest-press with a pair of 40 lbs dumbbells, try using 20 lbs dumbbells in your HIIT workouts. Just make sure to take it slow and make the workout more challenging incrementally as you get better at it. 

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