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HIIT for Beginners – Tips and Workouts

Reading Time: 8 minutes


Date: 2022-11-10

High intensity interval training is a popular trend. It is an effective style of workout that produces optimal results with minimal time spent in the gym. If you are unable to dedicate an hour to the gym, then HIIT training can be beneficial to implement into your routine. 

HIIT Workouts for Beginners

Who doesn’t want to exercise less and burn more calories? Burning a lot of calories in a short period of time still requires work. HIIT workouts include a short period of all-out effort, followed by a rest period. 

The work-to-rest ratio can vary, but typically includes a ratio of 1:2 to start with. If your maximum effort set is for 30 seconds, a rest period of 60 seconds may follow. With a repetitive work-to-rest ratio, you can expect all HIIT workouts to be 20 minutes or less. Due to the intensity of the workout, HIIT training boosts metabolism for hours after the actual workout. 

Depending on your fitness level you can structure your work-to-rest ratios to be more or less. The benefits of HIIT include muscle gain, increased cardiac output, and better performance. Over time this can lead to decreased blood pressure, lower resting heart rate, and improved anaerobic and aerobic conditioning. This promotes overall fat burn. (1)

HIIT Tips to Consider

Incorporating HIIT into your exercise routine can improve your fitness in many ways. If it is your first time exercising or engaging in HIIT there are a few things you should consider.

Tip #1: Take It Slow

The main goal of HIIT training is to redline your engine and train with all-out effort. Training with max effort isn’t easy and will fatigue your body quickly. Even though HIIT workouts should be under 20 minutes, you must be able to make it through the workout. 

Start off slow and allow your body to adapt to this training style. Each workout may look different. Though a great way to start slow is to take ample rest periods. If your all-out effort is 15 seconds, don’t feel that you need to follow a work-to-rest ratio of 1:2. If you need more than 30 seconds of rest, take it. Whatever you choose, remember to keep it consistent.

Tip #2: Take Rest Days

Rest days are important, especially when performing HIIT workouts. This type of workout intensity is demanding on the body and you will need more rest. This helps muscles, joints, and the central nervous system recover and repair. 

This will lead to a reduced risk of injury and better movement quality. You are pushing yourself as hard as you can during the workout and your body will need time off. Start with 1-3 HIIT workouts per week. 

Tip #3: Warm-up

Warming up for any workout is important. Warming up before a HIIT workout will help prepare the body for aerobic and anaerobic activity. It helps stimulate your cardiovascular system and increases flexibility through increased blood flow. This helps regulate body temperature. Proper blood flow also will reduce muscle soreness and prevent unwanted injury. 

Other than just the physical benefits, warm-ups prepare you mentally for each workout. Completing just 5-10 minutes of a warm-up will get you ready to tackle your workout. 

Tip #4: Add Weight Appropriately

HIIT workouts don’t require much equipment. Though utilizing weights such as kettlebells, dumbbells, and barbells can add value to your workouts. When first starting out, use minimal weight and focus mainly on bodyweight exercises. Gradually add weight if you begin to notice your workouts are becoming easier to complete.

HIIT Equipment Needed

All machines and equipment can be used in a HIIT workout. What’s important is the structure or layout of the workout. In other words, how much are your work and rest intervals and how much effort are you putting into each set.

Bodyweight HIIT workouts can be just as effective as weighted workouts. Start off with just bodyweight and then implement equipment such as: 

  • Dumbbells

  • Kettlebells

  • Barbells

  • Medicine balls

  • Battle ropes

  • Sleds

  • Bikes

  • Rowers

Choose an equipment modality that you are comfortable with at a lower intensity. Don’t choose to utilize sled sprints if you cannot complete regular sprints. Start slow with low impact exercises. Be sure you take enough rest to last the entire workout. 

Lastly, keep your work periods under 30 seconds. It is not typical to maintain all-out effort for more than 30 seconds at a time. Your body will become too fatigued. 

Circuit training is similar to HIIT, but can vary depending on the structure of the workout. 

Sample HIIT Workouts – Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced

HIIT is effective no matter if you are a novice or someone who has worked out all your life. The key to the best HIIT workouts is the intensity level at which you train. Anyone can just go through the motions of exercise. It is important to go as hard as you can each work period. Remember to perform an appropriate warm-up prior to completing each one. 

Beginner HIIT Workout #1: Begin sprinting as fast as possible for 20 seconds. Then, jog at a slow, easy pace for 40 seconds. Repeat this pattern for 10 minutes. 

Beginner HIIT Workout #2: Perform bodyweight jumping lunges or jump squats as quickly as you can for 30 seconds. Rest for 60 seconds and then repeat. Repeat for 10 minutes.

Intermediate HIIT Workout #1: Start with 30 seconds on the rower. Then rest for 30 seconds. Next, complete 30 seconds of burpees. After 30 seconds of rest, return back to the rower. Complete for a total of 12-15 minutes. 

Intermediate HIIT Workout #2: Begin with 30 seconds of cycling. Rest for 15 seconds, then repeat. Complete a total of 12-15 minutes. 

Advanced HIIT Workout #1: Execute 30 seconds of kettlebell swings followed by 15 seconds of rest. Then perform 30 seconds of pushups. Continue for a total of 15-20 minutes. 

Advanced HIIT Workout #2: Perform 40 seconds of squat to overhead press. Rest for 20 seconds. Then begin 40 seconds of battle rope waves. Rest for 20 seconds. Then return back to the squat to overhead press. Complete for 15-20 minutes. 

When the HIIT workouts are performed properly, you will notice a greater fat loss, higher metabolic rate, and improved cardiovascular health. You can add in more than just 1-2 exercises also. Feel free to have a series of exercises to rotate through, similar to a Tabata or circuit style workout. 

20-Minute HIIT Workout

This HIIT routine requires equipment but can also be done using just your bodyweight. There are many ways to modify exercises that are too easy or difficult. You can simply increase or decrease the weight being used. You can also adjust your work-to-rest ratio. 

You’ll need just 20 minutes for the entire workout. This includes the warm-up and cool down!


  • #1 Plank Hip Extensions: Start in an elbow plank position, brace your core, and keep your back flat. Lift one leg up off the ground into the air, extending your hip. Squeeze your glute muscle on the side in which you lift your leg. Bring the leg back down to the ground and rotate. Perform 10 reps on each. 

  • #2 Walking Lunges: Continue warming up the lower body with walking lunges. Take one big step forward and lower your body down into a full lunge. Drop the back knee towards the ground, keep your chest up and back straight. Continue walking forward and repeat for 10 reps on each leg.  

  • #3 Jumping Jacks: Next, let’s get the heart rate pumping with jumping jacks. Start with your feet together and arms down to the side. Jump your feet out and raise your arms above your head. Return to the starting position and repeat for 30 seconds.     

  • #4 High Knees: Achieve an upright position with your feet hip width apart. Bring one knee up towards your chest. As that leg falls back to the ground, quickly switch to the other leg. Continue alternating back and forth between legs. Perform high knees for 30 seconds.


For this high intensity interval workout, complete all the exercises for three rounds. Start with the first exercise, rest for 15 seconds, and move to the next. Once you complete one set of all the exercises, rest for up to one minute before starting round two.

Since each set is timed, challenge yourself to complete more reps than you did during the first round. Remember to complete each exercise for 30 seconds and then recover for 15 seconds. If you need to decrease the difficulty, try resting for 30 seconds. If you need to increase the difficulty, increase the work time to 45 seconds. 

  • Rower: In a seated position, secure your feet into the rower. Grab the handle with an overhand grip. Now pull the handle towards your body. At the same time allow your legs to straighten and body to move with the seat. Return to the starting position and continue rowing.

  • Kettlebell Clean and Press: Stand with one kettlebell in between your legs. Squat down and grip the kettlebell with one hand. Explosively stand up tall while pulling the kettlebell off the ground. Catch the weight in the front rack position. Then press it above the head and return to the starting position.

  • Tire Flip to Burpee: Squat down and grip under the tire. Stand up, drive your hips forward and flip the tire. Immediately perform a burpee and stand back up. Continuously perform a tire flip and burpee for the entire set. 

  • Kettlebell Thruster: Place two kettlebells in the front rack position. With your feet shoulder width apart, squat down and stand back up. As you stand up, use your momentum to push the kettlebells above the head. Lower them back down and repeat. 

  • Mountain Climbers: In a pushup position, place your hands and arms directly under your shoulders. Bring one knee in towards the same side elbow. Repeat on the opposite leg. Begin alternating legs for the entire set. Make sure to maintain a strong core and flat back.  

  • Med Ball Jump Squat: Next up, position your feet shoulder width apart. Squat down and grab a medicine ball. From here, jump up into the air and raise the medicine ball above the head. Land softly and repeat. As you land back on the ground, bring the medicine ball all the way to the floor.

  • Battle Rope Waves: Finish the circuit off with battle rope waves. Stand tall and grip both ends of the rope. Move your hands and arms, up and down, to create waves. Keep your knees slightly bent and chest up tall. 

Cool Down

  • Lat Stretch: Grip onto any secure object with both hands. Keep your arms straight and allow your body to drop in between your shoulder blades. Stretch your lats and shoulders for 30 seconds.  

  • Single Leg Hamstring Stretch: Extend one leg out in front of the body with your toes elevated. Bend at the hips and with both arms reach for the top of your foot. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs.

  • Hamstring Foam Roll: Place the foam roller under the body on the hamstrings. Lift one leg up and place that foot on the ground. Use this leg to move your body back and forth to roll the opposite hamstring. Perform for 20 seconds on each leg. 

Great work! You just burned a ton of calories—all in 20 minutes! Feel free to change up some of the exercises. Adjust the length of each set to increase or decrease the difficulty level of the workout.

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Khammassi, M., Ouerghi, N., Hadj-Taieb, S., Feki, M., Thivel, D., & Bouassida, A. (2018). Impact of a 12-week high-intensity interval training without caloric restriction on body composition and lipid profile in sedentary healthy overweight/obese youth. Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation, 14(1), 118–125.

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