High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT for short.
This type of exercise involves training at a very high intensity for a short period of time, resting to allow the heart rate and breathing to reduce, then jumping straight back into the exercise’s again. The intensity of how you train during these workouts is hugely important, and is what differentiates HIIT from other forms of training. Although that does not mean more is better, be sure to train to your own body's capabilities. It’s a lot more effective to go easy at first to find your base and then slowly ramp up the intensity as the body gets used to this style of training. Always think form over speed.
Studies have shown that HIIT training is more effective at burning body fat over a shorter period of time e.g a 15-20 minute session compared to a 30 - 45 minute moderate-intensity aerobic workout. It has also been shown to help preserve muscle, lower blood pressure and increase cardiovascular endurance.
HIIT is a style of working out that should be reserved for people who are already relatively fit, because proper form is essential to avoid injury. It is also not the best idea for people who are highly stressed or have limited sleep as the body will not respond well with added stress. Low intensity exercise is more suited in these situations.
It goes without saying that HIIT training should complement your workout routine. You should also include resistance training to increase muscle mass and maintain healthy bones & joints and mobility, which will help allow you to move in a full range of motion to aid injury prevention. Remember that nutrition is also key to help achieve any of your goals. You need to ensure that you are fuelling your body sufficiently with the right types of nourishing foods to see better and longer lasting results.
Even though any exercise can be done intensely and has the ability to make you sweat, not all exercises are created equal. The right exercise selection, combination, and sequence of how these are performed will make a huge difference to the workout and the results. Below are 15 amazing bodyweight HIIT exercises that I incorporate frequently into my HIIT classes. They are a mixture of compound exercises (those that work multiple muscle groups at the same time) and isolation exercises (those that target one specific muscle group) Combining all these together will also give you a well rounded full body workout.
For a great HIIT session complete each exercise for 30 seconds and rest for 20 seconds. Advanced can increase to 40 seconds of work.
The Squat is one of the most fundamental and functional moves there is, stimulating the entire lower body and core.
Adopt appropriate stance & foot position. Initiate descent by pushing hips backwards, descend as far as comfortable keeping your spine in a neutral position and pause at the bottom for 1-2 seconds. Actively push knees outward, keeping weight evenly distributed through the feet and push through the heels, squeezing the glute's as you rise up to standing posistion.
One of the most common faults with squats is knee valgus, which is when the knees cave inward. Avoid this by actively pushing the knees outward, particularly when you rise out of the bottom of the squat where this issue predominantly happens. You can also try using a resistance band above the knees ensuring there is tension on the band at all times.
Progression - squat jumps, tuck jumps
Push ups are a great compound move working the arms and chest, as well as also working the triceps and back muscles. The abdominal muscles are also recruited through this move as they are needed to maintain spinal stability,
Place hands flat on the floor at shoulder-width apart, brace the core & lower the chest to within an inch of the floor. Push back up to starting position by extending arms but do not lock out the elbows. If you can't complete full push ups on your feet you can build up to this by lowering the body whilst on your feet, pause at the bottom of the movement & then push-up on your knees
The most common fault is flaring the elbows out, which ultimately makes the exercise easier. Imagine taking an aerial view snapshot of yourself from above. You want to look like a forward pointing arrow (with your arms at 45 degree angle), rather than a letter T.
3.Plyometric lunge - Jump lunge
Plyometrics are amazing to incorporate into any workout. They allow for explosive power, agility, stability, and balance. They work the entire body, coaching your muscles to work more quickly and efficiently, whilst improving cardiovascular health.
Step forward and bend knees, keep front shin vertical, do not let the knee travel forward of toes, maintain upright torso with core engaged, alternate legs rep by rep by pushing up from the ground and jumping upright, landing with legs switched over.
Common mistake is not allowing the back knee to drop close enough to the floor, which makes the exercise easier and involves less muscle recruitment. Avoid this by thinking power over speed.
Regression exercise - Alternating walking lunge
One of the best exercises you can do to strengthen your entire core whilst activating other key muscles.
Forearms on the ground, elbows should line up directly underneath your shoulders and toes stay on the ground. Squeeze your glutes and tighten your abs while keeping a neutral spine and neck. Strong line from head to toes while holding this position be sure to control breathing throughout.
Common mistake is not engaging the muscles, which see’s the hip start to sag. Actively push the heels away from you, really focus on tightening the legs, core, the arms, the glutes - basically everything! so all muscle groups are switched on and working hard.
Regression - start with knees on the ground and hold the plank from this position
5. Prisoner High knees
This is one that will really get the heart rate racing, building lower body and core strength, improving hip mobility and cardiovascular endurance.
With hands placed behind the head engage back muscles, squeezing shoulder blades together. Keeping core engaged, lift one knee in line with hip level then explosively move onto the other leg really driving the knees.
Keeping hands behind forces you to engage the core muscles further and focus’ all the power to come from the legs.
Regression - high knees using arms to drive momentum or marches
6. Plank jacks
All the benefits of an isometric plank whilst also combining that cardio element.
In plank position with hands on the floor, jump the legs out forming a wide stance. Jump the legs back into the starting position to count as one rep.
Regression - step the legs out alternatively
Get these right and you can build lower body explosive power that’ll help you to run faster, lift heavier and of course jump further.
Driving your hips back into a squat position, throwing your arms back then using your legs, explode out and travel forward. Landing carefully back in that squat position. Inhale as you load down, exhale as you explode out and forward.
These should be short, sharp and powerful. If you have a mat use the mat as a guide for the distance you should be travelling, try to maintain or beat that distance every single time.
Regression - squat jumps
8.Butterfly sit up
These help you to get full contraction of the abdominal muscles, which will build more strength and improve muscle growth whilst also stretching the lower back, opening up your hip rotators which will ultimately help with lots of other exercises including the squat.
Lie on you back with the soles of the feet together and arms outstretched above the head. Lift your upper body in one fluid motion reaching forward and touching the heels. Lower back down slowly to the starting position to engage those abdominal muscles.
Do not use your arms for momentum, ensure you are using your core to lift the upper body with control.
9. Drop squats
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and hands up in front of you. Imagine the ground is being pulled down from underneath you. Let your hips sink towards the floor and feet jump slightly wider. Catch yourself at the bottom of them squat with knees at 90 degrees touching the floor with alternate hands. Push back up to the top and repeat.
Because we are touching the floor on every drop most people will ultimately look down towards the floor which causes the upper back to round. As well as potentially causing injury this can also see you not achieving the full depth of your squat. Ensure you keep your core engaged throughout and chest proud looking straight ahead of you through every rep.
Regression - squat to tip toe
One of my fave exercises that really focus’s on the glute muscles.
Lie face up on the floor with knees bent and feet on the floor, arms placed by your sides on the floor. Lift the hips off the floor by squeezing the glutes until knees, hips & shoulders form a straight line. Lower under control keeping glutes engaged.
Most people say that they don't feel the glutes contract as much as they would like. The main thing to remember whilst performing this exercise is to really focus on squeezing and activating your glutes, this is known as the Mind muscle connection. Studies have shown that you get more activation when you’re thinking about the muscle you are trying to target, so less thinking about what you are going to have for dinner tonight instead!
Progression - place resistance band above knees and push outwards. Place weight on top of hips.
11.Back extension - v squeeze
Back extensions are a great exercise for strengthening the lower back muscles. Adding in the V squeeze also recruits the upper back muscles.
Lying flat on the floor, keep legs straight and feet on the floor. Place hands in a cactus shape either side of the head. Raise the upper body up until the chest clears the floor whilst squeezing the glutes to raise the lower body. Contract the shoulder blades together, pull the elbows towards the centre of the back. Release and slowly lower the body back to the ground.
Regression - remove the V squeeze and keep hands at temple
This exercise is so often overlooked but if done correctly will fire up those shoulders, quads and core.
In an all fours position with knees and hands on the ground, engage the core and push into the hands and toes to lift the knees one inch off the ground. Using the opposite hand to foot, walk forward keeping the spine neutral.
We want to ensure that the bum doesn't lift, so keep the core and shoulders engaged so the entire back and glutes can be imaged as a table top - we don't want to spill our wine resting on top!
Regression - hold still in the bear position
12. Reverse lunge to knee drive
These are a great strengthening exercise working the entire lower body - the gutes, quads, hamstrings and calves. Using as a plyometric movement will also help improve balance and coordination.
This movement is all about power. Step one foot back into a reverse lunge then power out of the movement by driving the back knee forwards coming into a standing position with your leg lifted at a 90-degree angle. Use arms to maintain balance adding a jump as you rise to the top position. Keep on one leg for the entire time and then switch onto the next leg for the next set.
Think about power not speed on this, really driving up to standing position and jumping up high.
Regression - remove the jump
13. Up down plank
Starting in plank position with elbows on ground, push up onto the hands. The hands should be positioned directly underneath the shoulders. Lower back down onto elbows with control & ensure that you switch the arm that is pushing up to the top position every time.
Be careful not to rock the hips. We want to keep them as stable as possible by keeping the core and glutes engaged. Go slower and control the reps if you feel this happening.
14. Mountain climbers
Mountain climbers are considered a full body exercise as they work the shoulders, core, triceps, hamstrings & quads. They are amazing at building core strength and stability as well as endurance.
In plank position with hands on the floor, positioned directly under your shoulders, drive your knee in towards the centre of where your hands are positioned keeping the spine neutral. Return foot back to starting position and repeat with the other leg. Pick up the pace to drive momentum.
Avoid the bum lifting!! We want to keep that nice flat back and neutral spine throughout the movement to ensure those core muscles are fully engaged. Ensure that the hands do not travel forward in front of the shoulders (this makes the movement easier and can lead to the bum lifting) we want them to be directly underneath.
My absolute favourite full body workout that really works on your cardiovascular endurance.
To do a burpee from a standing position drop into a squat with your hands on the ground. Kick your feet back into a push-up position and lower to chest to the ground. Push up from the floor in on swift movement jumping your feet back into the squat position and loading into a jump.
Regression - 1⁄2 burpee without releasing chest to floor.