Just because you’re new to fitness doesn’t mean high-intensity interval training isn’t for you. Otherwise known as HIIT workouts, these fast-paced routines have been shown to torch tons of calories in a short amount of time — so you don’t need to spend hours in the gym. This type of training will have you alternating between periods of maximum effort (think: 20 seconds of jumping jacks) and short recovery.
If you’re just getting into fitness — or starting over after an injury — the key to success lies in doing the right moves, at your own pace. Yes, HIIT workouts should be intense, but pushing too hard, too fast can result in injuries and other setbacks. Your task: Listen to your body, modify as needed, and complete each movement with proper form.
To kick off your journey without a hitch, we’ve tapped Justin Rubin, trainer for Daily Burn’s True Beginner program, to create three workouts, ranging from 10 to 30 minutes. Each one has easy-to-master moves, made just for you. All you need is a chair and a yoga mat. Then, start with this dynamic, two-minute warm-up to get your muscles ready to go:
- Jog or march in place for 30 seconds.
- Standing tall, circle your arms backwards, one after the other, (as if you’re pretending to do the backstroke) for 30 seconds.
- Finally, perform a front lunge, side lunge and back lunge stepping with the same leg, then switch to the other leg and repeat. Continue for one minute. Now, get ready to HIIT it!
Beginner HIIT Workouts You Can Do in 30 Minutes or Less
10-Minute HIIT Workout
Work up a sweat in less than the time it would take you to drive to your gym with this simple routine. Best of all, you don’t need any equipment to jump right in.
Jab, cross, front (right side): Stand with the right foot in front of the left, hips facing to your left side. Bring your arms up into a boxing position. Jab (punch) forward with the right arm, then throw a “cross” punch with the left arm, letting your body rotate as your left arm crosses over your body to the right. Your bodyweight should be over your right foot, with your back heel picking up off the floor slightly. Bring both arms back into the body, shifting your weight back to the starting position and facing front. (This is the “front” move.) Repeat on the left side. For more detailed instructions, try Cardio Kickboxing 1 and 2 in DailyBurn’s True Beginner program.
Jumping jacks: Start by standing upright with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides. Jump your feet out while raising your arms. Repeat as fast as possible. If a regular jumping jack is too difficult, step side to side while raising your arms instead.
Sumo squats: Position your feet a little more than hip-width apart and point your toes out at a 45-degree angle. Keeping your weight in your heels, back flat and chest upright, lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Engage your glutes and quads and push back to the start position. Repeat.
Cool down with an overhead stretch, reverse lunge and forward fold.
20-Minute MetCon: HIIT Workout
Metabolic conditioning is designed to maximize your caloric burn, so you should expect this workout to feel challenging. You’ll go through five moves that focus on full-body exercises. Try to do as many reps as possible during each 45-second interval, then rest for 15 seconds before repeating.
Squats: For extra assistance, use a chair for added support. Remember to keep your feet under your hips and your bodyweight in your heels, says Justin.
Butt kicks: Jog or walk in place, kicking your right heel up to touch your bottom. Repeat with the left leg.
Tricep dips: Place your hands on a chair or a low table, with your back to the chair. Put your legs straight out while balancing on your palms. Bending from your elbows, lower as far as you can, then press up to the original position. Engage that core!
Side Lunges: With your bodyweight in your heels and your toes facing forwards, step to the left in a deep lateral lunge, keeping your knee above your toes. Alternate legs.
Cool down with an overhead stretch, a quad stretch and a forward fold.
30-Minute MetCon: HIIT Workout
Got half an hour? Try this longer workout to challenge your core, and your upper and lower body. (Fun fact: This will burn more calories than 30 minutes spent walking on the treadmill!) Complete the same three-minute warm-up as in the previous workout, then get ready to move it, move it.
For exercise descriptions, see above.
Cool down with an overhead stretch, a reverse lunge, a quad stretch and a forward fold, holding each move for 30 seconds.
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Originally published February 2015. Updated February 2018 and September 2021