Short on time? New to working out? Don’t like gyms? No equipment? With High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) none of these excuses not to exercise will work as my HIIT 20 minute workout program shows.
The Benefits of HIIT
One of the great things about HIIT is that all the exercises will quickly seem familiar even to a beginner. They are mostly simple repetitions of a few basic moves.
Furthermore, they are suitable for all levels of fitness and flexibility. Obviously fitter people will be able to do them to a higher level of performance than others, but everyone can do them to their own level. You can read in this article more about the benefits of HIIT.
There’s very little equipment needed but a mat is useful, and you will ideally have a skipping rope for the first exercise. (But you don’t even need this simple equipment!). You will need some way to keep the time.
First do a short warm-up – something like 10 seconds of each of the first 4 exercises below will suffice. With a short break between each that will take about 1 minute.
The 7 exercises below then comprise a pretty high intensity workout. Each is for 40 seconds followed by a 20 second break.
Do them all then take a two minute break.
Then repeat the exercises and take a break of 1 minute at the end. That’s a 17 minute workout, 18 if you include the warm-up.
Follow with a couple of minutes stretching to cool down and you’re all done in 20 minutes! So, no excuses.
HIIT 20 Minute Workout
1. Skipping Rope or High Knee Standing Sprint
Skipping is a great aerobic exercise to get your heart rate and body heat up quickly without placing undue stress on muscles.
- Skip, in place, at a pace that challenges you but not so that you can’t keep going.
- Try to make sure your feet are both clearly off the ground at the same time and that your legs are fairly straight with just a slight bend in the knees to soften the impact on the ground.
- If you don’t have a rope, replace this with a standing sprint for 40 seconds bringing the knees as far up towards the chest as you are able to do while keeping your back straight and maintaining a good speed.
Maintain the pace for 40 seconds Then rest for 20.
2. Standing Squat
The standing squat is a great, low impact exercise for the lower body especially the thighs, but also the abs and lower back.
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than your shoulders, feet parallel or toes slightly turned out.
- Bend your knees, lowering your hips deeply. Keep your back straight while leaning slightly forward and hold your arms straight out in front, level with your shoulders, and parallel to the ground.
- Bring your thighs parallel to the floor or as low as you can go, keeping weight back in your heels. Hold at the low level for a second.
- Rise back up, straightening the legs completely, squeezing the glutes at the top of the movement to get the most out of the exercise.
Keep a steady pace, not too fast, for 40 seconds. Then rest for 20 seconds.
Burpees are so simple and familiar that we can forget just how much they work so many muscle groups. A great aerobic exercise that’s also good for flexibility and balance.
- Lower into a crouching squat, reach forward and place your hands on the floor in front of you.
- Do a squat thrust by jumping your feet back into a plank position. Try to move both legs at the same time but be careful not to arch your back on impact.
- Do one basic push-up, bending the elbows and then straightening back to a plank.
- Jump the feet forward to the hands moving both feet together and come into a squat.
- Do an explosive jump straight up, getting as much height as you can, keeping the legs together.
Do as many burpees as you can for 40 seconds, followed by a 20-second rest.
4. Mountain Climbers
A great exercise for core strength but also for balance and endurance.
- Form a high plank. Start with your hands and knees on the ground, shoulder-width apart. Arms should be directly below your shoulders with a slight bend at the elbows.
- Lift your knees off the ground and push your feet back to bring your body to full extension, so your body creates one long line.
- Keep your core tight and your hips lifted, and keep your neck in line with your spine. This is the starting position
- Bring your right knee under your body towards your chest keeping your toes off the ground. Immediately return your right foot to its starting position.
- Switch legs and bring your left knee under your chest before returning it to the starting position.
- Keep switching legs as if you’re running in place.
Repeat this as many times as you can for 40 seconds and then rest for 20 seconds.
5. Alternating Side Lunges
This seemingly simple exercise will challenge your flexibility and balance, particularly as your body starts to tire on the third repetition. It is a good opportunity to get your breathe after the previous aerobic exercises.
- Standing with your feet together and your hands held together close to your chest (for balance). Keep your back straight.
- Take a large step to the left in line with your body. Keep your right leg straight and bend your left knee.
- Step your left foot back to standing, and repeat, stepping out with your right foot this time.
- Continue switching back and forth.
Do as many as possible in 40 seconds but maintain your balance and posture. Then rest for 20 seconds.
6. Plank Jacks
With movement in the lower body, hip flexing and upper body strength this exercise will test you more than you might expect.
- Form a high plank. Keep your core tight and your hips lifted with your neck in line with your spine.
- Keeping your core engaged, jump your feet out and in (like jumping jacks) making sure to move both at the same time while keeping the rest of your body steady. Stay on your toes and avoid hitting the ground hard as you move.
- If you are just beginning or if you find the high plank difficult, so this exercise with a low plank. Instead of placing your hands on the ground, support yourself by placing your forearms and elbows on the ground. Be careful not to arch your back.
Do as many moves as possible in 40 seconds then rest for 20 seconds.
One of the best known ways to train the abs and hip flexors through a wide range of motion.
- Lie on your back with bent knees and feet flat on the ground. Place your fingertips behind your ears or fold your hands across your chest. [It’s best not to put your hands behind your head, but if you do so, rest them lightly against your head and do not interlock your fingers. Do not place any pressure on your head or neck.]
- Breathe in. Then tighten your abdominal muscles and draw your tummy towards your spine.
- As you breathe out, first lift your head gently, followed by your shoulder blades. Continue the move until you are in a sitting position. Keep your heels and toes flat to the ground without arching your feet at all times.
- Hold the position for a second, and with a slow, controlled move return to lying on your back. Take your time.
Repeat for 40 seconds keeping your technique right not worrying about how many you do in this time. Then rest for 20 seconds.
Take a two minute break when finished the sit-ups. Relax your breathing and hydrate. During this time, stand and gently shake out your arms and legs. Perhaps take a few steps. Gently stretch your abdominal region and neck/shoulders if feeling tight. Nothing strenuous.
Have a drink of water, then repeat the exercise routine. Be careful to keep to the schedule.
Take a break for a minute and finish with a short stretching session to cool down. That’s your HIIT 20 minute workout done.