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July 29, 2021 10 min read

There are many ways to approach training. While a lot of people opt for heavy weights with long rest times to develop their strength, getting  lean and shredded takes a different approach.

This is where high-intensity interval training protocols shine—by ramping up the intensity of movements and increasing exertion, not only are workouts finished faster, but you also burn more calories and get a better cardiovascular workout.

Nevertheless, many HIIT workouts also use resistance training with weights in order to get results. Dumbbells and kettlebells are often utilized to add another challenging element, allowing you to reap more rewards. However, there are also many HIIT workouts that don’t need any equipment.

This means that you can get a challenging and effective workout pretty much anywhere. Down below we have some of the 12 best ways to challenge your body with HIIT—without any equipment.

What is HIIT?

The best way to describe HIIT is in relation to the other type of cardio: steady-state cardio. As the name suggests, steady-state has you maintain the same pace for an extended period of time. Not only is this boring, but it also doesn’t burn calories and build muscle as well as HIIT protocols.

Fitness, healthy and active lifestyles concept

HIIT is based around short bursts of intense work periods, followed by periods of lower intensity work. These two periods—high intensity and rest periods—alternate for a predetermined amount of times. This is based on your experience level, the intensity at which you’re training, and your goals.

Benefits of HIIT

The biggest benefit to HIIT is fat loss and metabolic rate improvement. Because your  heart is pumping very hard for a short period of time, this heart rate actually extends into an optimal fat-burning range. Even when you’re in the recovery period of a HIIT workout, or for hours after the workout, your body is burning more calories than if you’d done a steady-state cardio workout instead.

The intensity of HIIT is perfectly aligned for you to be able to get an amazing workout in quickly and efficiently. Throw in the fact that you don’t need any equipment, and you’ve got one of the most utilizable workout protocols you can get your hands on—especially if your goal is weight loss.

Best Bodyweight HIIT Workout

The key to all HIIT exercises is to give it 100% when you’re in the work period. However, if you’re just starting out, it would be a good idea to go a bit slower. Doing this will ensure that you’re getting the movements down correctly, helping you avoid injury in the long run.

Also, feel free to make your own HIIT session by combining some exercises below. A Tabata workout, for example, consists of 20 seconds of all-out work followed by 10 seconds of rest, for 8 rounds.

This will make a great home workout and engage all your muscle groups for a full-body workout. A solid warm-up and cool-down are also good ideas.

1. Burpees

Although maybe not as well known as push-ups or other common bodyweight movements, burpees still have quite the reputation—and for good reason. Essentially a combination of a push-up and a jump squat, the burpee promises to challenge your entire body.

Burpees promise to engage your chest, shoulders, abdominals, quads, glutes, inner thighs, and triceps. But more importantly—at least for our purposes—they’re also guaranteed to get your heart thumping and sweat dripping. Done at a quick enough pace, the burpee is a fantastic exercise to include in your HIIT routine.

Begin with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms at your sides. Your weight should mostly be placed on your heels. Hinging at the hips, push them back as you bend your knees to enter into a squat. Taking your hands, place them on the floor in front of you, just inside of your feet.

Shifting your weight onto your hands, quickly shift your feet backward to enter into a high plank position. Ensure that your body is in a perfectly straight line, without any sagging or peaking. Continue by lowering down into a push-up, until your chin almost touches the ground.

Then, jump your feet back into position near your hands, continuing by explosively jumping upward. Reach your arms above your head and land softly, lowering back into a squat.

2. Jumping Lunges

Another plyometric (jumping) movement, this type of lunge is going to challenge both your cardiovascular health and your lower body strength and power. You’ll also be developing your coordination and stability, as a cherry on top. In terms of muscles, jumping lunges will work the hamstrings, glutes, quads, hip flexors, and calves.

Certain stabilizing muscles in the core and hips will also be engaged during the exercise. While your muscles will be challenged during the jumping phase, the landing phase will help to improve your balance and full-body coordination.

You’ll want to begin in a lunge position, with one leg forward and the other one behind you. Take your arms and hold one in front of you, with elbows bent at a 90-degree angle. The other one should be behind you. Before you jump, bend to your knees to sink down into a deep lunge—lean slightly forward.

Drive through your feet explosively, jumping into the air and extending out your knees. As you get some air, quickly switch out your legs and arms—so if your left leg was in front, you should bring it to the back while bringing the right leg forward at the same time.

The same goes for your arms. Landing is important too: land in a balanced, lunge position. The knee that’s forward should be right over your forward foot. Try to land as softly as possible and go directly down into a lunge.

3. High Knees

High knees are a simple movement that proves to be very effective for raising heart rate and also providing a good workout for your lower body. They’ll engage muscles in the legs, the core, and also help with flexibility and coordination.

They’re particularly important when it comes to developing flexibility in the hip flexors. When done at a fast tempo, you’ll be huffing and puffing after a few intervals of high intensity. The key with high knees is to not let the simple movement fool you into thinking it doesn’t have to be performed correctly. Don’t lean too far forward and make sure your knees are coming up as high as possible.

Stand with your feet, hip-width apart. Your back should be straight, with your head looking straight forward. Bring your left knee up to your chest, with your right arm up in front of you as well, elbow bent. Then, quickly switch between opposite limbs.

4. Mountain Climbers

Mountain climbers are another great full-body HIIT exercise. A lot of their success comes down to performing them with proper form and at a good intensity. Along with being a good way to develop cardio endurance, they can also build agility and core strength.

The key is to go fast enough to make this a HIIT workout, but also maintain perfect form so you’re getting the most you can out of it. Begin by getting into the plank position, with hands at shoulder-width apart, engaged core, and a straight back.

Quickly pull your left knee into your chest as far as you’re able to. Then, switch legs simultaneously, bringing the right knee up as the left leg goes back down. Try to go as fast as you can.

5. Jump Squats

Another simple, plyometric exercise, jump squats promise to engage your glutes, hamstrings, abs, and lower back. It’s a great way to build explosive lower body power, and build your way up to higher box jumps and a higher vertical overall. In a HIIT workout, they’ll definitely leave you gasping for air.

Standing tall with your feet, hip-width apart, hinge at the hips and push your butt down into a squat position. Lower yourself down until your thighs are parallel to the ground. Initiate the movement by pressing through your feet and explosively jumping up. Land as softly as you can and immediately enter into a squat, going back into the starting position.

6. Jumping Jacks

Similar to jump squats, the jumping jack takes the focus away from your leg muscles, making it more of a cardio exercise. However, many of the same muscles are still worked, such as the glutes, quads, and hip flexors. Your shoulder muscles and abdominals are also involved in the coordination.

fitness guy doing jumping jacks, star jump or burpees exercise at seaside outdoors

Much like jump squats, jumping jacks can also build explosive power in the lower body, allowing you to improve your other exercises and athletic movements. You’ll want to begin by standing with your legs straight and arms to your sides—stand tall, looking straight ahead of you.

Slightly bend your knees, hinging at the hips, and drive through your legs to explosively jump upward. As you jump up, swing your arms above your head until they nearly touch. As you come back down, bring your legs together and arms back to the sides of your body.

7. Skaters

This movement is mainly focused on developing your quads and glutes, but the lateral motion also serves to work your outer thigh—the medial glute. Your knee strength will also benefit, along with developing your core and cardio endurance.

When performed at a high intensity, you’ll reach your anaerobic state soon enough, needing a break after a few seconds. The harder you work, the more benefits you’ll reap. To perform skaters, start with your feet planted just a bit wider than shoulder-width apart. Your arms should be at the sides.

Take one of your legs and bring it behind the other one at a slight angle. The front knee will be at a 90-degree angle. Swinging both arms in front of the knee that’s in front, jump the back leg into a forward position, switching the positions of the legs and alternating the side that your hands are on.

8. Plyometric Push-Ups

We’ve had a lot of explosive lower body exercises, but what about the upper body? Plyo push-ups are the answer that we’re looking for. A more challenging variation of the humble push-up, these will take your pec, triceps, and front delt engagement to the next level.

Because of their explosive nature, you can also be sure that your heart will be pumping after only a few seconds of doing these. Begin in a high plank position, with your torso in a perfectly straight line and your core braced. Lower your body down by bending your elbows, going far enough where your chest is almost touching the ground.

Driving through your hands and arms, explosively push upward so that your hands leave the floor. If you’re looking for an extra challenge, try clapping your hands while in the air. Try to land lightly and immediately enter into another push-up.

9. Russian Twists

Russian twists are a core exercise—with a twist. Instead of working in the transverse plane like with crunches or sit-ups, this movement helps to develop other abdominal muscles such as the obliques. They can also be great for improving your posture and helping you strengthen your anti-rotational strength.

Begin by sitting down on the floor. Your feet should be flat on the floor in front of you, with knees bent. Then, lean backward until your upper body forms a 45-degree angle with the ground—it’s important to keep your back straight throughout the entire movement, as tempting as it may be to hunch your shoulders forward.

Bring your hands together in front of you and engage your core in order to raise the legs off the floor. Then, move both arms all the way to the right side, pause, and bring them all the way to the left side. This is considered 1 rep.

10. Plank Jack

A marriage between the jumping jack and the plank, this exercise will help you both develop your cardio and your abdominal strength. Your leg and arm muscles will also be engaged in order to move your legs and keep you stabilized during the motion.

Begin in a high plank position, with arms fully extended and arms under your shoulders. The feet should be together, and your back should remain straight. Initiate the movement by jumping both of your feet to either side, as wide as you can.

Remember to keep your back and arms straight as you then quickly jump your feet back into the starting position. The key is to not let your hips drop or rise, just like in a real plank. At the same time, the faster you go, the more benefits you’ll get from this HIIT exercise.

11. Lateral Lunges with Hops

Even if you’re not looking to include a lot of HIIT into your routine, lateral (side) lunges are definitely something you should be doing one way or the other. Most movements we do throughout the day only challenge our bodies in one plane of motion—the sagittal plane, or, forward and backward.

This leaves an entire plane of motion that often goes ignored, which is why it’s important to give it some special attention. The lateral lunge does exactly that, challenging the sides of the glutes which play an important role in stabilizing the hips.

Adding a hop into the mix will elevate your heart rate and make this a terrific HIIT exercise. Begin by stepping to the side with your right foot, bending the right knee deeply while keeping the left leg straight. Hinge, sitting your butt back to go down into a side lunge.

Keep your back straight, but don’t worry about slightly leaning forward with your upper body. Drive through your right leg without bending the left, and continue into an explosive jump straight upward. Reach up as the jump peaks, landing softly. You’ll want to immediately go into a lunge on the opposite side.

12. Superman with Side Lateral Raise

Supermans are usually used to develop the core, being one of the simplest yet most effective ways to do so. They specifically target the lower back and the obliques, along with the erector spinae. Other muscles that come into play are the glutes and the hamstrings, while the delts and traps of the upper back work to stabilize you.

The key with this variation of the superman is to maintain the position for an extended period of time, while also keeping up the pace along with proper form. Lie down on your belly on a matt, with your legs and arms straight out in front and behind you. Engaging your core and back muscles—along with arms and legs—raise all of your legs and arms at the same time.

They should be around a foot off the ground, with your back bending inward. Then, take your right arm and bring it to your left shoulder, twisting your body as you do.

Continue alternating sides and try to go for as long as you’re able to. Make sure you’re not pointing your feet, even if it might come naturally. Doing this will take away emphasis from the core and place it on your legs instead.