You might have the best intentions to workout but life is busy, right? So much so, that trying to squeeze in exercise can feel like another big ask to add on to an already long to-do list. That's where HIIT workouts at home come in - easily one of the simplest yet simultaneously effective ways to keep fit from the comfort of your living room.
You'll likely know that there are a whole host of physical and mental benefits to staying active. That said, you don't have to workout for hours to reap the benefits - just 15 minutes of exercise a day could boost life expectancy by three years, according to a study published in The Lancet.
When you're short on time, HIIT training - otherwise known as high intensity interval training - is a great option. The high energy cardio workout promises to get your heart racing and blood pumping - plus, it's a home workout that you need minimal equipment for. Like the sound of simple home workouts that don't cost the earth? Us too, which is why below, we've picked the brains of two top personal trainers. Read on as they explain why HIIT is so effective, plus recommend their five go-to sweat sessions for when they're short on time.
HIIT workouts at home are both free and effective - a top trainer's guide
What is a HIIT workout?
"A HIIT workout usually involves short bursts of intense exercise followed by low-intensity recovery periods," explains Aimee Cringle, a CrossFit athlete who placed first in the 2023 CrossFit Open (her second year in a row). "What sets HIIT apart from other forms of exercise is its intensity and efficiency," she adds.
Tending to have a duration of between ten and thirty minutes, HIIT workouts provide a number of significant benefits, says Cringle. She lists improved cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength and fat loss in a shorter amount of time compared to traditional forms of exercise, such as running or strength training. As Cringle puts it: HIIT workouts are "perfect for the demands of a busy lifestyle."
Research has also shown the power of HIIT workouts in burning calories and increasing VO2 max. A 2014 study published in the Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise journal found that men who did just thirteen minutes of HIIT burned more calories per minute and increased their VO2 max by 12.5 per cent more than men who did steady-state cardio for 40 minutes. Recent research has even suggested that HIIT can be effective in reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety and psychological distress.
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What are the benefits of HIIT and why do they make such a good home workout?
“HIIT can increase strength, improve cardiovascular fitness and help to lose fat," says Penny Weston, a fitness, wellness and nutrition expert and the founder of online wellness platform, MADE on demand. "Some studies have concluded that doing just 20 minutes of HIIT can actually be more effective than lower-intensity running for an hour," she explains. "This is because a shorter higher intensity workout can actually leave your body burning calories for longer afterwards."
Weston is a fan of HIIT for a home workout, either virtually or on her own. "I love HIIT because it’s usually a quick way to get the heart up and you don’t need lots of equipment or space." If you do want to try HIIT workouts with equipment, Weston recommends picking up some small weights and resistance bands but says even water bottles or tin cans will work if you don't have anything else to hand. "Equally, you don’t need specialist equipment. Your own body weight is great," she says.
5 HIIT workouts to try at home, according to an expert
For any HIIT novices out there, it's worth noting that there are a lot of different types of HIIT workouts. According to Cringle, a common one is a Tabata which consists of 20 seconds of all-out exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated for four minutes or longer.
Other popular HIIT workout formats which also feature in CrossFit are:
- EMOM (every minute on the minute) where you perform a set amount of reps or exercises at the start if every minute, using the remaining time for rest.
- AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) where you complete a set of exercises for a specific time duration, aiming to complete as many rounds as possible within that timeframe.
You can tailor HIIT sessions to be hybrid of cardio and strength work or simply focus on either one, she adds.
Below are Cringle's top five HIIT workouts to give a go at home.
1. Aimee Cringle's ten minute CrossFit EMOM workout
What? From the CrossFit star herself, this is a slice of her workout regime in HIIT form.
Why? It may seem simple on paper, but this workout from Cringle is spicy. There are only four exercises on the menu but they're testing ones, especially the handstand push-ups.
How long? As long as it takes you to do the following reps: Push-ups (x10), hollow hold (40 secs), reverse lunges (x10) and handstand push-ups (x10).
2. 15-minute cardio workout
What? This 15-minute cardio workout might seem short, but it's definitely mighty. It consists of three cardio circuits and eight repetitions of each exercise. The idea is to get in as many rounds as possible in each five-minute slot.
Why? Again, you don't need any equipment for this one so just find a space and give it a go. Make sure to warm up beforehand and take the challenge at your own pace.
How long? 15 minutes.
3. 20-minute EMOM full body HIIT workout
What? A 20-minute full body workout with exercises that follow the EMOM style - that's every minute on the minute.
Why? This is another one where the number of reps per exercise will be down to you. It means you can do it at your own pace and try to beat those numbers as you progress.
How long? 20-minutes.
4. 24-minute Tabata HIIT workout
What? This 24-minute Tabata HIIT workout will break you out in a sweat pronto. The good news is that all you need is a mat and determination - no equipment necessary. Bad news? It's a killer full-body session.
Why? Tabata workouts tend to be quick and efficient - straight to the point, essentially. This one is perfect to do at home as all you need to do is pop down a mat and follow along.
How long? 24 minutes.
5. 30-minute dumbbell strength x cardio HIIT workout
What? A 30-minute full body strength and conditioning HIIT workout.
Why? This workout focuses on building muscle with strength training and boosting your cardio fitness with HIIT training. The session is split into two to focus on each. It's suggested to make the most out of this workout that you should challenge yourself with heavier weights during each strength exercise or increase your intensity if you only have lighter weights.
How long? 30 minutes.
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Is 20 minutes of HIIT per day enough?
According to the NHS website, we should be aiming for 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week. That equates to around 30 minutes of exercise a day, five times a week.
If you'd rather opt for short but sweet 20 minute HIIT sessions, you could make up your extra ten minutes of exercise a day with walking, strength training, or yoga.
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Amy Sedghi is a freelance journalist, specialising in health and fitness, travel, beauty, sustainability and cycling.
Having started her career in The Guardian newsroom working with an award-winning team, Amy's proud to have reported on a variety of topics, speaking to a range of voices and travelling far and wide to do so. From interviews on ski lifts to writing up breaking stories outside courtrooms, Amy is used to reporting from a range of locations (she’s even been known to type up a story in a tent).
She also loves being active, spending time outdoors and travelling - with some of her favourite features she’s worked on combining all three. Cycling and eating her way round the Isle of Man, learning to sail on the Côte d'Azur and traversing the Caminito del Rey path in Spain are just some of her highlights.
Covering a diverse range of subjects appeals to Amy. One minute she may be writing about her online styling session with Katie Holmes’ stylist and the next she’s transporting readers to the basketball courts of Haringey where she joined a group trying to lower knife crime in the capital.
While at university, Amy was awarded The Media Society bursary. Following her stint at the Guardian, Amy worked at Google and as well as writing for Marie Claire, she regularly contributes interviews, features and articles to National Geographic Traveller, The Guardian, The Independent, The Telegraph, Stylist, Refinery29, Glorious Sport, Cycling Weekly and Rouleur.
When she’s not writing, Amy can be found trying to get through her towering stack of books-to-read, cycling down at Herne Hill Velodrome or looking for the next place to eat and drink with friends.
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