High-intensity interval training (HIIT) promises big benefits—lean-muscle definition, high-calorie burn, greater aerobic capacity—in a short amount of time, but it comes at a cost. You have to work for it. Intense bursts of effort are followed by short rest periods to keep your heart hammering and metabolism torching calories long after the workout is over. So while they can be grueling, a HIIT workout is also accessible for beginners who are new to training and looking to burn fat and build muscle.
The idea is to prioritize compound moves that challenge multiple muscle groups at once without putting your joints in jeopardy. That’s exactly what Luke Zocchi, C.P.T., does in this circuit developed for Chris Hemsworth’s health and fitness app, Centr. “While most of these exercises are bodyweight-based, a couple can be done with dumbbells,” Zocchi says. Don’t have weights? Fill water bottles with sand, or backpacks full of books (just make sure both sides weigh the same).
In a time when we’re prioritizing workouts we can squeeze into hectic schedules with little or no equipment, this one checks all the boxes. Just be ready to turn your garage into a sweat gauntlet.
The Best HIIT Workout for Beginners to Burn Fat
Perform 10 reps of all exercises in each group consecutively without stopping (hold side forearm plank for 30 seconds). Repeat 3 times, taking a 15-second breather in between rounds. Complete all 3 rounds before moving onto the next group.
1. Bicycle Crunches
Lie on your back with knees bent at 90 degrees, hands behind your head, and abs engaged to start. Lift your upper back and balance on your butt. With control, straighten your right leg as you rotate your torso counterclockwise, pulling your right elbow to your left knee. Pause briefly then reverse to the starting position and switch sides. That’s one rep. Add a little contraction at the end of each rep to up the intensity.
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding dumbbells in the front rack position near your shoulders to start. Hinge hips back, lower into a squat, then explosively rise, extending through your hips and punching the weights overhead as you stand. Your hands should be above your shoulders, palms facing one another. Lower the dumbbells to return to starting position. That’s one rep.
3. Renegade Rows
Start in a high plank position with hands gripping dumbbells directly beneath shoulders, feet hip-width apart (or wider for greater stability). Engage your glutes and core, then perform a pushup. Row one dumbbell up toward your ribs, then the other. That’s one rep. To reduce the difficulty, eliminate the pushup.
Start in a high plank position with hands directly beneath shoulders, feet hip-width apart. Keep your spine straight, eyes fixed on the floor, and glutes and core engaged. Engage your lats and shoulder stabilizers, as if you’re screwing your hands into the floor. Lower yourself with control, elbows veering slightly out. Stop just before your chest touches the floor and elbows are bent at 90 degrees. Drive up to starting position. That’s one rep.
2. Mountain Climbers
Start in a high plank position with hands directly beneath shoulders, feet hip-width apart. Maintain a flat back as you drive your left knee toward your right elbow. Return to the start position, then repeat on the opposite side. That’s one rep. Keep your weight over your hands and crank up the speed.
3. Biceps Curls
Stand with feet hip-width apart, arms extended, holding dumbbells with palms facing one another to start. Keeping your elbows locked by your side, curl the dumbbells up while rotating your hands so palms face up in the top position. Squeeze your biceps, then lower with control to starting position. That’s one rep.
1. Side Forearm Planks
Lie on your left side with your left elbow planted beneath your shoulder, feet stacked atop one another to start. Lift off the floor by putting your full weight on the side of your left foot and left forearm, hiking hips high to create a straight line from head to feet. Engage your core and raise your right arm straight up to maintain good chest posture. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on the right side. Don’t dump your weight into the stabilizing shoulder; keep space between your shoulder and neck.
2. High-to-Low Planks
Start in a low plank position with weight supported on your forearms and toes, elbows beneath shoulders, and core engaged. Push off your forearms to place your right hand on the floor, then your left, rising to a high plank (top of a pushup position). Reverse the motion to return to the starting position. That’s one rep. On the next rep, lead with your left arm; continue alternating.