15 High Intensity (HIIT) Cardio Workouts & Exercises That’ll Help You Build Muscle

HIIT Workouts

If you workout a few times per week, chances are that you probably consider yourself relatively fit.

This is a great first step in your fitness journey, as consistency paves the way to the body of your dreams.

But what if there was a way to get there faster – a methodology that wasn’t just more efficient, but also, more effective?

If this sounds like something that has piqued your interest, then it’s time you explore the world of high-intensity interval training, better known as HIIT.

What Are HIIT Workouts?

HIIT Workouts at home

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a training technique that consists of working at near maximum intensity for a short period of time, followed by short rest periods.

HIIT is used for various purposes, including aerobic conditioning, to help burn fat, muscle strength and endurance, and weight loss.

The workouts can be structured to rely on just bodyweight moves, using dumbbells, kettlebells, or other fitness equipment if available.

It is not just to help you lose weight, as many enthusiasts tend to believe when embarking on the methodology.

These workouts are also helping in managing blood pressure and blood sugar levels in people living with comorbidities.

Choosing The Right One For Your Goals

Not all HIIT workouts are the same.

In fact, far from it- as they can be tailored to focus on your strengths and weaknesses, or to avoid exercises that are not best suited for you.

In addition to this, regardless of if your goal is to lose weight, build muscle, or improve your overall cardiopulmonary health, you can achieve it all with the right HIIT workout.

Want an edge over the competition?

Try these popular and vetted workouts to get started on the right path today.

15 Top HIIT Routines For Strength Training

The vast majority of HIIT plans revolve around weight loss and cardio fitness, but it is understandable that this isn’t everyone’s ultimate goal.

You will discover ways to add mass to your frame, as well as lean out by the time you get to the end of this article.

1) Lower Body Circuit

Lower Body HIIT Workout

Most of the exercises performed on a resistance training HIIT are done on the AMRAP (as many reps as possible) basis and using dumbbells or just bodyweight exercises for resistance.

These are common HIIT exercises to choose from:

  • Jump squat
  • Bulgarian split squat
  • Lateral lunge walk
  • Backward lunge walk
  • Reverse lunge
  • Deadlift
  • Lunges
  • Step-ups
  • Single leg deadlift
  • Glute kickbacks

The 45:15 Workout

This lower body HIIT workout includes the choice of 4 exercises from above, performed in a 45 seconds AMRAP, followed by 15 seconds rest.

After completion of the fourth exercise in fashion, rest for one minute and repeat the circuit a total of 3-4 times.

The 30×4 Workout

This lower body HIIT workout might be either more forgiving or grueling than the previous since no rest is involved before the completion of one entire cycle (usually 4 exercises back to back)

2) Upper Body Workouts

There are many iterations that upper body workouts can take, so for convenience, we will limit our focus to three of them; push, pull, and mixed.

a) Upper Body Push

Upper Body Push Workout

A typical upper body push routine consists of the following exercises:

  • Push-up
  • Incline push-up
  • Dip
  • Military push-up
  • Push-up with rotation
  • Side plank position with alternating arm and leg raise
  • One-arm push-up
  • Plank position with arm and leg raise
  • Dip with chest tap
  • Triceps dips on a bench or chair
  • Military press
  • Close-grip presses
  • Dumbbell presses

A well-put-together push workout might include a plank variety, a chest press/push-up shoulder press variety, and dip/close grip press to finish the circuit.

Push workouts are often done in 45:15 fashion times 3-4 circuits.

b) Upper Body Pull

Upper body PULL

  • Inverted row
  • Back extension
  • Chin-up/ pull up
  • Lat pulldown
  • Bent over row
  • upright row
  • dumbbell pullover
  • bicep curl
  • knee raise

Like push workouts, it’s common to have 4 exercises stacked together in 45:15 format, repeated for 3-4 circuit sessions.

4) Tabatas: The Perfect Cardio Workout?


The Tabata Protocol is a high-intensity, short interval training protocol that lasts 8 rounds of 20 seconds on and 10 seconds off.

The protocol is designed to maximize the body’s capacity for producing large amounts of energy, increasing metabolic rate, and promoting fat loss.

Start by warming up for 3 minutes before beginning the 20-second work interval.

You should begin each interval with a quick and powerful movement, such as an all-out sprint.

After each interval, rest for 10 seconds before beginning the next

A Tabata workout might look like this:

  • 3 minutes of warm-up
  • 8 rounds of 20 seconds of high-intensity work followed by 10 seconds of ACTIVE rest (meaning, slow, low-intensity activity)
  • 3 minutes cool down

Good choices for performing Tabatas include:

  • Jumping Jacks
  • Pushups
  • Mountain Climbers
  • Burpees
  • Squats
  • Step-ups
  • Sit-ups
  • Crunches
  • Sprints
  • Cycling
  • Elliptical machines


5) Jump Rope

Jump rope HIIT workout

A very basic, yet underestimated exercise is using a jump rope, something that is extremely challenging for many people.

Jumping rope is a childhood game that still provides a great, low-impact workout.

You can jump rope for 10 to 30 minutes, but try to work up to no more than 10 minutes to avoid injury.

Jumping rope is a great way to build cardiovascular endurance and improve coordination.

For best effect, jump rope for up to 60 seconds, then take 30 seconds rest and repeat for up to 8 cycles.

Looking to make it even higher intensity? Mix things up like this:

  1. Jump right leg over left leg
  2. Jump backward
  3. Jump right leg over left leg
  4. Jump forward
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 for a total of 60 seconds.
  6. Rest for 30 seconds

6) BurpeeCycling HIIT

Burpees are a great way to build up your endurance fast- making this workout amazing when training for marathons.

Burpees are effectively three exercises in one which make your body do all-out work and leave you feeling spent at the end.

To perform, start with legs straight and knees slightly bent.

Then, in one smooth motion drop down into a press-up position resembling that of a push up.

Perform one push up rep, then immediately jump and perform one jumping jack.

These intense bursts take a toll on your cardiovascular system and force your body to improve.

You will only be able to keep work periods brief with this exercise, so 30 seconds of active work is sufficient as a beginner.

There are several ways to go about doing this workout such as splitting the segments into jumping jack/ pushup/ squat and alternating intervals of 40 seconds activity against 20 seconds rest and completing 3-4 cycles.

7) Cycling

Burpees HIIT Workout

The Classic incarnation of steady-state cardio, you might be surprised to find out just how good it is for burning fat and elevating your metabolic rate.

In fact, if you’re relatively at the beginning of your fitness journey and just looking for a way to get your feet wet to lose fat and improve your cardiovascular fitness, cycling is a good way to get your whole body accustomed to exercise.

In the beginning, keep your HIIT session brief, as intense exercise can slow down recovery and predispose you to injury.

8) Sprint

Sprint HIIT

Sprinting is one of the most basic, yet effective ways to improve your health and performance.

There are a few different ways to go about doing this, but most commonly the 35:25 split is used.

Following a low intensity 5-10 minutes jog, sprinting as close to 100% maximum heart rate (MHR) for 35 seconds is performed, followed by a low-intensity recovery walk over the next 25 seconds.

Work up to 10 cycles over time to see the difference this makes.

9) Battle Ropes

Battle Ropes

One of the most feared pieces of gym equipment, yet one of the simplest, battle ropes can light your core and upper body on fire in a way only a few exercises can.

The key is to perform both alternating and dual-handed varieties and using the AMRAP principle.

Each version should be performed for 30 seconds and followed by 15 seconds rest.

10) Core Workout

Core HIIT Workout

Hitting the core with a high-intensity interval workout may same harsh, but it bears mentioning that just like other muscle groups, abs must be sufficiently targeted as well.

It is not recommended to perform these workouts after another, as it requires a day by itself to be able to appropriately perform.

This plan is a mixed one, in the sense that it utilizes fixed reps as well as AMRAP.

This workout usually includes:

  • Crunches x 50, followed by 15 seconds rest.
  • Bicycle crunches for 30 seconds, followed by 15 seconds rest
  • Combine with two other abdominal exercises of your choice, and repeat cycle 3-4 times

11) Sled

sled push

Sled training is an effective way to build lean muscle and explosive strength, especially useful for anyone who plays football.

It involves pushing and pulling a sled loaded with weight across extended distances.

Sled training is a great way to build stamina and the powerful muscles of the legs and core.

Sled workouts are performed a bit differently, in a pyramid fashion.

That is to say, distance starts low, increases to a peak then diminishes again.

Rest no more than 30 seconds between sled dashes, and aim for a minimum of ten sprints.

12) Total body HIIT workouts For Muscle

Full body HIIT Workout

Perfect for those now getting their feet wet in the world of HIIT workouts, full-body sessions can kickstart tremendous lean muscle growth and accelerate fat loss by increasing energy expenditure.

Performed for 45 seconds followed by 30 seconds rest. Repeat 3-4 times for an intense workout.

Exercise choices include:

  • Push ups (try any push-up position you are comfortable with)
  • Pull ups
  • Crunches
  • Squats
  • Sit-ups
  • Bench dips
  • Planks (back in straight line position)
  • Mountain climbers

13) Plyometric Workouts

Plyometric Workouts

A full-body plyometric workout can be done by choosing from a variety of drills.

There are many exercises that can be completed to ensure all muscles in the body are sufficiently challenged.

The aim of these exercises is to utilize speed and force in order to generate hypertrophy and power.

A plyometric workout can mix things up and help you bust out of a rut or stalling point.

If you’re new to plyometrics, start by incorporating a single exercise then gradually move up to a plyometric-only workout as your fitness level improves.

Examples of plyometric exercises include but are not limited to:

  • Sprinting
  • Jumping jacks
  • Jumping rope
  • Pushups
  • Box jumps
  • Dips
  • High knees
  • Butt kicks
  • Lateral bounds
  • Inchworms
  • Burpees
  • One leg hops

14) Resistance Band

Resistance band exercises

Resistance bands are one of the most cost-effective investments you can make when trying to get fit, since they are convenient enough to be used anywhere a door is found, and flexible to become your very own total gym.

A great resistance band circuit HIIT session regardless of your experience level would include the following:

A) Low door rows

Connect your resistance band to a door jam attachment low on the door.

Stand with starting position of feet hip-width apart, bend at the waist and pull towards your midsection.

Perform for 45 seconds then rest for 15, the same with other exercises in the circuit

B) Band curl

place band under your feet, with arms fully extended and to your sides.

Curl the band but do not bring elbows forward; repeat for the allotted time.

C) Triceps pressdowns

Connect the band to the top of your door, stand with bands in hands, forearms extended parallel to the floor.

Simultaneously, press with your right and left arm to bring the band in front of your thighs. Squeeze, and repeat.

D) Band kickbacks

Kickbacks emphasize the hamstrings and glutes, performed by connecting your band to a low door attachment.

To perform, one leg at a time, for example, keeping the leg straight, raise the right heel off the floor followed by the right foot, and repeat for 30 seconds.

Do the same with the other leg without rest.

15) Kettlebell Swings

Kettlebell Swings

Kettlebells are beasts in their own right; having advantages that make them superior to dumbbells in some regard.

However, instead of concocting an entire HIIT workout for kettlebells, we will focus on the shredder- kettlebell swings.

Swings are special for a few reasons.

For instance, they help to recruit the entire body during the movement, making it excellent to burn calories.

To perform, start in a standing position with knees bent slightly and kettlebell held supported by both arms in front of your thighs.

Swing the kettlebell forward with elbows extended, and in one fluid motion, simultaneously perform the squat position and thrust the kettlebell between your thighs.

Swing forward once more, and raise up in one motion. Perform for a total of 45 seconds, followed by 15 seconds of rest.

You’ve now completed one cycle. Repeat 3 more times for an intense way to burn more calories.

Final Words

HIIT workouts are meant to be as close to all-out workouts using maximum effort as you can get.

The work period needs to be kept brief in order to avoid CNS fatigue and overtraining, but they are also extremely convenient.

You can easily fit 15 minutes in after work, before work, or even on your lunch break (given you have a shower!).

The sheer convenience and bang for your buck these workouts deliver truly make them game-changers.