4 Best Fat Burning HIIT Workouts (To Shed Pounds Fast)

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Published by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: January 27, 2024
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Besides being an MMA fighter, I'm also a seasoned fitness trainer passionate about helping my clients and readers achieve their fat-loss goals.

Throughout my years in sports, I’ve found that HIIT cardio is one of the most effective ways to burn fat and improve overall fitness.

In this article, I’ve compiled a list of the best fat-burning HIIT workouts that will challenge you, push you to your limits, and help you achieve fast and effective results.

Let’s dive in.

Quick Summary

  • Exercises like burpees and mountain climbers, staples of HIIT, are engineered to turbocharge your fat-burning process and elevate your overall fitness level.
  • HIIT cardio masterfully combines intense, high-energy bursts with recovery periods, making it an ideal workout regime for a wide range of fitness enthusiasts, from novices to seasoned professionals.
  • A 2014 study in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism reveals that HIIT boosts resting energy expenditure by 39.2% more than steady-state cardio, highlighting its superior fat-burning capability.
  • As a seasoned MMA fighter and trainer, I've witnessed HIIT's unparalleled ability to build endurance and muscle power, essential for peak athletic performance.

HIIT Cardio

Performing fat burning hiit workout - push ups using one hand

Before we get into our list of the best fat-loss HIIT workouts, let’s get a clear understanding of what HIIT training is.

What Is HIIT Cardio?

HIIT (high-intensity interval training) cardio is a form of exercise that involves short bursts of intense exercise followed by periods of low-intensity recovery or rest, as stated in the Harvard Health article [1].

It requires little to no equipment and can be done in a relatively small space.

HIIT is quite popular because it can improve cardiovascular fitness, burn calories, and promote weight loss.

Note: HIIT exercise can be very intense, so if you’re a beginner, we advise no more than two HIIT workouts a week. Intermediate and elite folks should limit themselves to no more than three HIIT sessions a week.

Top 4 Fat Burning HIIT Cardio Workouts

Performing burpees and jumping squats as their cardio hiit workout

Here are the four best HIIT cardio workouts for weight loss and fast calorie burn.

1. Burpees

In my MMA training, burpees have been a staple. They're a full-body workout combining strength and cardio, essential for the agility and endurance needed in the ring. Their effectiveness in enhancing overall fitness is unmatched.

They work many muscle groups, mainly the chest, triceps, shoulders, core, hips, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves.

Here’s how you perform them:

  1. Start in a standing position; keep your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Lower yourself into a squat and place your hands on the ground in front of you.
  3. Kick your feet back into a plank position, keeping your arms extended and your body straight.
  4. Perform a push-up.
  5. Jump your feet back to your hands and return to a squat.
  6. Power up by jumping up from the squat position with your hands extended above your head.
  7. Repeat for reps.

You can maximize the fat-burning and muscle-building benefits of burpees by doing them as circuit training. For example, your HIIT routine could consist of 30 seconds of burpees followed by 15 seconds of rest, which you could repeat for several rounds.

2. Mountain Climbers

Performing mountain climbers

Mountain climbers burn more calories than most exercises because they work multiple muscle groups simultaneously, including the core, shoulders, triceps, and legs.

They’re a great cardio exercise to add to your workout routine, as they can improve stability, balance, and posture.

To perform mountain climbers:

  1. Start in a high plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart; keep your body in a straight line from head to your heels.
  2. Keeping your core engaged, bring your right knee towards your chest as you keep your left leg extended.
  3. Quickly switch legs by extending the right leg back and bringing the left knee towards your chest.
  4. Continue alternating legs as quickly as possible while maintaining a strong plank position.

3. Squat Jumps

Squat jumps combine the traditional squat with a jump.

They’re a highly effective exercise for weight loss and muscle growth as they work multiple muscle groups such as the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves.

To perform squat jumps:

  1. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart; keep your toes pointing slightly outward.
  2. Lower yourself down to a squat by bending your knees and pushing your hips back; keep your chest up and back straight.
  3. At the bottom of the squat, jump up explosively and extend your arms overhead.
  4. Land softly by bending your knees to absorb the impact, and immediately lower your body back into the squat.
  5. Repeat for reps.

4. Box Jumps

A woman jumping on a box

In my MMA training, box jumps have been crucial for explosive power.

They work both lower and upper body muscles, mirroring the dynamic movements needed in competitive fighting.

To perform a box jump:

  1. Stand about a foot and a half in front of a sturdy box or platform (beginners may want to start with a lower platform).
  2. Keep your feet hip-width apart.
  3. Lower your body into a quarter squat and then explosively jump onto the box, landing with both feet on top.
  4. Stand up fully when on the box; step down from the box.
  5. Repeat for reps.

It’s pretty easy to injure yourself doing box jumps, so we advise picking a box or platform whose height is manageable—especially when you’re tired.

Related:

Types of HIIT Workouts

Topless person doing push ups

Here’s a breakdown of popular HIIT styles, each with its own unique rhythm and intensity:

  • Tabata: Quick 20-second high-intensity bursts followed by a 10-second rest, repeated for eight rounds, totaling four minutes.
  • Circuit Training: A series of exercises performed back-to-back with minimal rest, tailored to your preferences.
  • AMRAP: "As Many Rounds As Possible" within a set time, like a 5-minute circuit of jumping squats, battle ropes, and burpees, repeated multiple times.
  • Fartlek Training: Mixing up exercises with varying speeds and intensities, like alternating between 30-second jump squats and a minute of light jogging.
  • Interval Training: Alternating high-intensity activities like sprinting with low-intensity periods such as walking.

These HIIT workouts blend intense cardio and strength exercises to maximize calorie burn and muscle building, ideal for enhancing body composition and achieving a fit physique.

Equipment Needed

Equipments for workout routine

Most HIIT exercises don't need heavy equipment, but some do.

Here's a quick rundown of optional gear to spice up your HIIT sessions:

  • Treadmill or exercise bike for sprint or biking intervals.
  • Jump rope to get your heart pumping with various moves.
  • Kettlebells for a combo of strength, conditioning, and flexibility.
  • Battle ropes for a range of HIIT exercises.
  • Plyometric box for step-ups, box jumps, and more.
  • Resistance bands are handy and stretchy for added resistance.

Is HIIT Really Effective for Fat Loss?

A couple doing HIIT workout

Yes, HIIT is really effective for fat loss. A 2014 study in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism found that high-intensity burst exercises with short rest periods increased resting energy expenditure by 39.2% compared to traditional steady-state cardio, demonstrating its greater effectiveness for fat loss [2].

A study in the Journal of Diabetes Research found that HIIT is more beneficial than moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT) for improving body composition and cardiorespiratory fitness across all ages, with HIIT participants experiencing a significant 1.22 kg greater reduction in body weight compared to MICT [3].

What’s also great about HIIT is its after-burner effect.

Research published in the Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise journal suggests that the high intensity of HIIT workouts increases your body’s metabolism and calorie-burning abilities for hours after exercise, which helps you burn calories faster and for longer than traditional cardio [4].

Here are the other benefits of HIIT training:

  • Increased muscle mass and endurance: HIIT requires a lot of energy and effort from your muscles. Over time, they’ll build size and endurance to keep up with your intensity.
  • Convenient, adaptable, and versatile: Most HIIT workouts are bodyweight exercises that can be done anywhere. Plus, many of them have different variations that allow you to perform beginner or elite versions of the same exercise.

Related: HIIT vs CrossFit

“Intense interval training circuits also stimulate muscle-building hormones while simultaneously using up calories and burning fat. The body produces the growth hormone known as IGF-1 during HIIT, for example, which allows the body to build lean mass muscle.”

- Jillian Levy, Certified Yoga Instructor

Safety Measures

Working out using battle rope

Drawing from my MMA and coaching experience, I know firsthand how crucial safety is during high-intensity workouts.

To prevent injuries and maximize your HIIT results, remember:

  • Proper Form: Always maintain perfect form; start gently and build up as you get the hang of it.
  • Rest & Recover: Essential for strengthening between sessions, as noted by the University of Colorado Health [5].
  •  Neglecting this can derail your progress.
  • Hydration: Stay hydrated to optimize recovery and performance, as highlighted in the Biology of Sports journal research [6].
  • Nutrition: Eat well to recover from intense workouts.
  • Supplements: A quality pre-workout supplement can enhance your strength and stamina.

FAQs

How Many Times a Week Should I Do HIIT To Lose Fat?

You should do HIIT 2–3 times a week to lose fat. You should also maintain a healthy diet, drink lots of water, and get plenty of sleep alongside your HIIT to effectively lose fat.

Does HIIT Burn More Belly Fat?

Yes, HIIT can burn more belly fat than traditional forms of cardio. However, HIIT doesn’t specifically target belly fat because no exercise can spot-remove fat.

How Many Minutes of HIIT Should I Do To Lose Fat?

You should do between 30-45 minutes of HIIT cardio to lose fat. Additionally, you should do these workouts while on a calorie deficit.

How Many Calories Does a 30-Min HIIT Workout Burn?

A 30-min HIIT workout burns roughly 400 calories. However, this will also heavily depend on the amount of effort you put into your workout.


References:

  1. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/high-intensity-interval-training/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5237463/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24905559/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11882927/
  5. https://www.uchealth.org/today/rest-and-recovery-for-athletes-physiological-psychological-well-being/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4993146/
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About The Author

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer
Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Holistic Nutrition from Clayton College of Natural Health and is the owner of Taylor Made Fitness. Her philosophy centers on cutting through the hype and misinformation surrounding dietary supplements, focusing instead on practical, science-backed strategies for health and weight loss.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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