As a seasoned fitness trainer passionate about helping my clients and readers achieve their fat-loss goals, 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.
- The best HIIT exercises for fat-burning are compound movements because they engage more muscles.
- A HIIT workout can help you burn more calories than traditional steady-state cardio training.
- A HIIT workout requires little to no equipment and can be done in the comfort of your home.
4 Best Fat Burning HIIT Workouts
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.
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
Here are the four best HIIT cardio workouts for weight loss and fast calorie burn.
Burpees are a full-body workout that integrates strength training and cardiovascular conditioning into one exercise.
They work many muscle groups, mainly the chest, triceps, shoulders, core, hips, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves.
Here’s how you perform them:
- Start in a standing position; keep your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Lower yourself into a squat, and place your hands on the ground in front of you.
- Kick your feet back into a plank position, keeping your arms extended and your body straight.
- Perform a push-up.
- Jump your feet back to your hands and return to a squat.
- Power up by jumping up from the squat position with hands extended above your head.
- 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 do 30 seconds of burpees followed by 15 seconds of rest and repeat for several rounds.
2. 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:
- Start in a high plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart; keep your body in a straight line from head to your heels.
- Keeping your core engaged, bring your right knee towards your chest as you keep your left leg extended.
- Quickly switch legs by extending the right leg back and bringing the left knee towards your chest.
- 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:
- Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart; keep your toes pointing slightly outward.
- Lower yourself down to a squat by bending your knees and pushing your hips back; keep your chest up and back straight.
- At the bottom of the squat, jump up explosively and extend your arms overhead.
- Land softly by bending your knees to absorb the impact, and immediately lower your body back into the squat.
- Repeat for reps.
4. Box Jumps
Box jumps are an excellent plyometric exercise that works several muscles in your lower and upper body.
It targets the glutes, quads, calves, core, and other upper body muscles.
To perform a box jump:
- Stand about a foot and a half in front of a sturdy box or platform (beginners may want to start with a lower platform).
- Keep your feet hip-width apart.
- Lower your body into a quarter squat and then explosively jump onto the box, landing with both feet on top.
- Stand up fully when on the box; step down from the box.
- 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.
Is HIIT Really Effective for Fat Loss?
Yes, HIIT is really effective for fat loss. Studies have shown that doing bursts of high-intensity exercises followed by short periods of low-intensity recovery or rest is more effective for fat loss than traditional steady-state cardio exercises .
What’s also great about HIIT is its after-burner effect.
Research 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 .
Here are the 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 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.
- Burn body fat quickly: HIIT’s fat afterburn effect raises your heart rate after you finish exercises, which helps you burn more calories and lose weight more quickly .
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
Types of HIIT Workouts
The versatility of HIIT cardio has bred various styles of HIIT workouts. I usually let clients choose from a list of HIIT styles that suit their personal preferences and fitness goals.
Here’s a list of the most popular types of HIIT cardio:
- Tabata: Tabata involves 20 seconds of high-intensity work followed by a 10-second rest period. This makes up one cycle, which is then repeated for eight rounds — a total of four minutes.
- Circuit training: This form of training involves doing a series of exercises one after the other with little to no rest between them. The type of exercise and how long you perform them will depend on your preference.
- AMRAP (As Many Rounds As Possible): This style of HIIT involves doing as many sets of exercises for a specific amount of time and then repeating the cycle as many times as you can. For example, you can perform a set of jumping squats, battle ropes, and burpees for 5 minutes and repeat the 5-minute cycle for multiple rounds.
- Fartlek training: This type of HIIT involves performing exercises at different speeds and intensities throughout the workout. For example, you can jump squat for 30 seconds, do a light jog-on-the-spot for a minute, and then jump squat for 30 seconds again.
- Interval training: This form of training involves multiple rounds of alternating between high-intensity exercise and low-intensity periods. For example, sprinting for 30 seconds, walking for a minute, and repeating for several rounds.
The beauty of most HIIT exercises is that they don’t require heavy equipment. However, there are some exercises that need it.
Here’s a list of optional equipment you can buy to add variety to your HIIT session:
- Treadmill or exercise bike: for sprint or biking intervals.
- Jump rope: a simple and effective way to raise your heart rate; it allows for multiple variations.
- Kettlebells: metal balls with a steel handle that can be used for strength, conditioning, and flexibility training.
- Battle ropes: thick, heavy ropes you can use for various HIIT workout variations.
- Plyometric box: a sturdy platform that can be used for step-ups, box jumps, and other explosive movements.
- Resistance bands: lightweight and portable elastic bands that offer resistance to many exercises.
High-intensity interval training is highly demanding and taxing on your body.
When done without proper guidance, it could lead to injuries.
So, we’ve put together some safety measures to help you avoid injuries and get the most out of your HIIT workout.
- Proper form: Follow all exercises with perfect form to avoid unnecessary injuries. It’s okay to start light and slow until you get your form down to a tee.
- Rest & recover: Proper rest and recovery allow your body to strengthen between workouts . Poor recovery can significantly backtrack your fitness goals.
- Hydration: Lack of hydration can negatively affect your recovery and exercise performance . Make sure you stay hydrated before, during, and after your workout.
- Nutrition: Consume a balanced diet to help you recover from grueling workouts.
- Supplements: Consider taking a high-quality pre-workout supplement before your HIIT sessions to boost your strength and endurance levels.
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.
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