post Upper Body HIIT Workout for Toned & Defined Muscles

Upper Body HIIT Workout for Toned & Defined Muscles

Michael Garrico
Published by Michael Garrico | Co-Founder & Marketing Director
Last updated: December 28, 2023
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The upper body HIIT workout targets and strengthens your arms, shoulders, chest, and back, promoting a toned and sculpted upper body.

As a fitness professional, I've observed remarkable results from upper body HIIT workouts with the majority of my clients. To enhance their experience, I conducted a week of research and consulted with other experts in the field.

In this article, I've gathered my findings to provide guidance for beginners and experienced athletes, outlining techniques and exercises to maximize benefits and achieve fitness goals.

Quick Summary

  • An upper body HIIT workout is a fast-paced and intense exercise routine that targets the muscles in your arms, shoulders, chest, and back.
  • Upper body HIIT workout involves short bursts of high-intensity exercises followed by brief recovery periods, maximizing calorie burn and improving cardiovascular fitness.
  • According to Harvard School of Public Health, incorporating upper body HIIT exercises can help build strength, improve endurance, and achieve a toned upper body.
  • As a fitness trainer, I recommend adding top-notch pre-workout supplements to your routine to boost your performance in upper-body HIIT training.

What Is an Upper Body HIIT Workout?

A person doing HIIT for his upper body outside

An Upper Body HIIT Workout is a rapid and intense exercise routine designed to target the muscles in your upper body.

This type of workout aims to maximize calorie burn, boost metabolism, and enhance cardiovascular fitness.

Throughout Upper Body HIIT training, the emphasis is on engaging the muscles in your arms, shoulders, chest, and back through a series of high-intensity exercises.

As a fitness trainer, I recommend that clients prioritize proper recovery after workouts, as these periods provide a brief rest to prepare for the next round of exercises.

Examples of Upper Body HIIT Workouts

A person with a muscular back doing HIIT upper body workouts

Customize your upper body HIIT workout for different fitness levels and goals, considering the wide variety of targeted upper body HIIT workouts available.

Here are some examples:

1. Up and Down Plank

The Up and Down Plank involves transitioning between a traditional forearm plank and a high plank. Follow these steps:

  1. Start in forearm plank, body straight, hands and feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Activate your core, shift from right forearm to right hand, reaching high plank.
  3. Reverse the movement, shifting from right hand to right forearm, returning to forearm plank.
  4. Alternate between high plank and forearm plank. Add challenge with a weight plate or dumbbell on your back.

Learn More: Does Planking Burn Fat

2. Dumbbell Shoulder Press

A person doing dumbbell shoulder press workouts at the gym

The Dumbbell Shoulder Press is a straightforward exercise. Follow these steps:

  1. Begin with feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand, palms forward.
  2. Lift dumbbells to shoulder height, elbows bent, and upper arms parallel to the ground – this is your starting position.
  3. Engage your core, straighten legs, and press dumbbells upward.
  4. Fully extend arms without locking elbows.
  5. Slowly lower dumbbells to the starting position, bending elbows back to shoulder height.
  6. Keep core engaged. Repeat for desired repetitions.

Related: Best Dumbbell Shoulder Exercises for Strength and Mass

3. High Plank T Rotations

The High Plank T Rotations exercise involves the following steps:

  1. Begin in a high plank with hands under shoulders and feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Shift weight to the left hand, rotate left, and extend right arm upward. Left foot supports weight, maintaining stability in the shoulder and straightening the left leg.
  3. Briefly pause, focusing on squeezing the left shoulder blade and engaging the core.
  4. Return to start and repeat the rotation on the opposite side, shifting weight to the right hand and extending the left arm upward. Continue alternating sides.

4. Lateral Raises

A person doing lateral raise workouts

Lateral Raises involve the following steps:

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Let your arms hang naturally by your sides, palms facing your body – this is your starting position.
  3. Engage your core, maintain a slight bend in your elbows, and raise your arms to shoulder level, keeping them parallel to the ground.
  4. Avoid lifting weights higher than shoulder height to prevent strain on your shoulder joints.
  5. Hold the raised position briefly, focusing on contracting the shoulder muscles.
  6. Slowly lower the dumbbells to the starting position, controlling the movement.
  7. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Upper Body HIIT Benefits

A person working out his whole upper body

Engaging in upper body HIIT training provides several benefits:

Increased Calorie Burn

The high-intensity nature of HIIT workouts, including upper body exercises, elevates the heart rate, leading to enhanced calorie expenditure during and after the session. This aids in calorie burning and weight reduction.

Enhanced Cardiovascular Fitness

HIIT upper body workouts, by elevating the heart rate, contribute to improved cardiovascular endurance over time, resulting in increased stamina and overall cardiovascular fitness.


Designed for intensity and efficiency, upper body HIIT exercises are an excellent choice for those with limited time. Short bursts of intense activity followed by brief rest periods allow for a challenging and effective workout in a relatively short time.

Versatility and Adaptability

Upper body HIIT training can be customized to accommodate various fitness levels and goals. You can modify exercises, adjust intensity, or incorporate different equipment based on your preferences and abilities.

"From a scientific perspective, upper body HIIT training has proven to be an effective method for improving upper body strength and cardiovascular fitness. The combination of high-intensity intervals and resistance exercises engages aerobic and anaerobic energy systems, leading to increased calorie expenditure and muscle adaptation. Regularly incorporating the upper body HIIT workout into your routine can yield remarkable results in terms of strength gains and overall fitness improvements."

- Dr. Sarah Roberts, Exercise Physiologist

The Muscles Worked

A person working out his upper body at the gym

The HIIT upper body training targets several major muscle groups in the upper body. Here are the muscles that are primarily engaged during this workout:

Chest Muscles:

According to research from KenHUb, the chest muscles are worked during push-ups and presses, which involve pushing movements [1].

Shoulder Muscles

According to the same research, the deltoids are targeted during exercises such as shoulder presses, lateral raises, and shoulder taps. These movements help strengthen and define the shoulders [2].

Back Muscles

Exercises like bent-over rows and mountain climbers engage the back muscles, specifically the latissimus dorsi (lats) and rhomboids, helping to improve posture and back strength, as per Physio-Pedia [3].

Arm Muscles

Research from KenHub suggests the biceps and triceps are worked during exercises like bicep curls and tricep dips, respectively. These exercises help tone and strengthen the arms [4].

Importance of HIIT Workouts

HIIT workouts involve short, intense exercise bursts followed by brief recovery periods. This method pushes your limits, challenging muscles and the cardiovascular system.

Recovery periods offer a brief rest before the next round. Combining high-intensity exercise and active recovery elevates heart rate, boosts calorie burn, and stimulates muscle growth and strength.

Training Tips

Customize your upper body HIIT workout to suit various fitness levels and goals. Keep the intensity high by performing exercises quickly.

The duration can vary from 15 to 45 minutes, depending on the program and personal preferences. Explore a range of upper body HIIT workouts for effective training.


Can HIIT Upper Body Workout Build Muscle?

Yes, a well-designed upper body HIIT workout can indeed help build muscle. While traditional strength training with heavy weights and low repetitions is typically associated with muscle hypertrophy (muscle growth), HIIT workouts can also contribute to muscle development.

Can You HIIT Upper Body Every Day?

Hitting the upper body every day is not recommended for most individuals, as it does not allow for adequate recovery and can increase the risk of overuse injuries. Rest and recovery are essential for muscle growth and repair.


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