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11 HIIT Exercises For An Effective Workout In A Time Crunch

Merrell Readman
mbg Associate Food & Health Editor By Merrell Readman
mbg Associate Food & Health Editor
Merrell Readman is the Associate Food & Health Editor at mindbodygreen. Readman is a Fordham University graduate with a degree in journalism and a minor in film and television. She has covered beauty, health, and well-being throughout her editorial career.
air jack

If you're looking to get in an effective workout in a time crunch, HIIT is the way to go. Not only is this form of working out short and sweet, but it's also particularly effective at cranking up your heart rate, getting a good sweat going, and even improving your mood.

From burning out your lower body to firing up your core and arms, we pulled together our favorite amped-up HIIT exercises to break out when you're in need of a quick endorphin fix, on vacation without equipment, or simply looking to get a good sweat.

This is a choose-your-own-adventure kind of workout. Check out the list below, demonstrated by our top trainers. Move down the list in order, or mix and match the moves below, depending on the areas you want to challenge. Go for 40 seconds of work and 20 seconds of rest, or 30 on then 30 off. Then continue for a 10-, 20-, or even 30-minute workout—whatever you decide, get ready to get sweaty!

1. Lateral Squats

lateral squats

Image by mbg creative

Demonstrated by Janeil Mason.

How-to:

  1. Start in a standing position on one side of your mat.
  2. Take a step to the right, then sit your hips back and lower down into a squat.
  3. Engage your glutes and press through your heels to come back to start.
  4. Repeat this movement until you've reached the other side of your mat, then continue in the opposite direction.
  5. Continue for 30 seconds.
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2. Elevated Burpee

elevated burpee

Image by mbg creative

Demonstrated by Janeil Mason.

How-to:

  1. Grab a chair or elevated surface, and place it on one end of your mat.
  2. Bend over and place your hands on the surface, then jump your feet back to the other end of your mat.
  3. Reverse the movement, coming back to a standing position.
  4. Continue for 30 seconds.

3. Alternating Knee Hugs

knee hugs

Image by mbg creative

Demonstrated by Janeil Mason.

How-to:

  1. Lie down on your back, with legs extended.
  2. Lift your head, neck, and shoulders off the ground. Hover your legs off the ground.
  3. Bend one knee and bring it to your chest. Then reverse the movement and repeat on the opposite side.
  4. Continue for 30 seconds.

4. Air Jack

air jack

Image by mbg creative

Demonstrated by Janeil Mason.

How-to:

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, with arms at your sides.
  2. Raise your arms out to the sides and over your head. At the same time, jump upward so your entire body is in the air.
  3. Quickly reverse the movement and return to start.
  4. Continue for 30 seconds. Then repeat the entire 5-exercise circuit once more.
  5. Note: For a modification, try a jumping jack.

5. Pop Squats

pop squat exercise

Image by mbg creative

Demonstrated by Mindy Lai.

How-to:

  1. Start in a standing position.
  2. Jump your feet out wide, and simultaneously reach down and touch the ground with your right hand.
  3. Hop your feet back together, then repeat with the opposite hand.
  4. Continue for 45 seconds, then continue to bicycles.

6. Hand-to-Knee + High Knees

hand to knee high knees

Image by mbg creative

Demonstrated by Mindy Lai.

How-to:

  1. Start in a standing position.
  2. Lift your arms to the sky, then lift one knee up to hip height, while you energetically bring your hands to meet it. Repeat on the opposite side.
  3. Then quickly lift your left knee up to hip height, followed by your right, pumping your arms at your sides—like you're running in place. Repeat this four times total.
  4. Continue for 45 seconds, then move on to shoulder taps.

7. Plyo Lunges

plyo lunges

Image by mbg creative

Demonstrated by Mindy Lai.

How-to:

  1. Start in a standing position with your hands behind your head.
  2. Get into a lunge position on one side of your mat, with one leg behind your body, and both knees forming 90-degree angles.
  3. Jump up, switch your leg position, and move slightly toward the right as you land in a lunge position.
  4. Continue jumping and lunging as you travel across your mat. Once you reach one end, reverse the direction and return to your starting position.
  5. Repeat for 45 seconds, then continue to crawl out and jump squat.
  6. Modification: If the jumping is too much, try reverse lunges instead.

8. V Ups

v-ups

Image by mbg creative

Demonstrated by Mindy Lai.

How-to:

  1. Lie on your back with your arms and legs straight.
  2. Simultaneously raise your arms and legs as high as you can, keeping them as straight as possible. Try to touch your feet to your hands before lowering back down and repeating.
  3. To make this exercise easier, tuck your knees toward your chest instead. 
  4. Continue for 45 seconds, then continue to high-knee shuffle.

9. High-Knee Shuffle

high knee shuffle

Image by mbg creative

Demonstrated by Mindy Lai.

How-to:

  1. Start in a standing position.
  2. Lift your left knee to hip height, then switch legs and jump the right knee up.
  3. As you alternate your high knees, travel across the mat—you should take three hops total. Reverse the movement and move across the mat in the opposite direction.
  4. Repeat the Round 4 sequence. If you're feeling strong, you can move through all four rounds once more.

10. Squat Touch To Pushup

squat touch to pushup

Image by mbg creative

Demonstrated by Jules Bakshi & Gabi Cortez

How-to:

  1. Start standing, with your feet shoulder-width apart. Heels are slightly turned in.
  2. Hop your feet outward while dropping your arm down to touch the ground with your fingertips. Quickly jump back to start, and repeat 2 more times.
  3. Then, drop your hands down to the mat, and crawl out to a high-plank position.
  4. Engage your core, bend your elbows, and move through a pushup.
  5. Crawl back to your starting position. That's one full round. Continue for 1 minute.

11. Skaters

skaters

Image by mbg creative

Demonstrated by Mindy Lai.

How-to:

  1. Start in a standing position. Bring your feet hip-width distance apart and parallel.
  2. Push into your left foot, driving deeply into all four corners. Gently, leap to one side, and land softly on your right foot. Bring your left hand down to touch the ground.
  3. Reverse the movement, and repeat on the opposite side.
  4. Move back and forth as quickly as you can for 1 minute.
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