With HIIT, otherwise known as high-intensity interval training, you can bang out impactful, serious workouts out in almost no time. The short time, plus the fact that they work is a big part of their rising popularity in the past few years. Research shows that when you target heart rate through HIIT, not only do you burn more fat during the workout, you continue to burn fat for 24 hours after you finish. That means this 20-minute HIIT workout will raise your fitness game far more than a 6-minute run ever could. What’s the catch? They’re hard. No surprises here.
HIIT workouts are often divided into categories like strength, core, and cardio. But if you only have 20 minutes at the gym and want to cover all your bases, it is entirely possible. Follow this plan of 10 moves. Do each for 30 seconds, followed by 10 seconds rest. Because precise timing is an important part of maximizing HIIT workouts, consider getting a stopwatch or countdown clock to make sure you are sticking with the schedule.
The Ultimate 20-Minute HIIT Workout
Do the circuit 3 times to complete this total-body routine.
Use an overhand grip to work your triceps and deltoids, cross your ankles, and keep your focus high on the wall. If necessary, use the gym’s assisted pull-up machine. There is absolutely no shame in getting support, and you will build muscle faster doing several pull-ups with weight assistance than struggling to do one unassisted.
Aim for one pushup per second. Barring that, one for every 1.5 seconds. Focus on keeping your back flat and your elbow trailing directly back (as opposed to out to the sides).
Split Squat/Barbell Press
This combo of a split squat and barbell press will make your quads and biceps burn. Place one end of the barbell in a corner or bar box (someplace it won’t slip out of). Hold the other end in your left hand (elbow bent, hand at chest) adding enough weight to make 10 reps challenging. Stand with right leg about a foot in front of the left. Bend knees and lower into a lunge, keeping your left knee from touching the floor. In one explosive movement, straighten knees to standing and raise left arm straight above your head. Lower arm and repeat. Next time through the circuit, do this exercise on the opposite side. The final time through, do 7 squat/press on each side.
Like jumping jacks, except your legs go front and back rather than out to the sides, this move works your quads, glutes, and core. Start in a deep lunge, both knees bent, right foot in front. Push through the floor and your jump in the air and scissor your feet so that the left foot lands in front.
Kettlebell Squat Jumps
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Hold kettlebell handle with both hands. Bend knees until your quads are parallel to the floor, allowing kettlebell to drift back between your legs. Push through the ground as you leap straight up in the air, extending your arms in front of you. Land back in a squat position.
Lie back on an incline bench at about 45 degrees. Grab two dumbbells heavy enough to make 15 reps challenging. Bend elbows and hold the weights at your chest. Breathe in, then exhale forcefully as you straighten your arms and raise both dumbbells directly overhead. Inhale as you bend elbows and lower weights. Aim for 15 reps in 30 seconds.
Lower yourself down into an extended plank position (arms straight). Focus on maintaining a straight line from your head to your feet. Jump your legs out to the sides, then back together again. Form trumps speed, but nevertheless aim for about 15 plank jacks in 30 seconds.
Standing Cable Row
Stand facing the cable machine, about two feet away. Position the cable at chest height. Grab cable handle with your right hand. Bend your left knee and raise your left leg in front of you. Bend right elbow and pull your hand to the side of your chest. Straight arm again, keeping left foot in the air. Reverse side on next set.
Weighted Single Leg Dead Lifts
Grab a light barbell in both hands and stand with your weight over your right leg, arms straight in front of you. Hinge forward at the waist, raising your left leg behind you while lowering the barbell to the floor. In one strong motion, return to standing (focus on keeping your back straight). Switch legs and repeat.
Sit on the floor, legs straight in front of you, arms at your sides. Shift your weight back as you raise both legs off the floor, contracting your abs until your body form the shape of a V. Stretch arms out in front of you. Hold for 30 seconds.
20-Minute HIIT Workout Survival Tips
You knew it would be hard, but harder than you expected? Don’t worry, you’ll get through this. If you’re thinking of calling it quits, just…
Breathe. More important than the timing, the intensity, even the form is your breathing. If you’re getting into short, panicked breaths, you’ll never make it through.
Focus on Form. If the intensity is just crushing you, slow down and focus on the form. One push-up done with perfect form is worth five busted out with an arched back and half-crooked arms.
Slowly Ramp It Up. You’re not going to nail the 20-minute workout on your first, second, or even tenth try. You should always go through the motions as fast as you can with perfect form. This will be slow at first. That’s fine.
Find a Partner. A timed workout is pretty tough to do alone. If you have a partner, you can split the duty of calling the shots.