On days when exercise is at the bottom of your priority list and making it to a fitness class on time presents a scheduling nightmare, a HIIT workout can be your saving grace. Obviously you can also skip your workout, and you should never feel guilty for doing so. But if you’re someone who feels a little less stressed and a little more in control of a busy day after fitting in time to sweat, then a HIIT workout is pretty much your best option.
HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, is a workout style that involves brief bursts of high-intensity intervals followed by brief periods of low-intensity recovery. The biggest draw of HIIT is that it lets you fit in more work in less time. Since you give close to 100 percent of your effort during each high-intensity burst, your heart rate skyrockets and your muscles fatigue pretty quickly. And yes, that means the workout is going to be challenging—but on the upside, HIIT workouts are typically really short.
Gerren Liles, NASM-certified personal trainer at Mirror, says that HIIT is a go-to for most fitness professionals because it’s one of the best ways to raise your heart rate and improve strength and performance. “Incorporating HIIT twice a week, along with pure strength training, mobility work, and proper recovery will create a healthy, well-rounded individual with the confidence and stamina to take on the world,” Liles says.
And your HIIT workouts don’t need to be complicated. In fact, since you’re working really intensely, it’s almost better to stick with less equipment and focus on basic movements. That way, you don’t need to worry about form as much and can just really give it your all.
The dumbbell HIIT workout below, which Liles created for SELF, includes compound exercises that work multiple muscle groups at once and moves that target specific muscle groups. It only requires one pair of medium-weight dumbbells, and will take you just 10 minutes to do. It’s also scalable for all fitness levels, he adds. “I use all of these full-body exercises (and more), in my MIRROR classes,” Liles says. Each circuit in the workout includes two dynamic (moving) exercises and a static hold. “After the intense, dynamic exercises, the static hold is a smart way to wring the last bit of juice out of your muscles, where you are challenging them to stabilize while in a fatigued state,” says Liles.
- Do the first move for 60 seconds, at an easy, controlled tempo with full range of motion.
- Do the second move for 30 seconds, at 80 percent to maximum effort, attempting to reach fatigue or breathlessness without compromising your form.
- Do the last move for 15 seconds, which just requires you to hold a single position.
The goal is to not rest in between each exercise in a circuit, and to take no more than 60 seconds to transition from one circuit to the next, Liles says. “Since it’ll be working a different muscle group, that part of your body should be refreshed and ready to go.”
What you’ll need: One pair of medium-weight dumbbells. Liles says to pick a weight with which renegade rows feel challenging, but doable with proper form (very minimal movement in your torso as you row each arm back).
- Alternating Lateral Lunge With Dumbbells — 60 seconds
- Skater Hop — 30 seconds
- Sumo Squat Hold —15 seconds
- Renegade Row With Dumbbells — 60 seconds
- Bent-Over Row With Dumbbells — 30 seconds
- Bent-Over Row Hold With Dumbbells — 15 seconds
- Alternating Reverse Lunge With Dumbbells — 60 seconds
- Split Lunge Jump — 30 seconds (switching legs after 15 seconds)
- Lunge Hold Right — 15 seconds
- Lunge Hold Left — 15 seconds
- Deadbug — 60 seconds
- Bicycle Crunch — 30 seconds
- Hollow Body Hold — 15 seconds
- Push-up — 60 seconds
- Burpee — 30 seconds
- Triceps Push-up Hold — 15 seconds
Here’s how to do each move:
Demoing the moves below are Cookie Janee, a background investigator and security forces specialist in the Air Force Reserve; Amanda Wheeler, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and co-founder of Formation Strength, an online women’s training group that serves the LGBTQ community and allies; Teresa Hui, a native New Yorker who has run over 150 road races, including 16 full marathons; Rachel Denis, a powerlifter who competes with USA Powerlifting and holds multiple New York state powerlifting records; and Crystal Williams, a group fitness instructor and trainer who teaches at residential and commercial gyms across New York City Rachel Denis, a powerlifter who competes with USA Powerlifting and holds multiple New York state powerlifting records.
All products featured on SELF are independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.