Total Body HIIT Workout

UK Fitness Pro
UK Fitness Pro
· 7 min read
Personal trainer completing a total body HIIT workout.

What is HIIT?

HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training. As the name suggests, HIIT workouts involve intervals of high-intensity exercise. Since the exercises are performed at a high level of intensity, the intervals have to be quite short, usually ranging from 30 to 60 seconds. Between each high-intensity interval, you have a short period in which to recover before starting the next. The rest period is often about 20 seconds. Usually, HIIT workouts are completed with little to no equipment. 

What are the Benefits of HIIT?

According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the benefits of HIIT include improvements in fitness, blood pressure, and metabolism. The ACSM also highlights that HIIT workouts promote fat loss and are associated with increased adherence; since they’re fun and don’t require much time or equipment, people find that they’re able to incorporate HIIT workouts into their daily routines. 

Total Body HIIT Workout

Another benefit of HIIT workouts is their flexibility. Virtually any exercise can be incorporated into a HIIT workout. Consequently, it’s possible to design a quick HIIT workout that can be used to strengthen almost every muscle in your body. 

The total body HIIT workout below involves just six exercises, but together they will help to strengthen every major muscle group in your body. The six exercises will target (1) the chest and triceps, (2) shoulders, (3) biceps, (4), back, (5) legs, and (6) core. 

For most of the exercises, you won’t need any equipment. However, it’s tricky to work the biceps and upper back only using your body, so to target these muscles you’ll need something to provide resistance, such as dumbbells or resistance bands. If you don’t have either of these, you could improvise, such as by putting some books in a backpack. 

Resistance bands can be useful for total body HIIT workouts.

Perform every exercise for 40 seconds before taking a 20-second break. There are HIIT-specific timing devices available, which can help you to stay focused on the workout, but you can otherwise just use your watch or the stopwatch app on your phone. 

Repeat each exercise three times before moving onto the next one. This way, the workout, which includes a 2-minute warm up, takes just 20 minutes. The structure of the workout looks like this: 

Warm up (120 seconds), Exercise 1 (40 seconds), break (20 seconds), Exercise 1 (40 seconds), break (20 seconds), Exercise 1 (40 seconds), break (20 seconds), Exercise 2 (40 seconds), break (20 seconds), Exercise 2 (40 seconds), break (20 seconds), Exercise 2 (40 seconds), break (20 seconds), Exercise 3 (40 seconds), etc. 

If you’re a beginner, you could just do each exercise once or twice. Also, variations of the exercises below are included to account for different levels of strength and fitness. 

Warm up

To start, prepare the body for the high-intensity exercises by completing a simple warm up. For this workout, complete a 1-minute gentle jog on the spot, followed by a minute of jumping jacks. These exercises recruit most of the muscles in the body, so are ideal preparation for a total body HIIT workout. 

Chest and Triceps

To target the chest and triceps without equipment, there’s nothing better than the simple push up. Start with the arms straight, slowly lower your chest towards the ground, then push up.

Remember, perform the exercise for 40 seconds, take a 20-second break, then repeat these steps twice more before moving onto the next exercise. 

Personal trainer doing push ups as part of a total body HIIT workout.

Easier alternative: Complete push ups while on your knees instead of on your toes. 

Harder alternative: Clap your hands together between each rep!

If you want to emphasise the chest, use a wider grip (hands wider than shoulders).

If you want to emphasise the triceps, use a narrower grip (hands in line with shoulders or narrower). 

Shoulders

The next exercise in the total body HIIT workout is the pike push up. With a normal push up, your legs and torso form a straight line, but with a pike push up they make a right angle. Think of the downward dog pose in yoga (see pic below). 

Start with your arms straight, then bend them so that your face moves towards your hands, then use your shoulder muscles to push back to the starting position. 

Personal trainer doing pike push ups as part of a total body HIIT workout.

Easier alternative: Complete the reps while on your knees instead of on your toes. 

Harder alternative: Handstand push ups. 

Biceps

For the bicep portion of the total body HIIT workout, you’ll need something to provide resistance (e.g., dumbbells, resistance bands, a backpack filled with books), which you’ll use to perform bicep curls. 

While standing, start with the arms straight, contract the biceps to bring the weight towards your shoulders, then slowly lower your hands back down. Throughout, keep your elbows and torso in the same place to ensure that the biceps, and no other parts of your body, are doing the work.

As the name suggests, the bicep is made up of two muscles: the short head (closer to chest) and the long head (further from chest). If you’d like to emphasise the short head, use a conventional grip. That is, have your palms facing forwards. If you’d like to emphasise the long head, use a hammer grip (palms facing each other). 

Personal trainer doing bicep curls as part of a total body HIIT workout.

To make the exercise easier or harder, simply use less or more weight. Also, doing alternating curls (i.e., one arm, then the other) will be easier than doing both arms at once. 

Back 

You’ll also need something to provide resistance for the back portion of the total body HIIT workout, which you’ll use to perform bent over rows. Here, I’ll imagine that you’re using dumbbells. 

With the weights in your hands and standing up, lean forwards, keeping your back straight, so that your torso is almost parallel with the ground. You’ll stay in this position throughout the exercise. Start with your arms straight and palms facing each other, then pull your elbows straight up towards the side of your body, then slowly return your hands back to the start position. 

Personal trainer doing bent over rows as part of a total body HIIT workout.

As with bicep curls, simply increase or decrease the weight to make the exercise more challenging or easier. Also, alternating between arms will be easier than doing both at the same time. 

Legs

To target the legs during the total body HIIT workout, perform alternating lunges. Standing up, take a big step forward with your left leg and lower yourself down so that your right knee almost touches the ground, then push with the left leg to return to the start position. Repeat with the right leg. Throughout, keep your back straight and your shoulders back. 

Personal trainer doing lunges as part of a total body HIIT workout.

Easier alternative: Jog on the spot.  

Harder alternative: Hold dumbbells while lunging or perform jumping lunges. That is, rather than returning to the start position between each rep, jump and switch the positions of your legs. For example, if your left leg is forward and bent, jump from that position, switch the position of your legs in the air, then land so that your right leg is forward and bent. Bear in mind: this version is exhausting!

Core

For the final exercise in the total body HIIT workout, we’ll do planks. 

Get in a push up-like position but have your elbows on the ground with your hands in front of you, then just stay where you are for the 40 seconds. Your legs and torso should be straight and should almost be in line with other; your torso should just be very slightly angled forward relative to your legs, so that your bum is slightly raised. You should feel that your abdominal and lower back muscles are engaged. 

If you have a yoga mat, this can make the plank a little more comfortable on your elbows (and knees if you’re doing the easier version described below). If not, any soft item, like a pillow or cushion, could be used to protect your elbows and to help you stay focused on engaging the target muscles. 

Personal trainer doing a plank as part of a total body HIIT workout.

Easier alternative: Perform the plank on your knees instead of on your toes. 

Harder alternative: Walking plank. Start with your elbows on the ground, then put your left hand on the ground, followed by your right hand, and then straighten the arms. Next, return to the starting position, then repeat Essentially, you’re alternating between a low plank (elbows on the ground) and a high plank (hands on the ground, arms straight). 

What next?

If you’re able complete the exercises three times each, how about trying the harder variations of them described above? Remember, HIIT workouts are flexible, so you could replace any of the above exercises with a suitable alternative. Don’t like lunges? You could switch them for squats. Detest planks? How about crunches or leg raises?

If you’d like a personal trainer to assist you with your total body HIIT workout, just head to the ukfitness.pro homepage and type your location into the search box to see a list of personal trainers near you. You can then use the filters to find a personal trainer that has expertise in HIIT workouts. If you’d prefer to work with a trainer remotely, one of these online personal trainers would be pleased to assist you. 

About the Author

As well as BSc, MSc, and PhD degrees in life science subjects, James Roberts has over 10 years of experience in strength and endurance training. He loves to write in order to share his expertise in healthy eating, training, and supplementation. 

A personal trainer with expertise in total body HIIT workouts.

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