15 Circuit Training Workouts (Home & Gym)

15 Circuit Training Workouts (Home & Gym)


circuit training is awesome, even dinosaurs love it

This circuit training guide is gonna give you EVERYTHING you need to do your first kickass circuit training workout today.

I mean come on, it has dinosaurs in it.

These workouts are similar to the custom programs we build for our Online Coaching Clients who work out at home, on the road, and in outer space.

Okay, FINE we don’t have any clients in space (yet). But we do have clients in Antarctica, and multiple aerospace engineers. Close enough?



If you’re hoping circuit training will maximize your results in a minimum amount of time, one of the 15 circuits below will do the trick:

Let’s jump right in.

What is Circuit Training?

As Coach Lauren mentions above, the “circuit” in circuit training comes from the fact that you do a sequence of exercises back to back to back, and then you repeat the sequence.

And then again.

You cycle through the planned sequence of exercises, or circuit, multiple times.

That’s circuit training.

Generally, you hit each major muscle group during one full circuit. You may do a lower body for one exercise. Then the upper body the next.

You’ll find all sorts of different circuit training sequences. Here are some things most will have in common:

  • Several different exercises. A normal circuit will have five to ten different movements per circuit. You’ll often hear these referred to as “stations.” Overhead press station, squat station, etc.
  • Little to no rest in between. The goal of circuit training is to keep your heart rate up. Ideally, if you’re physically able, you go from one exercise to another without stopping. Maybe you rest after the whole circuit. Maybe.
  • Rinse and repeat. Generally, you’ll run through your circuit a few times. Three rounds are common.

Make sense?

The Tick is stoked you are putting on weight, muscle or fat, it means our strategy is working.

The point here is to work different parts of your body with different exercises, and then while those parts are recovering, you’re working on your other movements! This helps build cardiovascular health, while also improving muscular endurance and strength.

Plus you’ll burn calories!

As we lay out in our article, Cardio vs Interval Training vs. Weight Training, research supports that doing strength training circuits is great for weight loss and overall health.

More importantly, for somebody with limited time, doing a strength training circuit is more effective at building strength and burning fat than an equivalent amount of cardio.

In other words, if you are trying to lose weight, you should be doing circuit training.

Our Beginner Bodyweight Circuit would be a great place to begin, and you can download a worksheet to help you get started right here:

Why Should I do circuit training?

This runner definitely has a strong core!

Generally, you’ll hear exercise divided into strength training or aerobic exercise (cardio).

What’s the difference, you wonder?

  • Strength training. Strength training is also referred to as anaerobic exercise, which would be a short burst of energy for movement. Think of a push-up or pull-up. These exercises help build and tone muscle.
  • Aerobic Exercise. “Aerobic” means “needs oxygen.” Your heart rate increases to get oxygen where your body needs it, thus the word “cardio.” Running, biking, or jumping jacks would be examples of aerobic exercise.

The thing about a circuit is, you actually do both categories. Presses and lunges fall into strength training. Jumping jacks are cardio.

And since you aren’t stopping much in between stations, you’ll need more oxygen, and voila. Even more cardio.

With circuit training, you build muscle and burn fat WHILE building stamina.

As Michael Scott would say, “that’s a win, win, win.”

circuit training is a win win win

There’s some debate on what kind of exercise is better for weight loss: aerobic or anaerobic.

My thoughts?

If you’re limited on time and only can pick one, I would pick strength training: when you strength train, you break your muscles down, and your body needs to work extra hard over the next 24-48 hours to rebuild those muscles (with increased calories burned).

We work with our 1-on-1 Coaching Clients to create programs that combine both strength and cardio in a fun way – it really comes down to a program that you actually WANT to do.



Before and after your circuit training: Warm up and stretch

Some stretching a rubber band

No matter which circuit you pick, I want you to start with one important thing:

Warm-up!

I cover why you should always warm up in an article found right here. It doesn’t have to be much though, give it about five minutes to get your muscles active and your heart rate up.

This will help you do exercises properly and help prevent injury. You can run in place, do air punches and kicks, or some jumping jacks.

Here is NF Senior Coach Staci (you might know her incredible story) showing you many beginner options you can use to warm up as well:

Did I just tell you to prepare for circuit training, with a circuit?!

If you’re curious, here’s my personal (advanced) warm-up:

THE NERD FITNESS ADVANCED WARM-UP:

  • Jump rope: 2-3 minutes 
  • Jumping jacks: 25 reps
  • Bodyweight squats: 20 reps
  • Lunges: 5 reps each leg.
  • Hip extensions: 10 reps each side
  • Hip rotations: 5 each leg
  • Forward leg swings: 10 each leg
  • Side leg swings: 10 each leg
  • Push-ups: 10-20 reps
  • Spider-man steps: 10 reps

Our goal isn’t to tire you out. Instead, we want to warm you up.

That’s step one.

Completing your chosen circuit training routine would be step two.

Below, you’ll find 15 workouts you can follow along with! And if you like our style of workouts, you might like our new app, Nerd Fitness Journey!

Our fun habit-building app helps you exercise more frequently, eat healthier, and level up your life (literally).

Right now, you can try it for free for a full week (no credit card required). Jump in below:

Beginner Bodyweight Workout Circuit

This workout circuit, as we lay out in our Beginner Bodyweight Workout article, is as follows:

  • Bodyweight squats: 20 reps
  • Push-ups: 10 reps
  • Walking lunges – 10 each leg
  • Dumbbell rows (using a gallon milk jug or another weight): 10 each arm.
  • Plank: 15 seconds
  • Jumping jacks: 30 reps

Run through this circuit three times. If you don’t have milk in the house for the rows, find something of roughly the same weight with a good handle.

We also turned this workout into a fun infographic with superheroes, because that’s how we roll:

An infographic of the Beginner Bodyweight Workout

If you want to download this Beginner Bodyweight Workout as a worksheet, you can do so when you sign up in the box below:



Advanced Bodyweight Exercises Circuit

If the beginner circuit above is too easy for you, move on to our Advanced Bodyweight Workout Circuit. The workout looks like this:

  • One-legged squats – 10 each side [warning super-difficult, only attempt if you’re in good enough shape]
  • Bodyweight squats: 20 reps
  • Walking lunges: 20 reps (10 each leg)
  • Jump step-ups: 20 reps (10 each leg)
  • Pull-ups: 10 reps [or inverted bodyweight rows]
  • Dips (between bar stools): 10 reps
  • Chin-ups: 10 reps [or inverted bodyweight rows with underhand grip]
  • Push-ups: 10 reps
  • Plank: 30 seconds

I warn you, the above circuit will hurt… in a good way. You should be proud if you can get through this three times.



Playground Workout Circuit

Do you have a nearby playground? Why not work out there! If you have kids, you can do it together. Or let them ignore you.

I’ll give you a Level One workout, and a Level Two. Check out the main playground article for some Level Three exercises.

Level One:

  • Alternating step-ups: 20 reps (10 each leg)
  • Elevated push-ups: 10 reps
  • Swing rows: 10 reps
  • Assisted lunges: 8 reps each leg
  • Bent leg reverse crunches: 10 reps

Level Two:

  • Bench jumps: 10 reps
  • Lower incline push-ups: 10 reps
  • Body rows: 10 reps
  • Lunges: 8 reps each leg
  • Straight leg reverse crunches: 10 reps

After you’ve gone through a complete set three times, go down the slide!



Kettlebell Workout Circuit

Have a kettlebell lying around? Use it for a circuit!

Here’s our kettlebell workout full write-up, but you can also just watch the video and see the workout here:

  • Halos: 8 reps (each side)
  • Goblet squats: 10 reps
  • Overhead presses: 8 reps (each side)
  • Kettlebell swings: 15 reps
  • Bent Over Rows: 8 reps (each side)
  • Front rack reverse lunge: 6 reps (per side)

Once you’ve done the above three times, go ahead and put your kettlebell away for your final step: stretches.

If you want a kettlebell worksheet for this workout, grab one by signing up in the box below:

We also have a fun new adventure in our app that will allow you to train with your kettlebell right alongside Hack Morris (this will make sense more sense when start).

Jump in right now for your free trial:

Beginner Gym Circuit Training

use free weights and to do circuit training

If you have access to a gym, you have a lot of circuit options.

If it’s your first time stepping foot in a fitness facility, check out our Beginner’s Guide to the Gym. The gym can be a scary place, but we’ll give you a strategy to get comfy.

(Gym closed do to COVID? Here’s how to build a gym in your home.) 

We’ll also walk you through each movement for both Days A and B below. I would recommend picking one of our 5 Beginner Gym Workouts, going through the leveled progressions, and working your way up to the circuits below:

DAY A GYM WORKOUT:

Day B GYM WORKOUT:

  • Barbell Romanian deadlifts/regular deadlifts: 10 reps
  • Push-ups: 10 reps
  • Dumbbell rows: 10 reps per arm

Alternate your circuits on different days. Rest in between. “Day A” could be Monday. Rest Tuesday. Wednesday could be “Day B.”

We LOVE helping people get started in the gym, as we’re huge fans of barbell training and helping beginners build confidence with weight training! If that sounds like you…



And you can download our full Strength 101 guide too, which has this routine along with other circuits to help you start building strength today:

The Hotel Workout Circuit: For Travelers that Train

Is there anyway to work out in this hotel room?

Sometimes, you just plain find yourself stuck in a hotel room. Maybe you can find the hotel gym, but I bet it’s terrible! It probably has 2 machines, a broken treadmill, and no free weights. 

Ugh.

Instead, how about a workout circuit you can do in the room itself! Utilize the furniture to its full potential.

Level 1

Level 2

Set the alarm clock to 15 minutes from now and see how many circuits you can do!

Check out our full post on hotel circuits if you want Level 3!

We have a LOT of business travelers in our 1-on-1 coaching program, which is why we create workouts for both their home gym and while traveling!

If you need worldwide accountability, workouts for home and the road, and want expert guidance…



Nerdy Circuit Training Exercises

Lego minifigures standing in rows. In first row - Batman, The Jo

If those workouts above don’t tickle your fancy, we have these other nerdy circuits you can do too!

The Batman Workout Circuit

Day 1

  • Rolling squat tuck-up jumps: 5 reps
  • Side to side push-ups: 5 reps
  • Modified headstand push-ups: 5 reps
  • Jump pull-up with tuck / Pull-up with Tuck-up: 5 reps
  • Handstands against wall: 8 seconds

Day 2

  • ‘180 Degree’ jump turns: 5 reps
  • Tuck front lever hold: 8 seconds
  • Tuck back lever hold: 8 seconds
  • Low frog hold: 8 seconds



The Lord of the Rings Workout Circuit

try this lord of the rings circuit training workout

Superset 1: The Fellowship of the Ring

Superset 2: The Two Towers

  • Riders of ROWhan: 3 bodyweight rows
  • Gimli “Shall I get you a box?” jumps7 box jumps – REALLY explode
  • Helm’s Deep-Squats: 9 bodyweight squats – get your ass to the ground
  • Tower of Orthanc Holds: 1 minute (Kick up against a wall and hold a handstand for as long as you can until 1 minute is complete, in as few as sets as possible. Check out our Guide to Handstands.)

Superset 3: The Return of the King

If you can get through a superset three times, consider yourself an honorary Ranger. Nothing found in Mordor can faze you.



The 300 Workout Circuit

do the 300 circuit training workout to get strong like King Leonidas

The below circuit is no joke. Then again, neither were the Spartans.

  • Pull-ups: 25 reps
  • Deadlifts with 135lbs: 50 reps
  • Push-ups: 50 reps
  • ‘24-inch’ Box jumps: 50 reps
  • Floor wipers: 50 reps
  • Single-arm clean-and-press with 36 lbs. kettlebell: 25 each side
  • Pull-ups: 25 reps

The above sequence is designed to be completed once. If you can go through it twice, you’re ready to defend Greece.



The Wolverine Workout Circuit

  • Barbell Deadlift / Dumbbell RDL / Banded Good Morning / Regular Good Morning: 10 reps
  • Medicine Ball Slam / Quick Downwards Bodyweight Squat: 10 reps
  • Push-up to Renegade row (push-up, row left, push-up, row right, repeat): 5 Rows per side
  • Transverse Lunge and Chop: 5 reps each side

How many times do you do this circuit? AMRAP, or, As Many Rounds As Possible. I suggest setting a 12-minute timer and getting to work. Be careful though, because only Wolverine can heal automatically.

wolverine does workout circuits too

You’ll need actual rest.

Boom!

There are your nerdy circuits. Feel free to rock the soundtrack of the referenced movies during your workout. If you own a cape, now’s the time.



Complete List of Circuit Training Exercises

A picture of a LEGO Spider-man, who is interested in weight loss.

You can do any of the workouts in this article and get a great workout, but if you want to build your own workout, you can totally do that too!

Here is a list of exercises you can use to create your workout.

Simply pick a few, and do one after the other in as many circuits as you want!

Pick your exercises from this list to build your own circuit training workout, or suggest your own for us to add in the comments below!

CARDIO EXERCISES:

  1. Jump rope
  2. Jumping Jacks
  3. Walking Jacks
  4. Burpees
  5. Mountain climbers
  6. Stairs
  7. Sprints
  8. High knees
  9. Running in place
  10. Rowing machine
  11. Long-distance jumps
  12. Box jumps

UPPER BODY PUSH EXERCISES:

  1. Push-ups (any variation)
  2. Handstands.

UPPER BODY PULL EXERCISES

  1. Dumbbell rows
  2. Bodyweight rows
  3. Negative pull-ups or chin-ups
  4. Pull-ups or Chin-ups

LOWER BODY EXERCISES

  1. Bodyweight squats
  2. Lunges
  3. Kettlebell swings
  4. Farmer carries (carry dumbbells and walk around)

Coach Staci showing Farmer's Walk

CORE EXERCISES:

  1. Planks
  2. Side planks
  3. Reverse crunches

Pick 3-5 exercises, and arrange them as we discuss in our “how to build your own workout routine.” We also have The 42 Best Bodyweight Exercises for movements that you can choose from.

Do 3 circuits with 10 reps of each exercise, one after the other!

Have fun and keep things interesting. And if you don’t want to build your own workout, that’s cool too! We have 15 free workouts in this article, and we can also do all the heavy lifting for you.

(Well, not literally DO the heavy lifting, but you know what I mean.)

We create custom workout solutions for busy people just like you in our 1-on-1 Coaching Program. Let us create a workout and help you make better food choices.

It’s like having a Yoda in your pocket (again, not literally).



How to Stretch After Circuit Training

Once you finish your workout, the final step (three) would be stretching and cool down. No matter what circuit you go through, stretch after a workout. It can help a lot with muscle recovery.

Scope this video for an awesome stretching sequence to follow:

You could also do some yoga poses. For stretching, find what feels good and take your time. Let your heart rate come down while you stretch.

You could even do some foam rolling too if you’re a glutton for punishment!

For more ideas on how to make the most of your stretches, check out The Ultimate Guide for Improving Flexibility in 30 Days. It has Spider-Man in it, so you know we aren’t messing around.



Getting Started With Circuit Training

want to be a superhero like these legos? do circuit training!

There are all sorts of different ways to do circuit training. We just showed you fifteen.

YOUR MISSION: Complete one of the above circuit training workouts! If you don’t know which one to pick, start with the Beginner Bodyweight Circuit. It’ll get you used to the idea of hustling from one exercise to the next.

And you can do it in your living room!

If you’re looking for more hands-on instruction and customized guidance, check out our 1-on-1 Coaching program. You’ll work with our certified NF instructors who get to know you better than you know yourself, and then build a workout program that is specific to your exact goals.

Simply put, we tell you exactly what to do every day, and how to eat. And then, we check in with you regularly to make sure you’re doing it!



If you got this far in the article, I really want you to try one of these workouts. Right NOW. I always mention the most important step in a fitness journey is starting it. Today, start circuit training.

Once completed, I’d love for you to share your story with the community in the comments:

  • How’d it go?
  • Did you get through three full circuits?
  • Which routine did you pick?

Find a circuit you’re comfortable with, and do it.

Then do it next week. And the following. And track your progress

If you add circuit training to your fitness routine, you’ll be on a solid path for leveling up your life.

-Steve

PS: I couldn’t quite figure out how to use this gif, but it was too good not to include.

I bet short circuit likes circuit training

If someone creates the “Short Circuit Workout Circuit” you’ll be my best friend forever.

###

All Photo credits can be found right here[1].



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Beginner HIIT Workouts: 3 Running & Interval Training Routines

Beginner HIIT Workouts: 3 Running & Interval Training Routines


This biker loves interval training.

This High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) guide is probably the best interval training guide in the galaxy.

My justification for such a bold claim?

We’re really good at this stuff, AND we have dinosaurs and Muppets.

Plus, lots of great gifs:

This runner can't do interval training.

We build custom interval training programs just like the ones in this guide for our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Clients, including workouts for at home, the gym, or even while traveling.



In this Ultimate Guide to Interval Training, we’ll cover:

If you’re interested in starting a HIIT practice (which you are, ’cause you’re here), you may want to try our new app! It contains a fun adventure that will take you from sitting on your couch to a full HIIT workout – with plenty of benchmarks in between for you to find your groove. No guesswork needed, just jump into the app and follow it’s next steps.

You can sign-up for a free trial right here:

Alright, let’s do this thang.

What is Interval Training? What is HIIT?

These bikers love doing HIIT.

In 2018, High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) was ranked the number one fitness trend by American College of Sports Medicine.[1]

They wrote:

HIIT typically involves short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by a short period of rest or recovery and typically takes less than 30 minutes to perform.

Essentially, HIIT is just following a specific regimen where you vary your speeds and intensity throughout a shorter run, swim, bike, or row.

Any exercise can be a form of HIIT, but here’s a common routine:

  • Jogging lightly for three minutes.
  • Pushing yourself harder for a minute (run or sprint).
  • Repeating this cycle 4 more times.

Because everybody is busy and overwhelmed, fast results in the least amount of time is why most people discover HIIT. 

Plus, you can do HIIT with just about anything, including a jump rope:

Coach Jim showing you jump rope double unders

You may be asking, “Steve, just how short and intense are we talking about here? Also, your new haircut looks spiffy.

Thank you, you’re very kind.

So let’s explore the pros and cons of intervals.

What are the Benefits of HIIT? Why Should You Do Interval Training?

 silhouette of man running towards the sun at cloudy background

The 1996 landmark Tabata study demonstrated the benefits of extreme HIIT.[2]

Dr. Izumi Tabata, from Japan’s National Institute of Fitness and Sports, was obsessed with interval training.

The doctor sought to see exactly what kind of gains were obtained from short, intense, periods of exercise. He conducted an experiment with Olympic athletes on stationary bikes and put them through intense bouts of exercise followed by short periods of rest.

The results were fascinating.

Tabata found:

That 6 weeks of moderate-intensity endurance training did not affect anaerobic capacity, but that 6 weeks of high-intensity intermittent training (HIIT) may improve both anaerobic capacity and VO2max simultaneously.

Let’s translate that: compared to regular cardio, HIIT had a greater impact on improving BOTH:

  • Aerobic increases (endurance).
  • Anaerobic increases (power).

Even crazier?

Tabata was able to demonstrate improvements in his athletes with just FOUR-MINUTE bursts.

So what’s happening here?

Simple: your heart is a muscle.

Yes, the heart is a muscle.

If you keep your heart beating at a constant rate, never expanding it outside of its comfort zone, it will never grow stronger.

By introducing chaos and pushing your muscles outside of their comfort zone, they must adapt and grow more resilient in order to survive.

Intense interval training challenges your heart by constantly forcing it outside of its comfort zone.

In other words: progressive overload – the same concept behind building strength.

Coach Jim explains 7 different ways to achieve progressive overload in this video:

Since Tabata’s 1996 study, many other trials have shown the positive impact of interval training. 

Here are some of the benefits of High-Intensity Interval Training:

#1) HIIT can burn lots of calories in a short amount of time.

Revving up your effort requires more out of you, including calories. 

Batman has to fun whether he likes to or not...part of fighting crime means running 5Ks (ish).

One study backed this up, finding HIIT burned about 20-30% more calories than regular cardio.[3]

The researchers stated:

These data suggest that individuals can burn more calories performing an HIIT session  than spending the same amount of time performing a steady-state exercise session.

The name of the game here is “intensity.” The more intense you go, the more calories you’ll burn.

#2) HIIT for lowering blood sugar. Managing blood sugar is really important for health, not just for diabetics.

Those trying to lose fat should be aware of their blood sugar and corresponding insulin levels.

The good news for our current discussion? HIIT has been shown to help lower and manage blood sugar levels.[6]

#3) HIIT for heart health. Touching on the “antifragile” topic again, HIIT has been shown to help with overall cardiovascular health.

It does so in the same way traditional endurance training does, but at a fraction of the time (almost half).[7]

Alright, let’s chat about how to actually do some interval training.

What’s an Example of Interval Training? How to Do Interval Running

Man running in a gym on a treadmill

The key to HIIT is being able to go from “easy” to “difficult.” All sorts of different exercises can get you there:

  • Aerobic (cardio).
  • Bodyweight (strength training).
  • Resistance (weight training).

HIIT is generally associated with running (aerobic), so we’ll devote this section to just that.

The easiest way to experiment with HIIT would be to run.

Mr. Gump ran like 1,000 5Ks when he crossed America.

Here’s how to start with a basic HIIT running workout. Go to a park in your neighborhood. Warm-up with some light jogging, high knees, and mobility – leg swings, arm swings, etc,

And then begin your workout!

  • Run/jog at a brisk pace for 30 seconds.
  • Jog/walk at a slower pace for 2 minutes.
  • After your rest, shoot for another 30-second run/jog.
  • Continue until you get tired or after about ten “push/rest” intervals.

And BAM! You just did HIIT.

Don’t get disheartened if you find yourself stopping a lot during your first week of HIIT training. 

Andy Dwyer hates running, but I bet he'd like HIIT more.

You’ll be surprised how quickly you get better at this!

Also, “running” or “jogging” is subjective. Whatever walking fast means to you is great. Do that for your periods of intensity.

It should be noted, that the entire “Couch to 5K” concept rests on interval training through running.

It’s all broken down into “walking,” “jogging” and “running.”

If you’re curious, check out our in-depth Couch to 5k review. If you want to start interval training, “Couch to 5K” could be a good way to do it.

More of an indoor person?

Consider a treadmill, where it actually sets intervals for you based on your desired difficulty.

Just be careful on it…

Pay attention to your running technique or things can go wrong!

We’ll be talking about machines a lot more in the next section, but a treadmill is all you need to do a HIIT workout.

Experiment with the speed and incline to find a setting that you would consider “intense.” Many machines can be programmed to flip between this and an “easy” setting.

And you know what that means… boom! It’s built for HIIT.

When we designed NF Journey (our awesome new app), we used an “intense” and “easy” interval switch for most of the workouts.

If you want, you can sign-up for a free trial right here to see what I mean:

How do HIIT Workouts Work? (More HIIT cardio to choose from)

Biking is perfect for HIIT.

There are a lot of different aerobic exercises for HIIT cardio.

For example, you could jump on a bike, which is like HIIT running but with wheels (duh):

Kermit loves interval training on his bike.

Every spin class is based on HIIT cycling (SoulCycle, Flywheel, or even your local gym now has spin classes).

They’re popular for a reason, and you can make a friend or two!

Here are some more examples of interval training:

  1. Elliptical. If it has a dial for resistance, it can be used for interval training. For a couple of minutes, go on low resistance (0-2 level). Then crank up the resistance for one minute (up to 8-10). Repeat this process 12 times, which will give you a 20-minute workout.
  2. Stair Climber. Much like the elliptical, alternate between periods of low intensity for two minutes, then one minute for high intensity. The difference with the climber is the dial will control the speed of the stairs. Be careful.
  3. Rowing Machine. Start with a two-minute warm-up. On minute three, row like you’re being chased by the Kraken for a full 60 seconds. Then catch your breath. The rowing machine might be hard to do for a full 20 minutes, since it’s a lot of upper body. Shoot for ten minutes at first.
  4. Jumping Rope. Jumping rope is a full-body exercise. Also, it’s fun. There’s no dial here, your own body controls the pace of the jump. Follow the same two-minute easy, one-minute intense as above. Jump rope can also be done with friends!

This dino loves jump rope for HIIT.

So far we’ve just been talking about aerobic exercises.

Let’s cover our other categories, of bodyweight and resistance.

What Are the Best HIIT Exercises? (Two Other Forms of Interval Training)

The woman rower in a boat, rowing on the tranquil lake

“Steve, this all sounds great. But I hate running!”

Confession: So do I.

So I get my cardio in other forms!

Here are some bodyweight exercises to get going on HIIT:

  • Burpees. Stand up, then squat down, kick your legs out, do a push-up, bring your legs back in, and explode up into a jump. Try to do 20 repetitions, then rest for two minutes. Repeat until you hate yourself:

  • Push-ups. For 20 seconds, do as many push-ups as possible. Rest. Then do it again. If you’re worried about proper form, check out our push-up guide and watch this:

  • Pull-ups. Same idea as above, do pull-ups for 20 seconds, then rest. If you can’t do a pull-up, we got you covered in our pull-up progression guide:

Let’s now chat about some Weight Training Examples for HIIT:

  1. Kettlebell swing. For ten minutes, do 20 kettlebell swings on every minute.Coach Staci showing you the kettlebell swing
    This will be intense, and worthy of congratulations when you’re done. Check out our 20 Minute Beginner Kettlebell Workout for everything you’ve ever wanted to know about kettlebells.
  2. Battle ropes. If your gym has battle ropes, they’ll be a great tool for HIIT. For intensity, the amount of slack in the rope determines the load. The more slack on the rope the tougher, and more intense, the workout. Also, don’t get stuck in just up and down movements. Some variation will help target different muscles.
  3. Weight lifting. The critical piece will be moving from one exercise to another quickly enough. For example, hustling from the bench press to the lat bar: we call this circuit training!

To answer your next question: yes, you can also do circuit training as a form of HIIT.

Circuit training is going through a sequence of exercises, or stations, back to back.

Coach Lauren explains the ins and outs of circuit training in this video:

So in a circuit you could go from push-ups to pull-ups, back to push-ups, only resting briefly from one exercise to another.

Circuit training would be perfect to mix into a HIIT workout, since you can design your circuit to be very intense.

Check out our post for 15 Circuit Training Routines to choose from.

Plus, there’s a Batman workout hidden in there. You’re welcome.

We create custom HIIT programs for busy people like you that are ACTUALLY fun. If you’re looking for a supportive coach to guide you and tell you exactly what to do each day, we got you covered!



If you just want a beginner circuit to get started with, you can try out our Beginner Bodyweight Workout Routine. Plus you can download a free worksheet to track your progress with this circuit when you join the Rebellion below:

Oh, what’s that? You want to have even MORE fun while getting the benefits of HIIT? 

Let's get crazy with Interval Training

Sure. Let’s think outside the box:

Basketball, tennis, soccer, and Ultimate (frisbee) are AMAZING styles of exercise that use interval training (it’s all start and stop!).

Run here, catch this, and wait for the next round to start.

That’s what we’re looking for in a HIIT workout.

So pick a form of FUN exercise that gets your heart racing faster and slower throughout the activity (yes, I suppose even THAT activity would count).

Is HIIT Good for Losing Weight? Is Interval Training Good for Losing Weight?

This mermaid is interested in HIIT for weight loss.

My guess is that you’re reading this article because you’re trying to get the most efficient “bang for your buck” when it comes to getting in shape.

And HIIT is a great form of exercise and COULD help with weight loss.

I will, however, lower some of these outlandish claims that exist in the media.

For example, Time magazine calls HIIT “miraculous” in one article.[8]

That’s a little much, even for me, who writes for a living on why you should work out and likes using hyperbole for effect.

Seriously, I’m better at it than ANYBODY ON THE PLANET.

Ahem.

Cardio, strength training, and HIIT all have many benefits.

However, a meta-study reviewed HIIT compared to steady-state cardio, specially looking at fat loss.

The results?

They found no real difference.[9]

The Doctor saying "it doesn't matter"

As researchers noted:

Regular exercise is an integral component of long-term weight management. However, unless implemented in very large volumes, short-term exercise in isolation (including HIIT) is unlikely to produce clinically meaningful fat loss.

What’s that mean?

As long as your energy expenditure is the same (and you’re in a caloric deficit), steady-state cardio is equivalent to HIIT for fat loss.

In other words, if you want to lose body fat, how you eat will be responsible for 80% of your success or failure.

It doesn’t matter how many intervals you do – it’s not gonna help you lose weight if you don’t also fix your nutrition.

You can read our Beginner’s Guide to Healthy Eating if you want more information, which will help you build a plate like this:

If your meal plate looks like this, you're doing a lot of the heavy lifting for weight loss.

And if you want to download our free 10-level Nutrition Guide to help you fix your diet starting today, you can do so by signing up in the box below:

Getting Started with Interval Training

These pirates are ready to do some HIIT.

When it’s time to advance your high-intensity interval training, think about the following:

  1. Frequency. This would be the number of intervals in your workout.
  2. Intensity. How hard are you going in each interval?
  3. Time. How long are your intervals and rest periods?

Maybe you start out doing 3 intervals of intense running.

Once it becomes routine, bring it up to 4.

Maybe you crank the resistance on your stationary bike to “8” during your intense interval. When it becomes normal, bring it up to “10.”

Maybe you do pull-ups for 20 seconds. When you’ve got a good handle on that, aim for 30 seconds.

This mindset will keep you advancing in interval training.

A group of allies can help with victory

Consistency is the name of the game here. Even just doing a HIIT workout once a week will help you progress in all three categories.

For more ideas on how to improve workout consistency, check out this video from Coach Jim:

Oh, and if you want help along the way, don’t forget about our Online Coaching Program:



Mistakes to Avoid When Doing High-Intensity Interval Training

Don't anger people by doing HIIT wrong.

There’s a lot to consider when embarking on a HIIT practice.

No matter which routine you end up starting with, make sure you follow these words of wisdom:

  1. Ease into it. As the saying goes, “you must walk before you can run.” The importance is building a HIIT practice. If you need to go “less intense” before progressing to “intense,” that’s fine. It’ll help build your aerobic capabilities (endurance), which will be important when working on intensity. Start with walking.
  2. Keep proper form. Doing your movements correctly will help prevent injury. Here’s how to run properly. This is even more critical in your later intervals, where you may be exhausted and tired. If you find yourself breaking form, go ahead and slow down. Intense isn’t worth an injury.
  3. Get rest. Our bodies actually build muscle while we are resting. So take some “off days” from your HIIT practice. Want to stay active on these days? Do some fun exercise!

Take it easy, focus on your form, and make sure to prioritize rest.

HIIT Timer Recommendations

A timer is great for doing interval training.

HIIT centers on doing intervals.

One moment it’s intense, the next you’re onto a short rest break.

A good way to know when it’s time to go from one sequence to the next is a timer. A loud “beep” can tell you when it’s okay to catch your breath or when you have to kick it in gear.

Here are 5 HIIT timers you can try out:

  1. Runtastic. Don’t let the name fool you, this free app is for more than just running. You can customize for many different interval workouts, depending on what exercise you go with. And the interface looks slick.
  2. Seconds. It’s free and customizable to any form of HIIT. It can also integrate with your music, which is pretty sweet.
  3. Seven. If you’re new to HIIT, Seven would be a good app for you. It’s free, plus it has illustrations for exercises. You also get to customize your own virtual personal trainer, which may be the future of fitness. The bots are coming…
  4. Sworkit. First off, it’s a clever name (taken from “Simply Work It.”) Second, it’s free. Third, it can display your workout, goals, and calories burned. I like it.
  5. J&J Official Seven Minute Workout. This free app from Johnson & Johnson is actually really awesome. It has premade workouts you can choose form based on your fitness level, or tweak them to make it your own.

Also, we need to talk about interval timers. Most of the apps referenced are completely customizable.

For example, you can change the intense interval from 120 seconds to 90 seconds.

This is critical because it’s up to you to decide how long you can do intense vs. rest.

Generally, folks recommend one minute of intensity and then two for rest when doing HIIT.

However, this all depends on the individual, and exercises performed.

For example, burpees are tougher to do than jumping over a rope:

The infamous burpee bodyweight exercise!

So feel free to make changes like 30 seconds of intensity and three minutes of rest. Make it your own.

Whatever way you chose to do HIIT, is fine, as long as you actually do it. The benefits of HIIT kick in when going HARD for you.

In other words, you don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to get the benefits of HIIT.[10]

A light jog totally works. Just don’t do it in a mascot costume.

Running - just don't fall over!

As we discussed, if you’re consistent, you’ll improve.

So don’t stress about where you have to start.

For now, download an app and get going. Ours will help you train with HIIT too:

I hate multiple choice. Pick a HIIT workout for me!

This lego loves running for HIIT.

Let’s power walk as our form of HIIT. 

This is an example of a beginner HIIT workout we might prescribe for our Coaching Clients who are starting to train for their first 5K.

Let’s do seven intervals, two minutes each:

  1. Warm-up. For three minutes, walk at an easy pace.
  2. Intervals. For the first 60 seconds, power walk, like you’re trying to beat someone to the front of the line at Starbucks.
  3. For the next 60 seconds, just walk.
  4. Repeat six more times.
  5. Cool down. You can do some more light walking, or a little bit of stretching here would be great.

Total time: 20 minutes.

Wayne is stoked that he made his small change for weight loss.

I want to stress, that you can do just about any exercise in exchange for this routine. Just minus “power walk” and add “push-ups and bodyweight squats”

It’ll still be a great HIIT workout.

“But Steve, that’s still multiple choice!”

Right, right… sorry. Stick to power walking! Done!

How to Start Interval Training now

These two girls jump for their interval training.

Do our power walking routine above. It’s a great place to start.

Remember, our goal at this stage is to “build the habit.

We can work on “whoa, that was intense” later.

If you’re looking for EVEN MORE stuff to do, we have a few options for ya:

1) Check out our popular 1-on-1 coaching program. You’ll work with our certified NF instructors who will get to know you better than you know yourself and program your workouts and nutrition for you.



2) Exercising at home and need a plan to follow? Check out Nerd Fitness Journey!

Our fun habit-building app helps you exercise more frequently, eat healthier, and level up your life (literally).

Try your free trial right here:

3) Enlist in the Rebellion! We need good people like you in our community, the Nerd Fitness Rebellion. 

Sign up in the box below to enlist and get our guide, Strength Training 101: Everything You Need to Know. It’ll help you start incorporating interval training into your workouts.

There are a zillion ways to do HIIT, so don’t let the options paralyze you.

Pick one. Anyone. And get to it.

Interval training, in any form, is a solid fitness choice and a great practice to have in the workout arsenal.

Any questions?

Which HIIT workout style is your favorite?

Leave it in the comments below!

-Steve

PS: Make sure you check out the rest of our content on interval training:

  1. The HIIT Workout for Home
  2. How to Do Tabata Sprints
  3. Should You Do Couch to 5K?

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All photo credits can be found in this footnote.[11]



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