5 bodyweight exercises that can be used for HIIT

Sport Fitness Exercise Pilates  - Keifit / Pixabay

Personally, when it comes to workouts, I prefer higher intensity for shorter duration over lower intensity for longer duration. In other words, I’d rather spend 15 minutes doing 5 short laps of intense sprinting down the road than 45-60 minutes jogging/running on the treadmill or otherwise.

Why? I think high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is better. Here are some of the benefits:

  1. Less time consuming (there’s an obvious one)
  2. It can be done both with or without gym equipment (if I’m not mistaken, the article, “8 Benefits of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)” by Charlotte Hilton Andersen from shape.com caused me to be specifically mindful of the fact that HIIT can be done without gym equipment)
  3. It increases the body’s production of human growth hormone (HGH) more than the other type of exercise (according the article, “5 Ways To Naturally Boost HGH” by Ken Grall from blog.johnsonfitness.com)
  4. HGH can, among other things, slow down aging and help with cognitive ability (according to the YouTube video, “What Triggers Human Growth Hormone (HGH)? | Dr.Berg” from the YouTube channel, “Dr. Eric Berg DC“). So the more HGH the better, it would seem
  5. You can get in shape faster and burn more fat than a lower-intensity type workout (according to the aforementioned article, “8 Benefits of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)“)

How to perform HIIT

(Note: Unless I’m mistaken, as far as HIIT is concerned, I originally learned the idea of going all-out for 20 seconds, taking lengthy breaks, and doing 5+ rounds from the YouTube video, “The Best HIIT Workout For Maximum Fat Loss And Increasing Your Metabolism” from the YouTube channel, “Amer The Hammer“)

  • Flat-out/Short bursts: Some HIIT enthusiasts may not agree, but one HIIT concept is to push oneself as hard as possible for a very short space of time (maybe 20 seconds) before taking a break. Done once, this would count as a single round.
  • Lengthy breaks: A certain amount of time is required for recovery before the next round. I suggest that you make your breaks 2-minutes long.
  • Multiple rounds: HIIT workouts are broken up into separate rounds with breaks in-between. I suggest 5 or more such rounds.
  • Stopwatch: To an extent, time precision is an important aspect of HIIT workouts and this is how a stopwatch can come in handy. They’re available on both cellphones and wrist watches.

5 HIIT exercises (no gym equipment necessary)

There’s a variety of bodyweight cardio exercises that can be used for HIIT. Below I name five that can be done at home, on the street, or in a nearby park.

An entire day’s workout can be made up of just one of them. They can also be combined.

Note: Please remember to practice caution if you consider trying any of these exercises for the first time, especially if you have a medical condition that calls for extra caution. For example, if you have a medical heart condition, perhaps you’d want to consult a doctor before attempting any of the exercises mentioned in this article.

1) Jumping squat

The jumping squat, as the name implies, involves jumping up from a squatting position. It’s simple, yet, at the same time, not so simple: the squatting technique, of which the jumping squat partly consists, can be difficult to master for a beginner, as it’s not as straightforward as it may sound. A seasoned bodybuilder and gym-goer will find it familiar, since it forms part of the famous barbell squat, but s/he may not be aware of its usefulness for HIIT.

How it’s done

If you don’t know how to perform a jumping squat, I recommend that, before even attempting it, you first watch the YouTube video, “How To Do Squat Jumps Exercise” from the YouTube channel “30 Day Fitness Challenges“, which provides a very short demonstration.

Unlike the barbell squat, a jumping squat is performed with an explosive jump at the end of the movement. It’s advisable to remember to keep one’s back straight, chest out, and feet flat on the floor/ground during the squatting movement.

For HIIT, you’d immediately return back to a squatting position after the jump, and then repeat a number of times (as is demonstrated in the video linked to above). I recommend that you focus on performing the jumping squats as fast as possible so as to increase exertion.

2) Knee tuck jumps

The knee tuck jump is very similar to the jumping squat, but consists of a little something extra. This is what I recommend if you feel like the jumping squat is too easy.

How it’s done

Do everything the same as with the jumping squat, except, when you jump, bring your knees up to about a 90 degree angle. A demonstration is available in the YouTube video, “Knee Tuck Jumps” from the YouTube channel, “NuLevel Training“.

3) Mountain climber

Like the name goes, it looks kind of similar to someone climbing a mountain, except the legs are working while the hands remain stationary. According to the YouTube video, How to Do a Mountain Climber | Boot Camp Workout (from the YouTube channel, Howcast), it’s a good form of total-body exercise.

How it’s done

There’s a variety of different ways this one can be pulled off, but essentially it involves getting on your hands and toes like you’re about to do a push-up, and bringing your knees up towards your abdomen in a continuous alternating motion. If you like, please see the aforementioned YouTube video from the YouTube channel Howcast for a demonstration.

As far as HIIT is concerned, it’s advisable to go beyond the standard mountain climber exercise and push oneself harder, aiming to perform the exercise as fast as possible and with maximum effort.

Tip: You may want to avoid doing the HIIT version barefoot to prevent carpet burn, ripped toe skin or worse.

4) High knees

Here’s another simple, yet effective exercise. It looks like you’re running in place, except one aim of the movement is, like the name goes, to bring your knees up high.

How it’s done

In a continuous alternating motion, bring your knees up and move your arms like you’re running in place. The YouTube video, “How to do proper HIGH KNEES” from the YouTube channel, “Jenny Schatzle“, which provides a demonstration, says to bring the knees up as high as the hips.

For HIIT, I suggest that you do so like you’re sprinting furiously in a competitive race, and not just in a casual manner. And you might want to wear running shoes to protect your feet.

This one may look easier than it is. Depending on your level of fitness, you may quickly start to feel like the 2-minute breaks aren’t long enough.

5) Sprinting

I’ve already mentioned it, so why not? As you may imagine, it’s not exactly an indoor exercise, but better suited for the outdoors.

This one may seem a little more daunting to pull off in public than the average neighborhood run, but it’s doable. If you’re shy, this may help you with your confidence: I’ve done it many times and, although it may have made a few people uncomfortable, I haven’t been arrested by the police for it.

How it’s done

The YouTube video, “Sprinting Technique – Sprint Faster with a Proper Foot Strike” (from the YouTube channel, “X Pollination Productions“) provides both a demonstration and information on how to sprint.

Sprinting would seem like one of the more demanding exercises and below are a few factors to take into consideration before proceeding.


In order to sprint, one needs an adequate place to do so. Here are a few ideas:

  • The street/road you live on (if you live on a very busy street or a main road, I suggest you look for a stretch of neighborhood road nearby that doesn’t have so much traffic and that’s long enough so that you can sprint for 20 seconds without having to cross an intersection or stop sign. If you do choose to use a road, I suggest you consider using a side of the road (a) on which cars would be coming at you so you can see any such cars approaching and (b) that gives you some space between yourself and people’s driveways in case a car suddenly pulls out very close to you)
  • a nearby park (some factors you may want to consider are (a) the length of the park, (b) the roughness/evenness of the ground, (c) the busyness of the park and (d) dogs, especially if it’s a park where people regularly let their dogs loose without leashes)

Like I said, I’ve done it myself, but I didn’t mention why I started a stretching routine in preparation for this particular exercise. I’m not sure exactly what happened (for lack of knowledge), but I’d guess a leg muscle tore the one time I was sprinting down the road on which I live. It would appear as though I haven’t had another incident like it since incorporating my stretching routine.

Not sure what stretches to do? Check out the YouTube video, “How to stretch before running” from the YouTube channel, “Living Better” in which Paige Jones demonstrates a few. The ones I do are different, but Paige’s ones might be more effective (that would be a guess).


Some years ago–I’d imagine when I was still in my 20’s–I used to run or jog around the neighborhood, and around this time I started having trouble with one or more of my knees. I’d imagine that this was caused from wearing inadequate footwear. Unless I’m mistaken, I used to wear Adidas casual shoes for running.

The article, “Best Running Shoes For People With Bad Knees” (by an unknown author) from sportsmanswarehouse.co.za promotes the idea of choosing specially designed running shoes for people experiencing knee trouble. I’m not sure if the article says so, but I’d personally recommend that you get yourself a pair of running shoes as a preventative measure and not only if you’re experiencing knee problems.


Remember this is sprinting; not running. Sprinting is trying to move forward as fast as one can on one’s feet for a short distance. On the other hand, both running and jogging are more energy-conserving forms of exercise for longer duration (especially jogging).

To me personally, sprinting would appear as though one of the best exercises to use for a HIIT workout.

Final words

HIIT would seem like the more beneficial option over lower-intensity cardio on a number of points: such as time-efficiency, natural HGH production, and fat burning.

It simply means more effort for a shorter duration of time. So it’s relatively open to creativity: one can take a simple cardio exercise that has a high enough difficulty threshold potential and use it for HIIT.

It can be hard to tell when one has reached the level of “flat-out” in relation to physical exertion, but one can tell when one is really pushing oneself.