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  • Clem Duranseaud

a beginner's guide to hiit workouts at home

Updated: Jan 4

Clem Fitness beginner's guide to HIIT

HIIT workouts are a fantastic way to get in shape, stay in shape, build lean muscle mass and have fun amongst other things.

It can be daunting for beginners to go about it so in this post I'll show you exactly how you can create your own high intensity interval training workouts at home.

Table of content

After reading this post you will know exactly how to create your own HIIT workouts to reach your goals and enjoy the process along the way.

1. What is Hight Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

HIIT is a combination of a short and tough work interval (typically 20-60 seconds) combined with a shorter and easy recovery interval (typically 10-30 seconds) repeated a certain amount of times.

The duration of the intervals can vary greatly according to how much time you have, your goals and your workout tolerance.

The exercise in a HIIT workout target the whole body. Burpees, thrusters, push ups, lunges, squats, cleans and all their variations make up the cream and butter of an effective high intensity session.

Due to their high intensity, HIIT workouts are typically shorter than other endurance or resistance workouts, ranging from 10 minutes to one hour.

What is high intensity?

Typically speaking, you want your heart rate to be quite high during the work intervals.

If you have have heart rate monitor you want to aim to be at or above 75% of you max heart rate.

If you don't have a heart rate monitor, it should feel like you can't talk and breathing very heavily. See point 3 to see how you can scale these workouts.

2. Benefits of HIIT workouts

So why do we subject ourselves to this torturous exercise protocol?

Amongst it's multitudes of benefits, the standout one is it's time efficiency.

As mentioned above, HIIT workouts are shorter than other endurance and resistance training and offer very similar physiological adaptations.

For this reason alone, I find it an ideal way of exercising for people with busy lives.

Here is a list of the other benefits:

  • Increases VO2max Your VO2max is the maximum amount of oxigen your body can consume during exercise. Your body used oxigen to produce energy, and the more oxigen it can use, the more energy it can produce.

  • Increase strength There are three ways you muscles get stronger. You can read more about it here.

  • Use carbs and fats to produce energy Along with all other endurance training, HIIT workouts will help you burn carbs and fats to produce energy. Please note that this type of workout is NOT a golden way to burn MORE fat than other forms of training

  • Increase muscle definition Because of the simultaneous increase in strength and carb/fat burning, HIIT workouts are a great way to increase your muscle definition, as long as appropriate nutrition is also being observed.

  • Mental resilience HIIT workout is hard. It will push you to your limits. And although any type of workouts will, HIIT workouts will bring you their faster and more frequently.

HIIT also offers all the other benefits that regular exercising does such as improved moods, improved sleeps, enhanced mental clarity, reduce injury risk and such.

3. Important for beginners: How to scale a HIIT workout

When you start out, you may thing that HIIT might be TOO intense. However, this kind of workout (like any other workout) is easily malleable to your current fitness level.

The first thing I would say is that when you read "high intensity", remember that when you do that intense interval, it has to be at what your body deems high intensity. Not what your friends are doing and definitely not what you see on youtube or social media.

Your own version of what "high intensity" is will evolve with your fitness level.

How do you know if your doing the right intensity? As a general rule, you should be able to upkeep an acceptable exercise form and technique throughout the intervals.

I would encourage beginners to go AS SLOW AS NECESSARY to keep proper form. As you get stronger and fitter, you will be able to go faster and add intensity, but don't be too eager to rush that process.

There are three ways you can scale your HIIT workouts:

  • Frequency: Adding more HIIT workouts throughout the week

  • Intensity: You can increase the intensity of your interval either by moving faster, or using heavier weights.

  • Time: Either increase the time of your intervals, decrease your rest intervals or increase the total workout's length or a combo of these.

These can easily be remembered with the acronym F.I.T

4. How long should a HIIT workout be?

The whole advantage of high intensity workouts is their shorter durations. So how long exactly should they be?

Studies have shown that physiological adaptions can start happening with workouts as short as 4 minutes.

The total time of your workout should depend on your fitness level, preference and time available.

If I tell you that the optimal time for a HIIT workout is 30 minutes and you only have 15 minutes to spare, that info is as useful as a heavy dumbbell in a pilates class.

Generally speaking, the shorter a workout is, the more intense it has to be to be effective. If you workout for 15 minutes or less, I would recommend keeping your rest interval 15 seconds or shorter.

When you workout for longer, say between 15 and 25 minutes, you can have longer rest interval like 20-30 seconds.

When you do long workouts that last over 30 minutes, you can have dedicated rest periods that last anywhere from 1-3 minutes interspersed in your session.

There are many right ways to do a HIIT workout, take the time to experience with your exercise selection, frequency, intensity and time to find what works for you.

5. Equipment

HIIT workouts can be done with any type of equipment such as dumbbells, resistance bands, jump ropes, your own body weight or any other fitness equipment.

When using weights, you want to use some that feel relatively easy at first. Remember that you form and technique is very important. If you need to use lighter weights during your workout that's totally fine.

Since this post is about doing these workouts at home, I understand that a lot of you may not have any equipment available.

Doing body weight HIIT workouts is completely fine and just as challenging as with dumbbells or other equipment.

6. Limits of HIIT

We saw that high intensity interval workouts can increase your strength, muscle definition, VO2max, and burn fat, but it is not the most optimal way to train any of these.

What I mean by this is that HIIT is not superior to traditional weight training when it comes to strength. It is not superior to classic endurance training when it comes to VO2max. You will burn more fat by doing low intensity steady state training.

Again, HIIT's advantage is that it does a little bit of each. When you do traditional weight training, there is almost zero VO2max increase and zero fats burned.

The reason I want to bring this to your attention is just for your general understanding of this exercise method.

If you find that you need a more specific approach, you could add one or two specific workout to your week. For example, instead of doing 4 HIIT workouts at week, you could do 3 of them, and then a traditional weight lifting workout in a gym.

How you choose to combine and organize your workouts is entirely dependent on your personal preferences and goals.

7. Types of HIIT workouts

There exists many different ways to organize a HIIT session, here are my favourite.

Classic circuit intervals

Pick 5-10 exercises to do. Pick how long you want to do them for and how short you want to rest in between.

Typical work rest intervals are 30 seconds work 15 seconds rest, 20 seconds work 10 seconds rest, 45 seconds work 15 seconds rest but you can really chose whatever you prefer.


30 seconds dumbbell squats

15 seconds rest

30 seconds push ups

15 seconds rest

30 seconds sit ups with press

15 seconds rest

30 seconds lunges with dumbbells

15 seconds rest

30 seconds jump lunges

15 seconds rest

30 seconds mountain climber

15 seconds rest

30 seconds burpees

15 seconds rest

30 seconds skatters

15 seconds rest

30 seconds bicycle crunches

15 seconds rest

30 seconds jump squats

15 seconds rest

This routine will take you 7 and a half minutes to complete. You can do once or 2-3 times in a row.

The beauty of the classic intervals is the abundance of variety it offers. As mentioned earlier, you can really modify all the parameters to suits your fitness needs.

As Many Rounds As Possible (AMRAP)

Pick 3-5 exercises and pick a set amount of reps for each exercise. Now pick a total time you want to do these exercises for (anywhere from 5-20 minutes).

Your goal is to get as many rounds as you can in the given time period of all of your exercise.


You have to do 10 squats, 10 burpees, 10 push ups and 10 mountain climbers. Your total time is 10 minutes.

Your goal is to do those four exercises as many times as possible in 10 minutes.

I love AMRAPs because they give you a very easy way to measure your progress. As you get stronger and fitter, you'll be able to do more rounds during the same time period, which is something easy to measure.

Every Minute On the Minute (EMOM)

You will have one minute to complete 1 or two exercises. Every time the minute starts again, you have to do those exercises again.


Set a timer to go off every minute. Make sure the timer is set to start again ever minute.

When the timer starts, do 10 jumping squats and 10 squats. When you are done your squats you can rest.

When the timer starts again, do those exercises again.

You will notice that each rounds gets a little tougher because the breaks are so short.

You can typical do this anywhere from 6-20 times.

Remember that the first few rounds should feel manageable, and then get tougher and tougher as the time goes.


The classic Tabata is 8 rounds of 20 seconds of workout with 10 seconds break.


20 seconds burpees

10 seconds rest

20 seconds squats

10 seconds rest

20 seconds jump lunges

10 seconds rest

20 seconds push ups

10 seconds rest

20 seconds burpees

10 seconds rest

20 seconds squats

10 seconds rest

20 seconds jump lunges

10 seconds rest

20 seconds push ups

10 seconds rest

I personally like to create a mix of all of the above in one big workout to keep things spicy.

8. Sample HIIT workouts

Here are a couple sample workouts from our Youtube channel.

Beginner HIIT workout

This 10 minute body weight workout is a perfect introduction to interval training. Go at your own pace, watch the modifications to make the moves easier and let me know how it goes.


10 moves

Work interval: 40 seconds

Rest interval: 20 seconds

Intermediate hiit workout

This 20 minute HIIT workout will get your heart pumping.

It has 3 parts:

Part 1: Adding reps workout

You will have to keep adding reps to four body weight exercises for 6 minutes. It starts easy but gets challenging quickly.

Part 2: Classic HIIT 10 moves done in a typical 30 seconds work and 10 seconds rest style. Some of them have dumbbells, some of them are body weight.

Part 3: 8 minute AMRAP

You’ll have to do as many rounds as you can of 4 moves.

Advanced HIIT workout

This is one of my favourite workout

After doing a quick warm up, this full body workout has 6 AMRAPs (As Many Rounds As Possible) of 6 minutes each with a 1 minute break between them.

Each AMRAP have 3 moves, so you will have 6 minutes to complete these moves as many times as possible.


As with all fitness endeavours, nutrition plays a huge role to achieve your goals.

In order to feel energized and get as much health benefits from the foods you eat, select ingredients that are non processed and nutrient dense.

Non processed foods are the ones you find in nature such as fruits, veggies, grain, meats, nut and seeds.

The more an ingredient is altered, the more it is processed. We want the ones that are the least altered as possible.

Nutrient density refers to how much nutrient an ingredient will give you per amount of weight. Rice, which is a natural, whole food, will have less nutrients than say blueberries.

If you are unsure whether or not a food is natural and non processed, simple ask yourself these three questions:

  • Can I pick it? From the ground, such as a carrot or beet

  • Can I pick it? From a plant or tree like a banana or apple

  • Can I hunt it? Is it an animal product, like chicken or salmon

If you answer yes to one of these, the ingredient you're looking at is natural.

Balance is important

Make sure to allow room for fun and delicious foods in your day to day. Our diet has the ability to make us really happy or really miserable.

A good place to start is the 80-20 rule. 80% of the time eat healthy natural foods. 20% of the time eat foods that spark joy.

It's up to you to fine tune that balance according to your goals. If you want to lean out, you may want to be closer to 90-10.

To read more in depth articles on nutrition check out the ones bellow

Beginner Nutrition Guide:

What is a calorie deficit

How much protein should you eat


HIIT workouts are a great way to get in shape. You can modify many parameters to create a workout that suits your goals and preferences. You can control the intensity, the work and rest periods as well as the frequency of them.

Use the equipment at your disposal and remember that body weight workouts are also very effective.

We've seen how you can scale these workouts to build up your strength and fitness as well as the limitations of HIIT.

I am positive that after reading this you will be able understand HIIT a little bit more and create your own workouts. If you want inspiration or to sweat with me, check out the Youtube channel where I regularly share follow along workouts.

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