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Hiit workout: exercise program for beginners

hiit workout

The social and professional life, stress and lack of time have brought to our times the need to implement short workouts that give results. This is how HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training – was created. A hiit workout is perfect for time management.

This type of workout is included in the general physical activity recommendations for adults (PubMed, 2019), which describes 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of intense and vigorous physical activity per week as an ideal minimum, where a HIIT workout can be a great bet.

It is a modification of the first training style created in this way by Professor Izumi Tabata, who carried out a study on the effects of high intensity interval training (HIIT) on aerobic and anaerobic fitness, and its comparison with steady state training – creating the Tabata workout.

This type of workout consists of 20-second periods of extremely intense exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest, a pattern which is repeated 8 times for a total of 4 minutes. This is typically performed for 5 different exercises, for a complete workout of only 20 minutes. It’s a workout that requires a warm up beforehand and it is important to have some training experience, due to the high intensity placed on all the exercises and the heart rate limit reached. Tabata (and HIIT in general) makes demands on muscles that require the expenditure of energy, and its positive effects continue throughout the rest of the day as muscle tissues continue to use energy to recover. For these reasons it is now seen as a great way to train and lose body fat.

HIIT Workout – Definition and goals

High intensity interval training (HIIT) involves training very intensely, often close to your limit, for short periods of time, divided by rest breaks that are also short. Similar to tabata training, an example could be: 45 seconds of activity on each exercise, followed by 15 seconds rest before moving on to the next series. This type of workout typically does not last very long, as this would not be feasible. However, one of the main objectives is to maintain a high heart rate for the entire duration of the workout – which may only last 20 or 30 minutes. A HIIT workout can also be structured through reps – for example, completing 20 reps as quickly as possible before moving to the next exercise.

Unlike tabata, hiit training has the goal of putting in longer periods of work, where bodyweight exercises such as squats, presses, dead weight, lunges, etc. are often used. It is intense, and can create a great cardiovascular adaptation if done consistently and with proper rest between workouts. 

It can be performed at home without material or with material, in a gym with or without material or in the street. The variability is great. As long as the exercises are chosen according to the one’s ability, the following should be taken into account: injuries, previous training experience, joint mobility, age, among others. For this reason, you should look for a professional trainer. 

This type of training creates great physiological stress causing the body to “work” harder so it fully recovers. In other words, just training at this type of intensity where typically all muscle groups are worked, leads to an increased consumption of oxygen and energy in the 24 hours following the training. Combining all of this with a balanced diet and rest is a solid guide to losing weight and increasing muscle mass.

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HIIT beginner programme with and without equipment 

In general, I recommend that you use exercises that work the whole body in a complete way. Here are some exercises that you can do with or without material. 

Initial HIIT workout program with no material (at home):  

  1. Burpees – Full Body
  2. Push-ups – Chest, shoulders and triceps
  3. Squats – Legs and glutes
  4. Lunges – Legs and glutes
  5. Sit ups – Abdominal
  6. Dorsal – Back
  7. Mountain climbers – Abdominal, cardio and shoulders
  8. Jumping Jacks – Cardio
  9. Running High Knees – Cardio
  10.  Front or lateral plank – Abdominal

Initial HIIT workout program with material (at the gym):

  1. Flat press with dumbbells – Chest, shoulders and triceps
  2. Romanian Deadlift + Low backstroke with dumbbells – Legs, back, buttock
  3. Goblet squat with dumbbells – Legs
  4. Shoulder press with dumbbell or barbell – Shoulders
  5. Walking lounge – Legs
  6. High barbell pull-up – Back and shoulders
  7. Flat Dumbbell Opening – Chest
  8. Pelvic lifts on floor – Glutes and legs
  9. Step up on box or bench – Legs
  10. Bicep curl with dumbbells – Arms

Obviously, you don’t have to use these 10 exercises. These are just some good exercises that work the whole body so that you can structure a HIIT workout session in a simple and effective way. A good idea is to choose 1 exercise from each muscle group, leaving you with 6 exercises. For example:

  • 1 leg and glutes exercise
  • 1 chest exercise
  • 1 back exercise
  • 1 shoulder or arm exercise
  • 1 abdominal or cardio exercise

As I said, you can choose your own list of 6 exercises and determine the working time ON/OFF (for example, 45 seconds ON and 20 seconds OFF) and how many reps you do (for beginners 2 reps can be a good start). After finishing the first exercise, begin the rest phase (OFF time) and change exercises, and so on until you have done all the exercises in the circuit. Also start by determining a total workout time, including warm-up, training, breaks and relaxation.

I recommend doing this type of training no more than 2 times a week, so that you can also work on other aspects of the training: such as strength training and hypertrophy (weight training) with higher loads and longer rests, as well as stationary and longer-lasting cardio work, so that you can have the best body you’ve ever had.

Final Message

If you’re at a stage in your fitness journey where you need a challenge, a workout with results and you’re short on time – this is the perfect type of workout. Cardiorespiratory improvement, fat loss and muscle mass gain are guaranteed if you couple this with balanced nutrition and proper rest.

You should take into account your starting condition, previous injuries and limitations you may have in order to perform this type of training with quality.

If you have never tried it before, the ideal thing is to start with the supervision of a professional. I guarantee that you’ll be highly motivated!

Good training! 🏋️‍♀️💪🏋️‍♂️


The information included in this article concerns the authors opinion only.

About Tiago Rodrigues

Mestre em Atividade física, Personal Trainer certificado desde 2017 e instrutor de cardio- fitness e musculação. Tem uma paixão enorme pela treino personalizado e gosta de trabalhar por objetivos. Nos tempos livres escreve para um blog próprio sobre treino.

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