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7 great high-intensity exercises to get you started now

7 great high-intensity exercises to get you started now

These moves will have you seeing real results in less time


Are you looking for a way to burn fat, build lean muscle and get stronger at the same time?


High-intensity interval training, more commonly known as HIIT, is a great way to start chasing after those fitness goals.


HIIT workouts for beginners can be a mix of bodyweight-based and lightly weighted exercises, and they burn more calories than traditional cardio exercises in less time.


Naturally, HIIT workouts can seem a bit intimidating if you've never tried them before. But if you're up to speed with the basics, these workouts won't seem as complicated.


Intense? Oh yes. But not technically complicated.


Let's cover the most important HIIT exercises for beginners along with tips on how to get started with this popular workout routine.


The basics of HIIT workouts


There are a few distinct types of HIIT workouts, but all of them have the same goal: to get your heart rate up — and keep it there.


HIIT workouts focus on metabolic conditioning through time-based cardiovascular exercise combined with strength work.


This is accomplished through a series of exercises that are performed in rapid succession with no rest until you get through all of them.


Most HIIT workouts for beginners will feature three to seven exercises, each with a set number of repetitions or time.


For example, your first exercise could be performing 10 air squats, immediately followed by 10 seconds of pushups, and then 15 kettlebell swings.


Once all the exercises on your list are finished, you get to take a break that usually lasts between two to five minutes. As soon as your break is over, you jump back into the list of exercises for another round.


If you’re new to high-interval workouts, start by doing just one round of exercises. As you get more comfortable with the routines, add another round.


Exercises for beginners


Here are the most common HIIT exercises for beginners. Try adding a few to your workouts.


Air Squat

Air Squat

The air squat works several leg muscles at once.


The air squat is a perfect place to start if you're new to HIIT workouts. This one move works your quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves. It's a fantastic leg and strength-building exercise that you can do anywhere.


How to do it:

  • Begin by standing with feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointed slightly outward.
  • Extend your arms out in front of you for balance.
  • Bend your knees and kick your hips back to lower yourself toward the ground.
  • Keep your back straight, and don’t let your knees cave inward.
  • Pause when your thighs are parallel to the floor, then press into your heels to return to standing position.




The burpee works numerous muscles, including your chest, shoulders and hamstrings. It can be performed almost anywhere.


The burpee is a full-body exercise that works your chest, shoulders, quads, hamstrings, and glutes. It's also a terrific way to get your heart rate up quickly.


How to do it:

  • Start in a standing position.
  • Drop down into a squat and place your hands on the ground in front of you.
  • Jump your feet back to a plank position.
  • Perform a pushup.
  • Jump your feet back to the squat position and then jump into the air.
  • Land softly on both feet and immediately go into the next repetition.

Wall Balls

Wall Ball

The wall ball exercise quickly works much of your body. It requires a medicine ball.


Wall balls are a great HIIT exercise because they help to drastically improve your explosive power, which is important for high-intensity training.


How to do them:

  • Stand about two feet from a wall with a medicine ball at your chest.
  • Drop down into a squat and as you come up to the starting position, forcefully launch the ball upward at a high point on the wall.
  • Catch it as it comes back down.
  • As soon as the ball is in your hands, drop back down into your next squat.

Box Jumps

Box Jump

Box jumps only require a little space and a small box or bench. They work three types of muscles.


Box jumps are a plyometric or explosive exercise that work your quads, hamstrings and glutes. Just like the wall ball exercise, they also help improve your explosive power.


How to do them:

  • Place a sturdy box or bench in front of you. (A proper box for jumping is recommended.)
  • Enter a half squat.
  • Throw your hands backward as you press off the ground.
  • Land with both feet on the box.
  • If you’re a beginner, I recommend stepping down and jumping up.

Kettlebell Swing

Kettleball Swing

Swinging a kettlebell works several muscles, including your back, arms and legs.


The kettlebell swing is a full-body exercise that is great for increasing your overall strength and explosive power.


How to do it:

  • Place a kettlebell between your feet.
  • Bend at the hips while keeping a straight back.
  • Grab the kettlebell with both hands.
  • Start by lightly swinging the kettlebell behind you, then bring it up forcefully to shoulder height.
  • Allow the kettlebell to swing between your legs and repeat, using explosive power to bring the kettlebell up.

Overhead Press

Overhead Press

The overhead press is a basic exercise that works the shoulders, triceps and core.


The overhead press is a classic muscle-building exercise that works your shoulders, triceps and core.


How to do it:

  • Place a weight plate or dumbbell on the ground in front of you.
  • Pick up the weight with both hands and hold it at shoulder height with your elbows bent.
  • Lift the weight overhead until your arms are straight.
  • Lower the weight back to shoulder height and repeat.

Consider using a spotter to ensure you aren’t pressing the weight out at an angle.


Mountain Climbers

Mountain Climbers

The mountain climber exercise works six different muscle groups — all without any equipment 


Mountain climbers work your quads, hamstrings and glutes, but they primarily focus on your abdominals, obliques and serratus muscles.


How to do them:

  • Begin in a tall plank position with your shoulders directly over your wrists.
  • Bring one knee toward your chest, contracting your core as you do this.
  • Return it to the starting position, then repeat with the other leg.
  • Continue alternating legs until you've completed all your reps.
  • If this feels too easy, you can bring the left knee to the right elbow and vice versa.

Your key to a better body


One of the great things about high-intensity interval training is that you can do the drills anywhere. All you need is a little bit of space and some motivation.


As with any type of workout routine, be sure to consult with a doctor before starting if you have any health concerns. And always start slowly when trying out a HIIT workout for the first time.


If these exercises still seem intimidating, consider investing in a personal trainer for one month. You’ll learn how to perfect each of these HIIT exercises (and much more) so that you’ll be able to confidently perform them on your own.

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