The health and fitness benefits of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) are well documented: In addition to improving your overall fitness, burning belly fat and building muscle mass, it helps you maintain healthy blood pressure and sensitivity to cholesterol and insulin.
But if you’ve been injured, integrating HIIT into your fitness program can be a challenge. With the help of Stephanie Thielen, American Council on Exercise-certified group coach, we’ve developed a high octane workout program that will increase your heart rate, burn serious calories and give you tone everywhere – safe for your knees!
How to do this training
The goal of any HIIT training is to exercise an almost maximum effort, Thielen explains. To start, do each exercise in order. First, set the movement for 15 seconds, then give it maximum speed and effort (but with precision and control) for 45 seconds and finally recover for 90 seconds.
“Take care to start the exercises slowly to make sure you can do them properly and safely,” says chiropractor Jeffrey Ptak, owner of Ptak Chiropractic in Los Angeles. “And do things at your own pace. There is no exercise program that works for everyone.”
Follow Heather Dorak, owner of Pilates Platinum in Los Angeles, below, but be sure to make the necessary adjustments based on your own fitness level. Stop if you notice pain or other problems within the first 15 seconds.
Before embarking on a HIIT routine, the warm-up is essential to prepare your muscles and prevent injury. For this training, start with walking. You can add weights to the hands to slightly increase the intensity (otherwise, go without weight). Be sure to wear support shoes.
“Every time you bend your knees, point your knee bent to the second toe to protect yourself from future knee pain,” says Michael Mills, a Personal Trainer based in Los Angeles.
- Walk on the spot, swinging your folded arms while you do it.
- Move with precision and control at a moderately fast pace.
- Make this move for 90 seconds.
Warm-Up: Knee Lift
Knee lift warm-up is similar to walking on the spot but much larger and a little slower.
- Stand up straight, contract your abs and start warming up on the spot imagining you’re climbing stairs.
- Alternate your legs, as your bent arms move naturally.
- Continue this way, lengthening your breathing as you go, focusing on the central force, control of your limbs and moving with precision and balance.
- Make this movement for 90 seconds before moving on to the next warm-up exercise.
Warm-Up: Heel Tap
- Stand with your knees slightly bent and your feet shoulder-width apart, while holding light weights (optional).
- Point your right heel in front of you while raising your right arms in the same direction (at shoulder height, arms parallel to the ground). If you find yourself bent, don’t raise your arms that high.
- Repeat, alternating heels, for 90 seconds.
Warm-Up: Side-Step Touch
- Stand together with your feet together and arms bent, holding hand weights if you favor.
- Engage your trunk and spread your right foot to the right side, then bring the left foot back to meet it.
- When you step, raise your arms at elbows in an inverted flight motion.
- Then take your left foot to the left, then tuck your right foot in.
- Repeat for 90 seconds at a fast pace, maintaining body engagement throughout the operation.
1. High Knee Lift With Arm Pull-Down
By starting your full HIIT program with this exercise, you increase your heart rate and strengthen your quadriceps, abdominals and upper body. To add intensity, hold a hand weight set or a medicinal balloon during this exercise.
- Starting with your feet apart from the hips and the arms above your head, contract your abs and bring one knee back to your chest by pulling your elbows down.
- Bring your arms over your head by placing your raised foot down and change sides.
- Keep the trunk tight and do not turn your feet or knees outwards or inwards as you move.
2. Standing Side Leg Lift With Jumping-Jack Arms
Thielen appreciates this exercise because of “her ability to strengthen the lateral muscles of the hip, which can help to keep the knees aligned and stable”. You will also train your oblique and delta muscles.
- Stand with your feet together and your arms along your body with your palms facing your legs.
- Engage your trunk with a very slight bending of the knees, then take both arms above you until they touch each other.
- At the same time, lift the left leg to the left side. Alternate the legs with each arm movement.
- Contract your abs to prevent your hips and torso from swaying with your legs.
3. Double Side Step With Back Row
- Stand with your arms outstretched in front of your chest.
- Take two steps to the left, pulling your arms back with each step, then take two steps with rows of arms to the right.
- Start any movement by contracting your abs and pulling on the inner side of the thighs.
Increase the intensity of this movement by widening the steps or increasing the pace.
4. Partial-Squat Heel Jack
“Maintaining a partial squat helps improve the endurance of the lower body and activates the entire lower body while keeping the hips and knees in a painless area of motion,” Thielen said. You are free to add hand weights to increase the intensity.
- Stand with your feet, the knees slightly bent, the torso tilted forward and your arms sideways down.
- Open your arms and lift your elbows into a reverse flight, knock out the left heel at a 45-degree angle and bring it back.
- Do the same with your right foot.
5. Repeater Knee Lift
- Start in a split posture – right foot forward and left foot back. Load about 80 percent of your body weight onto the front leg, with the front knee slightly bent.
- Lean the torso forward (in a line with the back leg) and extend your arms overhead. Arms, head, torso and posterior leg should form a single line.
- Pull your left knee up and into the chest while your hands come down to pat on the knee.
- Bring your arms up and your left leg back.
- Repeat an entire round before changing legs (it takes a total of four minutes to complete this exercise on both sides).
6. Elevated Squat Thrust
- Stand with your feet together in front of a high surface, such as a walk, bench or chair.
- Contract your abs, bend your knees and place your hands on the step.
- Put your feet back in a high position.
- Bring your feet back and go back to standing, raise your arms above your head and lower them for a complete representation.
- If your knees can stand upright, try jumping your feet back and forth, instead of making them walk.
7. March Out-and-In
- Stand with your feet apart from your hips and your arms bent at 90 degrees.
- Forward with your right foot, spread your feet to the sides and then return to the center, pumping your bent arms as you go.
- Move with precision and control, especially when you make a full effort.
- Make a complete series of HIIT by leading with the right leg, then repeat the turn by leading with the left leg.
8. Inchworm Push-Up
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms on your sides.
- Lean-to the waist and put your hands on the floor.
- Take your hands out until you are on a full board before doing a push-up.
- Bring your hands back to your feet by using your abdominal muscles to lift your hips towards the ceiling.
- Work your back muscles to get back to standing.
To change this exercise, get down to your knees when you’re on your board. Place a cushion underneath if necessary.
9. Stationary Speed Skater
- Stand with your feet wider than hip-width.
- Keeping your feet planted, tilt the torso to the right, bend the right knee into a partial lateral slit and keep the left leg outstretched.
- At the same time, move the left arm forward and backward the right arm.
- Move your weight to the other side, partially flexing the left side and straightening the right leg.
- The right arm moves forward at the same time as the left arm backs up.
- Add weights to your hands, widen your position, deepen the slit or push your right leg back to increase the intensity.
10. Windmill Step
- Stand with your feet together and arms tilted toward your left hip.
- Moving with precision and control, the circle with your arms up and above your head from left to right by bringing the left leg back and behind the right leg with a bow.
- Reverse the windmill on the other side.
Too easy? Try to hold a medicinal balloon or hand weights while spinning your windmills.
11. Reverse Leg Lift
- Stand with your feet together and your knees slightly bent.
- Lean forward a little, spreading your weight evenly across each foot, from side to side.
- Raise your arms above your head as you relax and bring your right leg behind you.
- Bring your right foot to the ground and change your leg.
- Keep your head and neck aligned with your contracted spine and abdominals to protect your lower back while you do this exercise.
- To add intensity, hold a medicinal balloon or hand weights.