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The Ultimate HIIT Workout With Weights For An Intense Session

Torch calories with our 40-minute HIIT routine.

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Whether you are scanning the group exercise classes at your local gym or perusing the offerings from live or on-demand workout classes on your favorite fitness platform, there’s a good chance you will come across high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts.

Although many HIIT workouts involve cardio exercises, an indoor cycling HIIT workout on a spin bike, or a HIIT running workout, you can also do HIIT workout routines with strength training exercises.

Beginners might start with an at home bodyweight HIIT strength training workout, but experienced athletes can do a HIIT workout with weight training exercises.

This guide will discuss how to do a HIIT workout with weights and then share a challenging full body HIIT workout you can try out for your next training session.

Two people doing a HIIT Workout With Weights, squats.

What Is A HIIT Workout With Weights?

HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training. HIIT workouts involve alternating between bursts of vigorous, high-intensity exercise and easy recovery periods.

Due to the high-intensity nature of HIIT workouts, studies1Wewege, M., van den Berg, R., Ward, R. E., & Keech, A. (2017). The effects of high-intensity interval training vs. moderate-intensity continuous training on body composition in overweight and obese adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Obesity Reviews18(6), 635–646. https://doi.org/10.1111/obr.12532 have found that HIIT workouts can provide the same health and fitness benefits as moderate-intensity steady-state training in about 40% less time, if not more,2Gillen, J. B., Martin, B. J., MacInnis, M. J., Skelly, L. E., Tarnopolsky, M. A., & Gibala, M. J. (2016). Twelve Weeks of Sprint Interval Training Improves Indices of Cardiometabolic Health Similar to Traditional Endurance Training despite a Five-Fold Lower Exercise Volume and Time Commitment. PLOS ONE11(4), e0154075. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0154075 making it an extremely efficient type of exercise.

HIIT workouts with weights involve performing strength training exercises during the “on” or hard intervals using dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, or other forms of resistance.

For example, you might perform kettlebell swings, kettlebell Turkish get-ups, kettlebell goblet squats, kettlebell step-ups, and kettlebell farmer’s carries in a HIIT workout with weights.

In this way, a HIIT workout with weights combines cardio and strength training workouts, maximizing workout efficiency. 

Moreover, a HIIT workout with weights is a great way to burn calories,3Zhang, H., Tong, T. K., Qiu, W., Zhang, X., Zhou, S., Liu, Y., & He, Y. (2017). Comparable Effects of High-Intensity Interval Training and Prolonged Continuous Exercise Training on Abdominal Visceral Fat Reduction in Obese Young Women. Journal of Diabetes Research2017, 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/5071740 burn fat,4Viana, R. B., Naves, J. P. A., Coswig, V. S., de Lira, C. A. B., Steele, J., Fisher, J. P., & Gentil, P. (2019). Is interval training the magic bullet for fat loss? A systematic review and meta-analysis comparing moderate-intensity continuous training with high-intensity interval training (HIIT). British Journal of Sports Medicine53(10), bjsports-2018-099928. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2018-099928 and boost your metabolism.5KNAB, A. M., SHANELY, R. A., CORBIN, K. D., JIN, F., SHA, W., & NIEMAN, D. C. (2011). A 45-Minute Vigorous Exercise Bout Increases Metabolic Rate for 14 Hours. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise43(9), 1643–1648. https://doi.org/10.1249/mss.0b013e3182118891

Whether you want to do a lower body, upper body, full body, or cardio HIIT workout, you can adjust the exercises to work for you and your goal for that session.

Renegade row exercise.

How to Do A HIIT Workout With Weights

Here are some tips for creating your own HIIT workouts with weights:

#1: Choose Your Exercises Wisely

If you are interested in doing HIIT workouts on your own, pick a type of exercise you can perform at a high intensity with good form. 

Doing a HIIT workout with weights can be a fantastic workout, but if you’re not prepared for the rigors of the workout, it can be risky.

Although exercising vigorously during the “on“ intervals is important, proper form and technique always trump intensity. 

Therefore, particularly when doing strength training HIIT exercises with weights, do not include exercises in your HIIT workout that you are still trying to master from a technical standpoint.

If you try to go for speed and power during the exercise, your form might break down, increasing the risk of injury.

Deadlift exercise.

#2: Pick Your Exercise Order Strategically

When doing HIIT workouts with weights, it’s a good idea to sequence exercises back to back that use the same equipment.

For example, if you want to do a HIIT workout with kettlebells and medicine balls, perform exercises like kettlebell sumo squats, kettlebell swings, and kettlebell single-leg Romanian deadlifts back to back before you move on to medicine ball slams, medicine ball chops, and medicine ball V-ups.

Similarly, if you’re doing a full-body dumbbell workout with adjustable dumbbells, sequence exercises in a row that use the same weight so you don’t have to feel pressured to race to adjust the weights between every exercise.

Sequencing the exercises that utilize the same equipment together will allow you to move from one exercise to the next more efficiently, keeping your heart rate elevated throughout the duration of the HIIT workout. 

Kettlebell squat exercise.

#3: Use Your Muscles

It may sound obvious, but when using weights in a HIIT workout, resist the urge to wildly swing the weights or rely on momentum and gravity to do the lifting and lowering for you. 

Not only will swinging the weights around increase the risk of injury, but it also reduces the effectiveness of the exercise because gravity and momentum assist you in lifting the weight. 

#4: Pick Your Interval Lengths

You must also choose how long to make each hard burst and rest period. For example, your work and rest intervals might each be 30 seconds. 

Start with an easy warm-up for a few minutes. Then, alternate between pushing as hard as you can for the 30 seconds and then recovering for the next 30 seconds, over and over, until your desired total workout time has elapsed. 

You might want to start with 10-15 minutes and then gradually build up to 20-30 minutes, depending on your fitness level, goals, and time constraints.

People working out with dumbbells.

#5: Vary Your Interval Lengths

As you get fitter, you can increase the length of the hard efforts relative to the rest intervals, shifting from a 1:2 or 1:1 ratio to a 2:1 ratio or more. 

For example, a beginner might do a HIIT workout with 30 seconds hard, 60 seconds easy, then progress to 45 seconds hard, 45 seconds easy, and then finally to 60 seconds hard, 30 seconds easy.

However, be cautious with scaling up the length of the hard intervals too quickly.

You need to keep the hard intervals short enough that you can work at maximal effort to fully reap the benefits of HIIT. 

You should be working at 85-95% of your max heart rate during your “on” efforts, so a good rule of thumb is to cap your vigorous intervals at 45 seconds unless you’re super advanced.

#6: Wear a Heart Rate Monitor

A heart rate monitor can help you gauge your intensity level. 

Your target heart rate during the “on” intervals in HIIT workouts is usually 85% of your max heart rate or higher.

If your heart rate isn’t getting high enough, you might need to either increase your weights or shift to more compound exercises involving multiple major muscle groups.

Examples of good compound strength training exercises for HIIT workouts with weights include squats, step-ups, deadlifts, lunges, split squats, burpees with a medicine ball, and military presses.

Overhead press.

The Ultimate HIIT Workout With Weights

The following is a challenging HIIT workout with weights we’ve created for advanced athletes who are experienced with the exercises in the workout.

If you are at an intermediate experience level, you can always substitute, modify, or skip any of the workout exercises for ones you are more competent with.

If you are a beginner, you can try the workout, but just be sure to use very light weights to reduce the risk of injury. 

No matter what your fitness and experience levels are, ensure you are always using the proper form and technique.

This is an AMRAP HIIT workout with weights, meaning you will go for time and complete as many reps as possible during the intervals.

Each hard interval should be 45 seconds, and each recovery should be 30 seconds (less fit individuals might want to bump up the recovery to 45 seconds as well.

Our 40 Minute Full Body Dumbbell HIIT Workout

Warm-Up (no equipment)

  • 60 seconds of jumping jacks
  • 60 seconds of high knees running in place
  • 60 seconds of mountain climbers

Workout 

Complete two rounds of the following exercises, 45 seconds ON / 30 seconds OFF (recovery between exercises).

During the recovery, pace around and/or get set up for the next exercise.

  • Goblet squats, holding a dumbbell.
  • Dumbbell step-ups, alternating the leg you used to step up onto the box first.
  • Reverse lunges with an overhead press in the right hand. Press the dumbbell overhead on the side of the leg that is in front (not the one stepping back), so your left leg should be stepping back.
  • Reverse lunges with an overhead press in the left hand. 
  • Dumbbell chest press.
  • Bent-over dumbbell rows on the right side.
  • Bent-over dumbbell rows on the left side.
  • Right lateral lunges (stepping the right leg to the right) with a biceps curl on the left.
  • Left lateral lunges with a right arm biceps curl.
  • Right single-leg Romanian deadlifts with a dumbbell.
  • Left single-leg Romanian deadlifts with a dumbbell.
  • Bent-over dumbbell reverse flies.
  • Dumbbell Russian twist.
  • Dumbbell V-ups.

You can also start with 30 seconds per exercise until you are fit enough to do 45 seconds.

Cool Down

  • 60 seconds marching in place.

As you get fitter and build strength, increase your weights.

If it’s hard for you to get the the gym and you are looking for some home workouts for fat burn & cardio, or to build muscle and overall body strength read our next guide:

References

  • 1
    Wewege, M., van den Berg, R., Ward, R. E., & Keech, A. (2017). The effects of high-intensity interval training vs. moderate-intensity continuous training on body composition in overweight and obese adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Obesity Reviews18(6), 635–646. https://doi.org/10.1111/obr.12532
  • 2
    Gillen, J. B., Martin, B. J., MacInnis, M. J., Skelly, L. E., Tarnopolsky, M. A., & Gibala, M. J. (2016). Twelve Weeks of Sprint Interval Training Improves Indices of Cardiometabolic Health Similar to Traditional Endurance Training despite a Five-Fold Lower Exercise Volume and Time Commitment. PLOS ONE11(4), e0154075. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0154075
  • 3
    Zhang, H., Tong, T. K., Qiu, W., Zhang, X., Zhou, S., Liu, Y., & He, Y. (2017). Comparable Effects of High-Intensity Interval Training and Prolonged Continuous Exercise Training on Abdominal Visceral Fat Reduction in Obese Young Women. Journal of Diabetes Research2017, 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/5071740
  • 4
    Viana, R. B., Naves, J. P. A., Coswig, V. S., de Lira, C. A. B., Steele, J., Fisher, J. P., & Gentil, P. (2019). Is interval training the magic bullet for fat loss? A systematic review and meta-analysis comparing moderate-intensity continuous training with high-intensity interval training (HIIT). British Journal of Sports Medicine53(10), bjsports-2018-099928. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2018-099928
  • 5
    KNAB, A. M., SHANELY, R. A., CORBIN, K. D., JIN, F., SHA, W., & NIEMAN, D. C. (2011). A 45-Minute Vigorous Exercise Bout Increases Metabolic Rate for 14 Hours. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise43(9), 1643–1648. https://doi.org/10.1249/mss.0b013e3182118891
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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