Emily Skye

Try a free HIIT workout for beginners!

Emily Skye

HIIT workouts for beginners should make you sweat, but they don’t have to be impossibly hard!

HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training, and it’s a key part of my FIT program. Because it’s a really effective way to burn fat and improve aerobic (or cardio) fitness, it’s the perfect complement for my strength training workouts. It’s a fast and fun style of training that gets great results without having to spend hours in the gym.

Let’s take a look at why HIIT is such a great way to work out, then I’ll lead you through one of my favourite HIIT workouts for beginners at home.

What is HIIT and can beginners do it?

Let’s break down HIIT for beginners. Because HIIT is all about training at your individual highest intensity, anyone of any fitness level can do it. In a HIIT workout, you alternate bursts of high-intensity exercise (the work phase) with shorter periods of rest or recovery (the rest phase). For example, you may give it your all doing 40 seconds of star jumps, then rest for 20 seconds.

The duration of HIIT workouts – also known as circuit training, because you often cycle through a group of exercises multiple times – usually falls between 15 and 30 minutes. (I told you they were quick!) While they can incorporate difficult or advanced exercises, they don’t have to.

Emily Skye demonstrates a push-up variation for beginners that uses a chair, taken from her beginner-friendly program FIT Foundations.

HIIT doesn’t have to be impossibly hard. Join me for beginner-friendly workouts in my 6-week program FIT Foundations.

I’m going to help you get started with a full-body gentle HIIT workout taken from FIT Foundations, my 6-week program for absolute beginners. You can unlock the full program now with a free trial at and I’ll help you get fit and build life-changing habits.

You don’t need any special equipment for this workout we’re about to do, but it does help to know your training lingo!

Rep: Short for repetitions, as in how many times you repeat a move. For instance, a squat is an exercise where you lower your butt into a sitting position, then rise back up to standing – this down and up motion is 1 rep.

Set: Sets in a workout tell you how many times to do a collection of reps. Let’s say you’re doing squats and the workout calls for “3 sets of 8 reps”: you’ll do 8 squats (then rest) three times before moving onto the next set.

Round: Rounds are groupings of exercises that make up your entire workout. A round is usually made up of several different exercises, each performed for a certain number of reps and sets.

Now you’ve got the talk down, let’s walk the walk with this free HIIT workout!

Your beginner HIIT warm-up

This warm-up will have you ready for your HIIT session. Remember, this is the beginning of the workout, so it’s normal to feel out of breath!

Feeling warm yet? If some of the exercises in that warm-up felt a little awkward, I’ve got some more form tips for you to follow.

How to march on the spot: Standing up tall, march on the spot. You don’t need to lift your knees up high or swing your arms with force, just find a steady rhythm and march.

How to do butt kicks: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bending at the knee to kick your right heel up towards your butt. Place it down, then kick your left foot up towards your butt, and continue alternating. Use your arms to help drive the side-to-side movement by pushing your fists forward, then elbows back.

How to do mini squats: Stand with your feet around shoulder-width apart. Drop into a mini squat by lowering your butt until there is a slight bend in your knees – pushing your hands in front of your body as you squat down. Then return to standing tall, and repeat.

How to do arm circles: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and your arms raised out to the sides so your body forms a T shape. Keeping the rest of your body still, gently draw circles in the air with both hands.

How to do a leaning overhead reach: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, with your hands held up near your shoulders. Drop into a mini squat, and as you do so, reach your right arm up to the opposite side of your head. Return to standing, then squat down and reach your left arm above the opposite side of your head. Repeat.

How to do standing torso twists: Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Grip one hand over your other fist so your arms form a basket at your chest. Engage your core by drawing your belly button back towards your spine, then twist your torso from left to right. Your torso should drive the movement, not your legs or glutes.

Your free at-home HIIT workout for beginners

It’s time to get your HIIT on! Remember to breathe and take it at your own pace.

How did that gentle cardio feel? If any of the exercises felt challenging or awkward, be sure to read up on the extra form tips for each one.

How to do fast marching on the spot: Just like your warm-up, we’re going to stand up tall and march on the spot – but this time at a quicker pace. The aim is to increase your heart rate.

How to do a kneel to stand exercise: Make sure you have a cushioning workout mat or carpet for this exercise. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and your fists together in front of your chest for balance. As you lift your left foot off the floor, bend at your right knee to lower your body and place your left knee on the floor, then your right knee. Now bring your left foot onto the floor in front of you and push up through your quad (thigh muscle) to return to standing. For your next rep, lower your right knee first, and push up through your right quad to return to standing. Continue to alternate sides.

How to do a squat to chair sit: Using a chair is a great way to lock in your squat form. Place the chair just far enough behind you that your butt sits at the front of the seat when you squat down and make sure it won’t slip. Now, stand hip-width apart in front of the chair, and brace your core as you bring your fists together in front of your chest. Bend at the knees and lower your butt to squat down, until you are sitting on the chair. Pause slightly on the seat, then return to standing. Repeat.

How to do wall push-ups: Push-ups can be challenging, but this variation will help you build up your strength. Place your hands on the wall, shoulder-width apart. Step your feet back until your arms are fully extended. Now, keeping your feet firmly planted, bend at the elbows to lower your chest towards the wall, then push against the wall to return to your starting position. Repeat, without rushing through the movements.

Your beginner HIIT cool down

Just a couple of minutes of stretching after a workout can make a big difference to your recovery. So let's cool down!

Ahhhh! Nice work cooling down after your workout! You can get the lowdown on your cool-down stretches below.

How to do a standing quad stretch: As you kick your left heel back, grab the top of your foot with your hand, and use it to pull your heel up towards your butt. You should feel a stretch through the front of your thigh. Hold the stretch as long as you can (if it’s less than 30 seconds, reset and go again). After 30 seconds, swap sides and pull your right heel up to stretch out your right quad.

How to do a standing chest stretch: Stand up straight, with your hands clasped together behind your butt. Engage your core, then raise your arms up away from your butt, drawing your shoulders back and pushing your chest forward into a stretch. Hold it here for 30 seconds.

How to do an ITB glute stretch: The iliotibial band is a muscle that runs from your glutes (butt) down the side of your thigh. To stretch it out, sit with your legs out in front of you, then cross your left leg over your right, so your foot is flat on the floor just the other side of your knee. Placing your right elbow on the opposite knee to hold it in place, and positioning your left hand on the floor behind you for support, rotate your torso to look over your left shoulder until you feel a stretch. Hold it for 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

How to do a cat cow: This yoga pose is great for stretching out your back. Position yourself on all fours, then raise your back up by lowering your head towards the floor and drawing in your stomach. Hold it for a moment, then curve your back inward by raising your head to look up and dropping your stomach towards the floor. Continue at a steady pace for 30 seconds.

Ready to build up your fitness with fun, easy workouts for beginners? Start your free trial for access to my programs, including FIT Foundations.

Emily Skye
Personal trainer • Founder

Emily Skye is a strength training expert and the face of FIT, the digital fitness app that helps women worldwide build strength and confidence, stay active through pregnancy and rebuild post-pregnancy. Emily holds a Certificate IV in Fitness and Master Trainer qualification from the Australian Institute of Fitness. She is also co-founder of James Cosmetics and a mother of two.

Emily Skye
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