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High Intensity Interval Training for Weight Loss & Shaping: My (almost) No Equipment at Home Routines for Beginners

Updated on March 19, 2015
5 stars for Weight Loss Exercise Option

I believe that what makes an exercise the best choice for weight loss is how easy to maintain this routine as a habit that does not make your life miserable. High intensity interval training can give you visible results in TWO weeks. This makes you feel good from the beginning and happily look forward to next (totally voluntary) training session. HIIT infuses your brain with endorphin, a HAPPY hormone that relaxes your anxiety and gives you a feeling of euphoria. You can experience runner’s high with only 20 minutes of exercise!

  • Here I picked 20 professionally approved circuits to help you jump start your HIIT routine. Three times a week, remember to warm-up beforehand and stretch afterwards and you will be ready for the swimsuit season!
  • Only equipments required are a 10lb kettlebell (or one heavy dumbbell) and a yoga mat.
  • I personally experimented on almost all weight loss exercises and found HIIT to be the most effective and easiest to follow. It gave me quick results, does not take too much time and thus proved to be easy to form a habit of exercise.
  • Secret of HIIT is the after-burn. Your metabolism increases during 24 hours after the exercise. Losing weight while sleeping!
  • The key is to mix & match movements, rotating the muscle groups that you train. Core for 20 seconds, and back for 20 seconds. Core and back for Monday, thigh and arm for Wednesday.

HIIT a better choice among all weight loss options

I personally struggled for many years to establish an exercise routine. If you are as picky as me, you might find all other exercises have drawbacks that prevent them to become a good every-other-day routine.

  • Jogging around a park? I found that hot summer and icy winter disrupted the routine fduring six months out of a year.
  • Indoor treadmill at gym? That has taken a toll on my knees; plus, I didn’t find touching and inhaling other people’s sweat pleasant.
  • Swimming? Gyms with swimming pool are very expensive in New York City. Also, I found out chlorine in pool water removed all luster from my hair.
  • Elliptical machines? They don't give me enough impact and thus I found they are largely ineffective if I only have half an hour available for exercise.
  • Aerobic exercises such as cycling/spinning, kickboxing, dancing or those DVD or online videos? Personally I found them not suitable for beginners that have never exercised routinely and have poor endurance. I usually got wasted after the first twenty minutes and never hit the required time or intensity to burn enough calories. Plus, I just don’t have 60 minutes three times a week for exercise.
  • Yoga or Pilates? While they do give me better posture and make me feel more peaceful and feminine, they are no help if you need to shed 30 pounds.

Benefit of HIIT

  • It’s time saving. Warm-up and cooling down included, it only takes 30 minutes. And you have to wait at least a day (good news!) before next session, giving your muscles enough time to rebuild.
  • A better news is that your body continues to burn fat at an elevated rate during the 24 hours after the exercise.
  • It stimulates your body to generate HAPPY hormone endorphin and YOUTH hormone human growth hormone (ref 1)
  • You can see results fast. A 2013 research done in Switzerland confirmed that results become visible after as few as six sessions (ref 2). Myself? IN A WEEK, I can fit in the dress that I couldn't zip up for three years.
  • It solves the frustration in weight loss: burn fat while preserving muscle. Dieting sometimes can give you quick results, but the price is to lose muscle mass, and in turn lower the metabolism in the long term, making fat and weight coming back all too easy.
  • It helps to lower risks for high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. It also boosts body's sensitivity to insulin, and relieves PCOS symptoms. (ref 3)

Quick guide to HIIT routine

  • HIIT usually contains a few minutes of warm-up, several circuits of alternating between very intensive exercise and rest, and a few minutes of stretching and cooling down.
  • Although you can find many routines titled as “4 minutes HIIT” or “7 minutes HIIT”, remember that you have to add warm-up before them and stretching afterwards to avoid injury and make sure the muscles are not only strengthened but also shaped and toned.
  • The “intense” part of HIIT should be VERY intense. You should aim for 50% to 80% of maximum heart rate. Basically, you have to feel “I am gonna crash in a second! This is insanity!”.
  • Luckily, tough portion only lasts for a few seconds. So much easier than an hour of jogging!
  • Limit the burst or the intense period to under 1 minute (the third good news!). 20 seconds are perfect. More is not better as your muscle would produce too much lactic acid, which interferes with its performance
  • Also limit the rest period. 10 to 20 seconds are great.
  • Remember to hydrate constantly.

My recommended workout

Each workout targets a specific muscle group. I'll specify the muscle group or purpose of a workout in each title.

  • You can pick 6-12 workout, and do each for 20 repetitions or 20-30 seconds. Do them one by one with 20 seconds of rest in between (the entire sequence is one circuit), and repeat the entire circuit for 3 times.
  • The best way is to alternate between muscle groups. For example, train butt first, then arm, then core, so that muscles can have some time to rest before the next burst. And two days later, train thigh, then core, than back, letting other muscles recover. I already mix & match the workouts for you here but feel free to rearrange them and find the best sequence for yourself. Remember, mix-and-match surprises your muscles and you will get maximum results!
  • Breath is important. The golden rule is to exhale when you do the more difficult part.
  • Warm-up and stretching are equally important as the workout itself. They prevent sports injury. Also, stretching helps to tone your muscle and make you slimmer and more feminine.

Total Body, Especially Butt: Kettlebell Swings

Whole Body Aerobic: Jumping Jacks

Thigh & Butt: Lunge Kick

Butt: Jump Squats

Abs: Lying Toe Touch

Whole Body Aerobic: Burpee

Abs, Shoulders and Arms: Knee Push Up

Abs: Bicycle Crunches

Glute: Glute Bridge

Back: Cobra

Abs and Obliques: Side Crunch

Abs: Reverse Crunch

Whole Body Aerobic: Mountain Climber

Warm Up

Stretching & Cooling-down


Age-associated declines in mitochondrial biogenesis and protein quality control factors are minimized by exercise training, Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2012 Jul 15;303(2):R127-34

Improvements in exercise performance with high-intensity interval training coincide with an increase in skeletal muscle mitochondrial content and function, J Appl Physiol (1985). 2013 Sep;115(6):785-93

Long-term lifestyle intervention with optimized high-intensity interval training improves body composition, cardiometabolic risk, and exercise parameters in patients with abdominal obesity, Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2012 Nov;91(11):941-50

Let me know if I can help you target a trouble area

Write me a fanmail or leave a comment if you'd like to see more workout targeting a specific area. I'd love to see that you get good results from HIIT and make it a life-long habit!


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