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The 5 Best HIIT Exercises for Women

Briana KellyFebruary 18, 2023

Evidence-based training is our bread and butter, and we know that High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a tried and true way to effectively train energy systems and burn calories. We’re going to give you our 5 best HIIT exercises so you can build your own program!

Curious about why HIIT is so effective? Check out Evidence Based HIIT Training for Women to get the goods!

The best exercise is the exercise that’s right for your body. It’s downright impossible to find 5 exercises that are perfect for everyone!

Cookie cutter programs are the fad, but we know that offering progressions and variations for each person is crucial. It takes consistency and practice to explore the best exercises for you.

Here are our best 5 HIIT exercises for women, complete with variations and progressions, that you can use to build a balanced HIIT program. We believe it’s important to know the WHY’s behind each exercise, so we’ve included those notes for you too. Enjoy!

1. Curtsy Lunge

Why? This is a complex hip-dominant movement that requires hip and knee mobility. It enables you to cross the midline of your body, offering neurological benefits as well as quad, glute, and core strength. It can be done slow and steady or with powerful strides to add complexity.

Basic: Alternating Curtsy Lunge

  • Standing tall, step back with one leg behind your body at a 45 degree angle.
  • Lower into lunge and return to standing

Advanced: Curtsy Lunge to Hop

  • Step back into curtsy, then return to your start position to perform a hop before repeating on the other side.

2. Mountain Climbers

Why? This is a plank derivative; therefore, it offers anti-extension and anti-rotation core training. It requires stability through the midsection as well as in the hips and shoulders. Remember, maintain a neutral spine (including neck, shoulders, and tailbone) and don’t let the hips rock as the knees drive!

Basic: Slow Mountain Climbers

  • In a high plank position, driving a knee into your chest.
  • Return to high plank position then complete the other side.
  • Don’t drive the knee so far that the back rounds or twists.

Advanced: Fast Mountain Climbers

  • Quickly alternate knee drives without losing control of spine.

3. Squat

Why? The squat is a functional pattern. It’s a knee-dominant exercise and an expression of ankle, hip, and thoracic (t-spine) mobility as well as hip and core stability. Knees must track the toes and don’t let your butt wink under!

Basic: Pulsing Squat

  • Find your squat stance and lower to a comfortable squat depth.
  • Pulse up and down 1-2 inches.
  • Never go all the way down or all the way up

Advanced: Criss Cross Squat

  • Lower into a squat.
  • On the ascent, hop into a criss cross of the feet, then hop back to a squat and repeat.
  • Stay light on your feet.

4. Crawl

Why? Crawling is another functional pattern. As one of the stages in child development, it’s important for core, shoulder and hip function, and is surprisingly difficult for an adult to do effectively! It is another exercise that crosses the midline (offering neurological benefits) and offers strength and balance outcomes.

Basic: Bear Shoulder Taps

  • In All 4’s position, lift the knees 1 inch off the ground.
  • Alternate taps with the hand to the opposite shoulder.
  • Do not let the hips sway or back round - imagine you’re balancing a ball in your low back!

Advanced: Bear Crawl

  • In All 4’s position, lift knees off the ground.
  • Lift and move opposite hand and foot forwards, then repeat on other side.
  • Do not let the hips sway or back round - imagine you’re balancing a ball in your low back!

5. Lateral Lunge

Why? Lateral movement is often neglected day-to-day, but a lateral lunge is a functional pattern in the frontal plane. This is a hip-driven movement that requires lower body mobility and stability. As much of our lives are spent moving forwards (ie. sitting, walking, running), it’s important for hip, knee, and spine health to explore varied directions as well!

Basic: Lateral Split Squat

  • Assume a wide stance with toes pointed forward.
  • Shift weight to one side, sending hips behind you.
  • Stay low and shift weight to other side.
  • Repeat without returning to tall position.

Advanced: Skater Jumps

  • Hop laterally, pushing off the planted leg and landing softly on the other.
  • Sit back into the hips.
  • Stay light on your feet.