A Lower Body HIIT Workout to Target Your Legs and Butt

4 weeks ago
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On a tight schedule, but still feel like you could benefit from some quick, focused movement? Give a lower body HIIT workout a try.

HIIT, or high intensity interval training, is a style of training that focuses on explosive, breathless intervals of work with periods of recovery mixed in. It’s the opposite of endurance training, where you want to ration your energy so you can keep on going. Instead, knowing that you’ll only be doing each exercise for a short period of time, you use every ounce of your energy until time is up.

Now, as SELF explained previously, most HIIT classes for the general population are more like circuit or interval training, rather than true HIIT. That’s because most folks like to work hard with shorter periods of rest rather than working all-out and recovering for two to three times longer.

This bodyweight circuit training workout, created by Alicia Jamison, C.P.T., trainer at Bodyspace Fitness in New York City, brings many of the benefits of HIIT: Like HIIT, it focuses on muscular endurance and it challenges you cardiovascularly, so that eventually, you can go longer and harder. This lower-body focused routine will get your heart pumping quickly and efficiently, while still strengthening your muscles—especially your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and hip abductors, the smaller glute muscles along the sides of your butt. 

“Anytime we do HIIT-style training, it’s key to get the cardio aspect quickly, so I like to start all of my circuits with a metabolic outburst,” Jamison tells SELF.

In this workout, that means explosive, big-muscle moves that get your heart rate up fast to begin the circuits. Jamison also added lower-intensity moves sandwiched between those juicy lower body exercises to serve as an active recovery while still keeping your core and other muscles engaged.

Like many HIIT-based routines, this lower body HIIT workout uses longer work periods interspersed with shorter rest intervals to keep the intensity (and your heart rate) up. You can also use timing to modify the intensity to what works for you: Jamison advises speeding up your reps if you need more of a challenge, and slowing down if you need to take things down a notch.

Jamison notes that it’s easy to let your mind wander when you get fatigued during these intense workouts. If you’re losing your focus mid-circuit, she advises stepping out of the working posture and taking a moment to breathe before starting back up to prevent any injuries. Similarly, if you feel tension or discomfort in your ankles, hips, knees, or lower back, take a break to catch your breath and reset your form (or, if you’re feeling pain, to stop). Like with all speed-based workouts, quality is key—it’s better to slow down than crank out reps with poor form.

Quick note: Before you hop into a high-intensity workout like this one, it’s important to include a proper warm-up to avoid injury—and to get yourself pumped up. These can include moves like lateral lunges, planks, and cardio moves like jumping jacks, says Jamison. (If you have hip, knee, or ankle issues, though, check with your doctor or physical therapist before trying a high impact HIIT workout like this.)

Ready to get started? Here’s everything you’ll need for this intense 26-minute lower body challenge.

The Workout

What you’ll need: An exercise mat for extra cushioning.

The Exercises

Circuit 1

  • High knees
  • Curtsy lunge to reverse lunge to hop
  • Fire hydrant
  • Flutter kick

Circuit 2

  • Skater hops
  • Jump squat
  • Single-leg glute bridge
  • Runner’s crunch

Directions

  • Perform each exercise in Circuit 1 for 40 seconds, resting for 20 seconds after each move. Complete three times total. Rest for 2 minutes after the third round.
  • Perform each exercise in Circuit 2 for 40 seconds, resting for 20 seconds after each move. Complete three times total.

Demoing the moves below are Crystal Williams (GIF 1), a group fitness instructor and trainer who teaches at residential and commercial gyms across New York City; Cookie Janee, (GIFs 2 and 6), a background investigator and security forces specialist in the Air Force Reserve; Grace Pulliam (GIFs 3 and 7), who teaches aerial yoga, Vinyasa yoga, and a fall prevention class for senior citizens; and Amanda Wheeler (GIFs 4, 5, and 8), a certified strength and conditioning specialist and co-founder of Formation Strength.

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