Fitness

6 HIIT Leg Workouts That'll Strengthen Your Entire Lower Body

Work your hamstrings, quads, and glutes as you get your cardio in.

A roundup of short but fiery HIIT leg workouts from trainers.
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A fast and furious HIIT session is always a great way to get your heart pumping. With the right exercises, you could also rely on a spicy interval-based session to target certain body parts and turn it into, say, a HIIT leg workout.

If you’re not familiar, HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training, which is a form of cardio exercise that involves quick bursts of energy followed by short periods of rest, says Rachel MacPherson, a certified personal trainer and Garage Gym Reviews expert. The goal is to push yourself as hard as you can during the working intervals for an anaerobic workout, she explains. “This is opposed to aerobic exercise, which is more easily sustained and can be done for a longer period of time,” MacPherson tells Bustle (think jogging versus sprinting). “With HIIT, you work at about 80 to 90% of your maximum heart rate or a nine to 10 on the rate of perceived exertion scale when you’re pushing yourself.”

You could turn to a HIIT routine to fire up your lower body muscles, which is beneficial if you want to train for agility or speed, says MacPherson, or to prep for a sport. In that case, “it's best to stick to movements that mimic the same things you do during your sport,” she suggests. “If you are a soccer or football player, for instance, sprinting and changing direction quickly are good ways to train. Basketball and volleyball players should work on their vertical jump in their HIIT workouts.” Other than that, interval-based leg routines can simply work to increase your lower body strength — which is essential for your everyday movements.

If you’re ready to sweat it out, keep scrolling for some fiery HIIT leg workouts that trainers recommend.

1

15-Minute Leg Circuit

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MacPherson recommends this round of exercises to work your leg muscles and get your heart rate up. It includes slow periods of active rest where the goal is to keep moving while your heart rate comes down.

- Burpees, 30 seconds.

- Slow bodyweight forward lunges, 30 seconds.

- Jumping jacks, 30 seconds.

- Slow bodyweight squats, 30 seconds.

- Alternating leg jump switch lunges, 30 seconds.

- Slow lateral lunges, 30 seconds.

- Repeat the whole circuit 3 to 5 times.

2

10-Minute Plyometrics

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Got 10 minutes? Try this routine that features spicy plyometric exercises. “These workouts engage all the major leg muscles, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calf muscles,” says Tom Holland, MS, CSCS, CISSN, a certified personal trainer. “The skater exercise and side lunges are great for targeting the hip muscles as well.”

- Jumping jacks, 30 seconds.

- Rest, 10 seconds.

- Pop squats, 30 seconds.

- Rest, 10 seconds.

- Side to side skaters, 30 seconds.

- Rest, 10 seconds.

- Alternating leg jump lunges, 30 seconds.

- Rest, 10 seconds.

- Run in place, 30 seconds.

- Repeat 4 times.

3

HIIT With Dumbbells

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Holland says you can also add dumbbells to your HIIT routine for a cardio challenge and some extra resistance for your muscles.

- Run in place, 30 seconds.

- Rest, 10 seconds.

- Dumbbell squats, 30 seconds.

- Rest, 10 seconds.

- High knees, 30 seconds.

- Rest, 10 seconds.

- Dumbbell deadlifts, 30 seconds.

- Rest, 10 seconds.

- Burpees, 30 seconds.

- Repeat the whole circuit 4 times.

4

15-Minute Leg Blast

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This HIIT sesh from Holland features longer intervals, so try this if you want to work on your cardio endurance as you strengthen your leg muscles.

- Alternating front lunges with dumbbells, 60 seconds.

- Rest, 10 seconds.

- Jumping jacks, 60 seconds.

- Rest, 10 seconds.

- Alternating side lunges with dumbbells, 60 seconds.

- Rest, 10 seconds.

- Running in place with butt kicks, 60 seconds.

- Rest, 10 seconds.

- Goblet squats with one dumbbell, 60 seconds.

- Rest, 10 seconds.

- Repeat the entire routine 3 times.

5

Tri-Sets

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Daniel Cooper, an exercise physiologist and personal trainer, recommends this quick HIIT routine that uses just three leg exercises. “This can be the boost you need to keep your workouts interesting,” he tells Bustle.

- Wall squats, hold for 30 to 60 seconds.

- Step-ups. Face a step or plyometric box. Place your foot in the middle of it and step up for 15 reps per leg, alternating which leg leads.

- Squat jumps, 20 reps.

- Rest for 60 seconds.

- Repeat the entire circuit 4 to 5 times.

6

Lower Body Tabata

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You could also turn your HIIT leg session into a Tabata workout, says Cooper, which means you’ll do as many reps of one exercise as you can for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds of rest.

- Squats, 20 seconds.

- Rest, 10 seconds.

- Glute bridges, 20 seconds.

- Rest, 10 seconds.

- Lunges, 20 seconds.

- Rest, 10 seconds.

- Deadlifts, 20 seconds.

- Rest, 10 seconds.

- Do 8 rounds for a total of 4 minutes.

Studies referenced:

Foster, C. (2015). The Effects of High Intensity Interval Training vs Steady State Training on Aerobic and Anaerobic Capacity. J Sports Sci Med. PMID: 26664271; PMCID: PMC4657417.

Sources:

Rachel MacPherson, certified personal trainer, Garage Gym Reviews expert

Daniel Cooper, exercise physiologist, personal trainer

Tom Holland, MS, CSCS, CISSN, certified personal trainer