Can a 5-minute HIIT workout actually provide benefit to your fitness clients? Let’s talk about HIIT and how it is best utilized for busy clients at all fitness levels.

Fitting it in

Summer is upon us! Schedules are packed with social events, travel, kids’ activities, and – work – don’t forget work. Though the summer days are technically longer, time seems to fly by faster. A common question I get from students and clients is, “How can I still be active without committing to a long or long-ish workout?”

There’s no specific “one size fits all” answer. Individual client needs, goals, likes, and dislikes must all be considered and provide the foundation for any activity recommendations. The biggest goal we strive for as professionals is breaking down barriers and encouraging joyful movement throughout the day (no active couch potato-ing and no self-punishing exercise).

One strategy I really like to use myself and to encourage clients to do is a 5-minute HIIT workout throughout the day in lieu of a walk or longer workout session if it just doesn’t seem feasible or appealing at the time.

The benefits of HITT are well-documented. We know the anerobic nature of this type of training will lead to increased caloric expenditure, improved aerobic efficiency, increased lean mass, improved power, and – there are even brain benefits! Why not use this periodically for something fun, functional, and fast?

*It is important to note that HIIT may not be for every client, though it can be used with seniors (using REHIIT), deconditioned populations, or even those with chronic conditions. Be sure to scale down the intensity (85 to 95% of age-predicted maximum heart rate) and begin with 10-30 seconds (or some variation of a shorter interval). Follow these intervals by longer periods of lower-intensity activity (60-70% maximum heart rate).

You could also consider doing a Tabata-style circuit (generally this is 20 seconds of more intense work followed by 10-second recovery periods) over the course of four-minute intervals. This can, however, be broken up in different ways depending on your style and client skills and abilities.

Examples of 5-Minute HIIT Routines

Before engaging in this type of workout (or any workout), remember to advise clients to warm-up with some light knee marches and some dynamic range of motion movements for a few minutes. The types of movements you or your clients choose for the conditioning bout our truly limited only by space and comfort level (again, tailor to client needs and skills and enjoyment). Below are three examples you can adapt to your client needs and style.

Example 1 – Each movement is 30 seconds

  1. Air Squats
  2. Jump squats
  3. Reverse lunges
  4. Jump lunges
  5. Slow high knee marches
  6. Fast high knee marches
  7. Lateral lunges
  8. Skater hops
  9. Forearm plank
  10. Mountain climbers

Example 2 – each HIIT movement is 30 seconds, and each lower-intensity movement is 20 seconds. Repeat this circuit a second time.  

  1. Side steps (3 to the right, 3 to the left for 20 seconds)
  2. Jumping jacks (30 seconds)
  3. Push-up (30 seconds)
  4. Burpee (20 seconds)
  5. Inchworms (30 seconds)
  6. High knees (20 seconds)


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Example 3 (4-minute Tabata)

Minute 1

  1. Lateral hops (20 seconds)
  2. Rest 10 seconds
  3. Froggers or squat thrusts (20 seconds)
  4. Rest 10 seconds

Minute 2

  1. Star jumps (20 seconds)
  2. Rest 10 seconds
  3. Skater jumps (20 seconds)
  4. Rest 10 seconds

Minute 3

  1. Lunge jumps (20 seconds)
  2. Rest 10 seconds
  3. Jumping jacks (20 seconds)
  4. Rest 10 seconds

Minute 4

  1. Plank jacks (20 seconds)
  2. Rest 10 seconds
  3. Up down planks (20 seconds)
  4. Rest 10 seconds

These types of mini-workouts are easily integrated into the day. If time is not on your clients’ side, maximize efficiency by encouraging short bursts of more intense activity to keep them moving and active.


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Erin Nitschke

Dr. Erin Nitschke, NFPT-CPT, NSCA-CPT, ACE Health Coach, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Therapeutic Exercise Specialist, and Pn1 is a health and human performance college professor, fitness blogger, mother, and passionate fitness professional. She has over 15 years of experience in the fitness industry and college instruction. Erin believes in the power of a holistic approach to healthy living. She loves encouraging her clients and students to develop body harmony by teaching focused skill development and lifestyle balance. Erin is also the Director of Educational Partnerships & Programs for the NFPT. Erin is an editorial author for ACE, IDEA, The Sheridan Press, and the Casper Star Tribune. Visit her personal blog at