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The Best Exercises For An Upper Body And Arm HIIT Workout


Benefits of HIIT | Is HIIT Enough? | Tips | Upper Body HIIT Workout

Think the only way to build upper body strength and muscle was to spend hours at the gym each day? Think again. While strength training and progressive overload is a key element in building strength and size, upper body HIIT workouts are a great way to increase the load your back, chest, shoulders, and arms are exposed to, without taking up huge chunks of time.

Here, PureGym PT Chris Collett looks at the benefits of doing upper body HIIT and shares a 20 minutes HIIT upper body workout you can do at home or the gym.

What Are The Benefits of Upper Body HIIT Workouts?

High intensity interval training, or HIIT, is a training format that alternates periods of all out exercise with periods of low intensity exercise or rest, for a maximum workout length of 30 minutes.

While HIIT workouts do not typically build as much muscle as weight training, they can still help to build muscle, especially if you choose workouts with multiple compound exercises so that the muscles are sufficiently challenged. 

While HIIT workouts may be less efficient at building muscle, they more than make up for this in other areas. Compared to weight training, HIIT workouts have more capacity to improve muscle endurance, speed, and power, which can help to improve sports performance and even weightlifting. HIIT also improves cardiovascular endurance and burns a lot of calories in a short amount of time.

You can learn more about the general benefits of HIIT training here.

Are HIIT Workouts Enough For The Upper Body And Arms?

There are multiple benefits of including upper body and arm HIIT exercises into your weekly training, but depending on your goal this may not be enough on its own.

If you want to improve strength, power, and speed, and prefer a leaner physique, upper body and arm HIIT workouts is likely enough. If you can only dedicate 30-40 minutes to your workouts each day, HIIT workouts are great for making sure you get a good upper body workout.

If your goal is to build significant upper body and arm mass, you’ll benefit from also including weight training too. Weightlifting allows the muscles to be challenged and fatigued to the point they need to be rebuilt, and it’s this process which increases the size of the muscles.

Combining both types of training is a good way to boost your overall strength and fitness and improve your body composition. If you were doing an upper lower body workout split, this could look like:

  • Day 1: upper body workout – weightlifting

  • Day 2: lower body workout – weightlifting

  • Day 3: upper body workout – HIIT

  • Day 4: lower body workout - HIIT

Tips For Creating An Upper Body HIIT Workout 

We’ve shared an upper body and arm HIIT workout to try below, but if you’re interested in creating your own workout then some tips to get you started are:

  1. Pick complimentary exercises. Choose a mix of compound exercises for strength, and cardio exercises for speed and endurance. Choosing exercises that use the same pieces of gym kit will make it easier to run through the exercises quickly. Some of the best upper body HIIT exercises to try are push ups, clean and press, tricep dips, battle ropes, and renegade rows.

  2. Start simple. Aim for around 4-6 exercises with multiple circuits, rather than 1-2 rounds of lots of exercises. This will make it easier to follow, so you can put all your energy into the exercises and take advantage of the rest periods, rather than having to remember what you are doing next.

  3. Try different timings. There are plenty of ways to format your HIIT workout, so try playing with different intervals to see what works. For more strength-based exercises, you might find it helpful to do longer intervals so you can get more reps in, while a more cardio focused workout would benefit from shorter but higher intensity periods of exercise and rest.

Upper Body & Arm HIIT Workout – No Equipment

This upper body HIIT workout takes just 30 minutes including a warm up and cool down, and doesn’t require any gym equipment, so you can do it at home or on the move, as well as in the gym.

Upper body HIIT workout plan 
  • Warm up:

    • 3 minutes – moderate intensity cardio (e.g. walking, cross trainer, jumping jacks)
    • 2 minutes – dynamic upper body exercises (e.g. arm circles, shoulder rolls, wrist flicks)
  • HIIT workout:

    Perform each exercise for 30 seconds back-to-back. Once all five exercises are completed, take a 2-minute rest. Repeat this four times.

    • Diamond push ups. Start in a high plank position, with your hands forming a diamond shape directly under your chest. Engage your core and glutes, then lower your chest until your upper arms are parallel with the floor. Pause before pushing back up to the starting position.
    • Air punches (straight forward). Stand tall, engage your core, and step one foot forward, keeping both knees slightly bent. Bring both fists to below your chin with your elbows tucked into your sides. Punch one arm forward, allowing the body and hips to twist. Return your arm to below your chin and repeat on the other side. Alternate, performing as fast as you can while maintaining good form.
    • Tricep dips. Sit on the edge of a bench or chair with your hands gripping the edge just outside of hip width distance and your legs extended out in front of you. Move your hips forward off the bench and lower your body towards the floor by bending at the elbows. Once your upper arms are parallel with the floor, push back up by extending the arms.
    • Air punches (overhead). Stand tall with feet staggered and knees slightly bent. Engage your core and bring both fists to chin height with your elbows tucked to your sides. Punch one arm up overheard, allowing the body to twist. Return your hand back to the start position and repeat on the other side. Alternate at speed.
    • Plank with forward reach. Start in a high plank position, hands directly under your shoulders and body in a straight line from your head to your heels. Engage your core and squeeze the glutes to prevent your hips from sagging. Push through your left hand and lift your right hand off the ground and reach your hand out in front. Place it back on the floor and repeat on the other side, then alternate both sides.
    • Wide push ups. Start in a high plank position but with hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Keeping your core engaged, lower your chest, stopping when your upper arms are parallel with the floor. Pause before pushing back up to the starting position.
  • Cool down:

    • 2-3 minutes – moderate intensity cardio (e.g. walking, crosstrainer)
    • 2-3 minutes – upper body static stretching (e.g. cross body shoulder stretch, wall assisted pectoral stretch, puppy pose)

Want to incorporate more HIIT into your training? Check out our HIIT workouts hub here. Find your nearest PureGym here to get started.

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