Considering the acronym HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training, it should come as no surprise that HIIT workouts are, well, actually intense. But before you give it your all — and believe us, you will — it's important to prep your body for the work ahead with a proper warmup.
"Often the most overlooked thing when it comes to high-intensity workouts is preparation through mobility and activation, so our bodies are appropriately ready for the demands to come," Kirsty Godso, a Nike Master Trainer, explains.
And the demands of HIIT are real with short bursts of activity — think squat jumps, burpees, mountain climbers, and more — and brief moments of rest before you move onto the next move.
"We expect to throw our bodies straight into their max capacities and want max results, however, we'd be getting more out of it if we took an extra 10 minutes in the beginning to warm up properly."
To Godso, this means opening up your hips, shoulders, wrists, activating the glutes and the core, as well as upping your body temperature with bodyweight exercises.
No matter what warmup or stretching routine you follow, Godso says you should feel your glutes and core working for you in full-body movements and your body should feel more fluid.
"Think about your warmup as greasing the oven tray. You're going to be able to cook faster and more effectively and without having as much mess to clean up after — an effective warmup will improve your workout and your recovery!" Godso says.
Not sure where to get started? Check out a few of Godso's favorite pre-HIIT warmup drills and stretches below.
Pec and Shoulder Opener + Core Activation
In addition to pre-HIIT, Godso says this is also a great sequence to do after flying or after a long day.
- Grab a foam roller and lie down on it with your hips at one end and head at the other — making sure your head and hips are fully supported.
- Start by lying still with your spine straight along the line of the roller, knees bent, and feet resting on the floor with your arms in a cactus position to open up your pecs and shoulders.
- Stay still and focus on your breath for 30 to 60 seconds.
- Keeping the arms bent as they are, start to rotate the forearms forward and back, opening up the shoulders and taking them through internal and external rotations.
- Repeat for 30 to 60 seconds. Go slow and use your breath.
- Stay lying on the roller, but stretch your arms down on a 45-degree angle toward your lower body, pressing your palms into the floor. You need to use your arms for stability.
- Lift your knees to table top position (knees above hips, shins parallel to the floor), and start to lower one heel at a time towards the ground. Inhale to lower down, and exhale to draw the leg back in. Switch legs.
- Alternate for 30 seconds, then shorten the range and start to lower both heels together. This is your core activation and will fire up your lower abs. Focus on going slow and using a deep breath from your lower belly.
- Plant your feet back on the floor, and gently roll off to one side, pushing the roller away.
- Quickly lie straight back onto your back so you can feel how open your shoulders feel. You should feel peaceful through the back and pelvis.
Full Body Roll-Up
"This is great to mobilize the spine and get your lower abs working!" Godso notes.
- Extend arms and legs long for a full body roll-up. Arms should be stretched out above your head.
- Focus on rolling up piece-by-piece with your arms in line with your ears and pulling your waist back toward you as you roll up.
- Reach fingers forward towards your toes. Your body should look like a giant U shape.
- Sequentially roll back down to starting position, unrolling your lower back, mid back, and then upper back, and head down with control.
- Lying on your back, lift your legs to tabletop position (knees stacked over hips, shins parallel to the ground and feet slightly flexed), and arms straight up above your shoulders.
- Extend arm and opposite leg away from your body with an inhale and keep the other arm and leg still (one knee will be bent, one arm straight up).
- Exhale to bring the moving limbs back to starting position and switch to opposite pairing.
- Repeat for 10 to 12 reps going slow and focusing on breath.
Flipped Wrist Cat Cow
- From quadruped position (knees under hips, hands under shoulders), flip your fingertips to face your knees in order to open up the wrists and the forearms.
- Start to add a cat/cow, rolling through extension and flexion of the spine. This helps a lot to open up the wrists and forearms, as well as mobilize the spine before HIIT where you do a lot of plank dominant poses such as pushups, burpees, etc.
Kneeling Glute Activation
Starting on all fours — knees under hips, hands under shoulders, neck neutral — flow through the below sequence one side at a time. Then, switch legs and repeat the circuit.
- Staying still on the left side of the body, open up the right knee to the side keeping a 90-degree bend at the knee, then draw back down.
- Repeat 10 times.
Giant Forward Circles
- Draw big circles forward with your right knee. This will mobilize the hip, activate the right glute, and you'll feel your obliques firing to try and stabilize your body.
- Repeat 10 times.
Giant Reverse Circles
- Same as the above, in reverse.
- Repeat 10 times.