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20-Minute HIIT Workout (Pyramid Format)

Challenge your muscular and cardio endurance with this 20-minute HIIT workout. This total body dumbbell workout is done in a challenging pyramid format that will test your strength and endurance. Build muscle in the glutes, hamstrings, back, biceps, triceps, shoulders and core, all in 20 minutes using just a set of dumbbells.

If you want a challenging full body strength workout that also builds cardio endurance, this full body HIIT workout is for you.

This HIIT cardio workout is done in a pyramid format… and our previous pyramids are considered some of the most challenging workouts on the blog. The “stack-on” format is a true challenge (both mentally and physically).

This 20-minute HIIT session combines some of the best full body strength training and fat burning HIIT cardio exercises you can do at home. And fun fact: this was one of the first HIIT workout videos I ever shot for Nourish Move Love.

This pyramid format is great for building muscle when you’re short on time or have limited equipment. Plus, my sister-in-law and friend joined me, so there are modifications offered for each exercise.

woman performing a lateral lunge in a 20-minute HIIT workout at home

20-Minute HIIT Workout FAQs

What Is HIIT Training?

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is all about efficiency. You exert maximum effort during work periods followed by a short period of rest. So it’s an intense workout. HIIT quickly raises your heart rate and is great for burning calories, both during and after the HIIT routine.

Is A 20-Minute HIIT Workout Effective?

Yes – HIIT workouts encourage you to exert as much effort as possible in a short amount of time. Training at this level of intensity shouldn’t be sustained for a long period of time, so 20 minutes is enough for an effective HIIT workout. If you’re going all out, HIIT circuits promote fat loss, increase endurance and build muscle definition in under 30 minutes (American Council on Exercise).

woman performing a single arm overhead press in a HIIT workout at home

20-Minute HIIT Workout

Build total body strength and challenge your cardiovascular endurance with this HIIT pyramid workout! This workout hits all of the major muscle groups in the lower body and upper body in 20 minutes. 

A complete total body workout comprised of 5 compound exercises, combined in the challenging and effective pyramid workout format. 

Add this intense exercise routine to your home workout plan 1-2 days per week to build strength, burn calories and increase endurance. 

Workout Equipment:

Medium-to-Heavy Set of Dumbbells.

I recommend between 5-25 lbs depending on your fitness level. We used 10-15 lb dumbbells in today’s workout. 

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woman performing a spiderman step in stretch in a 20-minute HIIT workout at home

Workout Instructions:

Follow along with the guided HIIT Pyramid Workout on YouTube, led by certified personal trainer, Lindsey Bomgren. 

Your Workout Looks Like This:

  • 5 Full Body Exercises
  • Timed Intervals (30 seconds of work, 30 seconds rest; complete as many repetitions as you can in the timed interval)
  • Pyramid Format (we’ll add on moves as we work “up” the pyramid, and then drop off moves as we work our way back “down” the pyramid)

A Pyramid Format Looks Like This: 

  • Set 1: Perform move 1 for 30 seconds (as many reps as you can), followed by 30 seconds of rest.
  • Set 2: Perform move 1 for 30 seconds and then move 2 for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of rest.
  • Set 3: Perform move 1 for 30 seconds, and then move 2 for 30 seconds, and then  move 3 for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of rest.

Continue this stack-on, pyramid format until you complete moves 1 through 5. Then you have the option to go back down the pyramid in reverse order, dropping off move 1, then move 2, then move 3 and so on.

Trainer Tip: Pyramid workouts are challenging tests of endurance. Follow along with the workout modifier for options to scale each move, or decrease the weights as you start to fatigue. 

Workout Outline

  1. Squat Jack
  2. Push Up and Shoulder Tap
  3. Half Burpee and Bent Over Back Row
  4. Reverse Lunge and Bicep Curl
  5. Plank Jack and Pike Tuck
woman performing a lateral lunge in a dumbbell hiit workout

Prefer to Watch On YouTube?

youtube icon Pyramid Workout

5 Full Body Cardio and Strength Exercises

Squat Jack

Targets: Legs, glutes, quads, hamstrings, outer glutes (side butt), inner thighs, calves and core.

three women performing a squat jack exercise in a HIIT workout at home

How To Do A Squat Jack

  1. Start in an athletic stance or loaded squat position, with your feet shoulder-width distance apart and a slight bend in your knees.
  2. With your chest upright and your core engaged, “jack” your feet out into a sumo squat (feet are wider than your shoulders).
  3. Land softly in a low squat, touching the ground with your fingertips if you can.
  4. Then “jack” your feet into a narrow stance, feet hip-width distance apart as you stand tall, driving the arms overhead.

Modification: Option to make this a low impact exercise by omitting the jump and stepping in and out.

Push Up and Shoulder Tap

Targets: Chest, shoulders, triceps, back, abs, obliques and core muscles.

three women performing a push up and shoulder tap as part of the best hiit exercises at home

How To Do A Push Up and Shoulder Tap

  1. Start in a high plank position with your shoulders stacked over your wrists. Straight line from head to tailbone, feet are hip-width distance apart.
  2. Hold this high plank position, maintaining a straight line with your body, gaze slightly in front of you.
  3. Slowly lower your chest down towards the ground as your elbows fall back towards your body (not out to the sides).
  4. Once at the bottom of your push up, exhale as you push back up into high plank position.
  5. Then, perform a shoulder tap by tapping the left shoulder with the right hand.
  6. Place the right hand back on the mat, then perform a shoulder tap on the opposite side by tapping the right shoulder with the left hand.
  7. Place the left hand back on the mat. That’s one rep. Repeat, performing a push up and shoulder tap on each side throughout the timed interval.

Modification: Option to take the push ups from your knees. You may pop to your toes for the shoulder tap, or take the shoulder tap from the knees as well. Alternatively, perform incline push ups by placing your hands on a chair or bench.

Half Burpee and Bent Over Back Row

Targets: Upper body (chest, arms, back, shoulders), lower body (legs, glutes, hips) and core.

three women performing a burpee and dumbbell back row in a total body strength and HIIT workout

How To Do A Half Burpee and Bent Over Back Row

  1. Start standing, feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a pair of dumbbells in front of you, palms facing in towards each other.
  2. Hinge forward at the hips with a neutral spine, core engaged.
  3. Pull the weights back towards your hips to perform a narrow back row, elbows parallel to ribcage.
  4. Hold for a moment, then lower the dumbbells back down with control, returning to the starting position.
  5. Then bend your knees and drop your hips to lower into a squat position, placing the weights on the floor directly in front of your feet.
  6. Keep your hands on the weights as you shift your weight into your hands and jump your feet back to softly land on the balls of your feet in a high plank position. Your body should form a straight line from your head to heels.
  7. Hold high plank for a moment, then jump your feet up, landing outside your hands in a loaded squat position. Drive through your heels to stand, finding the hinged position and repeat the back row and half burpee.

Modification: Option to make this low impact by performing walking burpees, stepping your feet in and out of plank position rather than jumping.

Reverse Lunge and Bicep Curl

Targets: Legs, glutes, quads, core, arms and biceps.

three women performing a reverse lunge and bicep curl in a 20 minute hiit workout

How To Do A Reverse Lunge and Bicep Curl

  1. Start standing, feet hip width apart, knees bent. Hold one dumbbell in each hand at your sides (palms facing in towards your hips).
  2. Step your left foot back into a reverse lunge, dropping your left knee down towards the ground as you lower your hips until both knees reach a 90-degree angle, front thigh parallel to the floor.
  3. Then squeeze your right leg glute, driving your back, left leg forward as you stand up, returning to standing.
  4. As you stand tall, squeeze your biceps to curl the dumbbells up to shoulder height (performing a standard bicep curl).
  5. Lower the weights back down to return to the starting position, then step the right foot back into a reverse lunge and repeat the sequence.

Modification: Slow it down or drop weights, performing this exercise with just your bodyweight to reduce the intensity. If lunges don’t feel good for your knees, substitute a squat and bicep curl or glute bridges for this interval.

Plank Jack and Pike Tuck

Targets: The entire core with an extra emphasis on the low abs (during the pike tuck). Another HIIT cardio ab exercise that will increase your heart rate.

three women performing a plank jack and tuck plank exercise

How To Do A Plank Jack and Pike Tuck

  1. Start in a high plank position, shoulders stacked over wrists, core engaged. Straight line through the torso from head to toe.
  2. Keeping your hips square to the ground, jack your legs apart, and then back together. Performing a plank jack.
  3. Then, use your lower abs to pull your hips up into a “pike” position as you hop your toes up towards your chest.
  4. Hop back to high plank and repeat.

Modification: Tap the toes out and in instead of jacking them. Then walk your toes towards your chest (on your tip toes) up into a pike position.

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20 Minute HIIT Workout at Home

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  1. Lindsey,

    Let me start by saying I’m writing this comment as I’m stretching after doing this workout. As a fellow lifelong athlete and therapist (COTA), I have always found it difficult to train indoors (unless I’m playing a sport) due to several injuries (and just plain Ol’ gym boredom) causing me to “fall off the wagon” for months at a time once my college sports life was over.
    I discovered your website just prior to COVID lockdown and your workouts are ALL OVER my home gym chalkboard walls! They are varied, intense and, most importantly, FUN!, which makes them go by SO fast. Thanks to you, I’m in the best shape since… a long time! THANK YOU and my most sincere kudos for your dedication as a mother, a wife and a fitness guru. You GO girl!!

    • Danae! You just made my day! This is exactly why I do what I do! Thank you for putting the workouts to good use. I’m so happy you’re loving the variety and sticking to a solid fitness routine (even during COVID) — way to go! Keep up the great work and keep coming back for more! -Lindsey

  2. I can’t describe how much I freaking loved this workout! It was exactly what I was needing today and the layout was different to the HIIT circuits I’m used to so it flew past. Time flies when you’re having fun right (or in this case when you’re huffing and puffing and running on endorphins hahaha)
    Thanks a bunch. This made my morning

    • Anisah! This makes me SO HAPPY! I’m so glad you love this workout video as much as I do! And yes, those 20-minutes are intense, but they go by fast — quick + effective! Nice work getting it done this morning! Keep up the good work! And if you liked this Workout Video be sure to check out my 30-Minute HIIT Workout with Weights (also a full workout video) — https://www.nourishmovelove.com/30-minute-hiit-workout-video-weights/! Lindsey