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A Do-Anywhere Upper Body HIIT Workout

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has surged in popularity due to its efficiency and effectiveness in burning fat and calories and improving cardiovascular fitness. While commonly associated with cardio exercises, HIIT can be tailored to target specific muscle groups, including the upper body.

This article will explore the benefits of an upper-body HIIT workout, provide an example of a workout day, discuss exercises that tone the upper body, highlight the best upper-body HIIT exercises, and explain the effects of a full-body HIIT workout.

Can You Build Muscle With High-Intensity Interval Training?

Absolutely! While traditional weightlifting remains a primary method for muscle building, HIIT can also contribute to muscle growth. High-intensity intervals engage muscle fibers, causing them to adapt and grow stronger.

Incorporating resistance and bodyweight exercises in HIIT routines can stimulate muscle growth, especially in the upper body, leading to increased strength and definition.

What Exercises Tone the Upper Body?

Achieving a toned and defined torso involves an upper-body workout with targeted exercises that engage various muscle groups in the chest, back, shoulders, and arms. 

A HIIT upper-body workout can be a great option for anyone with a lower-body injury or who wants to do strength training in a more metabolically- and cardiovascularly demanding way. 

Due to the shorter yet more intense training that HIIT upper body workouts provide, you’ll be able to build muscle and become stronger without spending hours in the gym. Combining upper body strength training with HIIT will help you achieve your goals.

Whether you aim to increase strength, improve posture, or simply sculpt your physique, incorporating the right exercises into your workout is crucial. Here’s a comprehensive guide to exercises that effectively tone and define your torso.


Push-ups are a classic bodyweight upper-body HIIT workout that engages multiple muscle groups simultaneously. They primarily work the chest, shoulders, and triceps while also engaging the core for stability.

Variations like wide-arm, diamond, decline, or cardio push-ups allow for added intensity and targeting of specific muscle areas.


Pull-ups and chin-ups are exceptional exercises targeting the back, specifically the latissimus dorsi (lats), biceps, and forearms. These compound movements require upper body strength and help develop a V-shaped back and strong arms.

Dumbbell Rows

This is an upper-body HIIT workout that primarily works on the back muscles, particularly the latissimus dorsi and rhomboids. This exercise improves back strength and stability, promoting better posture while toning the muscles along the spine.

Shoulder Presses

Shoulder presses target the deltoid muscles, contributing to well-defined shoulders. Whether performed with dumbbells, a barbell, or using body weight, this exercise helps in sculpting and strengthening the shoulders for a balanced appearance.

Tricep Dips

Tricep dips engage the triceps, shoulders, and chest. This exercise can be performed using a bench or parallel bars, effectively toning the back of the arms while also engaging the upper body muscles.

Plank Variations

Planks and their variations are excellent for engaging the entire core, including the abdominals, obliques, and lower back muscles. Side planks, forearm planks, and planks with shoulder taps not only help in core strength but also engage the muscles of the shoulders, arms, and chest for stability.

Bicep Curls

Bicep curls primarily target the biceps but also engage the forearms. Using dumbbells or resistance bands, this exercise helps in toning and defining the front of the arms.

Lat Pulldowns

Lat pulldowns are effective for targeting the latissimus dorsi muscles similar to pull-ups, making them beneficial for developing a stronger and more defined back.

Incorporating a combination of these exercises into your workout routine ensures a well-rounded approach to toning and sculpting your torso. Aim to perform these exercises with proper form and technique, gradually increasing intensity and resistance for continued progress.

Remember, consistency is key. Pair these exercises with a balanced diet and regular exercise routine to achieve your desired tone and strength. Always consult a fitness professional before starting any new exercise program, especially if you have any existing health concerns or injuries. Commitment and dedication to your fitness goals will yield the best results in the long run.

What Are the Best Upper-Body HIIT Workouts?

High-intensity interval Training (HIIT) has gained widespread popularity for its effectiveness in burning calories, enhancing cardiovascular fitness, and building strength quickly. When it comes to targeting the torso, HIIT workouts offer a range of exercises that effectively encourage building muscle in the arms, shoulders, chest, and back.

Here’s a comprehensive breakdown of some of the best torso and arms HIIT workouts you can incorporate into your fitness routine:

Renegade Rows

Using dumbbells or kettlebells, stand tall with feet hip-width apart, and knees slightly bent. Hold one dumbbell in each hand at your hips, palms facing toward each other. Hinge forward at the hips, then “row” the dumbbells towards your torso, elbows bent towards your ribcage then lowering with control.

This exercise targets the back, shoulders, and arms while engaging the core for stability.

V-Sit Shoulder Presses

Begin in a seated position on your mat. Lift your legs straight from the hips, creating a V-sit while keeping your tailbone scooped and chest lifted. With your arms at a 90-degree angle and palms turned away, start the exercise with your triceps parallel to the ground. Press your arms up overhead and return to the 90-degree position. 

For optimal form, actively engage your shoulders and lats by pulling down with your elbows each time you bring your arms back to the 90-degree angle. To modify this exercise, slowly bend the knees or place the feet on the ground if the V-sit is challenging or causes discomfort in the hip flexors.

To intensify the workout, incorporate a dumbbell in each hand to increase the difficulty.

High Plank T Rotation

Start in a high-planking position, supporting yourself with extended arms directly beneath your shoulders, ensuring a straight line from head to toe. Engage your core muscles. Shift your weight to the left side, rotating your form to the right while balancing on your left foot. 

Simultaneously, lift your right arm up and out to the side, forming a T-shape with your body. Maintain lifted hips without sagging. Return to the center without lowering your right arm. Sweep it under your body near the left waist and rotate to the opposite side, forming the T-position once more. Alternate sides, completing repetitions for a comprehensive core and upper body workout.

Box Jumps into Push-Ups

Combine explosive box jumps with push-ups for a challenging full-body exercise. Jump onto a box or platform and immediately drop down into a push-up. This combination works the torso, core, and lower body muscles.

Dumbbell Halos and Vertical Press-Outs

To start, stand with feet hip-wide apart, holding a dumbbell vertically at your chest. Your right hand rests at the top head, and your left hand is at the bottom head of the dumbbell. Engage your core and perform a smooth dumbbell “halo” motion by circling it toward your left shoulder, around your head, and back to the chest, switching hand positions. 

Next, press the dumbbell away from your torso at shoulder level, then return it to the chest. Repeat the sequence, changing halo directions by circling the dumbbell towards your right shoulder, around your head, and back to the chest, switching hand positions once more. This exercise targets various upper body muscles and enhances shoulder stability.

Wide Bicep Curl and Lateral Raise

To do this exercise, your starting position will be standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, with your core engaged. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with palms facing outward. Start by performing a wide bicep curl, lifting the weights to shoulder height while extending your arms outward. 

Lower the dumbbells slowly. Follow this with a lateral raise, lifting the dumbbells straight out to the sides to shoulder height, palms facing out. Control the descent. Alternate between the wide curl and lateral raise, maintaining the sequence for an effective upper-body workout that targets the biceps and shoulders.

Wide Push Up

To perform it, start with a high plank position but with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and maintain a straight body line. Begin with a wide push-up by walking hands out and lowering the chest towards the ground, keeping your core engaged, lowering your chest, and stopping when your upper arms are parallel with the floor.

Then push back up into the high-planking position. Transition to a narrow push-up by walking hands in, repeating the lowering, and pushing back up.

Plank Arm Raises 

For the bodyweight version, initiate from a forearm plank position, maintaining a straight body line with feet and hands shoulder-width apart. Activate your core and lift your left arm in front of you, extending forward, then return it to the starting position. Alternate sides by repeating with your right arm.

In the weighted version, begin in a high plank, grasping a dumbbell in each hand (or using two weight plates of equal weight). Tighten your abdominal muscles and lift the left hand holding the weight forward. Slowly lower it back down and switch to the other arm, repeating the motion by raising and lowering it alternately.

Woman Makers

Start in a high plank position with both hands on the dumbbells, ensuring shoulders are aligned over wrists while making your core tight. Lower your chest to the ground for a push-up, allowing elbows to move back towards your hips, then exhale and push back up to the starting position. Execute a single-arm plank row on each side, pulling your right elbow to the right hip, then repeating with the left elbow before returning it to the ground. 

Next, bring your feet up to meet your hands, landing in a low squat position. Rise by pressing through your heels and driving your hips forward while pulling the dumbbells up your form. Simultaneously, curl the dumbbells to shoulder height, then press them overhead, ensuring the dumbbells align over your shoulders while maintaining core engagement. 

Reverse the movement by lowering the dumbbells to your hips, bending your knees, and descending into a squat. Finally, place the dumbbells on the mat between your feet and step, or hop your feet back into a high plank position.

Mountain Climbers 

Begin in a pushup position, shoulders stacked over wrists directly while engaging the core. Alternate bringing your knees towards the chest. For optimal form, focus on avoiding rounding the back by squeezing your glutes and ensuring your shoulders stay directly over the hands.

To modify and prevent bouncing, step the feet towards the center into a bear plank position and then step back out. To increase the challenge, perform a crossbody oblique twist by bringing the opposite knee towards the elbow, engaging the core in a twist motion.

Bear Crawl

Your starting position will be on all fours with your wrists positioned directly beneath your shoulders and knees forming a 90-degree angle. Elevate your knees off the ground, supporting your body weight on your hands and toes. Maintain a low position as you simultaneously move your left hand forward with your right foot, ensuring equal distance with each movement. 

Follow by advancing the opposite hand forward alongside your left foot. Continue this coordinated bear crawl movement until you reach the end of your designated path. Then, turn around and repeat the same pattern to work your muscles effectively.

Incorporating these exercises into a HIIT-style workout in your routine can enhance the full range of your fitness, including muscle strength, boosting endurance, and aiding in fat loss. The key to maximizing the benefits of these exercises lies in maintaining proper form, gradually increasing intensity, and incorporating adequate recovery periods between sets.

Always warm up before engaging in high-intensity workouts and listen to your body’s signals. Consult a fitness professional, or a certified personal trainer before starting any new exercise program, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions or injuries.

Consistency and dedication to these workouts will help you achieve your fitness goals and develop a stronger, more defined torso over time.

An Example of an Upper Body HIIT Workout Day

Here’s a 15-minute upper body HIIT sample workout that can be done anywhere:


  1. 3 minutes – moderate intensity cardio (e.g. walking, cross trainer, jumping jacks) 
  2. 2 minutes – dynamic upper body exercises (e.g. arm circles, shoulder rolls, wrist flicks)

 Workout Segment

  1. Standard Push-up (15 seconds)
  2. Wide-arm Push-up (15 seconds)
  3. Diamond Push-up (15 seconds)
  4. Air Punches (30 seconds)
  5. Battle Ropes (30 seconds)
  6. Chair Dips (45 seconds)
  7. Plank Shoulder Taps (45 seconds)
  8. Upper Right to Lower Left Medicine Ball Chops (30 seconds)
  9. Bent-Over Rows with Resistance Bands (45 seconds)
  10. Renegade Row (30 seconds)
  11. Mountain Climbers (45 seconds)

Make sure to have 15-30 seconds of rest between exercises.

What Does a Full-Body Hiit Workout Do?

A full-body HIIT workout involves exercises that engage both upper and lower body muscles simultaneously. Its ability to burn calories, improve cardiovascular health, boost metabolism, and enhance overall fitness cannot be understated.

By incorporating movements like squats, lunges, burpees, and planks, a full-body HIIT workout engages major muscle groups, leading to improved strength, endurance, and fat loss.

Final Note

Upper-body HIIT workouts offer a versatile and efficient way to build strength, tone muscles, and improve cardiovascular fitness. Whether done at home, in the gym, or outdoors, incorporating these exercises into a routine can yield significant benefits for overall health and fitness.

Tricia Montano

Tricia founded Pain Free Working in 2019 due to suffering from degenerative disc disease in her L5-S1 from working an office job for the past 18 years. She and her team strive on finding and reviewing the best office equipment to help fellow pain sufferers find relief and to enable people like her to do their jobs comfortably.