HIIT Core & Cardio Exercises: Do Them Right

19 June 2021

HIIT Core & Cardio exercises are present in almost every HIIT Workout program. A strong core will enable better performance in other aspects and exercises, while cardio exercises will raise a participants heart rate to make the workout much more effective for burning calories. However, when these exercises are performed wrongly, it can result in problems such as back pain or knee pain. If you are performing these HIIT Core & Cardio exercises wrongly, you are also ‘wasting’ your workout as the right muscle groups will not be activated and you will not get your desired result.

In the previous article, we covered popular upper and lower body HIIT exercises such as shoulder presses, push ups, lunges and squats. We covered the muscle groups activated, steps to perform the exercise and things to look out to minimise risks of injury. In this article, we will cover popular HIIT Core & Cardio exercises so that you can get your workout in without injuring yourself

HIIT Core Exercises

HIIT Core Cardio

Having good core stability is essential to help hold the body up while standing. A strong core provides a solid transmission link between the upper and lower limbs to propel us when we walk/run and stabilises the body in cutting and pivoting actions applicable to most sports. Here are two popular HIIT Core Exercises often seen in workouts.


The RIGHT way to do a Plank: Popular HIIT Workouts

Muscle groups targeted

Planks target the deeper core muscles that are necessary to stabilise the body for efficient transfer of energy in most athletic movements.

Equipment usually used

You may use a mat when doing planks, as well as an umbrella to put on your back to help align the back of the head, upper back and tailbone.

Steps to perform this exercise

  1. Start with elbows and knees on a mat.
  2. To fire up the deep core muscle and lower abdominals, get into a neutral spine position by drawing the belly button into the spine and gently tuck the tailbone under the body. You want to be able to do so without rounding the upper back. You should feel the whole of your back against the umbrella, and the lower abdominals working.
  3. Straighten your knees by pushing your heels backwards without losing neutral spine. Aim to hold for 8-10 seconds and work up to 15-20 seconds.
  4. If this is too difficult, you can keep the knees on the floor. Getting into a neutral spine even though the knees are still on the ground can be challenging enough!

Things to look out for

  • When getting into a neutral spine position, ensure that you do so without rounding the upper back. Keep your bum low when getting into the position too.
  • You should also remember not to lose the neutral spine position when you straighten your knees.

Sit Ups

The RIGHT way to do a Sit Up: Popular HIIT Workout Exercises

Muscle groups targeted

Sit ups target the abdominal muscles, commonly known as abs or six-pack muscles. They are split into the upper and lower abs. The lower abs draw the pelvis and lower back up towards the chest, while the upper ab functions to pull the upper spine down towards the knees. Combine these two actions and you get the sit up.

Equipment usually used

You should use a mat when doing sit ups. You may want to place a weight or have someone putting weight on your feet to assist you when doing this exercise.

Steps to perform this exercise

  1. Start by lying down on a mat with your knees bent and feet rested on the floor.
  2. Using your lower abs, gently tuck your tailbone under your body. While doing so, crunch your chest towards your knees. Imagine a string attached from your belly button to your chest. While crunching, the string is shortening like the closing of a drawbridge so that you ‘sit up’.
  3. You may not be able to sit all the way up, but that’s fine as long as the abs are the one doing the work.
  4. To return to the start position, lower your chest (imagine you are leaning back) to the floor. You would want to keep the lower abs engaged so that the lower back is not arched.

Things to look out for

  • Ensure that you keep your lower abs engaged to prevent the lower back from arching.
  • You want to be performing this by feeling the squeeze and activation of the abs, rather than leading with the neck.

HIIT Cardio Exercises

Cardio exercises are most commonly known to increase the heart rate so as to burn calories for weight loss. What most may not be able to identify is that cardio also aids in improving endurance during workouts and increases the strength of the heart and lungs. These two following exercises are extremely popular HIIT cardio exercises that you will definitely chance upon during your fitness journey.


The RIGHT way to do a Burpee: Popular HIIT Workout Exercises

Muscle groups targeted

Burpees are a good all-in-one exercise to build strength, core stability, and cardiovascular fitness.

Steps to perform this exercise

  1. Starting from a standing position, descend into a squat
  2. At the bottom of the squat, lean forward from the upper torso until your palms are resting on the floor and your heels are off the floor. It is something we term as the frog position.
  3. Pressing down on the floor with your palms to stabilise the shoulders, kick both legs back to straighten the knees into a pushup position. If this is too challenging, straighten one knee at a time. You want to think about just the legs moving while the rest of the body is kept as still as possible.
  4. You can choose to do a pushup or not depending on your desired intensity.
  5. Pushing down on the floor with your palms, tuck your tailbone under your body using your lower abs and tuck your knees towards your chest to return to the frog position.
  6. From the frog position, lean back until your heels are on the floor and stand up back into the start position.

Things to look out for

  • When straightening the knees, be mindful not to let the hips sag which will put excessive strain on the lower back.

Mountain Climbers

The RIGHT way to do Mountain Climbers: Popular HIIT Workout Exercises

Muscle groups targeted

Mountain climbers are a good exercise to build upper body and core stability while getting the heart rate up to improve your cardiovascular fitness

Steps to perform this exercise

  1. Assume the start position of a pushup
  2. Lift one knee towards the chest, but not so far that the lower back starts to round. Straighten then knee back to the start position and alternate legs.

Things to look out for

  • Make sure your lower back is not rounded when lifting knee to chest.

It’s time to get moving!

We hope this article has been helpful to your HIIT Core & Cardio workout sessions! Enjoyed this article? Let us know what topics you’d like us to cover in the future. Drop us a email or connect with us via social media