Metabolic Exercises: A Huge List for HIIT Workout Planning

Use this expanding library of metabolic exercises to spend less effort thinking what to do and spend it on your HIIT workout instead.


Toy Box of Toil

There are so many, dare I say, fun metabolic exercises out there. And we come across new ones all the time—from other trainers at HIIT workouts we drop in on, Instagram or YouTube feeds, or our own creativity.

Like shiny new toys, we eagerly incorporate them into our workouts. But eventually they lose their luster and get replaced with something new. And then we forget about them.

Next thing you know, we’re out of ideas and settling on boring ol’ burpees till we barf.

But not anymore. This list of metabolic exercises is our toy box of toil, an ever-expanding collection of every move we find. So whenever we struggle to come up with exhausting exercises that we’re not tired of, we can open it up and pull out something fun to play with.

Rummage through, take whatever interests you, share your own exercises in the comments, and enjoy.

Metabolic Training 101

Metabolic training is the firecrackers of fitness. Rather than feel a slow burn from steady-state cardio, you explode with exertion for maximum calorie consumption over a short interval, recuperate, then explode again. And rather than strength training isolation exercises, metabolic exercises are full-body compound movements that develop functional, well-rounded muscles.

It’s a two-in-one: strength and cardio. And it’s time-efficient. But you have to give it your all to get the most out of it.

Overcoming conflict is hard work

How to Use This Toy Box

  1. Start by clicking the section that corresponds to the equipment you have on hand:
  2. Click any exercise to view a clip of it.
  3. Click on the superscript (like this: 1What’s up? Me, cuz I’m a superscript.) for additional notes or variations.
  4. For variety and a well-rounded workout, choose a few of them. (Consider a pant-athlon.)
  5. Consider combining two of these movements into one. For example, roll-ups into burpees.

Bodyweight Only

Balance your bodyweight HIIT workouts by including both exercises on your feet and ones on your hands.

Bodyweight on Feet (Low-Impact)

Air squats2If you can, do box squats (see below) to reinforce good form before doing air squats.

Jumping jacks3Variations: seal jacks, cross jacks, and especially squat jacks

Lateral shuffles

Reverse lunge to knee drive4Add a hop on the knee drive for extra difficulty.

Three-step drill

Bodyweight on Feet (High-Impact)

Broad jump shuttle backs

High knees

Lateral lunge with hop


Speed skaters

Sprints5Forward, backward, or lateral. Try it up a hill or sand dune

Squat jumps

Star jumps6Alternative: Land in star position, jump back to tuck, back to star position, repeat.

Suicides7Touch the ground at each line. Or get your chest to the ground like in a burpee. Or carry a weight and touch it to the ground.

Split squat jumps

Tuck jumps

Wide out drops

Bodyweight on Hands

Donkey kicks

Inchworms8Advanced athletes may need to add a tuck jump at the top to make it metabolically challenging.

Mountain climbers9Try opposite knee to elbow, too. Put hands on a box or bench for less strain on arms and shoulders.

Plank pikes or tucks

Plank pike toe touches

Sit outs

Bench, Box, Log, or Ledge

Step ups10Beginners needn’t jump.

Box jumps11Step down and jump up at beginner and intermediate levels, or at advanced levels with a high box.

Lateral box jumps

Box squats

Turtle Hurtles12Place your hands on the ground instead of a bench for extra upper body difficulty.

Barbell Exercises


Hang clean and press

Overhead lunge

Push press



Squats13Can also do front squats.


Dumbbell and Kettlebell Exercises

Beginners can do all of the below metabolic exercises without dumbbells. Try using rocks too for an extra challenge or if you don’t have access to weights.

Clean and press

Deadlift jumps

Kettlebell swings14Best not to do these with dumbbells.

Single-arm snatch

Devil press

Dumbbell jack presses

Jump squats holding dumbbells

Shadow boxing15Only with dumbbells weighing 2 lb. or less. Incorporate ducking, pivoting, uppercuts, hooks, and jabs.

Wood choppers

Renegade rows

Squat thrusts

Goblet squats


If you can move it, you can somehow use it for a HIIT workout, so this list could be endless.

Ball slams

Band-resisted high knees

Basketball layups or Mikan drill16Incorporating a sport like basketball works on your coordination and mental focus at the same time as you develop muscular and cardiovascular strength.

Battle ropes

Handstand kick-ups to wall17Alternate the leg you use to kick off with each time for balanced muscle development.

Single-under or double-under skips18Single-unders are too easy once you reach a certainly level of fitness. Learn double-unders and push yourself.


Sledgehammer slams

Sled pulls and pushes19You can even push a car in neutral along an empty street. Have a partner at the wheel/brakes for safety.

Rowing20Neck-and-neck with burpees for the most effective metabolic exercise of them all.

Cycling21Easiest to control the level of difficulty on a stationary bike or assault bike, but try sprints outside on a real bike. Better yet, do repeats of sprinting up a hill then coasting down.

Heavy bag boxing22Don’t do it without gloves and tape or you’ll mess up your hands and wrists.

Swimming23Also consider some of the bodyweight metabolic exercises in the water for more resistance and less gravity.


Wall balls

Wrestling24For less contact, lock forearms and try to wrestle your partner outside of a designated area. Or compete to bet the first to tap the other’s shoulders 5 to 10 times.

Oh Yeah, Almost Forgot

Burpees25Variations: half burpees, with dumbbells, or with a tuck, box, or lateral jump after each.

About the author

👋 I'm Chris. Everything you read on is my fault. This site is like a gym for your comfort zone, full of challenges to make your status quo sexier. Join my 'Consider This' newsletter for a fun new challenge every 10 days. Try it!

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