HIIT Upper Body Workout: Workouts With & Without Weights

hiit upper body workouts with and without weights

HIIT upper body workouts can be fun yet challenging. 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 having to spend hours in the gym. 

The best HIIT upper body exercises are: 

  • High Plank T Rotations
  • Wide Push Up
  • Bear Crawl
  • Up And Down Plank
  • Plank Arm Raises
  • Tricep Dip
  • Shoulder Press

Now that you know what the best upper body exercises to do in a HIIT-style workout are, we are going to tell you how to perform each exercise while also illustrating how to put them in a workout (both bodyweight and weighted versions available), so you can maximize your upper body strength gains.

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HIIT: Quick Overview

HIIT, high intensity interval training, is exactly what the name suggests—training that consists of intense exercises periods intervalled with short rest breaks. It’s greatly beneficial for those who don’t have a lot of time and want to maximize their workout efforts, improving their strength and building muscle. And for this article, we are going to be focusing on getting these results for your upper body in particular.

7 HIIT Upper Body Exercises

We’re going to go through 7 exercises that’ll work your upper body, giving you both bodyweight and weighted versions so anyone can do them regardless of equipment accessibility. 

1. High Plank T Rotations

Muscles worked: triceps, shoulders, quads, lower back, core

Bodyweight version

  1. Get into a high plank position. This is a normal plank pose in which you support yourself with your hands as opposed to your forearms. Ensure your wrists are directly beneath your shoulders, arms extended. Your body should be in a straight line all the way down to your toes.
  2. Engage your core.
  3. Shift your weight to your left side and turn your body to the right. Your left foot should be the one supporting your weight in your lower body. Lift your right arm up and out to the side, forming a T-shape with your body. Make sure that your hips remain up and they don’t sag to the ground.
  4. Then rotate back to the starting position so that your weight is center. However, don’t put your right arm back on the ground. Once you sweep it under your body so it’s near your left waist, rotate back the other way, getting in your T-position once again.
  5. Once you complete your reps on the one side, switch to the other.

Weight version

If you have access to dumbbells, then you can include them in this exercise. Choose a lighter weight as you’ll be moving it around with one hand at a time.

The movement will be the same as the no weight version with just a few tweaks to include the dumbbells:

  1. When you get into your starting position for the high plank, hold the dumbbells in each hand so that you’ll be balancing on the dumbbells.
  2. As you twist to one side, moving one arm into a T-shape, you’ll be lifting the dumbbell with you.
  3. This is also the same when you bring your arm back down and sweep it across your body, readying yourself for the next rotation. Keep the dumbbell in your hand.
  4. Do the same for the opposite side.

Related Article: Who Can Benefit From Interval Training (Is It Good For Everyone?)

2. Wide Grip Push Up

Muscles worked: chest, shoulders, triceps 

Bodyweight version

  1. Get into a push up starting position with your body straight from head to toe. This time however, widen the distance between your hands; aim for wider than shoulder-width.
  2. Bend your elbows and lower yourself to the ground. Remember to maintain a straight line with your body all the way down.
  3. When you reach as low as you can go, press back up as fast as you can, back into the starting position.
  4. Repeat.

Weight version

If you have access to weights like a dumbbell or plate, then you can do wide grip push ups but put the weight on your back. However, ensure you’re comfortable with the bodyweight version first before attempting the weighted one. 

3. Bear Crawl 

Muscles worked:  shoulders, chest, back, glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and core

Bodyweight version

  1. Get on all fours with your wrists directly beneath your shoulders and your knees at a 90 degree angle. 
  2. Lift your knees off the ground so that you’re supporting yourself with your hands and toes.
  3. Stay low to the ground and keep this position as you simultaneously move your left hand forward and right foot. Ensure that you move them both at an equal distance.
  4. Then, move your right hand forward with your left foot.
  5. Continue this bear crawl until you reach the end of the walkway. Then turn around and repeat.

Weight version

The dumbbell version is similar to the bodyweight one. Except you’ll be holding two dumbbells of equal weight in each hand as you do your bear crawl, picking it up and carrying it with you.

4. Up And Down Plank

Muscles worked: shoulders, triceps, glutes, core

Bodyweight version

  1. The starting position is a traditional plank pose on your forearms. Keep your body in a straight line with your hands and feet both shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Tuck your pelvis in and engage your core, keeping it tight. Then, shift your weight to your right forearm as you move from your left forearm to your left hand. Then, shift your weight to your left hand as you change from your right forearm to right hand. Now, you should be in a high plank position.
  3. Now, you’re going to return to the forearm plank. Go down on your left forearm first followed by your right. That’s one rep.
  4. Repeat.

Notes: Try not to constantly twist your body side to side as you switch between forearm plank and high plank. Engage your core and keep the rotations to a minimum.

Weight version

The weight version is similar to the up and down bodyweight plank. Except, to make it more challenging, add a weight plate or dumbbell on your back as you do this. You’ll have to be extra careful not to twist your body as you go up and down, to ensure the weight remains on your body.

5. Plank Arm Raises

Muscles worked: shoulders, core, back

Bodyweight version

  1. Begin on a forearm plank. Keep your body in a straight line with your hands and feet shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Engage your core and raise your left arm up in front of you, reaching forwards.
  3. Then, bring that arm back to the starting position, before doing it again with the right arm.
  4. Repeat by alternating sides.

Weight version

  1. Begin this weighted version of this exercise in a high plank, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Alternatively, you can use two weight plates of equal weight.
  2. Brace your abdominal muscles as you raise your left hand, holding the dumbbell, up and forward in front of you.
  3. Put it back down before switching to your other arm, raising it in front of you before lowering in down again.
  4. Repeat.

6. Tricep Dip

Muscles worked: Tricep

Bodyweight version

  1. Get onto all fours but with your face facing the ceiling so your back is to the floor. Your arms should be shoulder-width apart, wrists directly below your shoulders. Your fingers are pointing towards your heels and your back is slightly incline. Your feet should be flat on the ground and your knees at an obtuse angle; take 2-3 steps away from your body.
  2. Once you’re in position, slowly bend at the elbow so your body lowers into a dip. Stop just before your bum touches the ground.
  3. Then, press back up. 
  4. Repeat.

Weight version

For the weight version, we are going to change it slightly, executing an overhead tricep dip. For this exercise, you can use a dumbbell or weight plate.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, feet planted firmly on the ground.
  2. Keep your torso firm and hold the dumbbell or plate behind your head. Your elbows should remain close to your ears, pointing to the ceiling with your hands clasping the weight behind your head. If you’re using a dumbbell, hold it vertically.
  3. Tuck your pelvis in so you’re not arching your back, then press up by straightening your arms in an overhead position. 
  4. Slowly lower the weight back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat.

7. Shoulder Press

Muscles worked: shoulders, arms, chest, upper back 

Bodyweight version

The shoulder press is usually done with weight. However, if you don’t have any access to dumbbells, then the pike push up is a good alternative that’ll work your shoulders without the need for weights.

  1. Get into your starting position on your hand and toes. However, unlike a traditional push up, you’re not going to keep your body in a straight line. Your hips and bum are going to be up in the air so that your upper body and lower body form a 90-degree angle or forms an upside down V.
  2. Keep your feet hip-width apart and on your toes. Your hands are shoulder-width apart. Look down so your head is between your arms. 
  3. Bend both your elbows, bringing your head towards the ground. Look through your legs to keep your head in the right position; don’t look down. 
  4. Push back up to the starting position.
  5. Repeat.

Weight version

If you do have access to weights, such as a dumbbell or barbell, then you can do the traditional shoulder press.

  1. Hold a dumbbell of equal weight in each hand above the shoulders with your elbows bent towards the ground. Alternatively, if you have a barbell, it should be sitting across the front side of your shoulders. Grip it in an overhand grip, shoulder-width grip apart.
  2. Stand with your feet also shoulder-width apart, planted firmly on the ground. 
  3. Brace your core and press the weights up and overhead. Extend your arms.
  4. Pause for a moment at the top, before slowly lowering the weight back to the starting position in a controlled movement.
  5. Repeat.

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HIIT Upper Body Sample Workouts

Here are two sample HIIT upper body workouts that you can try, one that you can do with just bodyweight and another with weights.

No Weight Upper Body HIIT Workout

Time: 20 minutes

Rounds: 5

  • 40 seconds: High plank T-rotations – left
  • 15 seconds rest
  • 40 seconds: High plank T rotations – right
  • 15 seconds rest
  • 40 seconds: pike push up
  • 15 seconds rest
  • 40 seconds: tricep dip
  • 35 seconds rest

With Weights Upper Body HIIT Workout

Time: 20 minutes

Rounds: 2

  • 30 seconds on: Dumbbell bear crawl
  • 20 seconds rest
  • 30 seconds on: Dumbbell or barbell Shoulder Press
  • 20 seconds rest
  • 30 seconds on: Weighted High plank T rotation – left
  • 20 seconds rest
  • 30 seconds on: Weighted High plank T rotation – right
  • 20 seconds rest
  • 30 seconds on: Up and down plank
  • 20 seconds rest
  • 30 seconds on: Overhead tricep dip
  • 20 seconds rest
  • 30 seconds on: Plank arm raises
  • 20 seconds rest
  • 30 seconds on: Wide push up
  • 1-minute rest for beginning round 2

If you want more HIIT upper body workouts, then go to the FitBod app. FitBod is an app that’ll help you get stronger and fitter by generating a customized training plan and get you closer to your goals. It’ll even take into account your workout history and the equipment available to you!

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Final Notes

A HIIT upper body workout is guaranteed to get you sweaty while helping you get stronger. The exercises we’ve recommended in this article can be scaled back to just bodyweight or made more challenging with weights, so there is something for everyone. Try giving our sample workouts a go or check out FitBod for some more ideas.

About The Author

Emily Trinh

As a health and fitness writer, Emily combines her two passions—powerlifting and writing. With a creative writing degree under her belt, she spends her mornings lifting weights, her nights putting pen to paper, and eating too many snacks in between.