High intensity exercise burns fat and builds muscle. Here are three moves to get started

Training intensely is a time-efficient way to get stronger, tone up, and protect your heart

Women performing kettlebell swings
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Whether you want to build muscle or work on your cardio performance, high-intensity training helps you get stronger and burn fat. By exercising intensely, you elevate your heart rate, leading to all-day fat-burning.

It's a time-efficient way to work out and, in many cases, you don't need any equipment—just a set of the best cross training shoes. These have added ankle support for when you're quickly switching between moves, making them ideal for intense exercise. 

And now we know that high-intensity exercise also reduces muscle damage and inflammation, thanks to a recent study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

The team found that the participants had lowered blood markers of heart inflammation and muscle damage by 32% by the end of an eight-week high-intensity exercise program. The group trained three times per week, completing four rounds of a nine-exercise circuit. They'd exercise for 30 seconds, take a 15-second rest, and then progress to the next move.

There were other benefits, too, including reduced body fat and increased oxygen uptake while training. Performance-wise, the exercisers improved their jump performance, increased ab muscle endurance, and could complete more bench press reps too.

3 high-intensity exercises to build muscle and burn fat

Although they used a variety of weights in the trial, you don't need much equipment to get started. If you're after a fat-burning, muscle-building routine that you can fit into your schedule, we've listed three high-intensity moves to get your heart racing below.

1. Burpees


(Image credit: Future)
  • Stand on a mat with your hands by your sides and feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Lower down into a squat with your hands shoulder-width apart on the ground in front of you.
  • Kick your legs back into a plank position, lower your body, and hover just above the ground.
  • Straighten your arms, return to a plank, then bring your legs forward so that you're in a squat again.
  • Jump as you stand up from the squat. When you land, stand tall and repeat the exercise.

2. Kettlebell swings

Classic hand swing

(Image credit: Future)
  • Grip one of the best kettlebells with both hands while standing with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.
  • Bend your knees, hinge at your hips, and push your pelvis back. At the same time, swing the kettlebell between your legs behind you.
  • Thrust your hips forward, returning to standing position, and swing the kettlebell up to shoulder height with your arms straight.
  • Once the kettlebell is in line with your chest, swing it back down between your legs to start another repetition.

3. Squat jumps

Squat jumps

(Image credit: Future)
  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold your arms straight out in front of your chest with palms facing the floor.
  • Bend your knees, push back your hips, and lower into a squat, making sure to keep your back straight.
  • Hold the squat momentarily before jumping up as high as you can, keeping your arms still.
  • Once you land, return to a squat and repeat the process for your next repetition.
James Frew
Fitness Editor

James is a London-based journalist and Fitness Editor at Fit&Well. He has over five years experience in fitness tech, including time spent as the Buyer’s Guide Editor and Staff Writer at technology publication MakeUseOf. In 2014 he was diagnosed with a chronic health condition, which spurred his interest in health, fitness, and lifestyle management.

In the years since, he has become a devoted meditator, experimented with workout styles and exercises, and used various gadgets to monitor his health. In recent times, James has been absorbed by the intersection between mental health, fitness, sustainability, and environmentalism. When not concerning himself with health and technology, James can be found excitedly checking out each week’s New Music Friday releases.