Interval Training or conditioning has become really popular over the course of the past few years, in part due to the fact that you get more “bang for your buck” when it comes to exercising. This means you don’t have to dedicate hours of training to get results. You can get them in as little as 4 minutes with the right protocol. However, the catch is that you will be challenged; you will be pushed to your limits.
These workouts are typically short, intense bursts of exercise followed by a rest period. The purpose behind this is to tap into an after-burn effect known as EPOC or Exercise Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption. What typically occurs during a high intensity workout? The body will use more oxygen than you are able to consume, putting you into an “oxygen debt.” Once you finish your workout, you’re going to need to repay that “debt,” resulting in a continuous calorie burn, even after you’ve stopped exercising. This has the potential to last for hours post workout. Talk about a boost in metabolism!!
Aerobic exercise on the other hand typically does not tap into this after-burn effect. When you go for a jog or a bike ride, you end up replacing the oxygen you consume at a 1:1 ratio. Aerobic exercise does have its place, just not in this article.
Right now you may be asking yourself “What are the benefits to doing a HIIT workout?” Among the short amount of time they take up and the increase in calorie burn post exercise, there are several other benefits to doing high intensity intervals.
- Improved Body Composition
- Increased Metabolism
- Increased Insulin Sensitivity
- Improved Cholesterol Levels
When designing your workout, you want to take a few things into consideration. First, when it comes to exercise selection, use exercises that require multiple joints (think squats, lunges, push-ups). Second, use exercises that will make you work in multiple planes of movement (think lateral & rotation). Lastly, don’t just use bilateral exercises, incorporate unilateral or single limb exercises too (think one arm row, or one arm presses).
Here are two ways to structure your training that will push you to your limits using a timer as your guide.
Workout 1: With this workout, you are going to select 4 exercises that fit the criteria above. It becomes an easy template for an intense HIIT workout. To give you an idea, let’s select:
- Kettlebell Swings (KS)
- Push-ups (PU)
- Alternating Lateral Lunges (LL)
- Rotating Medicine Ball Slams (MB).
Each interval is going to last 20 seconds, and with each subsequent round, the rest period is going to decrease and the work period is going to increase.
Round 1: KS – 20s rest – PU – 20s rest – LL – 20s rest – MB – 20s rest
Round 2: KS – PU – 20s rest – LL – MB – 20s rest
Round 3: KS – PU – LL – 20s rest – MB – 20s rest
Round 4: KS – PU – LL – MB
As you can see, the rounds will get more and more difficult as you go on due to the lack of rest between exercises. This will create that oxygen debt mentioned in the beginning. Feel free to try this workout with different interval times and different exercises. This a great circuit to put together as a finisher to a strength session.
Workout 2: This one is a little different than the previous workout. Using this interval system, you are going to be working for 30 seconds and resting for 20 seconds in between each exercise. With an entire circuit of negative rest, you’ll really create that oxygen debt or EPOC.
Using the same principles as the last workout, you’re going to select 10 exercises for this circuit. Remember, multi-joint, multi-planar, and don’t leave out those unilateral exercises.
- Goblet Squats
- Left Arm Dumbbell Row
- Right Arm Dumbbell Row
- Left Leg Reverse Lunge with Left Arm Press
- Right Leg Reverse Lunge with Right Arm Press
- Battle Rope Alternating Waves
- Kettlebell Swings
- Ice Skaters
- TRX Pikes or TRX Crunches
Perform this circuit, or any circuit you come up with for at least 3 sets. If you want to challenge yourself, track the number of reps you do each round, and try to beat it each subsequent round.
Workout 3: This last workout focuses on density training or doing more work in less time. This is less about tracking time and more about getting a ton of work done. In this example, pick 2-5 exercises, pick a rep range, and then pick how long to work for.
- Goblet Squats x 8 reps
- Single Arm DB Rows x 8 reps each
- Kettlebell Swings x 8 reps
- Pushups x 8 reps
Get through this circuit as many times as you can in 8 minutes, then rest 5 minutes. After your rest time is over, go through the 8 minutes again, trying to beat how many rounds you did the first time.
There are a few final tips or words of caution to think about before implementing HIIT workouts into your training program. The first is on form and mechanics. Just because you are pushing yourself to your limits, doesn’t give you the go ahead to let form and mechanics suffer. Don’t let form go out the window in order to complete reps as you will end up forming compensation patterns or worse, injuries to complete workouts.
Avoid adding weight or intensity just for the sake of making it more intense. Be smart about your progressions. They are called progressions for a reason. Earn them.
More is not necessarily better. Better is better.
Try to select exercises that are relatively low in skill, meaning they don’t require a high degree of technical ability, and don’t have a high rate of fatigue.
Lastly, because these types of workouts require so much effort from your body, make sure you program in proper recovery time between bouts of HIIT. Use lower levels of intensity in order to make sure your body is ready for the next training session or build your high intensity exercises around your strength program for even better gains.
We don’t get stronger during our workouts,
we get stronger when our body has time to recover and rebuild.