High intensity interval training (a.k.a. HIIT) might be four of the most intimidating words in the world of fitness. You hear it and it’s enough to make your heart race and hold your breath because the “H” in HIIT suggests that this workout’s going to be “hard!”
And traditionally this is true. “Real” HIIT requires you to reach at least 85% of your max heart rate during the work intervals with some rest in between, according to Allison Tenney CSCS, a fitness coach based in Austin, TX, who recently spoke with Prevention. This is tough, but potentially convenient. Studies have shown these 15–20 minute workouts could improve cardiovascular health just as much as a long—at times boring— jog on the treadmill.
But what if we told you that interval training doesn’t have to be as intense as the name suggests to get similar benefits? “Not everyone needs to push those absolute limits to make progress,” says Tenney. For example, Maillard Howell, a fitness coach at Reebok HQ and co-owner of Dean Crossfit, likes to take the HIIT format to create fun, slower-paced, full-body circuits that can still improve cardio as well as boost your strength.
“These circuits are perfect for a day when you’re short on time and not sure what to do for your workout,” says Howell. “They engage nearly every muscle group so you don’t have to think about it.”
If your want to try a HIIT workout where you can go at your own pace and still feel like you put in work, Howell has put together a brilliant circuit that will challenge you from head to toe—particularly your upper limbs and back.
How to do this workout
For this workout, you will need a kettlebell or a dumbbell. Choose a weight that you can handle for sets of 15 reps for each weighted exercise.
There are five moves…
- Single arm rows
- Single arm push presses
- Goblet Squats
…which are explained in the demos below.
Try each of them out to make sure you’ve chosen a modification that is good for your body or weight that is suitable for your strength level. Then, set a timer for 20 minutes and perform the circuit with the reps and rest schemes as written:
First round: 3 reps for each move
Rest 15 seconds
Second Round: 6 reps each
Rest 30 seconds
Third round: 9 reps each
Rest 45 seconds
Fourth round: 12 reps each
Rest 1 minute
Fifth round: 15 reps each
Rest 1 minute and 15 seconds
If you finish the fifth round before the timer is up, start again at the round of three.
The goal is to get as far as you can in 20-minutes with quality reps. “Don’t put the pedal to the metal,” says Maillard. “Relax, ease into it and focus on your form.” You’ll feel the burn soon enough. We promise.
How to do each exercise:
Targets: shoulders, triceps, chest, core, plus the stabilizing muscles in the hips, glutes and quads
How to do it: Stand with your feet together and your hands by your sides. bend over as you place your hands on the floor in front of your. Walk your hands out into a plank. Hold for a second, then walk your hands back towards your feet. Stand up and do it all over again.
Modifications: If you’ve got flexible hamstrings, you can keep your legs pretty straight throughout the movement. If not, you always have the option to bend your knees as you fold towards the ground.
Targets: chest, triceps, abs, serratus anterior muscle, and the stabilizing muscle sin the hips. glutes, and quads
How to do it: Get into a plank position with your hands directly beneath your shoulders, back flat. Gaze toward the floor and keep your neck in a neutral position. Lower your chest as close to the floor as you can, and keep your elbows close to your torso; avoid letting them flare out to the sides. Once you’ve reached your lowest point, push your hands through the floor as you engage your core to keep your spine in one straight line. Lift up to return to that plank position and repeat until you have finished your reps.
Modifications: To make this move easier you can keep your knees on the floor the entire time, or: elevate your hands. Find a counter or a bench and perform pushups from that surface. This decreases the amount of resistance your arms have to overcome.
Single Arm Row
Targets: lats, back, shoulders, arms
How to do it: Grab your kettlebell or dumbbell in your right hand and stand in a staggered stance: left foot about 12 inches in front of the other, hip width distance apart. Lean your torso forward until your back is flat and slightly bend your knees to support your lower spine. Retract your right shoulder blade (think about pulling your right shoulder back without bending your elbow) then punch that right elbow back as you pull the weight up towards you. Once the weight is at chest height, lower the weight until your elbow is straight. Complete your reps then repeat on the other side.
Single Arm Push Press
Targets: shoulders, chest, triceps, quads, hips
How to do it: Hold your kettlebell or dumbbell in your right arm in front of your chest. Make sure your elbow isn’t resting on your torso; engage your lats and keep it up and away from your body. Stand with your feet right beneath your hips. From here, slightly bend your knees. Then push through the center of your feet to stand tall while you press the weight overhead at the same time. That knee drive will give you momentum to lift the weight overhead. The rep is finished when your arm is locked out by your ear and your legs are straight. Reset by bringing that weight back down to chest height with control. Keep going until it’s time to switch to the other arm.
Pro tip: To make your reps smoother, you can link them together by dipping those knees as you reset the weight.
Targets: quads, glutes, upper back stabilizing muscles
How to do it: Grab your weight in two hands and curl it up so that it’s front of your chest. Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip width apart. Point your toes outward to about a 45-degree angle. Keep you chest tall as you sit your butt back as if you are sitting into a chair. Sit as low as you can without breaking form, then squeeze your butt and press through the center of your feet to stand. Continue squatting in this way until your reps are up.
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