Whoever said “slow and steady wins the race” didn’t have a full-time job, a slowing metabolism, and an endless to-do list. When it comes to staying in shape on a tight schedule, there’s probably no better solution than interval training.
What’s more, HIIT is incredibly versatile. It can incorporate bodyweight movements, weights, TRX training, running, and more. It’s easy to continuously mix things up so you won’t get bored.
Below, we’ve rounded up more ways you can get the most out of HIIT with tips from three NYC-based trainers. Bonus: Each trainer also provided a quick (but intense) HIIT circuit. Get ready to find your new favorite workout.
Tips for your HIIT workout
Go all out for 20 seconds, and then recover for 40 or even 60 seconds, says Noam Tamir, fitness coach and founder of TS Fitness. You may feel like that’s not hard enough, but building up slowly will decrease your risk of injury and prevent you from burning out.
Don’t skip your warmup
Because you’ll be racing through moves, it’s important that your body is primed for action.
Warm up all your major joints (neck, shoulders, wrists, hips, legs, and ankles) with circular movements, Tamir says. Then move on to jumping jacks or a light jog in place or on a treadmill.
Aim for reps
If you’re looking to improve (and who isn’t?), keep track of your reps during a given interval and try to beat it next time, says Julia Avery, a personal trainer and founder of Ditch the Desk.
For instance, if you’re doing Tabata, aim for 20 bodyweight squats in 20 seconds.
Use an interval timer
Instead, use an interval timing program, like the Deltaworks Interval Timer app. You’ll set it once, press start, and get to work.
Don’t train on back-to-back days
At most, try HIIT two or three times per week on nonconsecutive days, Tamir says. On non-interval days, do some steady-state cardio or try another type of training, like yoga or Pilates.
Just add weight
If you need to make your workout harder, add weight to any bodyweight movement or add more weight during the first round of a circuit, Avery says.
Keep the intervals short
Your intervals shouldn’t be minutes long, they should be seconds long — ideally 20 to 60 seconds.
Remember: The intervals are short so you can push yourself to the max. “The shorter a workout is, the more I dread it!” Avery says.
Use the “talk test”
Not sure if you’re pushing yourself? During the intervals, you shouldn’t be able to speak in full sentences, Rosante says.
Work out with a partner
Alternate your work and rest intervals with a partner, Avery says. You’ll rest while your partner works, and vice versa. While “resting,” your job is to cheer on your partner and keep them working extra hard.
Pick your HIIT plan
Our three trainers suggested HIIT routines at varying levels of difficulty. One of the workouts requires no equipment, and the other two require only a set of dumbbells or kettlebells. All of them make it easy to get started — now!
Breakdown of HIIT exercises
Here’s a detailed breakdown of all of the moves mentioned above.
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, Hinge at your waist and place hands on the floor. Walk hands out, one in front of the other, as far as you can (the farther you walk, the more core and shoulder strength you’ll use). Pause, then walk hands back to feet. Repeat.
Stand tall and grip a kettlebell handle with both hands. Keep arms long, squeeze shoulder blades together, broaden across your chest, and engage your core. Soften knees, shift bodyweight into heels, and lower butt down and back.
Drive weight through heels and use the strength of your lower body to swing the kettlebell upward. Shoot for chest height, keeping arms extended. Be sure to “snap” your hips through as you come to standing, squeezing glutes and keeping core tight.
As the kettlebell descends, let the weight do the work for you. Prep your body for the next rep. Shift weight back into heels, hinge at hips, and engage hamstrings and glutes. Allow the kettlebell to lower back down between your feet. Repeat.
For more details on how to do this move, check out our in-depth guide to mastering the kettlebell swing.
Squat with overhead press
This move is also sometimes called a thruster.
Holding either dumbbells or kettlebells at your shoulders, push hips back and lower into a squat. As you stand, push the weights up overhead and fully extend arms. Lower the weights and lower into your next squat.
Squat and place hands on the floor, just outside of feet. Jump feet back so you’re in plank position. Do a push-up (to make it easier, rest your knees on the floor during the push-up).
Jump feet back in toward hands. Explosively jump up as high as you can, reaching arms overhead. It helps to grunt or shout (trust us).
For more details, check out our guide to the perfect burpee.
Do this move with either two dumbbells or two kettlebells.
Stand with knees slightly bent, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Bend torso forward, keeping back flat and straight.
Try to look up (not at the floor) as you draw the weights up, keeping elbows close to the sides of your body. At the top of the move, pause for a moment. Squeeze shoulder blades together before slowly releasing the weights down.
Sprint in place, drawing knees up toward chest as you swing an imaginary rope. Or, you know, you can use an actual jump rope.
Start in high plank position with hands directly under shoulders. Lower your chest to the floor, keeping abs tight, then push back up to starting position.
Jump straight up, reaching fingertips to the sky as if you were blocking a volleyball spike. Land softly. Repeat.
Start in plank position. Drive one knee in toward chest, then step that leg back and drive opposite knee in. Continue alternating legs, moving as fast as possible.
You can vary this move by starting in a low lunge with your hands on the floor and hopping to switch your lunge.
Start in high plank position. Lower one forearm at a time into low plank position. One hand at a time, push back up into high plank. Continue alternating.
Do a regular burpee by squatting, jumping feet back, doing a push-up, and hopping feet back to hands. Jump up and to the right while clapping hands overhead.
Do another burpee, this time jumping up and to the left. Continue alternating. For funsies, you can also place something on the floor to jump over, like a towel or dumbbell.
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