Getting into tip top physical shape and health requires exercise and clean-eating. But we all know that within those two areas there are infinite workout and eating plans out on the market. One particularly effective tried-and-true workout regimen is the High Intensity Interval (HIIT) cardio workout. It integrates short bursts of energy with maximum power as opposed to steady state cardio for long periods of time. This type of high intensity, rest, then repeat style of training will produce a total body renovation.
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The Body’s Energy Systems Taxed During HIIT
Oh, how I love science. Here’s a brief introduction into the three energy systems that go on alert during a HIIT cardio workout.
1) High Energy Phosphate System
The high energy phosphate system provides energy for muscles in the initial 15 seconds of high intensity activity. ATP (quick burst of energy) will be activated during this system. This is ideal because this system is linked to metabolic changes to burn fat.
2) Anaerobic Glycolytic System
Second, the Anaerobic Glycolytic System relies primarily on anaerobic metabolism for the energy required to perform intensive exercise of greater than 12-15 seconds and less than 3 minutes duration. This system will be another way to overload your muscles, as you will be firing those muscle fibers so fast, you are going to recruit the fast twitch fibers and evidently you’re going to cause muscle damage which leads to muscle growth (aka tight buns!).
3) Aerobic Oxidative System
The third system is the Aerobic Oxidative System which consists primarily of exercises that are performed at an intensity lower than that of the anaerobic threshold. Meaning that you will not get any lactic acid (burning sensation) production when you’re in this system and it will be mainly a brisk to fast pace walk or light jogs to keep your heart rate elevated (wikipedia.org).
HIIT Workouts to Get You Sculpted!
Boxing is one of the best workouts ever. If you’re one of the few who don’t believe me, chances are you haven’t tried it. This HIIT workout is not only a highly effective fat burning, muscle building workout, it can be an amazing stress reliever. Hitting a punching bag is a great upper body workout and tailors well for those that have lower body injuries or limitations. One recommendation I will make is to not do a heavy upper body workout following this workout or the day after. Make sure to have an off day or lower body day. Your shoulders and arms will feel like mush and you will inhibit adequate recovery time.
- 10 minutes of jump rope for a warm up
- 5 rounds of 10-30 second all out (everything you’ve got beating the crap out of that bag)
- 2-4 minutes of jump roping in between rounds
- 10 minute brisk walk to cool down
Drags are very effective for the athlete, power lifter, or down-right die hard who wants to get in tip top shape. Dragging a weighted sled by using a harness tied to your waist allows you to activate the core to work harder as well as your glutes and hams. The harness also forces you to keep a straight, stiff spine throughout the exercise, regardless of how tired you get. Rounding the back at anytime will immediately look and feel very awkward, giving instant feedback to straighten out or stop and rest. The great thing about sled dragging is it can have a carryover effect to many things, such as: Football, athletes learning how to explode when moving. Powerlifting, sled dragging strengthens your posterior chain and that can help with deadlifting. Track and field, overloading your waist and sprinting with weights can lead to more explosive movements when you train without them. If you aren’t sled dragging, then you are missing out on superior strength gains and conditioning.
- 10 minute brisk walk or slow paced jog for warm up
- 5 intervals of 10-30 seconds all out sled dragging and 2-3 minute brisk walk in between intervals
- 10 minutes brisk walk to cool down
- Kettlebell Swings
Believe it or not but kettlebells are starting to be increasingly popular. Specifically kettlebell swings have become a great HIIT cardio workout to activate your glutes and hamstrings. A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning found as the movement progressed from the bottom of the swing to the top of the swing, back muscle activation peaked first at around 50% of MVC (maximal voluntary contraction), followed by abdominal/oblique activation at around 20-30% of MVC, followed by gluteal muscle activation at around 75% of MVC. As you can see kettlebell swings stimulate your glutes, strengthen your back muscles, engage your core muscles and help strengthen the hip and knees. Muscle activation ramps up during a half-second interval in the concentric phase (top of the swing) and then transitions to almost complete relaxation during much of the eccentric phase (coming down with the swing). So every time you are swinging that kettlebell you are firing muscle fibers and this could lead to overall muscle growth. If you’ve never tried kettlebells for HIIT then your booty and hamies are in for a long day! Make sure to be wise when you choose the weight, you aren’t going for a 1 rep max, pick a comfortable weight that you can swing and use good form to really activate all the muscles.
- 5 minute moderate jump rope for warm up or 10 minute brisk walk/jog
- 5 sets of 10-30 second intervals (all out swings) and 45-60 seconds of rest in between intervals
- 5 minutes of moderate jump rope or 10 minute brisk walk/jog to cool down
- Rope Training
Heavy rope training was originally developed for specific combat sports such as Football and Mixed Martial Arts; it is now becoming very popular for conditioning work and HIIT cardio. If you’re looking for a new twist to your fitness routine or if you’re one of those that complain about other HIIT cardio workouts being too demanding on your legs the day after a leg session, then this is what you’re looking for. Along with increasing your strength, power, and endurance, the constant motion of rope battling will give you a hell of a workout. Some common movements include waves, slams, throws, spirals, and whips. These all involve swinging your arms up and down (or side to side) for timed intervals. With each of these exercises, you want to create a solid base by planting your feet in a shoulder width stance and stabilizing your core, think of an athletic stance. You’ll quickly discover that these exercises engage not just your arms and shoulders, but your whole body.
- 5 minute moderate jump rope for warm up
- 3-5 sets of 10-30 second intervals (waves, slams, throws, spirals, whips) and 45-60 seconds of rest in between intervals
- 5 minutes of moderate jump rope to cool down
Hungry for more? More body weight exercises found here!
Sprints are in almost every athletic training program and/or bootcamp workout. This HIIT workout targets the lower body not only in sculpting nice legs but developing powerfully strong legs. Just look at sprinters legs compared to a long distance runners legs. Obviously the sprinter has more muscle mass on their legs because they’re activating fast twitch muscle fibers and creating muscle damage which leads to muscle growth. If you don’t believe me, go do sprints and you’ll see how sore you are the next day, it’ll feel almost the same as if you did an intense leg workout and that’s because you activated and broke down those muscle fibers.
- 10 minute brisk walk
- 5 sets of 10-30 second intervals (all out, everything you’ve got) and 1-4 minutes of rest in between intervals
- 10 minute brisk walk to cool down