Well my friends, summer is right around the corner. If you are like most people, this is the time of year you want to start leaning out for the beach or shedding extra weight you accumulated during the winter.
Are you someone who dreads the word “cardio”, as it conjures up images of monotonous hours plodding along on a treadmill? Many people have the wrong idea of what style of conditioning workouts burn fat efficiently, and let me tell you, it doesn’t need to be an hour long mind numbing run or bike ride.
The best type of routines for burning fat, improving your conditioning, and building strength at the same time are High Intensity Interval Training - or HIIT.
HIIT is a system which takes a low to medium intensity work load and alternates it with high intensity intervals. This is essentially sprint work - a short duration of all-out effort, followed by a recovery phase, and then back to a sprint.
This type of training has been proven to burn more fat than long, low intensity exercise, and it has a lasting effect as it raises your metabolism so you burn more calories throughout the day. HIIT training will also increase muscle endurance and strength, whereas traditional lower intensity cardio can actually cause the body to burn muscle for fuel.
If you want a good visual of how this type of training can impact your build, think of the body type of an olympic sprinter. Not exactly wasting away from cardio, right?
Today I am going to share with you 6 of my favorite HIIT workouts - one for each piece of cardio equipment in your gym. All of these routines are under 20 minutes so you no longer have a reason to put off your conditioning work.
1. Treadmill Hill Sprints
|# of Sprints||Speed||Incline||Duration (run/rest)|
|4||10 mph||0%||20 sec on/10 sec rest|
|4||10 mph||2%||20 sec on/10 sec rest|
|4||10 mph||4%||20 sec on/10 sec rest|
Keep repeating this cycle, raising the incline by 2% after every 2 minutes (4 sprints), until 20 seconds becomes difficult to complete. At that point switch the intervals to 10 seconds on/20 seconds off and maintain the same incline for as many sprints as possible.
Start by warming up with a 3 minute jog and then stretching. Set a treadmill to the highest possible speed you can run at, ideally 10mph (or 12mph if you are in outstanding condition). After your first 20 second interval, carefully grab the side rails and step off for a 10 second rest while the treadmill continues to run. After completing 4 sprints, raise the incline by 2% for another 2 minute cycle.
A good goal to strive for is each time you complete this workout try to end with either a greater number of total sprints, or complete your sprints at a higher incline. For advanced athletes, I typically have them start this workout at 2% or 4% rather than a flat treadmill.
Related: 6 Intense Treadmill Workouts to Get Shredded
2. Bike Tabata
|20 Sec Max Effort/10 Sec Rest||8|
|Rest 3 minutes then repeat|
Tabata is a type of HIIT training that was developed by Japanese scientist Dr. Izumi Tabata from the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Tokyo. Dr Tabata and his team of researchers determined that the most efficient use of HIIT intervals is a 2/1 ratio, and if done at max effort, 8 rounds of 20 seconds work/10 seconds rest are all that is necessary,
The key to correctly utilizing the Tabata protocol is effort - the 20 second intervals must be Max Effort. That factor makes it difficult to do a true Tabata workout on a treadmill (tabata is a great fit for a track workout, however), but this sequence is perfect for ergometers such as a Bike or upper body erg (UBE).
The resistance needs to be set as high as possible and you truly have to go “all out”. Give 20 seconds of lung burning, lactic acid filled maximum effort then rest for 10. Repeat this sequence for 8 sets. Rest 3-5 minutes then repeat the entire workout. My favorite way to do this workout is to complete one Tabata sequence on a bike, and after a 3 minute rest complete a second sequence on a upper body ergometer such as a stand up Sci-Fit.
20 Minute Stairmaster Burner
- 2 minutes easy "recovery"
- 1 minute "Ladder" - increase speed every 10 seconds
- 1 minute Max Effort
- Repeat for 5 continuous rounds
Although this is not a true HIIT workout due to its length and structure, it remains my favorite fat burner for the Stairmaster. This routine is basically 5 sets of a 4 minute block repeated back to back for 20 minutes total.
Start on an easy setting for 2 minutes of what becomes a recovery phase in the later rounds of the workout. At the start of the third minute, initiate a “ladder”, turning the speed up every 10 seconds until you begin the fourth minute. The fourth minute should be max effort, ideally with the machine set at full speed.
At the conclusion of the fourth minute, immediately bring the speed down to your “recovery” setting for the next two minutes. You will be amazed how the first 2 minute slow speed block drags on forever, but the later 2 minute recovery rounds seem to fly by.
|2 minutes||10 Sec Easy/20 Sec Sprint||4||1 min|
|2 minutes||10 Sec Easy/10 Sec Sprint||6||1 min|
|2 minutes||Sustained Effort|
The Airdyne, or “Arm Bike”, is the preferred old school conditioning machine of wrestlers and fighters across the globe. You are able to get a full body workout on this device, and the push-pull motion of the handles simulates the feel of grappling with an opponent. The key to the following routine (like most of them on this list), is that the sprints require MAXIMUM effort.
This routine can be kind of difficult, or the hardest thing you've ever done. This workout is a quick one - three 2 minute rounds with a minute between each - only 8 minutes total including rest.
The first 2 minute block starts with 10 seconds easy followed by a 20 second sprint. Repeat for 4 sets (2 minutes), then rest for 1 minute. The next 2 minute block shortens the sprint to 10 seconds followed by a 10 second rest. After 6 10/10 sprints, rest 1 minute. The last block is 2 minutes of sustained effort - not a sprint, but as hard as you can go for the entire 2 minutes.
To give you an idea of speeds, on the sprints I try to hit 100 RPMs, and on the last 2 minute block I try to keep my RPMs in the 75-85 range the entire time.
5. Jump Rope
Repeat one of the following options for 20 minutes
- 40 Seconds Easy Pace/10 Seconds Max Effort/10 Seconds Rest
- Non-stop Jump Rope + 5 Burpees for every missed jump
Everyone loves options. I’m sure you are no different, which is why I’ve included two different jump rope routines, one of which requires great rhythm and precision, while the other will work for even the novice jumper. Both of these workouts are 20 minutes in length.
The first one is a 20 minute repeating block of 1 minute intervals. For each minute, start out jumping at an easy pace for the first 40 seconds. The next 10 seconds are an all out jump rope sprint - or double under if you are really skilled. Rest the last 10 seconds of each minute and then start over.
The second routine is better suited for a beginner jump rope practitioner, and it even rewards your mistakes by making the workout more challenging the more times you miss. Set a timer to 20 minutes and every time you “miss”, down the jump rope and immediately do 5 Burpees (complete with a full push up and jump squat on each one). Immediately pick up the rope and start again.
In this way, the Burpee becomes the High Intensity interval, and the jump rope is the medium intensity work. It’s great practice for jumping rope and there is definitely an incentive to improve your form and rhythm. Once you can get your sets of Burpees to 5 or less in 20 minutes, it’s time to give the first routine a try.
6. No Equipment HIIT
|Burpees||20 Seconds On/10 Seconds Rest||4|
|Body Squats||20 Seconds On/10 Seconds Rest||4|
|Push Ups||20 Seconds On/10 Seconds Rest||4|
|Bicycle Crunches||20 Seconds On/10 Seconds Rest||4|
|Complete 2 rounds nonstop|
All of the other routines I shared require access to a gym’s cardio room. But what if you have no machines (and assuming no access to the outside for true sprint work)? Here is a great full body HIIT style workout that can be done anywhere, from the office to the beach.
Perform 4 sets of each exercise 20 seconds on/10 seconds rest before moving on to the next exercise. The key is cranking out as many repetitions as possible in 20 seconds, don’t try to pace yourself. Once you have completed your last set of bicycle crunches, immediately start over with Burpees. After 2 continuous rounds you can finally call it quits.
Related: 8 Week Muscle Building Bodyweight Workout
Now you have plenty of options to get you on the road to being fit and shredded. Pick one of these routines to hit every other day, or every day if you are on a time crunch with Spring Break or vacation coming up. My favorite way to train is to hit one of these workouts first thing in the morning for maximal thermogenic benefit, then do my weight training in the afternoon.
However you choose to incorporate HIIT training, you now have a variety to choose from to break up the monotony of your cardio training. Now get to the gym and get after it!
Do you only complete the treadmill sprint sets one time through or do you complete 3 sets of 4 for each height and then you are done?
Hey Bart - you'll start with 4 sprints of the listed incline and speed. From there, keep repeating this cycle, raising the incline by 2% after every 2 minutes (4 sprints), until 20 seconds becomes difficult to complete. At that point switch the intervals to 10 seconds on/20 seconds off and maintain the same incline for as many sprints as possible.
Which level most choose for speed ?
Hey Emanuel - what're you looking to increase speed in?
In a treadmill
Hey Emanuel - my apologies. I read your initial question wrong. The treadmill speed should be set at 10 mph.
I was wondering for the treadmill sprints, what grade for the hills is consider to be 2% and 4%?
Love these WOs. just wanted to ask, when is the best time to do these? Fasted first thing in the AM before breakfast? or in the afternoon right after weight training?
Thanks for the help.
Scientifically speaking, there is no clear cut argument for one particular way of training. In terms of time of day, we would suggest wherever it fits your schedule. Morning, afternoon or nighttime results are essentially the same with all other elements kept constant.
In terms of before or after weight lifting - we would suggest this is based on your goals but majority of the time following weight lifting is preferred. If your goal is to get better at something, do it first in your workout when you are fresh - so if you want to improve your cardio then do the intervals first. If not, you may find it's best to lift first before expending a lot of energy and taxing your system with HIIT,
Hope that helps!