Jen Widerstrom shares how to maximize your HIIT training so you are seeing the results you're working so hard for.

By By Jen Widerstrom
Photo: bezikus/Shutterstock

If you're well-versed in the benefits of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), but feel like it's just not working the wonders that it should, these two pointers are for you. Here's how to push yourself mentally and physically to that gotta-catch-your-breath point where the HIIT magic happens.

Step 1: Psych Yourself Up

Instead of being nervous about doing your work sets, get excited to see how far you can push yourself each time. The thing about HIIT is that it allows you to get stronger not just physically but psychologically. It builds your mental grit in a way you likely haven't experienced. So approach the challenge in a big-picture way-use something I call the "wonder line." Wonder if you can get just one more rep in before time's up or achieve that next progression in the movement, whether that's adding an incline to your sprints or jumps to your squats. This is the true magic of a HIIT routine-once your mind is on board, your body will follow. (Read more: Science-Backed Ways to Push Through Workout Fatigue)

Another motivator: With high-intensity intervals, remember that there is always rest waiting for you. Unlike with other training systems, such as steady cardio or regular sets of weight lifting, your muscles spend less time under tension. But those next-level blasts are meant to get them to a higher work capacity much faster (with you reaping the benefits of a bigger caloric burn and increased strength). The rest intervals give you the opportunity to recharge just when you need it-and knowing that should help you be a bit braver in those work bouts. Plus, the more you feel yourself get stronger each time you push yourself, the more you realize your limits are boundless. (Here's another secret to having your best HIIT workout ever.)

Step 2: Recruit More Muscles

News flash: HIIT can absolutely help you build lean muscle mass. It's all in which exercises you choose for the makeup of your intervals and active recoveries. A lot of people default to doing HIIT as sprints on a track or a treadmill, but there are strength moves that get your body working at an equally high capacity for those short bursts, which will also place the kinds of demands on muscles that make them rebuild firmer and stronger. For example, an as-many-reps-as-possible (AMRAP) interval of burpees can shape muscles from shoulders to calves. (Try this 15-minute AMRAP workout.) This kind of training especially works your fast-twitch muscle fibers, which respond quickly when taxed and therefore are great sculptors. And if you want to level up those gains, adding resistance with exercise bands or a little iron is always a good idea.

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