Tips to Refresh Your Interval Training When You're In a HIIT Rut
It's Time to Switch Things Up
Intervals burn insane calories, build endurance, and get you into wicked shape. Good. But you need to mix them up to keep your mind and muscles engaged. Play around with these programs, they'll keep you fired up and in top form. (More on the benefits of HIIT, right here.)
What it is: A workout where you chip away at a high number of consecutive reps (30, 50, or even more) for each exercise as fast as you can.
Why it works: Chippers train you to pace yourself through a tough workout, which improves your endurance, strength, and tenacity, says Dara Theodore, an instructor at the Fhitting Room, a boutique studio in New York City that specializes in HIIT classes. Consider the chipper the HIIT equivalent of racing a 10K or a marathon. If you dash those first few miles at your fastest speed, you'll burn out before you can cross the finish line, Theodore says. Instead, pace yourself to use all your energy by the time you cross the line— the same goes for budgeting energy to make it to the last rep of a chipper.
How to do it: Pick five to 10 moves that include weighted exercises (using dumbbells, a kettlebell, or a medicine ball), bodyweight moves (squats, sit-ups, plank up-downs), and plyometrics (explosive jumping moves). Order them so that you're targeting different muscle groups in back-to-back exercises (alternate an upper-body move with a lower-body or abs exercise) and pop the easiest one or two exercises in the middle. (These insane bodyweight exercises from Jillian Michaels will get you started.) Start with 30 or 50 reps of each exercise. If you're craving the marathon version, up your reps to 75 or 100 each.
What it is: An ad-lib session in which you grab a partner or friends (and a notepad), then take turns filling in moves, sets, and reps for a tough-as-you-want workout.
Why it works: Because you're never doing the same moves or rep scheme, your body and brain are constantly surprised by what's coming, so there's no time to get bored or comfortable, says Jared Stein, a co-owner and the head coach at WillyB and LTrain CrossFit boxes in New York City. Most people choose a move they like or are good at, which often means you'll be doing exercises you might otherwise skip—a surefire way to eliminate weaknesses. On the flip side, you can use your strong suits to push your friends' limits as well, Stein says.
How to do it: Just like the game you played in study hall, start with a fill-in-the-blank format on a piece of paper or a whiteboard. First, choose the number of rounds (a.k.a. sets) you want to do (three to seven is a good range), then make two columns: one for the names of exercises and one for the number of reps. Pass the pen around and let each person fill in one blank space with a move they'd like to do or the number of reps they want to aim for. Pass the pen around until the paper is filled—or you've hit a good list of moves—then go for it. (Plus, sweating with friends will get you extra fitness perks.)
Iso VS Plyo
What it is: A fast, time-based workout in which you toggle between an isometric hold (such as a plank) and a plyometric move (like burpees).
Why it works: First, you boost your strength endurance by holding a muscle contraction for a stretch of seconds (that's the isometric), then improve your speed and power and tax the cardiovascular system with rapid-fire big movements. When it comes to getting you fit and performing at your peak, this type of pairing is the full package, says Chris Ryan, a strength and conditioning specialist in New York City.
How to do it: Zero in on one area, like the shoulders, chest, and abs, by doing complementary moves, like a plank and push-up shoulder-taps (push-up, tap one hand to opposite shoulder. Switch sides; repeat), Ryan says. Or pick moves that hit different muscles, like a hollow hold for the abs (lie faceup, arms long behind head, then lift arms, head, shoulders, and legs a few inches) and squat jumps to firm your butt and legs. Hold the iso for 20 seconds, then do the Plyo as quickly as you can for 20 seconds; continue alternating for three to eight minutes. Rest for one to two minutes. For a full-body workout, pick two more pairs of moves that target different muscles for the second and third rounds. (Try this plank and Plyo Tabata workout if you only have four minutes.)
Go Down the Ladder
What it is: A time-based routine with descending intervals in which the pushes get successively shorter.
Why it works: If you typically do popular HIIT designs with super-quick intervals such as Tabata (with its 20-second sprints), descending intervals will challenge your cardiovascular endurance because you spend longer stretches at a high intensity, says Daphnie Yang, the founder of HIIT It classes in New York City. That means you'll be able to work more muscles to the sweet spot of failure during each interval and stoke your metabolism as the session goes on, she says.
How to do it: Tack this ladder onto the end of your go-to workout (it will add about eight minutes to it), picking three plyometric or body-weight exercises—burpees are a must, Yang says. (Here: four different kinds of burpees, so you don't get bored.) Do the first exercise for 60 seconds (performing as many reps as possible), then rest for 10 seconds; do the second exercise for 45 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds, and do the final exercise for 30 seconds, then rest for 10. Repeat for a total of three rounds. If you want to expand this to make it a stand-alone workout, repeat the sequence two more times, choosing three different moves each time.
The Progressive Build
What it is: An interval program that's built on doing all-out microbursts every 30 seconds, in which you increase the work-to-rest ratio incrementally over the course of four weeks.
Why it works: Supercompact "sprintervals" start at six seconds a pop, so this type of training helps you learn what a true maximum effort feels like—and then progress to extend your ability to maintain that threshold, says Rob Sulaver, the founder of Bandana Training, an online resource for fitness programs.
How to do it: The work intervals in this method are very short, so it goes best with aerobic exercises, like running stairs, sprinting, slamming battling ropes, rowing, or using a VersaClimber. Start by doing 10 rounds with six seconds of all-out effort followed by 24 seconds of recovery for the first week. (Try an app like Seconds Pro, free on iTunes, to time intervals with audio alerts.) Increase the work and decrease the rest by two seconds each for the next three weeks. By the final week, you'll do 12 seconds of work and 18 seconds of rest each round.