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What is a HIIT workout?

What is a HIIT workout?
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Home workouts will continue to be the norm as some gyms will not re-open for a while due to Covid-19. But just because you aren’t able to take your favorite studio class, it doesn’t mean you can’t recapture that same demanding workout in the comfort of your own home. Thanks to high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, you can still get in a good, quality sweat session.

A HIIT workout is one where you alternate between intervals of all-out intense bursts of exercise, alternated with recovery periods. The intervals can be as short as 30-45 seconds, or last up to a couple of minutes, but HIIT workouts generally aren’t too lengthy overall. Why? Because research shows that these shorter style HIIT workouts actually maximize benefits in less time.

Benefits of HIIT workouts

Benefits of HIIT workouts
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Some of the benefits include maximal kilojoule burn, fat loss, increased metabolic rate post-workout, as well as overall cardiovascular benefits.

“One of the big benefits of HIIT is the ability to maximise caloric output during a shorter workout,” explains Noam Tamir, trainer and owner of TS Fitness in New York City. “It improves heart health, increases VO2 max, and creates more of a post-exercise oxygen consumption or after-burn effect post-workout helping to burn more calories than moderate-intensity exercise. Depending on an individual’s fitness level, these workouts have also been shown to build strength and increase muscle mass.”

Plus, the short length of these workouts is a benefit in and of itself. “In 20 minutes, you can get the same benefits from a HIIT workout that you would from a 40-minute moderate-intensity workout,” says Tamir.

Discover the least amount of exercise you need to do to live longer. 

Equipment and safety precautions

Equipment and safety precautions
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Another great thing about HIIT workouts is that they can be done with or without equipment, so if you’re doing them at home and you don’t have access to weights or bands, that’s OK. Bodyweight works well for HIIT, Tamir says. He does point out that if you’ve never done a HIIT workout before, it’s best to first get the OK from your doctor, to be sure you’re in good health and able to handle the intensity. He also points out that you want to ease into things, beginning with a HIIT home workout that won’t leave you feeling sore for days. “Compound, low impact movements are best to begin with,” says Tamir. As you advance, Tamir suggests that you can add weight, reps, or time.

“Make sure you are hydrated, don’t eat too close to training – maybe stop around 90 to 120 minutes before – and be sure to warm up and cool down,” says Tamir. “During your rest periods in the workout, focus on breathing and shaking out your body to release the tension you build up during the all-out exercise intervals.”

Beginning a HIIT workout

Beginning a HIIT workout
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Want to give a HIIT workout a go? Tamir has shared an at-home, HIIT workout that you could do every day. All you need is your bodyweight and a clock to keep time. “The idea is that these are functional, compound movements that are low-impact, so they will get your heart rate up, work on mobility, burn calories, and get you stronger, without annihilating your body,” says Tamir.

Give this home workout a try today.

Here’s how to bust exercise excuses. 

Toe Touch, to Squat, to Overhead Squat, to Stand

Toe Touch, to Squat, to Overhead Squat, to Stand
COURTESY NOAM TAMIR

Perform this warm-up two times through.

This is a full-body move that will get blood flowing from head to toe.

Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Bend from hips to lower down and touch toes. From there, bend and push knees outward to lower down into squat. Lift arms overhead. Push up to standing with arms overhead. Repeat for 20 seconds.

Toy Soldiers

Toy Soldiers
COURTESY NOAM TAMIR

This will warm up your hamstrings, glutes, and hips.

Take a step forward with right foot as you kick left leg up and reach right hand to touch left toe (or shin, or as close as you can reach). Lower leg and immediately kick right leg up and reach left hand to touch right toe (or shin, or as close as you can reach). Continue alternating for 30 seconds. (You should be moving across a room as you do this, so you might need to turn around at some point and continue in the other direction.)

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Reverse Lunge With Rotation

Reverse Lunge With Rotation
COURTESY NOAM TAMIR

This is the beginning of circuit A.

Perform circuit 3 times through, with 15 seconds rest between exercises.

Lunges will work the lower body, namely the quads and glutes. Throw in the rotation for a little added core work.

Stand with feet hip-width apart, arms crossed in front of you, one on top of the other, at 90 degrees. Step right foot behind you and bend both knees 90 degrees to lower, keeping right hip stacked over right knee, left knee in line with the left ankle, as you rotate upper body over the front leg. Push through legs to return to standing. Repeat for 30 seconds. Then switch sides and repeat for 30 seconds.

High Plank With Bodyweight Row

High Plank With Bodyweight Row
COURTESY NOAM TAMIR

This core exercise has the added challenge of working your back thanks to the row.

Come to the floor into high plank, hands on the ground stacked directly under shoulders, legs extended out behind you, balancing on toes, feet shoulder-width apart. The body should be in a straight line from head to toe, hips level, and pelvis tucked. Brace core as you slowly lift left hand and bend left elbow up towards rib cage, while pulling shoulder blades down and together. Lower hand to return to plank, then repeat on the other side. That’s one rep. Continue alternating for 30 seconds.

Modification: Perform on knees.

Low Plank With Rotation

Low Plank With Rotation
COURTESY NOAM TAMIR

This move works the core, glutes, shoulders and back muscles.

Come to the floor. Bend elbows and place forearms flat on the ground so elbows are stacked directly under shoulders. Brace core as you extend legs out behind you, balancing just on toes, feet shoulder-width apart. The body should be in a straight line from head to toe, hips level, and pelvis tucked. Brace core as you slowly lift left hand and rotate body towards the left, reaching the left hand up towards the ceiling. Lower arm to return to plank, then repeat on the other side. That’s one rep. Continue alternating for 30 seconds.

Modification: Perform on knees.

Deep Squat Walk Out

Deep Squat Walk Out
COURTESY NOAM TAMIR

This is the beginning of circuit B.

Perform circuit 3 times through, with 15 seconds rest between exercises.

The squat works your lower body, and the walk our focuses on the upper body and core, so you get a full body exercise.

Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart, toes pointed slightly outward. Keeping back straight, upper body tall, push knees outward as you bend knees to lower into a squat, ending with elbows inside of knees. Place hands on the ground and keeping body low, walk hands out to high plank position. Walk hands back into a deep squat position, and push through heels to slowly stand back up. Repeat for 30 seconds.

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– The Reader’s Digest team