This HIIT-based program is time efficient, effective and ever-changing — the ideal foray into the new year and the perfect way to break in all that sweet workout swag you found under the tree last month.
Interval Training — Yeah, Not a Fad
Countless studies and thousands of happy subjects maintain that high-intensity interval training is one of the most effective methods for burning fat. The intensity of the work means a huge energy deficit and dramatic metabolic disturbance, and the recovery and repair process can take up to three days. Because that process requires scads of energy, your body is still torching fat long after the exercise itself has finished.
This phenomenon is unique to high-intensity work, and going for a leisurely one-mile run on the local high-school track will not proffer the same benefits. Here’s the deal: If you run that mile in eight minutes flat, you’ll burn about 100 calories, total. But if you run 16 all-out 100-meter sprints, with each sprint taking 15 seconds, you’ll still cover a mile but will have only spent four minutes working and your metabolic fire will burn white hot for days afterward.
Does lower-intensity work done for longer periods have its place? Sure. But Justin Grinnell, CSCS, founder of Grinnell Training Systems and owner of State of Fitness (mystateoffitness.com) is a much bigger fan of HIIT in the conditioning continuum.
“A study by McMasters University in Canada showed that high-intensity interval training is a potent, time-efficient strategy to induce numerous metabolic adaptations usually associated with traditional endurance training,” Grinnell says. Subjects of this study adopted HIIT as their primary mode of cardio and experienced an increased ability to use oxygen to perform and a better ability to shift between energy systems during exercise.
Get HIIT Started
With HIIT, it’s more about the work intensity than the mode of exercise, and you can apply the protocol to nearly any activity. In terms of weight training, Grinnell recommends focusing on compound exercises with a big payoff, such as those that have you pressing, pushing, pulling, dragging, throwing or swinging.
“A hamstring curl has its place, but it does not increase the metabolism or produce the same kind of favorable hormonal response as compound, multi-joint moves,” Grinnell says. “To burn fat and build or preserve lean muscle tissue, you need to perform large movements.”
Grinnell created this eight-week plan that blends full-body metcons with dedicated strength work and high-demand ladder workouts. “You can only do straight sets and boring cardio for so long before your body won’t make changes anymore,” Grinnell says. “Constantly challenging yourself will keep your workouts fresh and give you something to look forward to.”
The 8-Week HIIT-Your-Goals Workout
This program is divided into two four-week phases. In each phase, you’ll perform the same exercises and workouts, but the stakes will rise: more reps, more rounds, more weight. Here’s how they break down:
Phase 1: Weeks 1–4
These weeks are designed to lay the groundwork for your 2017 physique. Approach this first phase with as much intensity as you can muster while also being mindful of any limitations you might have. As noble as it seems to “push yourself” on January 1, it’s better to wade in and test the depth rather than diving in and obliterating yourself.
Phase 2: Weeks 5–8
Now that you’ve got a solid base of conditioning, it’s time to chisel away that additional layer of fat. Because your body has adapted to the work, it will respond rapidly to the additional volume here, so keep a close eye on the mirror as your body transforms.
In both Phases, you’ll find these programming formats:
- AMRAP. Perform as many rounds as possible of the listed moves in a predetermined amount of time, usually 10 to 20 minutes. This keeps the focus on max work in minimum time while providing easy benchmarks for progression, according to Grinnell. For example, in Week 1, you’ll log your total number of completed rounds plus reps for the full-body 15-minute AMRAP. In Week 2, you’ll try to best that number in the same amount of time.
- Ladders. Grinnell’s ladder has a descending-rep scheme that keeps you working at a high rate from start to finish. Your focus is on getting the work done as efficiently as possible, pouring max effort into each rep to trigger the best metabolic response.
- Strength Circuits. Moving quickly between exercises denies your body the luxury of full recovery, adding a cardiovascular component to the workout and increasing your burn. Choose loads slightly heavier than normal here to engage more fast-twitch muscle fibers — the kind most responsible for the shape and appearance of your physique.
Day 1: Full-Body AMRAP
Load a sled in an open area and take a high grip on the posts with your arms straight. Push the sled forward deliberately, driving forward with your knees and keeping your hips low until you’ve gone the requisite distance. Turn the sled around to get ready for your next round.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes turned out slightly, and hold a set of dumbbells at your shoulders, elbows down. Kick your hips back and lower into a deep squat, then extend your legs and hips and stand quickly, using that upward momentum to push the weights overhead to full extension of your arms. Lower the weights to your shoulders and go right into the next rep.
Dumbbell Renegade Row
Get into a plank position with your hands on top of a set of dumbbells, placed parallel on the floor underneath your shoulders. Keep your head, hips and heels in line and your hips square as you alternately row the dumbbells up into your rib cage, keeping your elbows in close to your sides and your head neutral.
Dumbbell Walking Lunge
Hold a set of dumbbells at your sides and take a large step forward, bending both knees and lowering straight down toward the floor, knee over your toes. Push off your trailing foot, extend both legs and bring the trail leg through to the front, going right into the next lunge. Continue, alternating legs.
Days 2 & 4: Active Recovery
As you start the new year, the inclination will be to work out as often as possible to incinerate that unwanted fat.
However, Grinnell recommends two days of active recovery per week, ideally situated between your training days. Mild activity can actually help accelerate your progress by getting your blood flowing, moving nutrients into and wastes out of cells, and burn a couple of calories while you’re at it, according to Grinnell. Stretching and foam rolling on these days also can facilitate recovery while improving flexibility and range of motion.
Here are some examples of great Active Recovery day activities. These should be done at an easy to moderate pace for 30 to 60 minutes, max.
- Bike Riding
- Tai Chi
Day 3: Strength & Conditioning Ladders
Place your hands outside shoulder-width apart on the floor and extend your legs behind you so your head, hips and heels are in line. Keeping your body stiff, slowly lower your chest until your elbows make 90-degree angles. Press forcefully back to the start.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a dumbbell at your chest with your elbows down, chest lifted. Bend your knees and squat down to parallel or below if you can, then push through your heels and extend your legs and hips to return to standing.
Stand on a box and loop a superband around a pull-up bar. Take an overhand grip on the bar and step into the band with one foot. Step off the box completely with your other leg and hang from the bar. Contract your shoulder blades, then drive your elbows down and back to pull your chest up to the bar and pause briefly, then lower to the start.
From standing, crouch down and place your hands on the floor, then jump your legs behind you into a plank. Do a push-up, hop your feet back underneath you, then extend your legs and hips and leap into the air as high as you can, reaching your hands overhead. Land and go immediately into the next rep.
Hold a nonreactive medicine ball with both hands in front of you. In one movement, lift the ball overhead, extending your arms as high as you can while coming up onto your toes, then use your whole body to slam it down — dropping your hips, contracting your abs and using your arms to slam the ball into the ground. Pick it up and repeat right away.
Day 5: Strength Circuits & HIIT
Stand behind a barbell with your feet hip-width apart, toes underneath the bar. Keeping a flat back, kick your hips back, then bend your knees until you can grasp the bar outside your legs in an alternating grip. Brace your core, retract your shoulder blades and then stand up, extending your knees and hips at the same rate to pull the bar in a straight line up along the front of your body to full extension. Slowly return to the start, touch down briefly and repeat right away.
Dumbbell Bench Press
Hold a set of dumbbells with your arms extended straight up over your chest, palms facing away from you. Bend your elbows and lower the weights down slowly until your arms make 90-degree angles and your elbows are in line with your shoulders. Forcefully extend your arms to the start, squeezing your chest at the top.
Grab a heavy set of dumbbells or kettlebells and hold them at your sides with your shoulder blades retracted and packed. Take small steps forward with your knees slightly bent to prevent swinging of the weights and walk quickly until you cover the required distance.
Adjust the bike to a moderate tension and pedal and pull as hard and as fast as you can for the time allotted. During the rest intervals, pick your feet up off the pedals and let go of the handles until it is time to go again (or get hit in the calf).
Adjust the foot straps across your instep and take an overhand grip on the handle. Keeping your heels planted and your arms and back straight, use your legs to push back hard to full extension, then use your arms to pull the handle in toward your chest, driving your elbows rearward and leaning back from your hips. Reverse the steps and slide forward to return to the start.
Position a barbell in a rack at thigh height or lower. Take a shoulder-width underhand grip on the bar and extend your legs. Lift your hips and brace your core so your body forms a straight line. Drive your elbows back, keeping your arms in close to your sides and your body rigid, and pull yourself up. Lower slowly to the start and repeat right away.