High Intensity Interval Training Workout At Home (Beginners Are Welcome Too!)
After I discovered High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) I just cannot go back to any other type of exercise. Here’s what science says about HIIT, plus a high intensity interval training workout routine to do at home – variation for beginners included.
After I discovered High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) I just cannot go back to any other type of exercise. Why? Because HIIT is the fastest way to bring change to your body. Whether you want to lose inches, increase your strength, or your endurance, interval training is the go-to way to make it happen rapidly.Below I’ve included an excerpt from my interval-training book “Flat Belly Firm Butt in 16 Minutes: Get An Hour’s Results in 16 Minutes.”I’ve also included a high intensity interval training workout to do at home with a variation for beginner and more advanced exercisers. Let’s go!
Here’s why interval training impressed me right from the start.
After I gained weight as a graduate student at Stanford engineering, I decided I’d make healthy living a priority. Since then, I’ve been moving my body almost religiously five times a week.
By “moving” I refer to a combination of “results-focused” and “easy-going” exercise: from weight lifting and cardio at the gym, to yoga and pilates classes, to brisk walking, to barre-type and High Intensity Interval Training at-home DVDs.
My attempts to find the perfect workout started at the gym. With time I began switching up my gym routine. I went from doing five weight lifting exercises to seven or nine, and then after a while went back to three or five—but added 15 minutes of stretching and 25 minutes of cardio.
None of these changes produced any significant difference on my body, but at the time, I didn’t care that much about results. I was content with enjoying myself when working out.
You see, my number one goal was—and is—to live a long life. “Easy-going” exercise is just what you need to make it happen. For longevity, you don’t need to exert yourself too much—but you do need to keep moving!
Even though I didn’t revel in just maintaining my fitness and only making incremental improvements, I was okay with my workout schedule.
Maybe I didn’t bother with the very slow results, because I just didn’t know what was possible. Most importantly, I didn’t know that I could enjoy myself just as much, and get amazing results as well. Who said you have to sacrifice joy for results?
And then I discovered HIIT—High Intensity Interval Training. When doing interval training you alternate between very intense short bursts of exercise and rest. HIIT posed a different type of challenge, and I wanted to explore it more. I soon replaced a weekly 60-minute-long gym workout with a (legs-focused) 16-minute HIIT workout.
I felt a bit guilty for exercising “less,” but at the same time I enjoyed being done in 16 minutes rather than the normal hour and a half of going to the gym and back.
A month later I noticed something different about my legs. They were leaner. There was definition that didn’t exist before. They had changed shape a bit. They were less of an inverted triangle, as they were narrower at the hip level than they used to be. But why? What had changed?
And then it dawned on me. HIIT was the only thing that had changed. I thought I was slacking by only doing a 16-minute HIIT workout, but it seemed that this workout produced far more effective results than my normal 60-minute gym session.
I was impressed! I had never seen results that fast. And the passion for changing my physique while getting stronger and fitter came back.
But my experience with interval training is not a solo incident. It has scientifically been shown that HIIT gets you extremely fast results. From health benefits, to improved aerobic capacity, muscle growth, and fat loss, studies have indicated that HIIT is surprisingly effective.
Many studies even indicate that HIIT doesn’t just get you fast results, it gets you results faster than doing longer workouts. Work out less, get more results. Amazing, right? Let’s dive in.
Is HIIT more effective than moderate exercise for losing fat?
You may think you need to slave at the gym on the treadmill, the stationary bike, or the elliptical. But this might not be the optimal way to lose fat. Trapp et al. conducted a High Intensity program for 15 weeks with three weekly 20-minute HIIT sessions in young women. HIIT consisted of an eight-second sprint followed by 12 seconds of low intensity cycling.
Another group of women carried out an aerobic cycling protocol that consisted of steady state cycling at 60% VO2 max for 40 minutes (VO2 max is the best fitness level metric). Results showed that women in the 20-minute HIIT group lost significantly more fat (2.5 kg or 5.5 lb.) than those in the 40-minute steady state aerobic exercise program. I call this efficiency, don’t you? And this is only the beginning.
HIIT might be the fastest way to increase your fitness
Okay, so we know HIIT is beneficial to our bodies, but the real question here is, does HIIT improve your fitness level faster than moderate exercise? Gibala et al. studied the effects of sprint-interval training versus high volume endurance training.
Sprint interval training is a type of high intensity training where people specifically perform sprints as their main form of exercise. The authors studied 16 men in total, eight in each one of the two groups. Both groups worked out six times a week for a total of two weeks.
The HIIT group performed four to six repeats of 30-second “all out” cycling at 250% with four-minute recovery. The endurance group did 90–120 minutes of continuous cycling at 65% . Overall, the HIIT group worked out for 2.5 hours, while the endurance group devoted 10.5 hours.
The authors found that six sessions of either low volume sprint-interval training or traditional high volume endurance training induced similar improvements in muscle oxidative capacity, muscle buffering capacity, and exercise performance.
In other words, 2.5 hours of high-intensity exercise gives you the same results as 10.5 hours of exercise. The numbers here speak for themselves.
“Doing 10 one-minute sprints on a standard stationary bike with about one minute of rest in between, three times a week, works as well in improving muscle as many hours of conventional long-term biking less strenuously.”
I know it sounds crazy that 16-minutes can produce better results than an hour. No matter how many studies you I had read, I only believed it when I saw the results in the mirror.
But don’t take my word for it. Try doing a High Intensity Interval Training workout for yourself!
(Or check out more of the science in HIIT’s Wikipedia page.)
16-minute, At Home High Intensity Interval Training Workout Routine (Advanced/Intermediate version)
No equipment needed for this bodyweight home workout routine! I love it because it works each and every muscle of your body. Plus, this High Intensity Interval Training workout routine is not just training your muscles – it’s also great cardio.
I’ll show the HIIT workout for seasoned exercisers here and then right below a modified version to make this into a High Intensity Interval Training workout routine for beginners!
An excellent choice for your abs, arms, chest, shoulders, and back.
Get into a plank position with your palms underneath your shoulders and your feet together. Now bend your elbows and lower your body until your chin or torso is almost touching the floor. Push yourself up to starting position and repeat.
Make sure that you’re neither sticking your butt out nor letting your hips sag down. This is not proper push-up form. Also, take care that your body remains in a perfectly straight plank position both when you’re going down and when you’re pushing yourself up.
Finally, pay attention. Are you lowering your body as close to the floor as possible? Or, are you only pretending you’re doing push-ups? Don’t take C for effort, give it your all!
2. Snowboarder’s Squats
An excellent choice for your legs and butt, plus amazing as home cardio.
With your feet more than hip width apart, squat down, resting one hand on your leg and touching the floor with the other hand. Now jump 180 degrees and land (softly) squatted down, touching the floor with the same arm.
Again, if touching the floor is hard, then don’t push yourself to squat low. Also, make sure you land softly. In Greece, we say, “Do not land like a bag of potatoes.” Exactly. Do not land on the ground making a huge sound and risking knee injuries. Control the movement, and land on the ground softly, as if you were a cat.
3. Plank In and Out
Keep up the jumping for some more cardio, your abs will also feel this!
Go down into plank position. With your body straight, jump forward, bringing your feet a couple of inches behind your palms. Quickly jump back to starting position and repeat.
If jumping is too hard, then just step to the front and then step to the back.
4. Star Crunch
Yup, this is one of the best home abs exercises. Lie down on the mat on your back with your arms open and extended above your head. Your legs are open and extended as well.
Now, with one swift motion, lift your torso up to the sitting position while you bend your knees and bring them on top of your hips. Hug your knees with your arms.
Keep your balance, and do not let your feet touch the floor. Then bring your torso and your legs back to the starting position in a controlled manner.
Pay attention to the arm movement. As you lift your torso up, your arms perform a circular movement around your body. This circular movement will engage more core muscles of your body.
High Intensity Interval Training Workout At Home – Beginner version
This is the exact same workout as above modified for beginners. You see,”high intensity” is relative to your current fitness level. What’s high intensity for a beginner won’t be high intensity for an advanced exerciser. What’s high intensity for you right now, won’t be high intensity for after a year of consistent exercise.
So if you’re a beginner, don’t limit yourself from the benefits of HIIT just because the name sounds scary. Let’s go!
If you’re not ready for the full push-up yet, then no worries. The half push-up comes to the rescue.
Just like in the regular push-up, get into a plank position with your palms beneath your shoulders. Now touch your knees on the floor.
Lower your body down until your torso or chin almost touches the floor. Then push your body back up and repeat.
TIP: Here’s a hint that can slightly change how this exercise feels. The closer your upper arms are to your body, the harder push-ups become and the more you work your triceps, the muscles at the back of your upper arms.
If, instead, your arms are open, with your palms not beneath your shoulders but in parallel to them, your chest muscles get worked more and the exercise feels easier. Choose the arm position that fits your needs the best.
2. Squat Pulses
Bring your feet a bit more than hip width apart with your feet facing about 30 degrees out to the sides. Always maintain a straight back by pushing your chest out and by tucking your pelvis in.
Look forward, extend your arms ahead of you (to keep balance), take a deep breath, then squat down relative to your flexibility.
Lower your seat down as low as you can, as if you were trying to sit on a chair behind you. Rather than coming back to the starting position right away, hold that seated squat position at the bottom as you pulse a few inches up and down for the entire exercise.
3. Elbow Plank
This is the base exercise for all the plank series. You may also hear it called the “forearm plank.” Lay stomach down on the floor with your feet together. Place your elbows under your shoulders, and lift your body up into a straight plank.
Do not push your pelvis up, and do not let your hips sink down. Contract your abs, and hold this position for as long as you can.
Lie down on the floor with your arms next to your body. With your knees over your hips, bring your heels together with flexed feet to form a double V shape. Now raise your head and shoulder blades off the floor. Raise your arms a few inches above the floor. Keep your feet together as you straighten your legs to the front.
Now bend your knees and bring them back. Repeat. Make sure your head and arms remain lifted throughout the movement. The lower your legs when on the extended position, the harder this exercise becomes.
Make sure you keep your lower back flat on the floor as you extend your legs. Arching it ruins the form of the exercise and puts your lower back at risk. Extending your legs higher will make the exercise easier and decrease your tendency to arch your lower back.
Get an interval timer and go!
This is not your usual comfy workout. This is a High Intensity Interval Training workout. Your focus is on really high intensity for a few seconds. You then take a rest. Repeat for 16 minutes and you’re done.
For example: You do as many push-ups as you can for 20 seconds. You then rest for 10 seconds. You then go ahead and do as many squats as you can for 20 seconds. You then again take a break for 10 seconds.
You don’t have to get into workout clothes, drive to the gym for 15 minutes, park the car, get a locker, work out for an hour, then repeat the process to come back home, shower, and finally…Almost two hours later you’re done.
Instead, picture this: You come home from work. You change into workout clothes. Then, you do your exercise. 16 minutes later you’re done and ready to take your shower. You enjoy the paradise of feeling that you get after both exercising and then showering. 25 minutes after you came back home from work, you’re done with exercise, you’ve already showered, and feel energized to have a lovely evening with your family. No extra hassles. No hidden costs of exercise.
Now all High Intensity Interval Training workouts require an interval timer. You can download one on your smartphone. Alternatively, I recommend using this free timer on your computer. You’ll be doing 8 rounds, of 2 minutes each, for a total of 16 minutes.
Each one of the 8 rounds includes:
20 seconds of push-ups, then 10 seconds break ->
20 seconds of squats, then 10 seconds break ->
20 seconds of frogs, then 10 seconds break ->
20 seconds of star crunches, then 10 seconds break ->
That’s a total of 2 minutes. You need to repeat this round another 7 times, to complete your 16-minutes of exercise.
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