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The Greatest Hit: Reaping the Benefits of High-Intensity Interval Training

The Greatest Hit: Reaping the Benefits of High-Intensity Interval Training


Summer bod, anyone?

If you're looking to supercharge your body's fat-burning potential and fit your workouts into a busy schedule, it's time to give high-intensity interval training a shot. HIIT boosts your metabolism, improves your cardiovascular strength and blood vessel function, and regulates your blood sugar. It also burns more calories than steady-state exercise.

"HIIT is one of the more engaging training methods," says Peloton Tread instructor Matty Maggiacomo. "It's harder to get bored, since you're changing intensity or activity every few minutes or seconds."

That said, HIIT is not for everyone, especially if you're an exercise newbie. Even old workout pros should do at least five minutes of dynamic stretching before their HIIT workouts, and five minutes of static stretching after. "Listen to your body," Maggiacomo says. "If something hurts, stop. You want to avoid injury at all costs."

Maggiacomo recommends these five exercises, each repeated three times with your choice of work-to-rest ratio. Try 1:2 (e.g., 20 seconds and then 40 seconds) if you're a beginner, 1:1 (30 seconds and then 30 seconds) if you're at the intermediate level, and 2:1 (40 seconds and then 20 seconds) if you're advanced. And remember, HIIT is all about timing, so pack a stopwatch. (Note: The following work-to-rest ratios are 1:2.)

Exercise 1: Sprints

Target: Total body

Work-to-Rest: Do 20 seconds of sprinting and then 40 seconds of walking.

Form: "Sprints can be done on a treadmill, track, or flat course. Get your knees higher than a steady-state run, use your upper body to accelerate, and drive your elbows behind your back."

Exercise 2: Jump Squats

Targets: Glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves

Work-to-Rest: Do 20 seconds of bodyweight jump squats and then 40 seconds of slow tempo, low-impact (no jumping) bodyweight squats.

Form: "Your feet should be hip- to shoulder-width apart before you launch off the ground," Maggiacomo says. "Use your upper body to gain momentum and land softly. Keep your knees behind your toes at all times."

Exercise 3: Wide-Grip Push-Ups

Targets: Chest, back, core

Work-to-Rest: Do 20 seconds of wide-grip bodyweight push-ups and then 40 seconds of a high plank hold.

Form: "Place your hands slightly wider than your shoulders with a neutral spine, engaging your abs, and bend your elbows at 90 degrees. Lower your chest to the floor. For the high plank, move your hands directly underneath your shoulders. Keep your chin away from your chest, suck your navel in, squeeze your butt, and push your heels back."

Exercise 4: Criss-Cross Mountain Climbers

Targets: Total body

Work-to-Rest: Do 20 seconds of criss-cross mountain climbers and then 40 seconds of an elbow plank hold.

Form: "Assume the plank position and drive opposite knees to opposite elbows," Maggiacomo says. "Go as fast as you can and make sure you are moving light on your feet and your shoulders remain directly in line with your wrists. For elbow planks, assume the plank position with your elbows bent and on the floor."

Exercise 5: Bicycle Crunches

Targets: Core

Work-to-Rest: Do 20 seconds of bicycles and then 40 seconds of basic crunches.

Form: "Lie on your back with your hands lightly touching your temples, and keep your elbows wide," Maggiacomo says. "Reach your left elbow toward your right knee as your drive that knee into your chest, then do the opposite and pick up the pace for 20 seconds. For basic crunches, drop your feet to the floor with your knees bent, keep your hands where they are, and crunch up as you exhale. Get your shoulders as far off the floor as possible and inhale as you release."

Depending on how long you'd like to work out, you can repeat this entire sequence, or advance the work-to-rest ratios as you progress -- e.g., 30-second sprints and 30-second walks/rest, or 40-second bicycles with 20-second crunches.

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