Get With HIIT!

JYM_GIRL_BLOG_jumping rope

Time for cardio! Most people dread it and end up doing it the wrong way, which not only makes it unenjoyable but ineffective, too. No wonder so many people dread cardio!

Here’s the deal: The most effective form of cardio you can do is high-intensity interval training (HIIT for short). HIIT involves short bursts of an intense activity performed for a specific period of time followed by a prescribed rest period – and then these alternating work-and-rest intervals are repeated for the duration of the workout.

Bottom line, HIIT cardio torches body fat. I can speak from experience. HIIT increases your metabolic rate, thus allowing you to burn calories long after your workout is over. Jim has plenty of articles on the science behind why HIIT is far more effective for fat burning than traditional steady-state cardio – for example, his great Complete Cardio series on – so feel free to check those out if you want to see more on the research.

Far too often in the gym I see women head straight for the elliptical or treadmill and ignore weights completely. They jump on the cardio machine and do continuous steady-state cardio and see minimal results. Steady-state cardio is often used by bodybuilders (female bodybuilders included) because they think lower intensity cardio will help to preserve muscle mass. But this is a flawed approach for most people. HIIT has actually been shown to enhance muscle gains, and you definitely don’t have to worry about losing muscle while doing it.

Ladies, cardio is very important — no matter what the goal. I get a ton of people who think I’m crazy or dumb for doing HIIT when training for a competition or incorporating it into my strength-training routine in general. HIIT has done nothing but enhance my strength and muscle gains and help keep me lean. Also, I think my numbers speak for themselves for all of those people who say HIIT, or cardio in general, has no place when training for strength and competitive powerlifting.

There are plenty of ways to incorporate HIIT into your routine. I often do HIIT as a separate workout or add it to the end of my strength-training session. A lot of people ask me, “When is the best time of day to do cardio?” It doesn’t matter when you do cardio. Whatever time of day you’ll get it done, that’s when you should do it, whether it means before or after your workout, in a completely separate session or even during your workout with cardioacceleration. (I’ll be doing a blog on cardioacceleration at some point; in the meantime, here’s a great cardioacceleration article by Jim). First thing in the morning, on a lunch break, late at night – whenever you’re most likely to hit it hard and be consistent with it!

My HIIT workouts usually consist of Tabatas. Here’s what a Tabata workout looks like: Pick any exercise (or a couple of different ones), do it for 20 seconds straight as hard as you can, then rest 10 seconds – repeat this 20 seconds on/10 seconds off format eight times for a total of four minutes.

My favorite exercises to do for Tabatas are burpees, hang cleans, power cleans, jumping rope, bench step-ups, dead landmines, dead/curl/press, kettlebell swings, jumping lunges and box jumps, just to name a handful. I usually pick two exercises for each Tabata and rotate back and forth between the two. I do at least 20 minutes of HIIT per day, which is five Tabatas total.

Tabatas are my go-to form of HIIT, but I like to switch it up, too. There are many other forms of HIIT you can do, so experiment with different types and various work-to-rest ratios. For example, if you’re new to HIIT, start at, say, 15 seconds on, 45 seconds off, and work your way up. Jim offers a great Beginner-to-Advanced HIIT Program in Part 2 of his Complete Cardio series, so check that out here if you get a chance.

Here are a few samples of what a normal HIIT workout looks like for me:

HIIT Workout Example 1
Tabatas: 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off – 8 rounds for a total of 4 minutes
5 Tabatas total = 20 minutes

Round 1:
Jump Squats x2 (20 seconds on, 10 off, 20 on, 10 off)
Push-Ups x2
Jump Squats x2
Push-Ups x2

Round 2:
High Knees x2
Mountain Climbers x2
High Knees x2
Mountain Climbers x2

Round 3:
Dead Landmines x2
Band Woodchoppers x2
Dead Landmines x2
Band Woodchoppers x2

Round 4:
Dead/Curl/Press x2
Bench Step-Ups x2
Dead/Curl/Press x2
Bench Step-Ups x2

Round 5:
Hang Clean x2
Kettlebell Swings x2
Hang Clean x2
Kettlebell Swings x2

HIIT Workout Example 2
40 seconds on, 20 seconds off

Round 1: Bench Step-Ups – total of 4 minutes
Round 2: High Knees (20 sec), Jumping Lunges (20 sec), rest 20 sec – total of 4 minutes
Round 3: Star Jumps (20 sec), Mountain Climbers (20 sec), rest 20 sec – total of 4 minutes
Round 4: Squat Jumps (20 sec), Push-Ups (20 sec) , rest 20 sec – total of 4 minutes
Round 5: Kettlebell Swings (20 sec), Jump Rope (20 sec), rest 20 sec – total of 4 minutes

HIIT Workout Example 3
At-home HIIT workout:

Do 10 reps of each of the following 10 exercises performed as a continuous circuit, taking as little rest as possible (preferably no rest). Repeat the circuit 1-4 times, depending on your fitness level. (Beginners, 1-2 times; intermediate and advanced individuals, 3-4 times). Rest 1-2 minutes between each circuit.

Jumping Jacks
Mountain Climbers
Jackknife Crunches
Jump Squats
Bench Dips
Star Jumps
Jumping Lunges
Russian Twists

If you have any questions regarding the above sample workouts, specific exercises (what they are, how to do them) or HIIT in general, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me or any of the other fit ladies on the JYM Girls Facebook page. We’re here to help in any way possible!

I hope to start seeing less and less cardio bunnies in the gym and more women lifting weights and doing HIIT cardio! Ladies, I can’t stress enough how important it is to incorporate HIIT for ANY goal. Even if muscle mass is the goal, HIIT can enhance muscle gains and help to keep you lean. Like I said, I do HIIT on a regular and I train mainly for strength.

HIIT cardio is not only important for staying lean, keeping the fat off and looking great – it’s important for cardiovascular health, too. If you don’t want to do HIIT for fat loss, then at least do it for your health. That’s the most important thing, and you all deserve at least that! So go get that heart rate up and HIIT the JYM!

My final cardio tip (for now!) is this: Always make HIIT fun. It’s almost like another weight-training session! You can do many different exercises with weights and make it a cardio workout. Pick your favorite moves, make it fun … and get it done ladies!

Meet JYM Girl Katie Kollath

Katie step ups

lunges on track