We’re weeks into coronavirus quarantine, and many of us are learning to take some pleasure in doing things slowly—baking bread, maybe, or indulging in spa-level grooming treatments. But workouts are not one of them—we’re ready to say homebound fitness is starting to feel like something to simply get through to maintain any sliver of physical shape or mental health. By now, you’ve probably scrolled through at least a half dozen fitness apps and perused three or four different websites to see if kettlebells are back in stock. Luckily for you, one of the best workouts to do from home is also the quickest. Enter high-intensity interval training (HIIT). You’ve heard of it, and even possibly done a lot of it in group fitness classes like Barry’s—and there’s nothing to stop you from knocking out a HIIT workout at home.
As the name suggests, HIIT training involves intense, max-effort movements followed by short rest periods. Those bursts are a proven way to improve both overall cardiovascular health and athletic performance. You’ll burn calories rapidly, and the burn continues long after the typically short workout is finished. It’s ideal if you don’t want to spend hours on end working out—which seems likely enough if you’re working out in your living room.
“Since most HIIT workouts max out around 20 minutes, you can do it in the middle of the workday when you need a break, before focusing in on what needs to be done next,” says Ben Sweeney, a New York City–based trainer. “Getting in that fitness will help boost your energy and keep you healthy.”
Each interval can range from a few seconds to a few minutes, followed by a period of rest. That rest is as important as the work, and skimping on it is the most common HIIT error. These workouts rely on working as hard as you possibly can during the on-periods, which requires a period of recovery. Skimping on rest doesn’t make you a hero—it just means you’re not going as hard as you should be during the rest of the workout. So how much rest is enough? There’s wiggle room here, but a ratio of one or two parts work to one part rest is a good starting place.
“You want to be working at maximal capacity, and the rounds should become more challenging and fatiguing as you work through the set,” says Dan DiStefano, a Boston-based instructor at Barry’s. “It’s great because this method can be applied to so many movements, even with limited or no equipment.”
Ready to bang out the hardest, quickest workout of your life? Here are two workouts, one using body weight only and another only a set of dumbbells.
A no-equipment HIIT workout
DiStefano suggests doing three sets of a four-minute Tabata, a style of HIIT developed by Japanese professor Dr. Izumi Tabata in the late 1990s. Do each of the below movements for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, then repeat until you hit the 4: 00 mark. After each set, rest two minutes before moving on to the next.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Squat down and place your hands on the floor, and jump your feet back so that you’re in a plank. Do one push-up. Jump your feet back to your hands, and from this crouched position jump up as high as you can.
Start standing with your feet slightly wider than hip-width distance, with toes turned out. Lower down into a squat position until your butt is just below your knees. Jump up quickly, landing as softly as possible back into a squat, without letting your knees fall in toward each other.
Plank and hollow-hold combo
Get in a high plank position with shoulders over wrists, creating a straight line from shoulders to heels. Engage the core. After 20 seconds, rest 10 seconds, then go into a hollow hold. Begin lying face up, with legs fully extended and arms overhead, one palm stacked on top of the other. Engage your abs and round your spine, lifting your head, neck, shoulders, and legs off the floor to make a C shape with your body. Your arms should stay extended by your ears.
A HIIT workout with dumbbells
Sweeney prescribes five rounds of a three-minute As Many Reps as Possible (AMRAP) in a 15-12-9 rep scheme. Do 15 reps of the first exercise, followed by 15 reps of the next exercise, and so on. Then, when you finish the set of 15, move on to the 12, and so on. Once your running clock hits three minutes, rest for three minutes, then pick up where you left off. If you make it down the ladder, work back up until you’ve finished your fifth three-minute period. Use medium-weight dumbbells—you know better than we do what that means for you.
Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width distance, holding dumbbells in front of your thighs with your palms facing in. With a slight bend in your knees, push your hips back and slowly slide the weights down your legs toward the floor. Keeping your spine straight, push through your heels to return to start for one rep.
Do a burpee in front of your dumbbells. Jump over the weights to the other side. That’s one rep. Repeat, with a jump in between each rep.
Stand with feet hip-width part, holding dumbbells at shoulder height with palms facing in. Exhale as you extend both arms overhead, pressing the weights upward. Return to start for one rep.