Most of you will have heard of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). It’s a great form of training, especially for those who are time poor. Below, we put a different slant on traditional HIIT workouts with High Intensity Resistance Interval Training. Do HIIT our way and you’ll be keeping it fresh and working every muscle in your body in a short space of time.
What is HIIT?
The clue is in the name of this type of training. In short, you do high intensity exercise in short bursts. In between each burst of exercise, you rest. You repeat for as many times as you see fit. The ‘interval’ in the name is the gap between bursts. Or is it the bursts themselves? Who knows. It’s exercise, rest, repeat. That’s the important point.
There are lots of variables that allow almost endless possibilities with HIIT. You can vary
- Duration of exercise bursts
- Duration of rest periods
- Number of bursts
- Type of exercise chosen for the bursts
… and so on. You can even change the exercise type for each burst. That makes HIIT great if you have varying requirements or if you need flexibility and variety in your workout.
Traditionally, HIIT is done on cardio equipment. For example
- Sprints on the rowing machine
- Hill intervals on the treadmill or sprint intervals outside
- Shuttle runs
- Cycling sprints
This makes a lot of sense if you are a track cyclist, a rower, a runner or, say a footballer. These versions of HIIT will have very relevant and transferable benefits for your sport.
But if you don’t have a specific sport for which cardio intervals are important then, as you’ll see, you have a lot more options to keep your HIIT fresh and interesting.
Why do HIIT?
Every type of exercise has its pros and cons. So, for example, even though we love HIIT, we also think steady cardio is great for some people and better in certain circumstances. But we also think HIIT is going to be the right choice for a lot of people, especially with everyone becoming increasingly time poor. Here are some of the benefits
- You can burn a lot of calories in a short space of time. This is great if you have a limited window for exercise.
- It’ll heat you up for hours – the after-burn – helping you burn some more calories.
- It will cause you to release adrenaline and growth hormone. These hormones help pull fat out of the fat stores whilst the after-burn, being low level ‘fat zone’ energy consumption, will help burn it.
- It will help increase your lactate threshold, especially if you choose cardio intervals. Your lactate threshold is the intensity at which lactic acid begins to be produced and affect your ability to continue. The higher your lactate threshold the better your speed and endurance will tend to be.
Our take on HIIT
Cardio intervals are great. They’re certainly not as dull as steady cardio. But they’re still kinda dull aren’t they? Same piece of equipment, speed up, slow down, speed up, slow down. And again. And again. It’s not our thing really. We don’t take part in any sports that have any direct relevance to any piece of cardio equipment. There is no reason for us to choose cardio intervals.
We are weight trainers. We love resistance exercise.
In a previous post we talked about a time-efficient approach to working the whole body using full-body exercises. But what if you want to target specific muscles and take them to fatigue? What if you also want the cardio benefits of HIIT? How about a resistance exercise version of HIIT where you can use several exercises to target different muscles? Now that sounds like fun!
Enter High Intensity Resistance Interval Training.
How it works
- Choose a number of exercises that you can do.
- Perform each exercise back to back with no rest until you have completed every exercise. That’s one burst.
- Rest for as long as you need to recover for the next burst.
- Go again and repeat as many times as you see fit.
The benefits of resistance intervals
In our view, there are a lot of reasons why resistance intervals are a better choice than cardio intervals, at least if you are not sports specific.
- You get to build strength and muscle
- It doesn’t feel like such a chore as cardio intervals. It’s more interesting.
- Unlike with cardio intervals, you can work the entire body.
- You don’t need a big lumpy piece of cardio equipment and nor do you have to go outside in the cold
Some guidelines for a successful resistance interval session
You have to put a little thought into your resistance interval training, otherwise you might find you don’t get through some of the exercises.
- Ensure exercise variety. Try and construct a circuit that targets different body parts with each exercise. That way your whole body gets a workout and almost every muscle will get to work hard at some point. If your aim is to completely fatigue a particular muscle or movement, then that’s different – you’d choose most of the exercises to hit the target movement or muscle.
- Avoid consecutive muscle fatigue. Unless you want to deliberately annihilate a specific muscle group, try and choose exercises that do not fatigue the same body part consecutively. For example, you wouldn’t put squat jumps and lunges next to each other unless you were looking to smash your thighs.
- Hog your equipment. Choose equipment that allows you to stay in one place for the entire session. That means machines are not a good option, especially if they are spread around the gym and require walking time or waiting time. Choose equipment you can move into a corner, for example. Dumbbells, kettlebells, Swiss balls, barbells, steps, medicine balls, that kind of thing.
- Go big to small. Start with bigger body parts and move to smaller ones. That way you’re more likely to get a good number of reps on each exercise. For example, if you did bicep curls and then followed it with pull ups, your biceps would be too knackered for you to get decent reps on pull ups. Instead, do the pull ups, put something else in between and then do the curls.
- Find the magic numbers. The number of exercises you choose and the number of times you perform the burst is up to you. We find that 5-6 exercises works well and 4-6 bursts. You should be toast after that.
A great Resistance Interval Blast (RIB)
There’s a lot you can do with resistance intervals. We’ll be doing a series of interval blasts that will be accessible to almost anyone, using the the most basic equipment and staying in one place. That’s to come.
For now though, we’ve constructed a workout that hits the entire body pretty hard with a variety of equipment. It’s still all in one place, and could be done in most commercial gyms, but you may not have all the equipment at home. You’ll need a power rack with pull up handles, a loaded barbell, a step and a Swiss ball.
Here’s the resistance burst
- Step power push ups – 12 or failure, whichever comes first
- Chins – 10 or failure
- Side to sideys – 24 or failure
- Military press / push press – 12 or failure
- Swiss ball tucks – 10 or failure
Then rest. Puff away until you have your breath back, then go again. Try not to rest too long.
Note that you don’t have to have a power rack. You could have a chinning bar and simply clean the barbell to your shoulders before you do the military press.
Here’s a run down of each exercise and the muscles worked
- Power push up: mainly chest, but also the core, triceps and the front delts (shoulders).
- Chins: Mainly the lats and other back muscles, but also the biceps and rear delts.
- Side to sideys: Thighs and glutes, and some hamstrings and calves
- Military press: Mainly the front and side delts with some upper chest, upper traps and triceps. The core works hard too
- Swiss ball tucks: Hip flexors, transverse and rectus abdominis.
That’s pretty much the whole body worked hard in just over 3 minutes. I ended up doing this resistance burst 4 times with about 60-90 seconds rest. I’d say I was resting for a total of 4 minutes and exercising for about 13. That’s 17 minutes, done. And with all the muscles in the body taken to fatigue four times. I can tell you that kept me pretty warm for a good few hours.
A word of caution and encouragement
This particular RIB requires you to be quite fit already and able to do chins and power push ups. That makes it a relatively advanced workout. Even if you’re really fit, be sure to warm up beforehand. Warm your body up, mobilise your joints. Work the primary muscles with similar but lighter movements, do the same moves in slo-mo – whatever works for you that will prepare you for the full blast. Be sure to stretch afterwards.
Perhaps this is too tough for you right now. That doesn’t mean resistance intervals are not something you can do. You absolutely can. You just need to find an exercise combination you can perform with resistance that keeps it challenging. There is an almost limitless set of possibilities. And there are plenty that can be designed for all levels of fitness, with the resistance being the variable that enables trainers at all levels to take part.
Going forward we’ll be posting a whole lot more of these sorts of workouts. We might even go live so you can join in!
If you’re short of time, enjoy workout variety and want to work your entire body, then High Intensity Resistance Interval Training will suit you well. You can be warmed up, beasted and stretched in about 25 minutes. You can start gently and build up your fitness. It’ll get you fitter, stronger and more powerful for sure. You’ll burn a load of calories, including plenty of fat in the after-burn, helping you to achieve your ideal weight and body composition. Why not give it a go?