High end rewards for high intensity training

Photo Credit: Jenni C, Flickr.

Photo Credit: Jenni C, Flickr.

High intensity training has the potential to bring lots to your own training table aside from making you feel like a badass. But understanding how, when, and why to put it into our workout weeks can be a little confusing. So let’s clear that right up. 
There are approximately a bajillion articles that explain the science behind this and how your energy systems work. It’s pretty cool stuff, actually, but for today’s purposes I just want to show you how to start doing it safely and effectively while making it easier to work on your own goals. 
Why do we need high intensity training?
First of all, It does a hell of a job burning fat because it takes advantage of the “afterburn” effect, when our bodies scramble to repay the oxygen debt it incurred during really hard work. 
It also makes all the other workouts we do feel easier by improving our ability to use oxygen. We become better conditioned and can perform better. They offer more opportunities to move often because they take very little time to do. Plus you can find ways to do high intensity work with little to no equipment at all. 
Training in this way can look differently depending on the kind of workout: metabolic conditioning, high intensity interval training, sprinting, sled pushes and pulls… there are small differences in the characteristics of various high intensity workouts, but we really just need to know a few basic things to get going. 
jumpandstuffTo reap the benefits of high intensity workouts you need to know a few things:-Give a really hard effort. Then be willing to really rest when it’s time to rest.

-If you’re doing a 45 minute high intensity interval workout that you’re not actually doing high intensity work. You’re doing cardio, and that’s fine too. But we’re working different energy systems and producing different training effects. I want everyone to know exactly what they’re getting when they choose what to do.

-It’s not a substitute for strength training: but it’s a killer way to have more opportunities to build and retain some muscle as you work on fat loss.

It’s also helpful for “greasing the groove” of movement when you do sessions like metabolic conditioning, which use lighter loads of strength moves to produce that good stuff I’ve been talking about.


The cons of high intensity training.
Here’s my one caveat to promoting high intensity work: I have nothing against training this way, only in how it gets used.
Many people have become so accustomed to doing these very demanding workouts that we begin to believe that if we’re not completely breathless and exhausted that we’re not getting anything out of the workout. This simply isn’t true. 

Yes, sometimes you’ll be pooped after your workout and it can be fine. Sometimes you’ll leave feeling glowy and energized. I’m for working hard  – but only to accomplish what I think you want too: to improve. 

It can feel exhilarating to come away feeling like we just got thoroughly worked – but it’s not always an indication that we made ourselves better.


And in reality, if you’re so wiped out after every session that you can hardly walk around for the rest of the day, you likely are overdoing it. Chase better, not tired. 

Precisely because these workouts are so taxing, you shouldn’t be doing them all the time. 1-2 times per week is plenty and will allow your body time to both reap the benefits and recover. 

So are we gonna work out or what?
Here are 3 ways out of many that I like to program high intensity training for myself and my clients.

1. Sprinting
Sprinting is great for so many reasons. It will greatly enhance your power in your legs. It can be done just about anywhere; you can smoke your legs and glutes in under 10 minutes; and it’s really fun to go so fast you can pretend you’re running from the law.  

For beginners, it can actually feel easier on joints to run up a hill, and it forces you into a more athletic position as you lean forward a bit and drive those elbows back while sailing up the hill. Just don’t lean TOO much. You want to be upright enough to be powerful. 

Hill sprints also help build more muscular, powerful legs and glutes. They give you tons of bang for your buck. 

How long?
I like to keep the time increment very, very short and just go as fast as I can, then recover fully. 
How hard?
Remember – a true sprint is an all out effort. If you’re really giving that, you will need rest – a minute or two. 

Where though and how do I do it?
Treadmills, hills, your own street… wherever you choose, you’ll crank your heart rate up like crazy and make you feel and perform more like an athlete. Try this sprinting workout – it works well for seasoned sprinters and new kids too. 


The Hills are Alive (for Sprinting)
Instructions: Find a steep hill. Warm up a bit first. I really like this one for beginners because it’s more intuitive than timed intervals. Instead of counting seconds or distance, you’re going to go as hard as you can until you feel that dramatic slow down course through your body.  If you’re someone who really wants a time to shoot for, try around 8-10 seconds as your work goal at first.   1. Look around you. How far up the hill are you? I usually do these on a steep hill in a nearby neighborhood.2. Choose a landmark near where you stopped. Now walk back down the hill, catch your breath. You’ll be resting for a minute or two total.

3. This is where it becomes challenging. You’ll do this anywhere from 8-10 times, and by around set 5 to 6 it’ll be tougher to push yourself.

4. Keep at it. This part of sprinting trains our mental toughness and we can take that with us into not only workouts but life. 


So you want to go to the gym? Try a metabolic conditioning workout to get some extra muscle building work in while torching fat. Here’s a quick and dirty one to take on:

The Complex (a Metcon)
Instructions: grab a bar (or dumbbells, if you prefer). Now, without stopping between movements, you’re going to complete everything in the set for the indicated reps. You’ll rest for 2 minutes, and then do it again, each time working the number of reps listed. Notice how the reps go down each set? You’ll need that to happen as you progress through the workout.

Front squat x 8
Overhead Press x 8
Single Leg Deadlift x 8/side
Bent over row x 8


No equipment? No space? No problem. I gotchoo, boo. Give this one a go:

The Do-Anywhere HIIT
This high intensity interval workout is easy to remember, simple to learn, and can be done just about anywhere. 

Instructions: set a timer for 30 seconds of work and 15 seconds of rest. Alternate between these 2 movements. for a total of between 6 and 8 rounds – 3-4 for each movement. 

Squats (bodyweight or add load for a goblet squat if you have it)
Spider pushups


What’s your favorite way to HIIT it? Leave a comment and share! 

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