Best HIIT workout?

So what is the best HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workout? Is there a thing as the universal best – of course not. ‘Best’ will always be in the context of the person and his or her individual goals. But even with this in mind, I will still give you what in my opinion could be one of the top contenders for a universal best HIIT workout.

In order to qualify for a top contender it needs to consist of one or more movements that you can give your absolute everything and drain but muscles and lungs. Therefore tabata (20 sec work 10 sec rest – 8 rounds) push ups does not qualify – yes you would be able to push yourself to muscle failure in triceps, pecs and shoulders, but you would not activating big enough muscles, to have your lungs fighting for air.

The whole thought behind HIIT is ‘bang for the buck’; do very high intensity for a very short amount of time and reap great benefits. I will not go into detail about all the benefits of HIIT, why it works etc. But when it comes to losing body fat, HIIT has always been my preferred choice.

One of my very first blog posts was actually about one of the HIIT workouts I use The Litvinov workout. This is a highly efficient protocol, that leaves you absolutely hammered afterwards. It is right up there with the most intense of its kind, but it is not my choice as the best, although it is part of my personal favorites.
Another one of the HIIT workouts, I have described in an earlier blog post, is the Tabata front squats. This is just pure mean! And it fits incredibly well with the Tabata protocol – if you do it right, you will not be doing anything at all after having done those.

But why are none of these my bet for best HIIT workout. They are among the most efficient; meaning that they are some of the HIIT protocols, where you get the absolute most bang for your buck, along with all out 200 or 400 meter sprints they really do deliver. Their “net-effect” on the body and fat loss may even be greater, than my overall choice for the best. But what they also introduce though, is a greater risk of injury. If you are not used to sprinting and go directly for all out 200/400 meters or hill sprints you will probably soon know how a pulled hamstring feels. With proper warm-up and thought, they are however; amazing. You work both your stamina, your conditioning and your agility – that’s fitness 101!

The frontsquat Tabata introduces the risk of injury if you break the proper form. Which would not be all that uncommon, given the nature of the Tabata protocol. Intense burning from your legs, combined with your lungs fighting for a grasp of air, might take your thoughts away from focusing 100% on proper technique. I would never suggest that you should avoid them – they are too great for that; but be aware of the risks involved.

Now my overall best HIIT workout then; needs to be something where you can give yourself a 100%, not be limited by local fatigue, as in the push up example earlier, and that does not introduce a high risk of injury, even though you are pushing yourself to and beyond the limit. What I have found to do this best, is actually something as far away from gymnastics, bodyweight exercises and bodybuilding as the cross trainer. But beware, some of these are built by engineers, that never saw a human move! However, if you are in the lucky situation and find yourself a proper engineered version, they can provide a totally brutal finisher.

I am a big fan of the Tabata protocol, and doing it on one of these cross trainers, actually gives you the ability to, rather safely, push yourself all the way to the limit. Set the resistance high enough for you to not propel yourself out of the machine, but low enough to keep a high pace that will have you fighting for air in every of the 10 second rest periods. Of course it is still possible to hurt yourself on one of these, but compared to other workouts where you can push yourself to the same degree, these machines are rather safe. I usually use these if I am in a period where I can not risk injury, or just starting to reintroduce HIIT into my workouts.

Try it at the end of your normal workout, one or two times a week. Start with 4-5 minutes of warm-up if you are a 100% sure that your body is warm from the preceding workout. Go full nuts on the tabata intervals and spend another 4-5 minutes cooling down on the machine afterwards. If you have done it correctly, just spinning the cross trainer at low speed during cool down, will feel like a challenge!

The Front Squat Tabata

I have signed myself up to compete in the Danish Crossfit Open, which is being held on the 23 of this month. Therefore I have not been super active writing blog-posts, as work and training has claimed almost all of my time. But I am still getting lots of ideas, as to what I could write about, both thoughts, tips and advices. So this lapse in updates, is in no way a sign of me signing off.

Today I will give a few tips on one of the best HIIT exercises available. My guess is that most people have heard of Tabata in one way or the other. If not I will give a very short summary.

The basics

The Tabata protocol is a product of Professor Izumi Tabata’s research. He put some Olympic Speedskaters on a training protocol consisting of something as simple as 4 minutes workout(3min 50sec) 4 times a week, and as wikipedia explains it:

 …obtained gains similar to a group of athletes who did steady state (70% VO2max) training 5 times per week. The steady state group had a higher VO2max at the end (from 52 to 57 ml/kg/min), but the Tabata group had started lower and gained more overall (from 48 to 55 ml/kg/min). Also, only the Tabata group had gained anaerobic capacity benefits.

The 4 minute workout consists of 8×20 sec. absolutely all-out work intervals, and 8×10 sec. rest. So 20 sec. work 10 sec. rest for 8 rounds and a total of 4 minutes.

How to implement

The key to unlocking the full potential of this protocol, is selecting either one or a selection of exercises that enable you to go absolutely all-out. I have seen lots of really stupid Tabata workouts, where people use it with exercises that does not activate enough muscles, or are to technical to reap the full benefits. You should NOT be able to do anything once you are finished. If you can do two Tabata’s in a row, then the first just was not hard enough.

The Front Squat Tabata

One of the best ways to implement the Tabata protocol is doing frontsquats. I have done them freestanding with some success, but actually this is a exercise, where you can get good results, from using the hated smith machine. Doing them in the smith, enables you to rack and unrack much quicker and not worry about balance or anything else.

Before starting I would recommend that you test a few times, to find the optimal stance for your feet. You will most likely feel like you lean a bit backwards, when fully extended at the top, but this makes the bottom position much better. Experiment, and once you have found the optimal stance, then make some marks on the floor, in order for you to quickly reposition your feet if you, during the sets, have to move them to catch your breath and relieve some uncomfort – which I suspect will be needed.

How much weight you should put on of course totally depends on your strength. I would aim for something that gives around 15-17 reps, on the first 20 sec round.

Then this is basicly it. I would recommend using a timer-app of some kind, that beeps for every rest- and work-set. But of course it is possible to do this, by only looking at a watch.

I will later share a few other good ways to implement the Tabata protocol, but this is by my opinion the absolute best.

Have fun – atleast afterwards, they are no fun doing – but they will give you a cardiovascular hit like no other. Implement them on a regular basis and be prepared to see the fat peel of and your overall fitness level skyrocket.