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Got 12 Minutes? Try This HIIT Workout

By Kristen Mascia | July 15, 2020 | Rally Health

Working on getting fit? You may want to try high-intensity interval training (HIIT), exercise that alternates bursts of heart-pounding activity with periods of rest. A growing body of research suggests that HIIT can be as great as moderate-intensity, continuous exercise for improving body composition (aka burning fat and increasing muscle) and insulin sensitivity (your body’s ability to use blood sugar) and lowering blood pressure. 

Perhaps best of all, HIIT workouts are “short, sweet, and efficient,” says Minnesota-based Rally Health Coach Mara Ruttger, NASM-CPT. The key to doing them right is pushing yourself hard, but not so hard you flame out too soon. “You want to hit a seven out of 10,” Ruttger says, “if 10 is your max effort.” 

Interested in giving HIIT a whirl? If you’re new to exercise or haven’t done high-intensity activity before, get the go-ahead from your doctor before you try it. Once you’ve gotten her thumbs up, check out the moves below, which “target all of the major muscle groups,” Ruttger says, and can be done as a simple circuit for a fast, effective HIIT workout. For each exercise, complete as many reps as you can in 30 seconds; follow with 30 seconds of rest. If that’s too tough, don’t worry — just adjust your work and rest periods as needed. It’s fine to do the hard work interval for 20 seconds, or even 10, and then rest.  

Do each move twice before proceeding to the next. Complete the circuit twice for a 12-minute sweat session that strengthens muscles from head to toe. 

Squat With Crossover Crunch

Why it rocks: Compound exercises tap more than one muscle group. They’re super efficient: “By working more than one group at a time,” Ruttger says, “you burn more calories.”

What it works: So. Many. Things. Glutes, inner thighs, quadriceps, and calves, as well as abs, obliques, the muscles that support your spine, and your lats, the big flank muscles on both sides of your back.

How to do it: 

1. Stand with feet hip-width apart, toes pointed forward. 

2. With hands behind your head and elbows wide, squat down, pushing hips back until your thighs are parallel to the ground. 

3. As you return to standing, lift your left leg off the floor, twist at the waist, and bring your right elbow toward your left knee. 

4. Set the left leg down, and return to starting position. Repeat the squat and the crossover crunch on the other side. 

Too tough? Try this with a chair behind you. Squat down and sit, complete the crossover crunch, stand up, and repeat on the other side.

Bird Dog

Why it rocks: Doing the bird dog well requires balance and control. Practicing it works stabilizer muscles up and down your body.

What it works: Shoulders, muscles that support your spine, abs, quads, and glutes. 

How to do it: 

1. Start on the floor in a table top position with hands and knees on the floor. Position palms directly beneath your shoulders, bend your knees at 90 degrees, and flex your feet. 

2. Lift and slowly extend your left arm and your right leg at the same time. 

3. Return to starting position. Repeat on the other side. 

Too tough? Placing a rolled towel or mat beneath your knees can make this more comfortable. To make it easier, lift your arm first, then your leg, rather than both limbs at once.

Pushup

Why it rocks: The pushup is a foundational exercise for a reason, Ruttger says. For one, it activates muscles throughout the body. For another, banging out reps can raise your heart rate. Aerobic exercises that work the heart make it stronger, improve good cholesterol, and more.

What it works: Chest, shoulders, muscles in your ribs, arms, back, core, quads, and glutes.  

1. Start on all fours, positioning hands slightly wider than your shoulders. 

2. Enter a plank position by straightening arms and legs. Contract your core and quadriceps, ensuring your head is aligned with your spine. 

3. Lower down slowly, bringing your chest to the floor, with arms and elbows bent at a 90-degree angle.

4. Pause, then push up and return to starting position. Repeat. 

Too tough? Dial down the challenge by doing a modified pushup on your knees. Start on all fours. Keeping knees on the floor, lower down slowly until your chest nearly grazes the ground. Push up, then repeat.

Kristen Mascia
Rally Health