WTH was HIIT again?

In my previous post we discussed what exactly a HIIT workout is via the definition and I shared my opinion on how it is rare to find a group setting that will offer this style of training in totality primarily due to the part of the definition that states “varied based on a participants current fitness level”.  As promised I said I would share one of my favorite HIIT workouts that can be done for any level including progressions and regressions, in addition to it being trackable so that you know if you are truly operating at maximum effort.  As a refresher let’s look at the HIIT definition again:


More Definitions again!

HIIT – According to Wikipedia it describes HIIT as follows:  High-intensity interval training (HIIT), also called high-intensity intermittent exercise (HIIE) or sprint interval training (SIT), is a form of interval training, a cardiovascular exercise strategy alternating short periods of intense anaerobic exercise with less intense recovery periods. HIIT is the concept where one performs a short burst of high-intensity (or max-intensity) exercise followed by a brief low-intensity activity, repeatedly, until too exhausted to continue. Though there is no universal HIIT session duration, these intense workouts typically last under 30 minutes, with times varying based on a participant’s current fitness level

The American Council on Exercise describes HIIT as: A system of organizing cardiorespiratory training which calls for repeated bouts of short duration, high-intensity exercise intervals intermingled with periods of lower intensity intervals of active recovery. On a 1-10 scale of perceived exertion, high intensity can be considered anything over an effort level of 7. When using max heart rate (MHR) as a guide, high intensity can be considered exercising above 80% of MHR. Modes of HIIT can include outdoor activities such as running or cycling, or using equipment such as treadmills, elliptical runners, stair-climbers or stationary bikes. HIIT training calls for challenging work-rates such as sprints (whether on a bicycle or running) for short time frames lasting from thirty seconds to two minutes.

So in short our HIIT workout should cover these areas of the definition “performance of high-intensity (or max-intensity) exercise followed by a brief low-intensity activity, repeatedly, until too exhausted to continue and has our heart rate operating at more than 80% of its MHR, and last less than 30 mins.”  This makes it very easy to create a program or circuit that covers these areas.

Enter the realm of Burpees and Box Jumps!


To perform the “Burpees and Box Jumps” workout, all you’ll need is a stopwatch (or smartphone with a stopwatch ability) a box or some sort of raised platform and some serious determination! As soon as you start your clock, you won’t stop it…as you’ll let it run continuously for the entire 20 minutes.  Your task will be to start performing 10 burpees in good form, with the requirement of course being to complete them within 1 minute. However long it takes you to complete them determines how much rest you get before beginning the box jumps. Obviously the faster you complete your 10 reps the more rest you’ll get!


During your next 1 minute period you will need to complete 12 box jumps. Again, the rest you get is determined by how quickly you can complete the 12 jumps in good form. Complete those in 25 seconds and you’ll get 35 seconds of rest. Continue this alternating burpee / box jump pattern for each minute as you make your way towards completing the entire 20 minutes! Tap out at any point along the way or fail to complete the reps for any 1 minute period and you have not successfully conquered the Burpees and Box Jumps workout. But let’s not think negatively! It’s time to do some serious chest bumping and foot thumping! Good luck!!



Now to keep this in line with the true spirit of HIIT we can build from this foundation to ensure we are operating at optimum levels.  If you have a heart rate monitor check your heart rate to see if you are in the 80%-95% range during the rest period of the activity.  If you are below this range you have a few options, incorporate active rest periods, meaning due some jumping jacks or high knee walking in place to keep the heart rate elevated, or increase the rep range of the activities, or add weight to the burpee or increase the height of the box jump.  So as you can see for individuals that are at the pinnacle of athleticism and fitness this can be scaled to support their individual level.  On the other end of the spectrum if you were unable to compete the full 20 minutes (which is a good thing actually), since this means you met the requirement of “unable to continue.”  You have multiple options for regressions.  Firstly you can decrease the rep range of the exercises, secondly you can modify the burpee to eliminate the pushup, or even the jump at the top, and you could even just turn it into a squat where you simply place your hands on the floor.  Lastly you can decrease the height of the box.  Furthermore if you don’t have a box you can do tuck jumps or high knees or even jog in place.  The point I’m trying to illustrate is you have a very simple routine that allows you to track your level and progress and push yourself the next time you encounter the exercise.  Keep increasing the rep range till you literally “can’t continue “and you have now officially found your maximum level of activity.

20 min.JPG

Below I have attached a video showing some of the progressions and regressions from just 2 rounds of the routine.  Additionally a screen shot of what my FitBit showed for my average heart rate during the 20 min routine and what the maximum was.  Since my average was 156bpm and my max was 180bpm, this means my lowest heart rate  during the low intensity portion of the exercise was 132.  So to put this in perspective I was operating at 73% – 98% of my MHR.  Now I know personally I had a little gas left in the tank and I wasn’t giving it my all because quite frankly I wasn’t motivated to do so.  But the point is, with the heart rate as well as the documentation of the number of reps I did for the duration of the exercise as well as the height of the box (80cm), I know that next time, I can go a little harder.  Without this data and without consistency it makes progress difficult to gauge.

Now get out there and get some HIIT in.  Try out the burpee box jump challenge and let me know how many reps you were able to complete.  Remember 10 and 12 is just a standard, put your game face on give it all you got!

Categories Exercise

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