Team Beast athlete Rob Riches gives us the lowdown on a great Super HIIT Cardio Workout. Watch the full video below as well.
For many of us, our training goal is based around building a strong and aesthetically-balanced physique. We focus on what exercises we should be performing to develop larger muscles, and watch what foods we eat to fuel our workouts. So when it comes to cardio, is this something we simply rely on when we want drop body fat for a summer cut?
Whether you’re looking to bulk up or strip away body fat, I believe cardio should always be included in your routine. It's not just a means to drop body fat and tighten up, but it also provides cardiovascular benefits, which can be an important factor even for muscle growth. This doesn’t mean you need to perform cardio as frequently as you might during a cut, but even just 1-2 sessions a week can help improve circulation, and help keep the body functioning at a more optimum level.
This routine combines high-intensity interval training with bouts of bodyweight and banded-resistance based exercises. It’s ideal for anyone short on time and wanting to maximize their calorie burn, as well as keep a check on your overall cardiovascular health and performance. I personally use this as a monthly marker to ensure my general fitness levels are maintained.
The Super HIIT Routine Overview
This routine is based around several modules.
The first being a focused-abdominal circuit that consists of 3 exercises performed in a circuit (30 repetitions each exercise, immediately followed by the next movement, and the circuit repeated 3 times).
The second module is based around performing 5 sessions of 30 seconds all-out-effort on a piece of cardio equipment (one that allows you to quickly get up to speed, such as a treadmill, rower, spin bike, or even outside sprints). After each of the 30-second bouts of cardio-based exercise, perform a movement off the cardio machine for 30 seconds before then returning to the cardio machine.
If you’re up for more, repeat modules 1 and 2, but with different abdominal exercises as well as different 30-second bouts of movements in between the all-out-effort cardio bouts.
Abs Circuit 1
For me, performing abs along with Cardio go together like peanut butter and jelly (or peanut butter and chocolate in my case). I’ve always found it to be more effective to work the abdominals at the same time as performing cardio. With your respiratory system being worked hard, it makes you really focus on your breathing during abdominal movements, which forces you to contract the abdominal muscles more so than if you we’re breathing hard.
These three exercises below each focus on a particular region of the abdominals, helping to develop a more complete look as well as function of the core.
Abdominal Movement #1: Toes-to-Bar / Hanging Knee Lifts
Take a deep breath in, and as you fully exhale, contract the abdominals by squeezing them as if bracing for a punch to the gut. As you do this raise your toes up towards the bar, keeping your legs as straight as possible, except for a slight bend at the knees. Your hips should start to curl forwards as your legs near the top of the bar. This motion should be from you contracting the abdominals as your curl the hips forward while fully exhaling and squeezing the abdominals.
It is not a swinging motion. If you are unable to perform this movement then start with a bent knee leg raise, whereby you draw your knees up toward you chest in the same manner.
Abdominal Movement #2: Cable Crunch
Using either a rope or fixed bar attachment on a high cable pulley, keep your upper arms in a fixed position as you focus on exhaling deeply and contracting the abdominals in a slow and controlled manner.
You do not need to pull the bar all the way down to the floor, as the abdominals will be fully contracted within a short range of motion. Keep your elbows from extending so as not to involve the arm muscles during this exercise.
Abdominal Movement #3: Kettlebell / Medicine Ball Rotations
This particular movement is great for helping to tighten up the waist as it directly works the obliques, which assist in the rotation and lateral flexion of the trunk. Hold either a kettlebell or medicine ball (a dumbbell held horizontally will also work) in front of your chest with your arms kept fixed (no bending at the elbow), rotate the weight to your left side and then to your right side and back again as you exhale and squeeze the abdominals at each rotation.
You only rotate your upper torso so your hips should remain in a fixed position. You can also place your feet under the handles of two dumbbells to help keep you anchored to the ground. Don’t go to fast during each rotation.
HIIT Cardio & Body-Weighted Exercises – Round One
Get the treadmill cranked up to a good speed. Run at a fast pace for no longer than about 30 seconds.
Side note: If you are not accustomed to such vigorous cardio work, you can start at a brisk walk for each interval, and gradually build up to a jog and then to a run, working at your own pace.
Perform 30 seconds on the treadmill at a fast run, close to an all-out sprint. Immediately after, step off the machine and exit from behind, going straight into the first of the body-weighted movements below. After having performed that for 30 seconds, return to the treadmill and start your next 30 seconds of all out sprinting. You should not have to change the speed or incline of the treadmill – unless you know you can perform at a higher intensity after having done the first sprint and exercise.
Continue to repeat this pattern of 30-seconds of all-out effort sprinting, followed by 30 seconds of bodyweight movement, until you’ve completed 5 sprints and 5 different movements. Then it’s up to you as to whether you wish to repeat the entire circuit of abs and cardio/movements.
Perform for 30 seconds after each 30-second sprint.
#1A Medicine Ball Side-To-Side Push Ups
In a push-up position, either pass the ball from hand to hand after having performed a repetition, or keep the ball fixed and move your body from side-to-side, changing which hand is on top of the ball for each proceeding rep.
Make sure you are consciously contracting the chest muscles at the top of each rep.
This truly is a metabolic movement that practically works every major muscle group in the body, along with some explosive force as you jump up into the air after having dropped down to the floor to perform a push up.
If you are still feeling burn from the previous push-ups, then you omit these and simply perform squat jumps for 30 seconds before returning back to your cardio sprints.
#3A Walking Surrender Lunges
These walking lunges will give your upper body a bit of a break. With your hands placed on the back of the head and elbows pulled back (opening up the chest), step forwards so that your hips lower directly over your back bent knee, and both knees are at a 90-dergee angle.
If you don’t have the available room to lunge back and forth, perform these stationary by lunging forwards and returning back before alternating with the opposite leg.
#4A Swiss Ball Back Hyperextensions
With a lot of emphasis on the core and abdominals, we need to also give some attention to the lower back, and these hyperextensions performed on a Swiss Ball do just that. Position the ball just under your hips with your feet secure against something stable, and keep you hands at the side of your temple with the elbows opened up. Ensure your chest is elevated and lifted up proud as you extend upwards, exhaling in the same manner as you did with the abdominal movements.
If you don’t have a Swiss Ball, perform these on the floor (lifting both feet and shoulders up), or it can even be performed off the end of the a bench (facing downwards and holding on to the bench with your hands as you raise your legs off the back).
5A Plank-To-Pike (on Rower)
If you have access to a rowing machine whereby the seat rolls back and forth, then this version of a Pike Walk (also known as Inchworm), is a great movement in which to work the lower abdominal region. Position yourself in a straight-arm push up position at the end of the row, with your toes on the seat. As you exhale and contract the abdominals, draw your feet towards your chest as your hips rise up (imagine the start of a handstand).
The key to this movement is control and emphasis on the abdominals tightening to help draw the feet closer to you. If you don’t have a rower close by, you can also perform this exercise as a Pike Walk, or alternatively, keep your feet on a towel on top of a wood floor so that it can glide back and forth like the rower seat.
HIIT Cardio & Body-Weighted Exercises – Round Two
After completing round one, you’ll be breathing heavy and feel your heart rate racing. Give yourself a few minutes to focus on controlling your breathing and allow your heart rate to fall. This will be your marker for seeing how much quicker you feel recovered before being able to run the course again.
If you have a heart rate monitor, keep an eye on the time it take for your heart rate to fall back to around 70-75% of your maximum heart rate, or even back to your normal resting heart rate. By keeping up with this type of intense interval sprints and body-weighted exercises, you’ll literally be able to see your fitness improve using this time frame as a key marker.
Abs Circuit 2
The following abs, cardio, and resistance-based exercises are intended as a step up from the previous routine. If you’re feeling ready for another round, continue with this one. If you feel that the first round was enough for you, try coming back next time and alternating the first round with this one so that you’ll be challenged by different movements and will begin to improve both your cardiovascular endurance and your ability to recover faster.
Abdominal Movement #1: Decline Bench Crunches
By performing crunches on a decline bench, you’ve already got gravity working against you, which is added resistance without needing to hold any weight. (I’ve seen people hold plates to their chest and the likes, but I feel this detracts from actual execution of the exercise. Thirty repetitions performed using good clean form will be enough for most – myself included.
Just like the first round of abdominal exercises, your deep exhales and forceful contractions are what will make these exercises so effective. Don’t rush them, and continue to ask yourself, “am I feeling the abdominals really doing the work here?” Simply by thinking of them as being the driving force behind these exercises, you will actively start to engage them more and more.
Abdominal Movement #2: Swiss Ball Knee Tuck
I remember first performing this exercise during my contest prep 10 years ago, and thinking to myself, "Wow, why haven’t I done these before?" With your feet pointed on top of a Swiss Ball, and body at full length, with arms extended out in front of you as though about to perform a push up, you contract the abdominal muscles and begin to exhale as you start to draw your knees in toward your chest.
Your torso will naturally rise a little, but the goal here is that your hips roll slightly under as your knees draw closer to your chest. At this point where you should have fully exhaled all of the air in your lungs and be contracting hard in the abs. This is essentially the same movement as performing hanging knee lifts, although this one teaches you the proper trajectory of the knees as they near your chest, allowing you to mimic this same movement when/if performing it from hanging by a bar.
Abdominal Movement #3: Plate Lateral Crunch
Hold a weighted plate (or dumbbell/kettlebell) in your right hand, with the arm fully extended just behind your right leg, and feet slightly wider apart than your shoulder width. Standing up tall and proud, start to allow the weight to pull your torso down to the side. It shouldn’t be enough – no more than about 6 inches. You should feel the left side of your abdominals stretch.
Contract your abdominals and pull your torso back into an upright position. Your arm (holding the weight), shouldn’t be flexing at all, as it’s the abdominal muscles being worked here to right your torso back up. By feeling the muscles being worked, I can make minor adjustments to how I’m moving the weight, as well as remind myself the effectiveness of truly exhaling hard for every rep. (Don’t forget to reverse the movement for your left side).
HIIT Cardio & Body-Weighted Exercises – Round Two
Everything that applied in round one for internal sprints (30-seconds all out effort) and exercises in between (30-seconds) remains the same here. You can choose to change the cardio equipment to something else (perhaps a rower to focus more so on the upper body rather than the legs again).
I opted for the treadmill again, but this time I increased the incline by more than double of what it was during the first round, as well as cranked up the treadmill speed so that I truly was sprinting – and up a steep incline.
I’ve also shown 5 different exercises using resistance bands. Doing this added a resistance to the movements.
Remember this one thing: It’s up to you to push yourself harder during each interval. Sure, you may hit a wall early on, but by continuing to commit to this, you will literally see your fitness improve, and be able to push yourself harder and harder after each session.
Now imagine what that mentality can do or you in and out of the gym!
#2A Resistance Band Lateral Raises
The great think about these resistance bands, is that they’re inexpensive and can be used for many different purposes, including alongside free weight training. If your gym doesn’t have any, I highly recommend getting yourself a set. You may be surprised just how much you’ll use them.
I find it best to place one foot over the center of the resistance band, and place one foot slightly back (heel raised off the floor) so as to help stabilize yourself. Perform the movement the same way you would when using free weights by raising your arms out to the side (without flexing at your elbows), as you focus on contracting the deltoids.
#2B Band Back Row
Another great thing about these resistance bands is that they can be used singularly, or combined with two or more to further increase the resistance. I’ve got a set of 5, and when they’re all combined together, they give a force of 125 lbs!
Just as with the lateral raises shown above, place the ball of one foot over the center of the resistance band, and keep one foot slightly back. As you pull the handles up past the sides of your waist, really concentrate on squeezing the muscles in your back – especially within the center of your back.
#2C Band Bicep Curl
Just because you may be able to move a lot of weight for dumbbell curls, this doesn’t mean that you won’t get a great burn from using resistance loops to curl.
Whether you combine two or more bands, or prefer to just stick with one, the fact is that the amount of resistance continues to increase the more the bands are stretched, which requires the biceps to work hard, especially for a duration of 30 seconds. If you need to take a few seconds rest, do so. In addition to curls, you can also perform them as single arm curls, as well as variations including using an overhand grip.
#2D Resistance Bands Tricep Kick Back
Just like with biceps, the triceps can receive a truly incredible pump from using resistance bands. Whether you step one foot over the center, or pass them around a fixed and stable point, ensure that your upper arms remain in a fixed position that's parallel to the floor.
This allows you to fully contract your triceps when the elbow is fully extended, and take the triceps through a full range of motion. You can also vary this exercise by looping the resistance band across a fixed high bar, such as a pull up bar, and perform tricep pushdowns, or even single arm underhand pull downs. (You see just how useful it has having such resistance bands).
#2E Resistance Loop Chest Fly
Have you ever performed chest flyes using resistance loops or bands? The tension felt in the muscle at the end of the rep is so good, because your feel the muscle fully contracted, but you also don’t have a ton of heavy weight pulling against you.
Pass the resistance band around a fixed and stable vertical point and with your arms held out straight in front of your chest, walk forwards until you feel maximum tension in the loop bands. This is your final end point for the rep. When you open your arms out into a fly movement, the tension will lessen, but as soon as you start to close them back up to the top (in front of your chest with only a slight flex at the elbow), you’ll know you’ll be returning back to maximal contraction.
The good thing here is that if you’re feeling as though you’re about to reach muscle failure, you can simply take a step or two back.