20-minute workout: Exercises for HIIT, Tabata and other interval workouts

20 minute workout 2

In our last blog post, we introduced you to interval training. Because interval training is all about hard bursts of work followed by short rest periods, we will help you determine how long your rest and workout periods should be. We will also give you some exercise suggestions.

Two of the most common forms of intense interval training are High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and Tabata. Traditionally, Tabata workouts are only four minutes long and consist of just one exercise. The Tabata cycles consists of pushing as hard as you can at an exercise for 20 seconds, and then resting for 10 seconds. This is repeated eight times, for a four-minute workout.

Think you don’t have time to workout? That’s ridiculous. Anyone can fit a four-minute workout into a busy schedule.

High-Intensity Interval Training is similar to Tabata, though typically both the workout periods and the rest periods are longer. The exact length of those periods is determined by a variety of factors, including your health and your current fitness level. Typically, HIIT workouts aren’t longer than 20 minutes, and that time is organized according to your ability:

  • Beginner: 30 seconds workout, 90 seconds rest, repeat
  • Intermediate: 30 seconds workout, 60 seconds rest, repeat
  • Advanced: 30 seconds workout, 30 seconds rest, repeat

When you are picking exercises for HIIT or Tabata, it is important to make sure you choose exercises that target your biggest muscles – ie., your quads, hammies, glutes and core. (If you aren’t familiar with the gym lingo, that translates to the front and back of your thighs, your butt, and your stomach.) Because interval training exhausts your entire body, it should not be something you do every day. If you are doing Tabata workouts, aim for once a week. HIIT can be done more often, but you should not do HIIT two days in a row

Now that you know how long you should be working out and resting, you’re probably looking for specifics regarding what exercises you can do. If you’re at the gym or have a treadmill at home, running sprints is a great interval workout. On a treadmill, you can set the speed to a high pace and jump to the sides for your rest periods. You can also stay moving the entire time by manually increasing and decreasing the speed for each spring and rest. Be warned, though, it can be difficult to punch buttons on a treadmill when you’re sprinting as fast as you can.

If you’re not interested in running, there are plenty of other great exercises you can do, including:

  • Push ups: Do as many as you can. Then, if you get stuck, drop to your knees and keep going.
  • Jump rope: This is not your fourth-grade jump rope competition. Focus on jumping rope as fast as you can. For an added challenge, try this with a weighted rope.
  • Squats: Keep your legs hip-width apart and your feet pointed forward. Squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Stand up. Repeat.
  • Squat thrusters: Hold a pair of dumbbells at your shoulders. Do a squat. As you stand up, press the weights up until your arms are straight over your head. Bring your arms back to their starting place. Repeat.
  • Burpees: Stand up, then squat down until your hands are on the ground. Jump your feet backward into a push up position. Do a push up. Jump your feet between your hands. Jump up explosively. Repeat.
  • Intense burpee variation
  • Mountain climbers: Get in a push up position. Jump your left foot forward, so it is a few inches behind your left arm. Jump your leg back to a push up position. Repeat with your right leg. Increase your speed, so your left leg is jumping forward as your right is jumping backward, and vice versa.
  • Everest mountain climbers

Remember, the key to a successful interval workout is to push yourself as hard as you can the entire time. Do not think about saving energy for the end. Push yourself to the maximum the entire time.

Have you done HIIT or Tabata workouts before? What are your favorite exercises?

Becky Spurbeck

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