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Building Powerful HIIT Workouts Anywhere

kettlebell swing

People sometimes believe that I am “anti-gym” because I have been highlighting the great work that so many coaches are doing for at-home workouts, outdoor workouts, and more. Nothing could be further from the truth as I was falling in love with being at the gym when I was just 14 when I would spend time after school making sure my stepmom could drive me over to the gym or harass my older brother. However, over the years I learned something really important about building powerful workouts.

That was the quality of the workouts had little to do with the gym but more with either your or your coach’s ability to put together an effective, thoughtful and systematic program of workouts. When I opened my first gym in the very early 2000’s I had so many friends tell me that I could never compete with a big commercial gym that had all the equipment I didn’t have the money nor space for in my gym. This was before warehouse gyms were popular and I was set to show people that it wasn’t the size or amount of equipment in your gym that made workouts great, but your knowledge of training and how you used these tools.

hiit workouts

Hiromitsu Tachibana reminds us that the point of fitness is supposed to include more people, not make it more difficult to be healthy and strong!

This is the message I have for everyone right now, don’t let your desire to train and participate consistently in great workouts be dictated by whether or not you are in a gym or the fact that you may not have all the equipment that you are used to using in your workouts. It is time to make sure we are training as smart as we are challenging the intensity of our workouts.

Almost every one of our DVRT Masters have their own gyms too! However, they all know the same rules and that is why they are constantly driven to show how it is the why’s that lead you to better how’s in your workouts. So, let’s take a look at some great examples of what makes for great workouts!

Be Smarter In How You Use HIIT Workouts!

I can’t believe in 2020 telling people that HIIT workouts are the way to go to get better fat loss workouts is a controversial idea. Yet, I still find push back from coaches telling me that “cardio” is better. Well, firstly, both HIIT and aerobic workouts can be considered “cardio” that has to do with changes to our cardiorespiratory system and both do impact “cardio” in a positive way. What most people MEAN is aerobic training. This is training that is done at a lower intensity but for a longer duration. The people that support this idea usually point to that an aerobic session can actually burn more calories than HIIT workouts. They also point to that a great percentage of these calories are from fat.

Well, in both cases this is true. Why in the world would I want to use HIIT workouts then? One of the first and biggest studies that made us in the industry raise awareness about the power of HIIT workouts was a 1994 study by Tremblay et. al. What did they do and find?

They examined the difference in endurance training (ET) and high-intensity intermittent-training(HIIT). The endurance group performed their training for 20 weeks and burned an average of 120.4MJ per session. The HIIT group performed their program for 15 weeks with an average expenditure of 57.9MJ per session. In other words, the ET group burned more energy during their training sessions. However, the result of six subcutaneous skinfolds showed the HIIT group lost significantly more body fat. There has to be something happening to the body beyond simple caloric expenditure.

This really was mind-blowing at the time!

So, just calories burned during the workouts or the percentage of fat calories didn’t seem to relate to as much of body fat loss. It was the hormonal impact and the fact that calories were burned for 22 more hours (talk about an increased metabolism) versus just the workout time in the aerobic group. This is known as EPOC (exercise post-oxygen consumption) has long-lasting benefits for fat loss and HIIT workouts do a lot to improve “cardio” as well. Cool right? How do we do it? Well, DVRT Master, Cory Cripe and Fitness Lying Down coach, Megan Berner give two great examples below.


These two HIIT workouts are similar and yet very different. They both follow the idea of programming movement patterns and not muscles, they focus on big movements that engage a lot of muscles and really raise the intensity of the workout (isolated movements don’t fall well into HIIT workouts), and they mix in levels of stability in both. The BIGGEST difference is the work to rest ratios used. Most people are familiar with the idea of HIIT workouts of a time of work and a time of rest. A very common one comes in the form of the first video where get a 30:30, that is 30 seconds of work and 30 seconds of rest.

The 30:30 model is great for beginners who need to build a base and technical proficiency, flows/complexes that take more time, and more moderate HIIT workouts. That may sound odd I say “moderate” but that is because most people misunderstand HIIT workouts. The majority of people believe the goal of HIIT workouts is to decrease rest and we increase work overtime. However, what happens, in that case, is that we actually DECREASE the intensity of our workouts.

sandbag cleans

Renown Strength Coach, Robert Dos Remedios has been integral in getting us to think smarter about our HIIT workouts

How so? Isn’t that really hard and aren’t you left breathing and heaving? Well, yes, but let me put it into another context. If I said I wanted you to run as hard as you could, either about 100 feet or a mile, which one would you run faster in? Which one would you find trying to use your body to harder to create that speed? The shorter distance correct? While running a mile may fatigue you and you may perceive it to be more “intense” overall, that is actually an incorrect understanding of intensity. The scientific definition has to do with work closest to your maximal effort. Meaning that in lifting do a really heavyweight that you can only do once is actually more intense than one you can do for 15 repetitions even though you may feel more tired from the 15 reps. You may want to argue that point, but that is the scientific definition and how the studies look at things like HIIT workouts.

Relating this back to the second video of our HIIT workouts you see that Cory is using 15 seconds of work and 45 seconds of rest. Well, that is easy, right? Not if Cory uses a weight that he can only get 5-6 repetitions in for that 15 seconds. This means the load is going to be much heavier than most use in their HIIT workouts and with greater intensity means we need to recover as well. Recovery is where the “good stuff” of HIIT workouts really happens. If we go back to our example of running a 100 feet to help illustrate this point I think it will make more sense.

If it takes you let’s say 10 seconds to run 100 feet and that was an all-out effort (which is key) and I say in 10 seconds you have to run not only the 100 feet again, but do so in no less than 8 seconds how many times could you repeat that effort and make that time? If you are like most humans on Earth, the answer is not many. The higher the intensity, the more recovery you need to repeat that intensity. Most people don’t use methods to gauge how much intensity they are achieving in HIIT workouts. In an airdyne bike that would be using wattage, in running that is time, in lifting that is repetitions as Cory and Megan show above. If you actually got 8-10 repetitions that would be a sign you used too little weight.

The point is that HIIT workouts aren’t just random conditioning and to be as effective as we all tout, they have to offer a greater purpose.

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Make sure not to just see the HIIT workouts, but also the why’s Cory gives!