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Fit to burst

This style of burst training is a HIIT for strength and endurance.

Dom Cadden

What if you could do a type of high-intensity interval training that helps you get stronger, works your fitness and endurance, and torches fat? All without leaving you too trashed to exercise next day?

Here’s a type of ‘burst training’ or HIIT that alternates sets of resistance training with cardio sprints and low rest, so you have a high average heart rate through the session to help your endurance.

I’ve used this with trail ultra-runners in the morning and they have gone out and smashed a 5km time trial the same evening because this style of training primes the body without overstressing it. For the same reason, I’ve also been able to use it with people trying to come back from chronic fatigue issues. In both cases, this type of workout has helped build their aerobic base while training strength and speed.

They key was that neither the cardio bouts nor the resistance training was so hard or so long an interval that it exhausted any muscle group or brought them panting to their knees. Alternating the intensity, speed, activity type and muscles also meant they could get through a lot of exercise in a short amount of time, while minimising muscle soreness. You still get the proven benefits of HIIT training, including improved fat burning from post-exercise effects on metabolism and hormonal responses to better control blood sugar and insulin response.  

3 important rules for maximum benefit

The resistance training should challenging to your muscles, not your fitness – i.e. like real weights training. You’re not just swinging weights about for speed.

The ‘sprint’ component is an all-out sprint, not just turning the legs or arms over a bit.

Don’t skip the rest – if you don’t feel you need it, you’re not pushing hard enough. Breathe deeply – you heart rate should drop just enough so that you can talk OK, but it’s not down to normal – it’s ‘partial recovery’.

This type of training that can be done in any basic gym, even hotel gyms, or with a few simple pieces of home equipment or bodyweight exercises following this basic format:

Be prepared for a fast changeover between strength exercise and cardio drill.
Pic: Pixabay/Pexels
  • Do exercises in pairs – one resistance exercise and one cardio exercise
  • Do a set of the resistance exercise then walk straight over to a cardio exercise, slowly build up speed for 20 seconds, then do a hard sprint or burst of effort for 30-40 seconds (depending on fitness). Rest 60-90 seconds. 
  • Repeat the step above for 2-3 sets before moving to the next pair of exercises.
  • Resistance exercises should be simple and use a combination of large muscle groups, preferably in a standing position, and be done at a slow to moderate speed
  • If possible, do a different cardio exercise in each pair of exercises so you change the strain on the body
  • Alternate upper and lower-body resistance exercises when you plan your exercise pairs
  • If using machines for cardio, don’t set the level so hard that it becomes a resistance exercise – it should be low enough so that you can go fast and push your heart rate up without exhausting your muscles.

Cardio exercises could include stationary cycle, cross-trainer machine, rowing machine, treadmill or use battle ropes. If you’re at home, you could use a skipping rope, do jumping jacks and mountain climbers, or lie on your back and raise your head while you do a cycling action with your legs.   

For your resistance training, you can cover all bases with 3-5 of these exercise types:

Squatssquats with barbell or dumbbells on shoulders, front squats, zercher squat.
Home option: jump squat – slowly squat as deep as you can, then jump up explosively, landing on balls of feet.

Pull-up/Row – a standing bentover row with a barbell, dumbbells or cables or use a weighted row machine.
Home option: buy a couple power training bands, attach them to a solid object and hold one in each hand to do a standing bentover row.

Deadlift – standard deadlift, sumo deadlift, stiff-legged deadlift

Home option: the Superman – lie on your front, then raise both arms and both legs while they are fully extended, as high as you can, then hold a couple seconds. Lower arms and legs to the floor, then repeat.

Pic: Flickr

Push press/push-up – Push press stand with barbell on chest or dumbbells held next to shoulders. Squat down a little, then extend the legs and hips explosively, pushing weight straight up over your head at the same time until arms extended.
Home option: Push-up variations – on knees, feet raised, feet on floor hands on a bench, jump or clap push-ups, one-arm push-ups.

Lunges –  forward, backward, jumping up and crossing legs over in the air – holding dumbbells by your side or with weights held on your shoulders.

This is a great workout when you can’t train as often as you like, or you can make a routine of it training every second day.  


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