When it comes to cardio, you should treat it no differently than you do weight training. Periods of high intensity followed by periods of rest/lower intensity.
When you lift weights, your high-intensity phase is simply the time you spend lifting the weights to perform your sets.
Your low-intensity phase is the time you spend resting between your sets.
The proper way to perform cardio is similar because we want to stimulate an optimal hormonal response in the body to adapt to our training.
Switching between periods of high and low stress is much more effective than maintaining a medium level of stress for an extended period of time.
In other words, steady-state cardio methods like running, using the elliptical, or riding the stationary bike for 30 minutes to an hour are not ideal at all.
Your body does not want you to train in this manner.
The good news is that if you like running; using the elliptical; or riding the stationary bike, you can still do those things!
It’s not the equipment or the cardio method that’s evil, it’s how you use the equipment and design your workouts.
You can still use these machines, but you want to use them for HIIT workouts.
It is a much better way of performing cardio and will trigger a more appropriate hormonal response in the body.
Regularly performing steady-state cardio can chronically elevate stress hormones.
When stress levels are chronically elevated, steroid hormone production like testosterone, progesterone, and growth hormone will be inhibited.
We want to build the body up rather than break it down. Even if you are trying to lose excess body fat, this method will be a much more ideal way to train.
HIIT workouts are great for your cardiovascular health too. I’ve run a couple of Spartan races and let me just say that my cardio performance was much better after incorporating HIIT workouts into my routine rather than traditional steady-state cardio.
Although I’m not a runner, I had an easier time running the 5 miles for the Spartan race than most people there who were actual runners!
Living life with a strong, healthy body really is the way to go.
Again, it all has to do with the way we introduce stress on our bodies. We want to highly stress it then let it recover, much like how your body would respond to a life-threatening situation.
Stress levels like cortisol and adrenaline have the power to save your life or someone else’s in those few split seconds they are elevated.
That is how our bodies are intended to experience stress, and training is no different.
You will also get a much better cardio workout from doing HIIT workouts. You will sweat more because you have to work harder, and you will push your body because it is more uncomfortable.
Because of these things, your body will slowly adapt to the new stresses and adjust accordingly, which is exactly how we build our bodies to be stronger.
High-intensity interval training demands that your body becomes both lean and strong, and this is exactly what we are after with our training.
HIIT Workout Recommendations
For HIIT workouts, I recommend that you perform your interval of high-intensity for one minute followed by your interval of low-intensity for two minutes.
If you want to progress, start to shorten your low-intensity interval period until your high and low-intensity interval times are the same.
For example, you might start doing one minute of high-intensity work followed by two minutes of low-intensity work for a couple of weeks then switch to doing one minute of high-intensity work followed by only one and a half minutes of low-intensity work.
Eventually, you would work your way down to doing one minute of high-intensity work followed by one minute of low-intensity work, and that’s a pretty good workout!
1.) Treadmill HIIT Workout
You can use the treadmill to do HIIT workouts by switching between intervals of jogging and “sprinting.”
I prefer to opt for walking on the treadmills and switching between walking at a low incline at a slow pace to walking at a high incline at a moderate or fast pace.
I tend to injure myself when I try sprinting on a treadmill so I personally avoid it, but it is an option and some people love it.
So for the treadmill, you can switch between jogging and sprinting, or you can switch between low incline walking and high inline walking.
2.) Elliptical HIIT Workout
You can also use the elliptical for HIIT workouts by switching between intervals of low and high resistance if your elliptical allows you to adjust the resistance setting.
Most, if not all, ellipticals are capable of doing.
On some ellipticals, you can even change the elevation to adjust how much you emphasize your glutes or hamstrings.
An elliptical is a great machine because it is easier on the joints than a treadmill, and you can also activate most of your body by pushing the handlebars.
During your high-intensity intervals where you set the resistance high, you almost have to activate your entire body to push the machine, and it’s a pretty killer workout.
3.) Stationary Bike HIIT Workout
The stationary bike is another common piece of equipment that you could use for a HIIT workout.
Just like the elliptical, simply alternate between high and low resistance for your intervals of high and low intensity.
Spinning is another way you could use the stationary bike to get a HIIT workout which involves alternating between riding the bike while sitting down on the seat and riding the bike with your butt up off the seat.
Both are great options if you’re a fan of the stationary bike.
4.) Boxing HIIT Workout
Boxing is another great option and is one of my favorite HIIT workouts, hands down.
By no means do I claim to be an expert in boxing because I strictly use it for a high-intensity interval training session, but it’s a pretty intense workout.
Just look at the physiques of boxers. They have to stay lean in order to maintain their speed, but they also have to be strong so they can throw some hard punches.
You can get a good boxing workout by alternating between intervals of punching the bag and simply resting for a couple of minutes.
The world of YouTube is filled with videos on boxing workouts, so that’s a great place to start if you’re interested but have never boxed before.
Don’t forget to wrap your wrists and fingers to avoid injuring yourself, and do a little warm-up punching on the bag before you start throwing any hard punches.
5.) Sprint HIIT Workout
Sprints are another one of my favorite HIIT workouts and I would personally label them as the best HIIT workout that you can perform.
Sprints naturally build functional strength throughout your entire body because nearly all of your muscles are activated in a sprint.
Something I’d like you to do is to look up pictures of sprinters and compare them with pictures of long-distance runners.
Whose physique would you rather have?
Whose bodies look stronger and healthier?
Spoiler alert, it’s the sprinters. Just like boxers, sprinters also need to maintain leanness to be quick but they also need powerful muscles to run fast.
Absolutely do not try to go into a sprint workout without warming up. You will pull a hamstring.
Do some jumping jacks, butt kickers, squat jumps, high knees, lunges, hill warm-up sprints, and straight warm-up sprints before you go into an all-out 100% effort sprint.
I sprint the length of a soccer field, which is about 100 yards, and consequently, I rest for at least 3 minutes between sprints.
If you sprint a shorter distance, you can reduce your rest time.
Final Thoughts on HIIT Workouts
Most of the exercises I covered are just the basics, but if you notice the pattern in how to implement HIIT workouts into your routine, you can do it with any type of cardio.
I certainly am a huge fan of HIIT workouts, but I only perform one or two sessions per week because weight training should form the foundation of your workout routine.
Lifting weights is the most effective way to build a strong, functional body.
High-intensity interval training should be viewed as a supplemental way of optimizing your body’s functionality.
To learn more about creating an absolutely bulletproof workout routine, check out the Axle Fit Course. I cover weight training, strength progression, rest and recovery, avoiding injury, how not to train, and so much more!