If you’re new to exercise, you’ve probably heard about interval training (HIIT), a method of training that has you pushing out of your comfort zone for a certain period of time and then recovering.
What’s great about interval training is that there are a variety of ways to do it. More advanced exercisers can work at a very high intensity, but you can also get a big bang-for-buck with simple exercises suitable for all fitness levels.
The reason interval training is so popular is that working at higher levels of intensity helps you build endurance more quickly and it helps you burn more calories, which is great for weight loss.
Not only that, but it makes your workout more interesting. Instead of going at the same pace for the entire workout, you mix things up which can make the workout seem shorter than it really is.
Beginner Interval Training
You may be wondering whether you can do interval training if you’re not a veteran exerciser, and the answer is yes. Beginners can get a lot out of interval training.
Not only can you switch up your workouts, making them a little more fun, but you also give your body a chance to get used to working just a little harder and build some character—something mostly needed in these times of uncertainty.
The upshot is, you only work hard for a very short period of time, making it a more comfortable workout. That’s much better than slogging through a long workout (who’s got time for that) or, on the other hand, trying to work at a high intensity for the length of your workout, passing out halfway through.
The following exercises are a great place to start if you’re a beginner. The following 7 exercises, pasted together, make a 21-minute long workout and include work intervals that will push you just a bit out of your comfort zone.
That means you won’t be breathless or miserable. You will simply be pushing yourself just a bit—the perfect way to build a strong cardio foundation for getting healthy and losing weight.
The workout is totally bodyweight and only needs a chair or a couch, so there’s really no excuse not to get it done.
Perform as many repetitions as you can for each exercise in the proposed order over 30”, rest sitting or laying on the floor for 60”, and repeat with the following exercise.
HIIT workout depending on how good you feel at the end of round 2.
7 Exercise Selections
Here are the 7 beginner interval training exercises you can try.
1. Jumping Jacks
That’s right. This old-school warm-up is an effective form of cardio. The primary benefit of doing jumping jacks is that it elevates your heart rate. You breathe more deeply while jumping, which delivers oxygen to your bloodstream and ultimately to your muscles.
In addition, you will also shake your lymphatic system and burn fat at a rapid rate, promoting weight loss.
2. Mountain Climbers
Mountain climbers might win the award for most travel-friendly interval training exercise because they require no equipment and take up hardly any space. On the flip side, they also deserve some recognition for being super challenging.
The MC works the core, hip flexors, arms, shoulders, and lower back—literally a full-body movement. Make sure you don’t overarch your back and maintain enough space between your hands and feet to have your trunk parallel to the ground.
Basic yet effective, squats remain the king of bodyweight exercises when it comes to improving mobility and strength.
Make sure to keep your head up, chest nicely open at all times, and feet firmly pressed through the heels on the ground. Ideally, your glutes should go below your knees during the descending phase. But don’t worry if you can’t get so low just yet, it will improve with practice.
Push-ups are a total body exercise that is easily modified and can be made to be very challenging, from the total beginner to the most avid exerciser.
To make pushups easier, elevate your hands on a bench, couch, counter-top, or against a wall.
To make push-ups more difficult, elevate your feet. The higher the angle (with your hands on the ground), the more of your bodyweight you support. Also, you can increase the range of motion by elevating your hands on books, push up handles, or something similar.
Aim to nearly touching the ground with your chest first, keeping your head high and chin tucked. This will avoid straining your neck and improve arms and chest muscle engagement.
5. Backward/Reverse Lunges
This modified version of the classic lunge simply involves taking a big step backward, balancing on your front foot.
This interval training exercise increases the engagement of the hamstrings and glutes muscles (back of the leg) versus the quads muscles (front of the thigh). This is especially useful for people with a sitting job because the back-leg muscles become stiff and weak due to the constant sitting and need to be “reactivated”.
This exercise requires balance, so it’s best performed with a mat in between your feet or over a carpet to avoid hitting your knee on the floor too violently.
As a beginner, you should always touch the ground with your back knee and pause for a second to avoid straining a muscle or a tendon. Pausing for a second will help you avoid using momentum and engage the correct muscles during the ascension phase of the exercise.
6. Elevated Hip Thrust
The hip thrust is another move useful to target dormant muscles like glutes and hamstrings. To perform this exercise, you only need a chair or a couch.
Lie face-up on the floor with your knees bent and your feet on a bench or box. Raise your hips until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees, then slowly lower to the starting position.
If this feels too easy, you can try to hold the tension for 2″ at the top of the movement, aggressively squeezing your glutes against each other. Imagine you have a pencil stuck in between your buttocks and you want to crack it in two (not a pretty picture I know, but it givers you the idea).
We put this at the end since it’s the hardest one of all. No cardio and interval training compilation would be complete without burpees. They challenge every part of your body and send your heart rate soaring in no time. All this adds up to an exercise that burns about 10 calories per minute.
Assuming you’re doing between 10 and 20 repetitions every minute, this is one of the best fat burning exercises out there. You can torch even more calories by upping the pace. Just make sure you don’t let your form suffer!
If normal burpees give you pain in the lower back or they’re simply too hard (you can’t do more than 3 in a 30″ interval), just skip them all at once and come back to them when your fitness is improved.
Interval training is a great way to maintain fitness during these trying times. One of the best parts about it is that you can set your own pace and speed of progress.
Practice this routine a few times per week, focusing firstly on form and secondly, on speed. Burning a few extra calories from doing 2 more reps won’t be very useful if you pull a muscle and have to take a few weeks off exercise.
More Exercise Routines for Beginners
Featured photo credit: Ayo Ogunseinde via unsplash.com