When doing high intensity interval training (HIIT) with clients in a one-on-one or group exercise setting, the decision to not use equipment is dependent on many factors: limited space, access to equipment, number of clients in the class, and what kind of equipment is available, among other factors. However, not using equipment and focusing on body weight drills can improve the fitness of clients and enhance class enjoyment. This article will present HIIT work-outs that have been used in research studies and have non-traditional work-to-rest ratios, and then describe body weight exercises that can be used for the training protocols.
- Understand what HIIT protocols are best using body weight training.
- Describe the exercises that can be used for HIIT and increasing exercise intensity.
- Explain how the large muscles group must be used to increase exercise intensity.
“Non-Traditional” HIIT Protocols
One of the most interesting HIIT protocols used in a research study was conducted by Gunnerson and Bangsbo (2012). Gunnerson and Bangsbo’s research is “non-traditional” because they had subjects running on a treadmill instead of training on a cycle ergometer. Subjects did one of protocols: 1) 10 – 20 – 30 Group or 2) Medium Intensity Continuous Training (MICT) Group. The 10 – 20 – 30 group did the following training: 30-sec of work at 30% of max, 20-sec of work at 60% of max, and 10 sec of work at 90–100% of max, repeated continuously for 5 minutes, and three to four repeats of the entire protocol. It is the experience of the author that many clients will be “happy” with one or two intervals.
Heydari, Freund, and Boutcher (2012) did a non-traditional HIIT protocol in the sense that the intervals were very short, but there was significant fat reduction from five body sites of the subjects. The protocol used 8-sec work, 12-sec active recovery for 20-min at 80–90% of peak heart rate. The subjects lost the following fat from the following areas: weight loss = 3.3 lbs, total fat mass = 4.4 lbs, abdominal fat = .22 lbs, trunk fat = 3.3 lbs, and visceral fat = 17%.
Shepard, et al., (2015) conducted a non-traditional study with a non-traditional HIIT protocol. This is a non-traditional study is because it was an instructor-led, group-based, gym setting work-out, not conducted in an exercise physiology laboratory. The work-out was non-traditional because the intervals were different each week, which translates to a nice work-out for clients. The study lasted 10 weeks and the first five weeks were as follows (at 90% of heart rate maximum):
- 30-sec work, 120-sec recovery; repeat 4x
- 15-sec work, 45-sec recovery; repeat 8x
- 30-sec work, 90-sec recovery; repeat 5x
- 60-sec work, 60-sec recovery; repeat 5x
- 30-sec work, 60-sec recovery; repeat 7x
Islam, Townsend, and Hazell (2017) conducted a study using three different HIIT protocols. The protocol that had the highest energy expenditure (209 kcals) was 24 intervals of 5-sec work and 40-sec recovery. Five seconds of work with 40-sec recovery can be well tolerated by clients.
Body Weight Exercises for the HIIT Protocols
For the Gunnerson and Bangsbo (2012) protocol the 30-sec of work at 30% of maximum an effective exercise is running back and forth for approximately 5 yards or side steps for 5 yards. A good transition into the 20-sec of work for 60% of max is to perform Jack-Squats. Jack-Squats start in a squat position with hands on knees, then jump up into a jumping jack, then down into a squat with hands on knees, etc. And to get the “grind” going for the 10-sec of work at 100% of max it is good to use either Tuck Jumps or Squat Jumps.
Heydari, Freund, and Boutcher (2012) is the 8-sec of work/12-sec of recovery, and although 8-seconds does not seem like a long time, it will grind clients considering the protocol calls for 20 minutes which is 60 intervals. As such, it is recommended to alternate between squats and jump squats for every other work interval, ie: after a warm-up, the first interval is squats with arms in the air followed by jump squats using the arms to jump high to increase the metabolic load, then squats and jump squats, etc. Even though the actual protocol calls for 20-minutes of work, many clients may not be able to do a complete 20-minutes, therefore a good alternative can be 10-minutes of work.
Shepard, et al., (2015) can be modified by doing the weekly training in one work-out, ie:
Set 1 - 30-sec work, 120-sec recovery (150 seconds)
Set 2 - 15-sec work, 45-sec recovery (60 seconds)
Set 3 - 30-sec work, 90-sec recovery (120 seconds)
Set 4 - 60-sec work, 60-sec recovery (120 seconds)
Set 5 - 30-sec work, 60-sec recovery (90 seconds)
Set 6 - 15 sec work, 45 sec recovery (60 seconds)
Set 7 - 30 sec work, 60 sec recovery (90 seconds)
Set 8 - 60 sec work, 60 sec recovery (120 seconds)
Set 9 - 30 sec work, 60 s recovery (90 seconds)
Set 10 - 60 sec work, 60 sec recovery (120 seconds)
17 minutes total
The exercises used are as follows:
Set 1 - Agility 4-Corner Jumping with Deep Knee Bend and Arms Moving
Set 2 - Squat Jumps W/Arms Moving Up as You Jump
Set 3 - Dry Skating Arms Moving Side-to-Side
Set 4 - Arm “Wood Chop” (Flexion-Extension) w/Deep Squat
Set 5 - Burpee w/push-up
Set 6 – Lunge Jumps W-Arms Moving Up as You Jump
Set 7 – Bear Crawl Forward, Eight “Arm-Leg Steps,” Run Back
Set 8 – Fast Side-Step W/Deep Knee Bend – 5 Steps to Right, 5 Steps to Left
Set 9 – Sprinting Back & Forth – 5 - 8 Yards
Set 10 – Double Leg Hops Forward with Deep Knee Bend – 5 Hops – Run Back
Islam, Townsend, and Hazell (2017) had the highest energy expenditure (209 kcals) was 24 intervals of 5-sec work and 40-sec recovery. The exercises to be used with this protocol are as follows:
- Jump Squats W/Arms Moving Up as you Jump
- Agility Side Steps – 4 – 6 steps to Right, 4 – 6 steps to Left
- 4 Corner Hops W/Deep Knee Bend.
- Dry Skating W/Arms Moving Side-to-Side
- Tuck Jump
- Deep Squat to Toes – Jump Up with Arms Raised
Repeat for the rest of the 18 intervals.
Any body weight exercises can be used for these HIIT protocols. It is important to remember that in order to increase metabolic load, the large muscles must be used and the exercises should be in a vertical body position for as much as possible. Always have a modification to the exercises for clients who have injuries or sore joints.
Gunnarsson, T.P. and Bangsbo, J. (2012) The 10-20-30 training concept improves performance and health profile in moderately trained runners. Journal of Applied of Physiology, 113(1):16-24.
Heydari, M., Freund, J., and Boutcher, S.H. (2012) The effect of high-intensity intermittent exercise on body composition of overweight young males. Journal of Obesity. 2012:480467. doi: 10.1155/2012/480467. Epub 2012 Jun 6.
Islam, H., Townsend, L.K., Hazell, T.J. (2017) Modified sprint interval training protocols. Part I. Physiological responses. Applied Physiology Nutrition and Metabolism. 42(4):339-346. Shepard, et al., (2015) Low-Volume High-Intensity Interval Training in a Gym Setting Improves Cardio Metabolic and Psychological Health, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0139056